Friday, July 29, 2011

Morgan's Great Raid . . . part 1, Kentucky

The Kingdom of Fife clan just completed an endeavor that I (Merkin) have been pining over lo unto these many years . . . to follow the route John Hunt Morgan and his raiders took on their Great Raid through Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio. It was the longest sustained raid during the Civil War. It lasted for 24 days, and they covered over 1000 miles! And at one point, while by-passing Cincinnati, they rode for 35 hours non-stop. It is all good to read about this, but it is only after you have actually followed the route, in a car no less, that one really begins to understand the scope of their undertaking and sheer audacity. Morgan's command dwindled away as the raid continued, but even at the end they were a force to contend with. Morgan eventually surrendered near West Point, Ohio . . . nine miles from the Pennsylvania border and about 80 miles south of Lake Erie. However, he and a few of his men later escaped from the formidable Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus, Ohio . . . but that is another story.

This map from ca. 1887 shows the approximate route taken by Morgan and his men. Click on the image to enlarge the map. We followed, for the most part, the John Hunt Morgan Heritage Trail in Kentucky, the John Hunt Morgan Heritage Trail in Indiana, and we cobbled together a decent route through Ohio (apparently Ohio is in the process of putting together their own Morgan trail, but the only evidence I found of such endeavors was the kiosk at Buffington Island).

John Morgan's foot is on thy shore,
Kentucky! O Kentucky!
His hand is on thy stable door,
Kentucky! O Kentucky!
You'll see your good gray mare no more,
He'll ride her till her back is sore,
And leave her at some stranger's door,
Kentucky! O Kentucky!

Union General Jacob D. Cox

The Second Brigade under the command of Stovepipe Johnson (click his name to see how he got that sobriquet) crossed the Cumberland River here at McMillan's Landing into the Turkey Neck Bend area of Monroe County.

The First Brigade under the command of Basil Duke crossed the Cumberland River here at the Burkesville Ferry and at Neely Ferry. The "Raiders," not to be encumbered in their crossing, stripped themselves and as they came to shore they encountered a few Union soldiers who fled in horror yelling, "They're naked as jay-birds!"

Grave marker in the Columbia Cemetery for Union Col. Frank Lane Wolford . . . the commander of the "Wild Riders." Wolford, along with Hobson and Shackelford, pursued Morgan for basically the whole raid. At the surrender, Morgan presented Wolford with his silver spurs. Wolford repaid Morgan with a chicken dinner.

The Confederate Cemetery and Monument at the Tebbs Bend Battlefield in Taylor County. The monument and cemetery both date back to 1872 (the unclaimed Confederate dead were moved from a mass grave to this location).

The result of the Battle of Tebbs Bend portended bad omens for the raid. When Morgan demanded "immediate and unconditional surrender" of the Union force defending the bridge over the Green River, Col. Orlando Moore of the 25th Michigan responded, "Present my compliments to General Morgan and say to him that the Fourth of July is a d__d bad day for a surrender, and I would rather not."

Morgan should have listened. Basil Duke stated that Tebbs Bend was "one of the strongest natural positions I ever saw." Eight confederate assaults were repulsed at a loss of 27 killed (20 of those were officers), 14 wounded, and 32 captured.

The following day, Morgan and his men took out their frustrations from the Tebbs Bend debacle on Lebanon. They burned over 20 buildings and partook of the requisite looting. However, the setbacks continued as John Hunt Morgan's brother Tom Morgan was killed (marker above), and they were much delayed.

The delay was caused by the spirited defense by Lt. Col. Charles Hanson at the L&N Depot (location pictured above). Morgan and Hanson were pre-war friends. A distraught Morgan told Hanson, "When you get home, if it is any gratification to you, tell Mother you killed brother Tom."

This former grocery store and saloon, was the Union Commissary Building at the time of the raid. It survived, but not the Union supplies.

After Lebanon, Morgan and his men continued on to Bardstown where they were again held up by a small group of Union troops. A Confederate subordinate threatened them by stating, "If you refuse [to surrender], we will blow you to hell with our artillery." The reply of the Union officer in charge was: "I am obliged to the General's kind intentions, but it is our duty to trouble him a little longer." When the main body of Morgan's troops arrived with artillery, he did surrender, to which Morgan admonished them by exclaiming, "You twenty-five damned Yankees have cost me twenty-four hours!"

Brandenburg is where Morgan and his men really stepped off into hostile territory. Once they crossed the Ohio River, they were on their own. And to make a point to his men that they were really in it for the long haul, Morgan had the two commandeered steamboats burned. The practically new Alice Dean went down, but Basil Duke was a pre-war friend of the captain of the John T. McCombs and allowed it to continue on to Louisville where it would be no help to Wolford and the other pursuers.

Morgan wanted to take the war to the North. He wanted to make them suffer like much of the South. And he did all of this against the orders of his superiors. Gen. Bragg in response to Morgan's plan exclaimed, "I like everything you said, except crossing the Ohio River into the north. Go ahead and raid Kentucky. Capture Louisville if you can. But do not, I repeat, do not cross the river. Stay in Kentucky. Go anywhere you want in your home state, but I command you to stay south of the river."


Anonymous said...

Morgan's Raid, David Williams-does anything good come out of Burkesville.

Merkin J. Pus-Tart said...

Didn't you the part about the naked soldiers rising from the water there? Oh, and the founder of Maxwell Coffee (but I don't drink coffee, so he doesn't appeal to me).

Anonymous said...

Gosh!! You go into a lot of detail. You should be a travel writer. Good pics, too! We always looked forward to crossing the ferry at Brandenburg before they built the bridge...was a nice long ride. A. Gorr should try the chocolate gravy in Burkesville sometime...must be one of those superior Louisville liberals.

Merkin J. Pus-Tart said...

Corner Pool & Lunch sure looked closed to me when we drove by, so I don't think that superior Louisville liberal will be eating chocolate gravy anyway soon.