Sunday, June 9, 2013

John Hunt Morgan, born June 1, 1825

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
John's paternal grandfather, Luther Morgan, had settled in Huntsville, but a downturn in the cotton economy forced him to mortgage his holdings. His father, Calvin Morgan, lost his Huntsville home in 1831 when he was unable to pay the property taxes following the failure of his pharmacy.  

Morgan's Huntsville Home
Calvin Morgan moved his family to Lexington in 1831, where he would manage one of his father-in-law's sprawling farms.  Although the farm, called Shadeland for the grove of oak and ash trees that surrounded the house, was small by plantation standards, it prospered under Calvin’s management.   It became a showplace for livestock, including thoroughbred horses, cattle and hogs; and for crops such as hemp, hay and grain. It provided an excellent place to raise a family that, by 1845, numbered eight children (two daughters died of cholera in 1833).
A slave named Bouvette, whom the children affectionately called "Aunt Betty," handled their early teaching. When the children reached school age, they studied at home with their father or hired tutors. John and his brother Cal had access to fine horses and spent many hours riding, racing, shooting and hunting. 
John attended Transylvania College  for two years, but was suspended in 1844 for dueling with a fraternity brother.  
He was 36 years old when the Civil War began.  He was the eldest of six brothers, all of whom would fight for the Confederacy.  His two sisters married Confederate generals.

The Battle of Buena Vista
Mexican-American War
In 1846, Morgan enlisted with his brother Calvin and uncle Alexander in the U.S. Army as a cavalry private during the Mexican-American War.  He was elected second lieutenant and was promoted to first lieutenant before arriving in Mexico, where he served under Zachary Taylor and saw combat in the Battle of Buena Vista.  
On his return to Kentucky, he worked with Sanders Bruce' their partnership of Morgan & Bruce was a prosperous one. They began as retailers but soon expanded into breeding and training racehorses, and renting slaves to local farms and factories.  

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

In 1848, at the age of 23, he married Rebecca Gratz Bruce, the 18-year-old sister of one of his business partners, Sanders Bruce. The newlyweds moved into the Bruce family mansion with Becky’s widowed mother. In 1853, his wife delivered a stillborn son. She contracted septic thrombophebitis, popularly known as "milk leg", an infection of a blood clot in a vein. The condition eventually led to the amputation of her leg in 1861.

Rebecca Gratz Bruce Morgan
On July 18, 1859, A.P. Hill married Morgan's sister, Kitty ("Dolly") Morgan McClung, a young widow, becoming the brother-in-law of two future Confederate cavalry generals, Morgan (Hill's best man at the wedding) and Basil Duke.

A.P. Hill
Morgan remained interested in the military: he raised a militia artillery company in 1852, but it was disbanded by the state legislature two years later. In 1857, with the rise of sectional tensions, Morgan raised an independent infantry company known as the "Lexington Rifles," and spent much of his free time drilling his men.

Like many Kentuckians, Morgan did not initially support secession. Immediately after Lincoln's election in November 1860, he wrote to his brother, Thomas Hunt Morgan, then a student at Kenyon College in northern Ohio,
 "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." 
By the following spring, Tom Morgan (who also had opposed Kentucky's secession) had transferred home to the Kentucky Military Institute and there began to support the Confederacy. Just before the Fourth of July, by way of a steamer from Louisville, he quietly left for Camp Boone, just across the Tennessee border, to enlist in the Kentucky State Guard. 

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
In September 1861, Morgan and his militia company went to Tennessee and joined the  Confederate States Army.  Morgan raised the 2nd Kentucky Cavalry Regiment and became its colonel on April 4, 1862.  Morgan and his cavalrymen fought at the Battle of Shiloh in April 1862.
Battle of Shiloh 
Morgan never again participated in a major battle of the war. Instead he turned his efforts to raids and covert tactics. In his first Kentucky raid, Morgan left Knoxville on July 4, 1862, with almost 900 men.  In three weeks they swept through Kentucky, deep in the rear of General Don Carlos Buell's army. Morgan reported the capture of 1,200 Federal soldiers, whom he paroled, acquired several hundred horses, and destroyed supplies. 

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"
An Illustration of Morgan's Raiders
Charles Ready
Morgan moved his headquarters to Murfreesboro, Tennessee and became friendly with Charles Ready, a prominent lawyer who had served as a U.S. congressman from 1853 until 1859. After several dinners at the Ready home, an attraction developed between Morgan and one of the Readys' daughters, Martha, who was known as "Mattie".  He was 37 and she was 21.  They became engaged in March 1862.

"Mattie" Ready

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.  
Leonidas Polk

Confederate Generals Bragg, Hardee, Cheatham, and Breckinridge were there as witnesses.

Martha "Mattie" Ready Morgan
with John Hunt Morgan
On December 22, 1862, Morgan left Alexandria, Tennessee with 3,100 cavalrymen and seven pieces of artillery. The effective force was divided into two brigades: the first brigade was under the command of Colonel Basil Duke of the Second Kentucky Cavalry.  Basil Duke was Morgan's brother-in-law, having married one of Morgan's sisters.  

Basil Duke

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,
Black Bess
By December 24, Morgan’s men had traveled ninety miles and were within six miles from Glasgow, Kentucky. As the men entered the town, they encountered the advance guard of a battalion of the Second Michigan Cavalry, Company C, under Lt. Darrow. A skirmish broke out between the forces; Morgan’s men managed to capture sixteen men from the Second Michigan.  They also managed to capture a number of Christmas turkeys.

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.
Now Morgan had to get his men back into Tennessee. The weather had become extremely hazardous: freezing rain, ice and sleet pummeled Morgan’s men.  On December 29, just as Morgan’s rear regiments were crossing the Rolling Fork, a large Union force comprising of five regiments of infantry and cavalry, under Colonel John Harlan, came up and began to shell the ford. Morgan sent Duke, who was in the rear, to send a courier to Colonel Cluke, ordering him to rejoin the command and hold back the enemy until the entire command had crossed the ford.  Duke and Breckinridge placed seven companies in position, with five in reserve.  The Union force was repulsed several times, until a Union artillery shell severely wounded Duke, who fell unconscious from his horse, blood flowing from the side of his head. Duke’s men thought that their commander was dead. Captain Tom Quirk, who had been assisting Duke, ran forward and lifted the apparently lifeless body upon his horse, guided the horse into the stream and carried Duke and himself safely across the river to the opposite bank. Quirk managed to find a carriage at a farm house and filled the carriage with feather mattresses and blankets.

Meanwhile, Breckinridge took over command and maintained his position until Cluke’s regiment had crossed the river. When Morgan and Duke arrived in Bardstown, Duke was taken to Dr. Cox’s two story brick house. Dr. Thomas Allen, surgeon of the 2nd Kentucky attended Duke. The wound was on the right side of the head, a piece of skin and bone behind the ear was gone. As Dr. Allen washed the wound, Duke opened his eyes and said cheerfully: “That was a pretty close call.”
The next morning Morgan rode out of Bardstown.  While marching around Lebanon, the weather had turned bitterly cold and the freezing rain turned to sleet. A strong wind made the conditions ever worse and icicles began to form on the horses bridles and halters. The men’s mustaches and beards had icicles hanging from them.  On New Years Eve, December 31, 1862, Morgan spent the day at Campbellsville. The next day, Morgan’s men marched toward Columbia, Tennessee. On that same day, Confederate General Braxton Bragg and Union General William Rosecrans were fighting a major battle at Stone’s River, Tennessee. By January 1, the Battle of Stone’s River had ended with Bragg pulling out of Murfreesboro and heading towards Tullahoma.

During Morgan’s Christmas Raid, he had managed to capture 1,887 Union soldiers and destroyed at least two million dollars worth of Union property, with only two dead and 24 wounded. Morgan’s command returned well armed and better mounted than when they had left. Union Major General Horatio Wright, commanding at Cincinnati, was trying to deliver one million rations to Rosecrans army, but Morgan had managed to destroy the railroad preventing any supplies by rail. Wright tried to send the supplies by river, but the river was too low to transport the badly needed supplies. Wright was afraid that Rosecrans army would starve. Because of the damaged to the railroads, Rosecrans was forced to send out forage expeditions to gather food for his men. His army would not be able to move out from Murfreesboro for six months.

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.

Tom Morgan
On June 27, 1863, as Rosecrans advanced to force Bragg from Tennessee, Morgan started out from Sparta, to draw off the Federal strength. Morgan's younger brother, Lieutenant Tom Morgan, was killed at Lebanon, Kentucky on July 5, 1863.  He was 20 years old.

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
After several more skirmishes, Morgan's raid almost ended on July 19, 1863, at Buffington Island, Ohio, when approximately 700 of his men were captured while trying to cross the Ohio River into West Virginia.  Intercepted by Union gunboats, less than 200 of his men succeeded in crossing. Most of Morgan's enlisted men captured that day spent the rest of the war in the Camp Douglas Prisoner of War camp in Chicago, which had a very high death rate.

Camp Douglas Prisoner of War camp in Chicago
On July 26, near Salineville, Ohio Morgan and his exhausted, hungry soldiers were finally forced to surrender.  

Morgan and the other officers were sent to the Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus.
Group of "Morgan's Men" while prisoners of war in Western Penitentiary, Pennsylvania: (l to r) Captain William E. Curry, 8th Kentucky Cavalry;
Lieutenant Andrew J. Church, 8th Kentucky Cavalry;
Lieutenant Leeland Hathaway, 14th Kentucky Cavalry;
Lieutenant Henry D. Brown, 10th Kentucky Cavalry;
Lieutenant William Hays, 20th Kentucky Cavalry.
All were captured with John Hunt Morgan in Ohio
On the night of November 27, Morgan and six of his officers, including Thomas Hines, escaped from their cells by digging a tunnel from Hines' cell into the inner yard.  They  ascended a wall with a rope made from bunk covers and a bent poker iron.  Shortly after midnight, Morgan and three of his officers, now dressed in civilian clothes, boarded a southbound train from the Columbus train station.  Morgan even sat next to a Union officer as the train passed by the prison where he had been confined only hours before.  

 Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus
They arrived in Cincinnati that morning. Morgan and Hines jumped from the train before reaching the depot, and escaped into Kentucky by hiring a skiff to take them across the Ohio River. Through the assistance of sympathizers, they eventually made it to safety in the South. 

Coincidentally, on the same day Morgan escaped, his wife gave birth to a daughter..  The baby died a day later, before Morgan returned home.

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 . 
In 1864, Morgan was placed in command of the Trans-Allegheny Department, embracing at the time the Confederate forces in eastern Tennessee and southwestern Virginia. However, the men he was assigned were in no way comparable to those he had lost. Morgan once again began raiding into Kentucky, but his men lacked discipline and he was either not willing or not able to control them, leading to open pillaging along with high casualties. In the summer there were accusations that Morgan had been involved in the robbery of a civilian bank in Mt. Sterling, Kentucky.  Some of his men had been involved, and the Confederate Army was considering court martials.
The Williams Mansion 
Morgan was determined to attack Knoxville, Tennessee, a city with a largely pro-Union citizenry. Morgan arrived in Greeneville late in the afternoon on September 3, 1864, and 
arranged to stay in the home of a family friend, Mrs. Catherine Williams. Union troops were given a tip about Morgan’s location, and troops moved into the town early on the morning of September 4.   Located in the middle of town, the Williams mansion was adorned with a number of trees, gardens, and a vineyard. 

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." 
On September  5, 1864, Morgan’s body was transported by rail under a flag of truce to his pregnant wife in Abingdon, Virginia.  The funeral took place on Tuesday Sept. 6, 1864 at St. Thomas Episcopal Church. 
A week later the coffin was removed from the Abingdon cemetery and shipped to Richmond, where it lay in state in the Confederate capitol.  The Confederate flag-draped casket was taken to the House of Representatives by a hearse drawn by four gray horses. At the Capitol rotunda, the crowds were joined by Secretary Seldon, Virginia Governor William Smith, Richmond Mayor Mayo and other important dignitaries. His body was eventually laid to rest in Hollywood cemetery after a graveside service.

Morgan's second child, a daughter, was born in April, 1865.
Basil Duke was promoted to general, and took over as commander of Morgan's raiders after Morgan was killed, seeing them through to the end of the war. He eventually commanded the soldiers escorting the last gold of the Confederacy and President Jefferson Davis in his attempt to escape in the spring of 1865.

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
At the same time, Morgan's brother, Tom, who also died in the war, was reinterred in the family plot in Lexington Cemetery. 
Basil Duke's book, The History of Morgan's Cavalry was published soon after the war, providing an almost day-by-day account of Morgan's battles, capture and imprisonment, and death. Duke also served as a major Morgan apologist during the storm of accusations and condemnations which followed soon after Morgan was killed.
Morgan Statue in Lexington, Kentucky

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