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Civil War Arrives in Guernsey County with
Morgan's Raid

Judie Perkowski The Daily Jeffersonian Published: August 21, 2011

Preface: The Civil War, 1861-1865, was the darkest period in American history. The North against the South, many times, brother against brother. More than four million soldiers fought, almost 600,000 perished. There were several reasons the Civil War erupted, but the primary issue was whether the states' rights to maintain slavery were superseded by the federal government. Abraham Lincoln's election in 1860 set in motion a series of events that led to the catastrophic war. By the time Lincoln took office on March 4, 1861, seven states had seceded from the Union because of Lincoln's antislavery views. On April 12, 1861, Confederate forces opened fire on Fort Sumter in South Carolina. Three days later, Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to counter the rebellion.

Among the names of the Civil War's legendary military leaders, none of which draws more adoration (from the South) and animosity (from the North) than Brig. Gen. John Hunt Morgan, whom, along with his calvary known infamously as Morgan's Raiders rode more than 1,000 miles from Tennessee, through Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio.

The following description of Morgan's Raid in Ohio was recorded in 1933, when Old Washington resident 86-year-old Elizabeth McMullin recounted what she witnessed when the Raiders rode into Old Washington, formerly known as Washington, in Guernsey County.

'The Most Exciting Day in the History of Washington'
Who was Morgan and why were his men called Raiders?
Morgan's most famous exploit -- his raid into Indiana and Ohio and the Battle at Buffington Island
The Finale -- Morgan and his Raiders captured
The End
'The Most Exciting Day in the History of Washington'

(Old) Washington, Thursday, July 23, 1863 -- Sixteen-year-old Elizabeth McMullin was scared, and worried about what would happen when she heard that Morgan and his men were coming to town.

"We were all frightened ... The townspeople hid their horses and buried their valuables, The town was almost defenseless, since most of their men had joined the Union and gone off to war. Capt. John Laughlin, who lives south of town, was home on furlough and advised the residents to offer no resistance. Nearly all the town gathered at the corner where the Campbell's Station-Winchester Road crossed the pike.

"Riding two abreast, the rebels came up the road. Rev. Ferguson, our Presbyterian minister, stepped out in front and waved a white handkerchief. The rebels did not pass through as we had hoped, but dismounted and gathered along the street. They entered homes and ordered dinners to be prepared for them immediately. Morgan and his staff of 14 men went to the American Hotel, rebel guards were placed around the town ... Anyone could come in, but nobody was permitted to go out.

"Morgan and his staff ordered dinner at the hotel and the Smiths called in some of us older girls to help prepare the meal. I waited on the table ... His soldiers having eaten their dinner and fed their horses, were lying on the street from one end of town to the other ... Suddenly a gun was fired by one of the rebel guards as a signal that Gen. Shackelford was near. The soldiers ran to the horses and headed toward the Winchester road (now Morgan's Way). There were in (Old) Washington for two or three hours.

"We saw Shackelford's army gathering on Cemetery Hill. They began firing at the Confederates, who, in turn, shot back. Above the noise of the battle we could hear voices from the Federal lines ordering women and children to run to cellars. I ran to one that was nearest, where 20 or 30 other persons had gathered. The shooting continued. The Union men were firing from the south, the Confederates from the north. We could hear the bullets whizzing over our heads, and the crash of broken glass. It was terrible.

"The shooting ceased and we ventured out. Morgan's men had gone to Winchester (Winterset) and Shackelford's soldiers were sweeping across the town. Two rebels lay dead in the street and others were wounded. Some of the Confederates were cut off from Morgan's main army and were taken prisoners. The were placed in the old academy building and guarded until the next morning when they were marched to Cambridge and locked in the jail. They were afterwards taken to Columbus.

"Some of us girls went into the room that had been occupied by Morgan at the hotel. On the bureau I found a picture of a young man. Some of the Confederates who were held as prisoners at the academy said his name was William Cloud, Morgan's physician. I have the picture yet, a reminder of the most exciting day in the history of Washington."

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Who was Morgan and why were his men called Raiders?

John Hunt Morgan was born June 1, 1825 in Huntsville, Ala., one of 12 children, the oldest son of six, and six daughters, born to Calvin and Henrietta Hunt Morgan, aristocrats and slave owners. In 1830, the family moved to Lexington, Ky.

Morgan attended Transylvania University in Lexington for two years before he was expelled for dueling. He fought in the U.S. Mexican War and attained the rank of first lieutenant in a calvary regiment.

He mustered out in 1847 and commenced the manufacture of hemp and engaged in the general merchandising business left to him by his grandfather.

John was married twice. First to 18-year-old Rebecca Gratz Bruce in 1848. In 1853, his wife delivered a stillborn son and contracted an infection in her leg, known at the time as "milk leg." John cared for his wife until she died in 1861. John married Martha "Maddie" Ready of Tennessee in 1863. They had two daughters, only one survived named Johnnie, born in 1865 after John's death.

With the onset of the Civil War Morgan enlisted in the Confederate Army in Tennessee as a captain of the Kentucky Volunteers. He proved to be an able cavalry leader and served under the Gen. Braxton Bragg's command. In 1862, he raised the 2nd Kentucky Cavalry Regiment, shortly thereafter his rank was raised to colonel.

Bragg sent Morgan and his command on raids against the Union army's supply depot and transportation lines in Kentucky and Tennessee. At Huntsville, Tenn. Morgan succeeded in capturing an entire garrison of 1,200 Union soldiers, acquired several hundred horses and destroyed massive quantities of supplies. The Confederate government promoted Morgan to brigadier general after his victory.

Four of his brothers also joined the Confederacy and accompanied Morgan in his Ohio-Indiana Raid.. His youngest brother, 1st Lt. Thomas Morgan, was killed when Gen. Morgan's men attacked a Union garrison in Kentucky in 1863.

Morgan never dressed in a uniform, unless he was masquerading as a Yankee. His "uniform" was a linen jacket, void of any rank insignia, white shirt, gray pants and knee-high leather boots with spurs. He topped off his swashbuckling look with a wide-brimmed felt hat. He was tall, handsome, sometimes moody, very charismatic, and had the respect of all he commanded.

On May 1, 1863, Morgan and his men were presented with a congratulatory vote by the Confederate Congress, that said Morgan and his men were "entitled to the love and gratitude of their countrymen for the magnificent feat of preserving Middle Tennessee for the (CSA) government."

Morgan's raids were a means to and end, they were meant to instill fear, to become a distraction and a diversion for Gen. Bragg's forces. His detachment, now known as Morgan's Raiders, followed a general course of small and scattered units. Morgan was a brilliant strategist who employed guerilla tactics. He was anointed "Thunderbolt of the Confederacy" by an adoring South and described as "King of the Horse Thieves" by Northern sympathizers.

The Raiders robbed farms, stores and building with food supplies for men and horses, and demanded dinners for his hungry forces at local homes, but usually refrained from destroying personal property. They stole whatever they could carry or eat. He threatened business owners to pay a ransom or their businesses would be burned to the ground. They left their tired horses and took fresh ones, and was always one step ahead of Union troops, rattling the nerves of many Union leaders -- especially Union Gen. John Shackelford.

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Morgan's most famous exploit -- his raid into Indiana and Ohio and the Battle at Buffington Island

Morgan proposed a plan to Gen. Bragg that would allow Morgan to lead his forces behind enemy lines and cross the Ohio River into Indiana and Ohio. He said his men had more experience fighting behind enemy lines, and because Union soldiers would be chasing him, they would forget about Bragg. To which Bragg responded with a resounding "No." He told Morgan it was a good idea to create turmoil in Kentucky, and maybe even capture Louisville (in hopes of signing on more men for the Confederacy) but, under no circumstances was he to cross the Ohio River. Morgan ignored Bragg's order.

Morgan and his force of 2,460 cavalrymen departed from McMinnville, Tenn., on June 11, 1863, intending to divert the attention of the Union army from southern forces in the state. July 2, Morgan rode into Kentucky where his admiring public openly welcomed his men. After several skirmishes, Morgan and his force of now 1,800 men, headed toward Ohio.

July 8, Morgan seized two steamboats on the Ohio River to transport his men to Indiana. Four days later, the Raiders left Indiana with the Federal cavalry in hot pursuit. On July 13, as the Indiana militia descended upon Morgan's men the Confederates entered Ohio where they destroyed bridges, railroads and government buildings and spread terror across southern and central Ohio.

Union Generals Hobson and Burnside were in the hunt calling for soldiers and gunboats to patrol the river. Burnside surmised that Morgan would attempt to cross the river at a shallow ford near Buffington Island. Burnside sent a militia regiment from Marietta to hold the ford until the Federal forces could arrive. Morgan arrived the evening of July 18, but decided not to attack the militia until morning. It was a big mistake. By morning, the gunboats and Union soldiers arrived under the command of Generals Hobson and Judah, blocking Morgan's escape. On July 19, 1863, the Battle at Buffington Island commenced, the only major battle fought in Ohio during the Civil War. More than 750 of Morgan's men were captured or killed. Two of Morgan's brothers, Richard and Charleton, were among the prisoners.

Approximately 200 Raiders managed to escaped into West Virginia, but Morgan chose to remain on the Ohio side with his dwindling force.

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The Finale -- Morgan and his Raiders captured

Morgan and his men retreated westward and then turned to a northeastern direction through 12 Ohio counties before the Union cavalry, under the command of Major W.B. Way and Major G.W. Rue, surrounded the Confederates. Morgan and 350 of his men were captured July 27, 1863, in West Point, Columbiana County, Ohio, It was the northern-most point of penetration in Ohio by the Confederacy during the Civil War.

The Northern soldiers took Morgan and his men to Columbus where they were separated. On October 1, 1863, the enlisted men were confined in the Camp Chase Confederate prison camp. Morgan and six of his officers were jailed in the Ohio Penitentiary, and immediately made plans to escape.

On Nov. 27, 1863, Morgan and three of his officers tunneled out of their cell into an airshaft which led to the prison yard. They fashioned a rope from their prison blankets and scaled down the wall to freedom.

Money smuggled into the prison in a Bible by his Morgan's sister allowed the men to purchase train tickets to Cincinnati. With help from Southern sympathizers, Morgan eventually made his escape across the Ohio River back into Kentucky and returned to the Confederate military where he led forces in Tennessee and Kentucky.

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The End

On Sept. 4, 1864, Northern soldiers surrounded a farmhouse near Greenville, Tenn, where Morgan was hiding out. He attempted to escape but was shot and killed by Union soldiers. Gen. John Hunt Morgan was dead at the age of 39.

According to the 1868 Louisville (Ky.) Journal, Morgan was first buried in Richmond, Va. After the war his remains were brought back to Lexington, Ky., and were buried in Lexington Cemetery, April 17, 1868. His brother, Tom, who was also killed in action, was buried in Lebanon, Ky., in 1863, His remains were removed to Lexington where at double ceremony he was buried next to his brother. Morgan's funeral was as impressive as his short life with thousands paying homage to their wartime hero.

Morgan's Raid is more famous in local historical records than in national ones, as it was considered by many, especially Northerners, to be nothing more than a skirmish for the glory of its leaders. They site few positive results for the Southern military. It provided hope to Confederate civilians that their military could still succeed following their victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg in early July of 1863, And, while it generated fear in the civilian population, it also inspired many of these people to fight even harder to defeat the Confederacy.

Approximately 4,400 Ohioans filed claims for compensation with the federal government for items they lost to the Confederates during The Raid. The claims amounted to $678,915 with the government authorizing $576,225.

Kentucky and Indiana have the John Hunt Morgan Heritage Trail that allows tourists to follow the route through their states, along with websites and written tour guides. An equestrian stature of Gen. Morgan was erected and dedicated in 1910 in downtown Lexington, Ky.

Ohio's plans for a similar formal trail have not yet come to fruition, but the state has erected more than 100 separate historical markers commemorating specific actions or towns visited by the Raiders. The state has placed a John Hunt Morgan historical marker on the site of the Ohio Penitentiary, in remembrance of his imprisonment and daring escape.

The Library of Congress
Wolfe, William G., "The Stories of Guernsey County, Ohio."
Booth, Russell, "A Brief History of Guernsey County, Ohio."
Horwitz, Lester V., "The Longest Raid of the Civil War."
Ohio History Central

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