Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Martha "Mattie" Ready Morgan, born June 21, 1840

Martha Ready was born near Murfreesboro, Tennessee on June 21, 1840. She was the sixth of eight children, and the second of four girls, born to Colonel Charles Ready, Jr. and Martha Strong Ready.

Charles Ready, Jr.
Charles Ready was a very successful Murfreesboro attorney, twice mayor of the city: in 1832 and then again in 1849-1853.  He was an influential member of the Whig party. 

The Ready family was among the earliest and most prominent Rutherford County families. They were well educated, had extensive land holdings, owned many slaves, and in were representative of the aristocratic antebellum society of the South. The 1840’s and 1850’s were prosperous times for the people of Rutherford County.

Martha, known as “Mattie”, was described as being a “very attractive young woman of medium height, with a shapely figure, a fair, creamy complexion, large blue eyes, and dark hair.” She attended the very prestigious Soule College in Murfreesboro and the Nashville Female Academy during the 1850’s.

Martha "Mattie" Ready
Charles Ready served Tennessee as a United States representative before the Civil War. While in Washington with her family, Mattie was known to be a favorite among society. She was “the first girl in Washington to wear a curl on her forehead, which was soon imitated by a hundred others,” and was described as being one of the “prettiest daughters of Old South society and a fashion trend-setter at eighteen.”

She had many suitors, both in Washington and at home. Thirty-six-year-old Illinois Representative Samuel Scott Marshall was among the most persistent in Washington and wanted to marry her. Although considered a good choice, she declined the offer  because she did not love him.  (Three years later, Marshall would come calling at her door in Murfreesboro as an officer of an invading army.)

She was 21 years old when the Civil War began.

John Hunt Morgan
The Readys were known to be strong supporters of the Confederacy and offered both support and hospitality to the officers encamped in the area, including the dashing cavalryman from Kentucky, Captain John Hunt Morganwho arrived in Murfreesboro in late February of 1862.

Morgan's wife, Becky, had died the previous summer, on July 21, 1861.  On February 27, 1862, Morgan moved his headquarters near Murfreesboro. Charles Ready visited the army camp, met Captain Morgan and invited him to dinner. Ready sent a slave home with word that “the famous Captain Morgan was coming. Tell Mattie that Captain Morgan is a widower and a little sad. I want her to sing for him.” 

In a diary entry of March 3, 1862, Mattie's sister Alice describes a visit by Captain Morgan to the Ready home the previous evening: 
“ Morgan is an extremely modest man, but very pleasant and agreeable, though one to see him would scarcely imagine him to be the daring reckless man he is. An immense crowd collected at the front door to see him, and two or three actually came in and stood before the parlor door” 
Mattie Ready
The 36-year-old Captain Morgan made quite an impression on twenty-one year old Mattie. Following an expedition to Gallatin, Morgan returned to Murfreesboro to find a Union cavalry regiment conducting a reconnaissance outside the town. He sent Mattie a note asking whether the town was clear of Federals.  She hurriedly penned a reply: “They are eight miles from here. Come in haste,” and handed it to a courier who returned to Morgan, 10 miles to the north. A few hours later, in the early morning, Morgan appeared. He and Mattie talked until daylight and family tradition holds that they became engaged on that morning of March 19.  At dawn, John bade good-bye to Mattie by forming the soldiers on the square and leading in the singing of “Cheer, Boys, Cheer.” 

One day, in the late spring of 1862 while Murfreesboro was under Federal occupation, she overheard some Union soldiers making ugly remarks about Morgan. She stepped in and gave the Yankees a scolding. When one of the soldiers asked her name she replied, “It’s Mattie Ready now! But by the grace of God, one day I hope to call myself the wife of John Morgan!”

The wedding of Mattie Ready and John Hunt Morgan was held at the Ready home near the Courthouse on the square in Murfreesboro on Sunday evening, December 14, 1862.  The Ready House occupied the second lot along East Main Street; the first lot was an ornamental garden with twin magnolia trees right across from the Courthouse. Inside the house was a large hall with flanking parlors. One of these parlors was the scene of the wedding ceremony. 

The wedding was one of the great social occasions of the Confederacy.  Groomsmen were Mattie’s brother, Horace Ready, an officer on General William J. Hardee’s staff, and Colonel George St. Leger Grenfell, an English soldier of fortune.  General Leonidas Polk, Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Louisiana, and nephew of former United States President James K. Polk, performed the ceremony. Mattie, although raised in the Presbyterian Church, had become an Episcopalian just prior to her marriage, as that was the faith of the Morgan family.

Leonidas Polk
Generals Bragg, Hardee, Cheatham and Breckinridge, including the headquarters staff, were all in attendance. President Jefferson Davis, who was in Murfreesboro the day before the wedding when he had promoted Morgan to brigadier general, was not present.

Basil Duke

In an Aug. 31, 1912 issue of the News-Banner, Basil Duke of Louisville recalled to a reporter his memories of that great celebration.
 All the officers of high rank who could reach Murfreesboro had assembled for the wedding -- General Bragg among them. Distinguished civilians were present in great numbers. The house was packed with people to its full capacity ... and decorated with holly and winter berries--the lights from lamps and candles flashed on the uniforms and the trappings of the officers, and were reflected in the bright eyes of the pretty Tennessee girls who had gathered. ... The raven-haired, black-mustached Morgan, in his general’s uniform, looking like a hero of chivalry, the bride, a girl of rare beauty, tall, dark-haired, and blue eyes, with a creamy complexion and perfect features, and standing before them, to perform the ceremony, in his full military uniform, Bishop Polk, himself a general of the Confederate Army, and Bishop of the Episcopal Church. ...Miss Ready’s bridal dress was one of her best ante-bellum frocks, for it was not possible at that time to purchase material for a trousseau. ... General Morgan’s attendants were as dashing a set of young soldiers as any bride could wish at her wedding. Two or three regimental bands had been provided for the occasion.
Outside in the streets thousands of soldiers were assembled, who by the lighted bonfires, celebrated the wedding, cheering Morgan and his bride. After the wedding there was a great supper served in the Ready mansion where the wedding party and invited guests feasted on  turkeys, hams, chickens, ducks, game, and all the delicacies and good dishes a Southern kitchen could produce, while Colonel Ready’s wine cellar provided wine for the many toasts proposed to the happy couple.

Rutherford County Courthouse, Murfreesboro, Tennessee

After the wedding supper, the bands were called in and soldiers belles danced. Family stories say that Morgan and his bride spent their first night of married life together at “The Corners,” which was the home of Mattie’s grandparents, Charles Ready, Sr., in Readyville. The next evening, Monday, December 15, 1862, the day after their wedding, a grand ball was held at the Court House in honor of John and Mattie. The ball was sponsored by the First Louisiana and the Sixth Kentucky regiments. Candles illuminated the large hallways of the three-year-old Courthouse and behind each candle a bayonet reflected the light on the festive scene. A pyramidal chandelier of bayonets and candles hung from the ceiling and trees of greenery and jars of flowers decorated the dance hall.

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.  
“And then my precious one I shall try and get back to you as fast as possible and then my pretty one nothing shall induce me to again leave you this winter. How anxiously I am looking forward to the moment when I shall again clasp you to a heart that beats for you alone. Do not forget me my own Darling, and you may rest assured that my whole thoughts are of you. Farewell my pretty wife, my command is leaving, I must be off.”
~ Letter written by John Hunt Morgan to his new wife, Mattie, December 23, 1862

"Mattie" Morgan
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. 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.  On December 28, Morgan approached his major objective: the two wooden trestles at Muldraugh’s Hill, each protected by a stockade. 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. 

On New Year's 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.

Mattie had returned home to Murfreesboro just in time for the Battle of Stones River, December 31, 1862 - January 2, 1863.  Two weeks later, following the battle and Bragg’s retreat, Mattie, accompanied by her sister Alice, was forced to take flight from home.  The Ready house was used by Union General Rosecrans for his headquarters in Murfreesboro. Charles Ready Jr., as well as his son-in-law, Dr. William C. Cheatham of Nashville, who was married to Mattie’s eldest sister, Mary Emma, had both been arrested previously by the Federals for their participation in the Rebel resistance. When Mattie left Murfreesboro, she did not know that she would not see her parents again until after the war had ended. And her sister, Mary Emma Cheatham, would die during this time. 

Battle of Stones River
Under escort by members of General William J. Hardee’s staff, Mattie and her sister Alice reached the army at Winchester. Three weeks after the wedding, on January 6, 1863, Mattie wrote from newly established headquarters in Winchester:
Come to me my own Darling quickly. I was wretched but now I am almost happy and will be quite when my precious husband is again with me. I can bear anything Darling when you are with me, and so long as I have your love — but when separated from you and I know that you are surrounded by so many dangers and hardships as you have been on your last expedition I become a weak nervous child. Have I not lived a great deal, love, in the last three weeks? When I look back now at the time, it seems three years. But in each hour I have passed through, there has always been one dear face ever before me... I have so much to tell you, and so very much to hear from you. Although I have heard nothing from you since you left Glasgow, I knew you had accomplished what you had in view — but oh I was so anxious for your safety. I had some dark days, dearest, and when the battle was raging around me in such fury, and everybody from the commander-in-chief to the privates were praying for Morgan to come, I thanked God in the anguish of my heart that it was not for me to say where you should be. There was one continual inquiry at the front door -- ‘When will Genl. Morgan be here?’... Genl. Bragg established his head Quarters at this place. We reached here today ... and although an entire stranger to the people I am with, they received me, as the saying is, with open arms, because I am your Wife. We are comfortably, but very plainly accommodated. Alice is with me. Papa & Mama remained at home with Ella. I almost dread to hear from them. I am so impatient for tomorrow to come. When the Courier arrived Cols. (unknown) & Johnston of Genl. Bragg’s staff were calling upon us. Came with an invitation from the Genl. for us to join his Hd. Qts. but Gen. Hardee had a prior claim. I sent the papers giving an account of your expedition, or part of it, to Gen. B. Everybody is anxious to hear from you, and to see you, but none a thousandth part as much as your little wife. I am at Mrs. McGee’s, just in the suburbs of the town, so you will know exactly where to find me. I love to write to you, Dearest, and your sweet letters always make me happy. It grieved me that I could send you no word of love from my pen while in Kty. Both — because it would have been a relief to pour out my heart to you, and then, Darling, I feared you would forget me. You left me so soon ... Good night, my Hero. My dreams are of you. Your affectionate, Mattie.
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.

One of Morgan’s first priorities was to bring Mattie to his new headquarters in McMinnville. He wrote, “am determined to have you near me. Cannot bear the thought of your being away from home and my not being with you.” Once she came, Mattie declared: “My life is all a joyous dream now, from which I fear to awaken, and awake I must when my Hero is called to leave me again. My husband wants me to remain with him, and of course I much prefer it. They say we are a love sick couple.”

Twenty-five miles from the front of battle, Morgan and Mattie extended their honeymoon into the spring. Nearly every afternoon they made an appearance, riding horseback into the country— she in a beautiful black riding habit, hat, and veil, he in a blue roundabout jacket with brass buttons, blue pants tucked into shiny cavalry boots with spurs, and black felt hat fastened up at the side. A correspondent for the Richmond Enquirer observed that Mattie’s “full-blown figure was certainly apropos to the sterling manhood of Morgan. She loves him very ardently, and I doubt not that the affair was entirely one of the affections. They take long strolls every afternoon, and the evidences of attachment ... are delicate and dignified upon both sides.”

Mattie’s influence extended even further: for the first time in his life, John Morgan became interested in religion. Mattie had given him a prayer book for a wedding present, and from a camp away from her one night he wrote: “The dear prayer book that you gave me ‘my dear precious One’ is before me & I shall read Evening Prayer, 21st day. So my Angel you see what a good influence you exert upon me and I am so much happier.” His mother was also quite pleased to learn that “because of Mattie’s example and advice he had become a ‘much better man’”. He was adamant that his newly found faith sprang from his love for Mattie and was subordinate to that love. He further wrote: “I shall read your letter again before I close my eyes. What great pleasure it affords me to read your dear sweet words of Love. I know every word you utter comes from your dear good Heart. Have more confidence in that than I have in the Book now before me.”

Robert Minty
She kept her bags packed for immediate evacuation. On April 19, 1863, Colonel Robert Minty, who commanded the 1st Brigade of Michigan cavalry, burst through picket lines and into Morgan’s headquarters at McMinnville. Two officers were seriously wounded while creating a diversion to give Morgan time to put Mattie in an ambulance and send her racing out of town. Morgan and his headquarters escort escaped on horseback across the fields. Mattie was captured but immediately released.

In the summer of 1863, 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. 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. On July 26, near Salineville, Ohio Morgan and his exhausted, hungry soldiers were finally forced to surrender.  

Marker at Morgan Surrender Site
Morgan and the officers were sent to the Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus. 

 Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus 
When the Ready family heard that their brother, Horace, was wounded at Chickamauga, Alice hurried off to take care of him. Alone and desperately anxious, Mattie grew seriously ill.  Morgan made his famous escape from the Columbus, Ohio prison on November 27, 1863 (the day Mattie gave birth, prematurely, to his daughter; unfortunately, the baby died the next day).  Morgan managed to reach Mattie in time for Christmas. 

Mattie accompanied him to Richmond in early January of 1864 for a nearly three-month stay in the capitol. He was celebrated as the South’s great hero.  

At the end of March 1864, Gen. Morgan was given command of the Confederacy’s Southwestern Virginia Department (which included part of east Tennessee), and they moved to the headquarters in Abingdon, Virginia. This was Morgan’s first and only departmental command and one of the most undesirable in the entire army.  At this time in his career, Morgan was a disenchanted man: there were clouds of suspicion and disgrace from previous unauthorized military actions hovering around him, and a court of inquiry threatening to ruin his career. Several of his men had been involved in the robbery of a civilian bank in Mt. Sterling, Kentucky. There was condemnation from both north and south.

Abingdon, Virginia
The Tavern was built about 1777 on Main street.
It served as a hospital during the Civil War
On his way back to Abingdon from what would be the last Kentucky Raid, he wrote: “How very anxious I am to see you & to hold you in my arms. Do not think I shall permit myself to be separated from you again.” 

On the night of August 28, 1864, Morgan and his men rode off from Abingdon to Greenville, Tennessee.  Even though Tennessee was a Confederate state, it was widely divided, and this part of east Tennessee where Greenville was located was very pro-Union. Though strongly advised not to separate himself from his men, Morgan selected the largest and most comfortable house in the area for his headquarters, that of Mrs. Catherine Williams, a friend of Mattie’s family.

The Williams Home
On September 3, 1864, Morgan sent Mattie the last telegraph she would ever get from him: 
Arrived here to day.
Find that Enemy have not been this side of Bull Gap & none there.
(Mizpah was the location in ancient Israel where Jacob and Labana erected an altar as a sign of the covenant between them. John used it to renew his covenant with Mattie never to surrender.)

Mrs. Williams had three sons, two of whom fought for the Confederacy and one for the Union. The Union soldier-son was married to  a woman named Lucy. During the summer while operating in Greeneville, John Morgan had revoked the parole of a Union officer whom Lucy Williams had befriended and it was always believed by Morgan's family and friends that it was she who sought revenge.

A Union cavalry force, commanded by Alvan C. Gillem, surprised the Confederates and John Hunt Morgan was shot and killed by Union private, Andrew J. Campbell. This same Andrew J. Campbell, a native of Ireland and then Helena, Arkansas, had previously fought for the South. Even more ironic, he had been encamped just north of Murfreesboro at the time of Mattie and John’s wedding. He deserted the Confederate Army and then enlisted in the Union Army.

Morgan's Grave in Lexington, Kentucky
Mattie's marriage had lasted a total of 630 days.  Grief stricken and pregnant, the 24-year-old widow returned to Augusta, Georgia to stay with relatives. Seven months after the death of Morgan, Mattie gave birth to their daughter, and named her Johnnie.  Johnnie Hunt Morgan was born on April 7, 1865, just two days before Gen. Lee’s surrender.

In a letter to her mother-in-law written a few months later, Mattie wrote: “She has indeed proved a blessing to me direct from God, and the only happiness I look forward to in the future is that of rearing her. She is said to be a perfect little Morgan in appearance.” During the summer of 1865, Mattie and little Johnnie returned to her parents’ home in Murfreesboro, where she devoted most of her time and energy to raising her young child. 
The period following the war years was a difficult time for everyone, and the Ready family was no exception. In 1870, in order to help with family funds, the “New Ready House” opened as a boarding house, with Mattie’s brother, Horace Ready, as its proprietor, “keeping a ledger of those who came to dinner and to spend the night.” 
Mattie remarried on January 30, 1873 after about eight years of widowhood. Her second husband was Judge William H. Williamson of Lebanon, Tennessee, a one-armed Confederate veteran, and a friend of her sister Alice Martin and her husband. They would become the parents of five children over the next several years. 

Johnnie was known as a loving older sister. She grew up to become an attractive and accomplished young woman. After her graduation with distinction from Patapsco, Maryland, which was the same prestigious school her Aunt Alice had attended, she was described accordingly: “In appearance, she is very much like her father, has a gifted mind, particularly in elocution, and in her manner has that peculiar magnetism that so characterized her father and gave him influence over men.”

Mattie became involved in the Ladies Aid Society, which would eventually evolve into the United Daughters of the Confederacy.   She remained true to her Southern philosophy, unable to let go of the past, even to the point of breaking off a romance between Johnnie and a young man of a pro-Union background. In the early 1880’s, Mattie was described in “Prominent Tennesseans” as “noted for her fine address, intellectual vigor and cultivation, her strength of character and devotion to her children. Handsome in person, and clothed with the graces of the highest order of womanhood, she is naturally of great influence in the community.” 

Her second husband died in March 1887.

Martha Ready Morgan Williamson died on November  16, 1887 at the age of 47, most likely of tuberculosis.

On her tombstone is the following inscription, “Our Mother - First the wife of Gen’l John H. Morgan - And then of Judge Wm. H. Williamson.”

Six months after her mother’s death, Johnnie married the Reverend Joseph W. Caidwell, a Presbyterian minister from Selma, Alabama.  On June 28, 1888, at age 23, shortly after her honeymoon, Johnnie died of typhoid fever, leaving no direct descendants of John Hunt and Martha Ready Morgan. 

Johnnie's Gravestone
Mattie and Johnnie, along with Judge Williamson and some of the other children, are buried in Lebanon’s Cedar Grove Cemetery.

No comments:

Post a Comment