John Hunt Morgan was born in Huntsville, Alabama, the eldest of ten children of Calvin and Henrietta (Hunt) Morgan. He was a maternal grandson of John Wesley Hunt, a founder of Lexington, Kentucky, and one of the first millionaires wet of the Allegheny Mountains.
|John Wesley Hunt|
|Morgan's Huntsville Home|
|The Battle of Buena Vista|
His wealthy grandfather, John Wesley Hunt, died suddenly of cholera in 1849. Morgan's mother, Henrietta Morgan inherited the Lexington mansion of her father and lived there for forty-one years until her death in 1891. She also inherited other property, and began financing her sons' business ventures. With their mother's financial assistance, Morgan and his brother Calvin started a business plaiting hemp ropes and making bags from the fiber.
|John Wesley Hunt's Home|
Now known as the Hunt Morgan House
|Rebecca Gratz Bruce Morgan|
"Our State will not I hope secede[. I] have no doubt but Lincoln will make a good President at least we ought to give him a fair trial & then if he commits some overt act all the South will be a unit."
John Morgan stayed at home in Lexington to tend to his troubled business and his ailing wife. Becky Morgan finally died on July 21, 1861.
|Grave of Rebecca Bruce Morgan|
|Battle of Shiloh|
He was joined by his brothers, Tom (who had enlisted in early July, 1861), Calvin, Charlton, Dick, and later on, Key. He unnerved Kentucky's Union military government. President Abraham Lincoln received so many appeals for help that he complained that "they are having a stampede in Kentucky."
|Morgan as Colonel of the |
2nd Kentucky Cavalary Regiment
"The Thunderbolt of the Confederacy"
Morgan was promoted to brigadier general on December 11, 1862. He received the thanks of the Confederate Congress the following year for his raids on the supply lines of Union General William Rosecrans in December and January, most notably his victory at the Battle of Hartsville on December 7, 1862.
|Battle of Hartsville Monument|
On December 14, 1862, Morgan married Martha "Mattie" Ready. The ceremony was performed by Leonidas Polk, an Episcopal bishop who was also a Confederate general.
Confederate Generals Bragg, Hardee, Cheatham, and Breckinridge were there as witnesses.
|Martha "Mattie" Ready Morgan|
with John Hunt Morgan
The second command was under the command of Colonel W. C. P. Breckinridge of the Ninth Kentucky Cavalry. When Morgan’s men left Alexandria, four hundred of his men had no arms and performed duty as horse holders. There were no sabers among any of the men. The men in ranks were equipped with one or two Colt army pistols, a few had cavalry carbines, a large number of the troopers carried double barreled shotguns. Most of the men carried long barreled Enfield, Austrian, or Belgian rifles, which were used mostly by the infantry. The average ages of Morgan’s men were between 18 to 35 years old. Every cavalrymen carried his own ammunition, two extra horseshoes, twelve nails, one blanket in addition to the saddle blanket, and an oil cloth overcoat. The men carried three days cooked rations.
|Morgan and his favorite horse, |
By December 27, Morgan’s advance regiments were within six miles of Elizabethtown, Kentucky. Morgan had been informed that seven or eight Federal companies were stationed at Elizabethtown. When he arrived at the town, a message arrived, scrawled in pencil on the back of an envelope, which read:
To the commander of the Confederate forces: Sir: I demand an unconditional surrender of all your forces. I have you surrounded, and will compel you to surrender. I am, sir, your obedient servant, Col. H.S. Smith.Morgan ordered Duke to deploy his command to the right and Breckinridge to deploy his command to the left of the town, and to throw skirmishers forward to discover the positions of the enemy. The Yankees had taken possession of several brick houses on the outskirts of town. Morgan placed his artillery in position on a hill a little to the left of the road, which completely commanded the town and sent Captain C. C. Corbett, with one mountain howitzer, to attack the town on the right. After Morgan shelled the town for about half an hour, the town surrendered, including 652 Union soldiers, including 25 officers.
On December 28, Morgan approached his major objective: the two wooden trestles at Muldraugh’s Hill, each protected by a stockade. Morgan divided his ranks into two lines. Morgan sent a truce party to offer the Yankees a chance to surrender peacefully. The offer was refused and Morgan began a simultaneous artillery barrage on the two stockades. Duke’s brigade moved against the upper trestles and Breckinridge’s brigade moved against the lower trestle. After almost three hours of bombardment from the Confederate artillery, the 71st Indiana Infantry ran up white flags and both Union stockades surrendered. Morgan captured 650 prisoners. After the surrender of the Union troops, the Rebels burned the two trestles. After the capture of the Union prisoners, Morgan’s men were equipped with the Enfield rifles.
Although Morgan’s raid was a success, his raid drew his cavalry away from Bragg, when Bragg needed every man on the battlefield to fight General Rosecrans at the Battle of Stone’s River. Morgan’s men, along with Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s three thousand men, who had been sent to destroy the railroads in the rear of Union General Ulysses S. Grant’s army in western Tennessee and northern Mississippi, might have been just enough men to help turn the tide of battle and turn a indecisive battle for Bragg into a Confederate victory and could have altered the war in the Western Theater.
After the battle at Lebanon, Morgan continued north, still giving his superiors and the enemy the impression that he was headed for Louisville. South of Louisville, however, he turned his men to the northwest and crossed the Ohio River at Brandenburg, entering Indiana on July 8. Against Bragg’s explicit orders, Morgan and 2,400 men crossed the Ohio on the campaign that would become known as "Morgan's Raid". They raided across southern Indiana and Ohio. At Corydon, Indiana, the raiders met 450 local Home Guard in a battle that resulted in eleven Confederates killed and five Home Guard killed. In July, at Versailles, Indiana, while soldiers raided nearby militia and looted county and city treasuries, the jewels of the local masonic lodge were stolen. When Morgan, a Freemason, learned of the theft, he recovered the jewels and returned them to the lodge the following day.
|Historical Marker, Brandenburg, Kentucky|
|Camp Douglas Prisoner of War camp in Chicago|
Morgan and the other officers were sent to the Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus.
|Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus|
Though Morgan's Raid was followed by the Northern and Southern press and caused the Union leadership considerable concern, it is now regarded as little more than a showy but ultimately futile sidelight to the war. Furthermore, it was done in direct violation of his orders from General Braxton Bragg not to cross the river. After his return from Ohio, General Bragg never again trusted Morgan .
When Union cavalry surprised the Confederates, Morgan and his staff officers ran toward St. James Episcopal Church nearby, where they hid under the floor until Morgan heard Union soldiers enter the church.
He then rushed out toward the grape arbors here near the Williams stables and his horse. As Union troopers surrounded the area, Morgan tried to walk away in the confusion. Union Private Andrew J. Campbell, ordered him to halt and when Morgan failed to obey the order, Campbell shot and killed him. Campbell was a former Confederate soldier who had once served under Morgan, but had joined the Union Army. Morgan died a few minutes later on the Greeneville street. He was 40 years old.
Some reports stated it was young Lucy Williams, daughter-in-law of Mrs. Williams, who gave the tip to Union officers. Lucy denied the charge throughout the rest of her life, but many considered her the “murderess” of John Hunt Morgan. Other reports state that Mrs. David Frye betrayed Morgan by pointing him out to Union soldiers during the skirmish, saying “there he is, there’s Morgan, over there in the vineyard!”
The Richmond Whig reported, "Another brave, daring and chivalric cavalier has sealed his devotion to his beloved South with his heart's blood. First Ashby, then Stuart, and now the dashing Kentuckian, whose name was known and cherished in every clime where his country or liberty had a friend."
In 1868, Morgan’s brother, Calvin, brought his brother’s body back to their hometown of Lexington. The reinternment service took place at Christ Church Episcopal. The funeral procession contained a brass band, the Masonic fraternity, clergy, pallbearers, hearse, family carriages, the Old Squadron walking two by two, other members of Morgan's cavalry in double file on horseback, and about 2,000 citizens in carriages and foot.
|Morgan's Gravestone in Lexington Cemetery|
|Morgan Statue in Lexington, Kentucky|