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.|
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|
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.)
|John Hunt Morgan|
“ 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”
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.
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|
“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
|Battle of Stones River|
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.
|Marker at Morgan Surrender Site|
|Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus|
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.
The Tavern was built about 1777 on Main street.
It served as a hospital during the Civil War
|The Williams Home|
“Arrived here to day.
Find that Enemy have not been this side of Bull Gap & none there.
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|
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.
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.