The expedition undertaken by General John H. Morgan
, in the summer of 1863, and known as the “Indiana
raid,” serves more than any other effort of his active and adventurous career to illustrate his audacious strategy, and an account of it may be read with some interest as a contribution to the history of the late civil war. I shall endeavor, therefore, as requested, to narrate its principal incidents; and, in order that a proper understanding of its purpose and importance as a military movement may be had, I must be allowed a brief description of the relative conditions and attitude of the two contending armies in Tennessee
at that date.
Indeed, if I hope to vindicate General Morgan
's reputation from the charge of senseless audacity to which this raid gave rise, I should premise by saying that in this as in all similar enterprises, he planned and conducted his operations with reference to those of the army to which he was attached, and with strict regard to the exigencies of the general campaign.
While chiefly employed in what the French
term la petite querre, he directed his movements in accordance with the programme of the “great war.”
The military situation in General Bragg
's department was ominous of ill-fortune to the Confederates
's army, always inferior to the one opposing it, in numerical strength, had recently been greatly reduced by large detachments summoned by General Joseph E. Johnston
, to aid in his projected movement to relieve Vicksburg
It was confronted at Tullahoma
by the vastly superior forces of Rosecrans
General Simon Buckner
was holding East
with a force entirely inadequate to the defense of that important region.
was concentrating in Kentucky
, for the invasion of East Tennessee
, a force variously estimated at from twenty to more than thirty thousand men. It was estimated that on the Kentucky
border there were, at least, ten or twelve thousand Federal troops, under the command of a General Judah
, five thousand of which were excellent cavalry.
This body was in a position to threaten the right flank of the Confederate army at Tullahoma
if it should remain there, or greatly embarrass its movements if it retreated.
did not doubt that there would be an early advance of this formidable line-that Rosecrans
would press on him, and Burnside
simultaneously fall upon Buckner-and he knew that the Confederate
positions could not be held.
So soon as he fully realized the danger, he determined, as the only means of saving his attenuated army from utter annihilation by the enemy's masses, to promptly retreat to the south of the Tennessee river
But retreat to the army in front of Rosecrans
was in no wise easy or free from hazard.
To cross the Tennessee
, with the Federal
columns pushing close on its rear and flanks, threatened danger to that army almost as serious as a battle.
Nor could battle be avoided, or long delayed, even if this retreat was successfully accomplished.
The Confederate General knew that somewhere in the vicinity of Chattanooga
he would have to turn upon his foes and fight.
It was no longer possible to defend Middle Tennessee
A greater sacrifice, the evacuation of East Tennessee
--the citadel of the Confederacy-was, perhaps, necessary.
But retreat, continued too far, would degenerate into flight, and bring speedy ruin.
After the safe withdrawal of his army from Tullahoma
to the new line south of the Tennessee
's chief object would be to delay Judah
— the latter especially-and to retard their advance and junction with Rosecrans
until after reinforcements he was expecting from Virginia
He even hoped that circumstances might be so ordered as to prohibit a part of these forces, at least, from appearing in season for the decisive battle he intended to deliver.
In this strategic emergency he saw no means of diverting the attention of the enemy, and of securing the much-needed time for the consummation of his plans, save by an energetic use of his cavalry.
While vigorously pushing Rosecrans
' outposts with the divisions of Martin
, in accordance with this policy, he designed for Morgan
, in pursuance of the same plan, a far more important service.
The latter was instructed to move rapidly with two thousand men of his division in the direction of Louisville
capture that city, if possible, and proceed thence into Middle
and Eastern Kentucky
, inviting pursuit by all the Federal
forces who could thus be lured away from the vicinity of the anticipated conflict.
By such a raid General Bragg
believed that Judah
could be so thoroughly employed as to leave him no leisure time to harass the withdrawal of the Confederates
; and he was confident that, if it should be more than usually active and prolonged, it might even engage the attention and arrest the march of Burnside
had foreseen the necessity of such a diversion, and had long eagerly looked forward to a campaign in the Northern
Months before, he received intimation that he would be dispatched on this service, and believing the period to consummate his favorite hope was approaching, he had sent men to examine the fords of the upper Ohio
Ardently agreeing with General Bragg
that a cavalry raid, judiciously managed, would do much to assist in extricating the army from its difficult and perilous situation, he yet differed with his superior in regard to one important feature of the proposed expedition.
He argued that it should not be confined to Kentucky
, and urged that he should be allowed to cross the Ohio
The people of Kentucky
, he said, were grown accustomed to raids, and no longer prone to magnify the numbers of those who made them.
The Federal Government, too, cared little to guard Kentucky
against such incursions, and certainly would sacrifice no military advantage to do so. A dash into Kentucky
would be decided too soon to effect any positive good, but a raid into Indiana
, he contended, would bring all the troops under Judah
in hot haste after him; would keep them engaged for weeks, and prevent their participation in Bragg
's battle with Rosecrans-the object of greatest moment.
Notwithstanding the sound military reasons why Rosecrans
' plans should not be interrupted by the withdrawal of troops upon which he relied for their execution, the alarm and the clamor in those States would be so great that the administration would be forced to heed their outcry, and furnish soldiery for their protection.
His earnest representations, however, wrought no change in the views of his chief, and he was ordered to conduct the expedition in the manner which General Bragg
, who was unwilling to risk the loss of so large a body of his cavalry, had first directed.
But so positive were Morgan
's convictions that, in order to be of any benefit in so grave a crisis, his raid should be extended to northern territory, he deliberately resolved to disobey the order restricting his operations to Kentucky
; and, although he well knew that the chances of disaster
were multiplied ten-fold by such a step, he made up his mind to take it. When he declared this determination, those with whom he advised made no effort to dissuade him from it, perfectly obvious as were the hazards to be encountered, and the serious breach of discipline involved in the infraction of the instructions given him. There was much in the idea of an enterprise so bold and exciting that found favor in the eyes of men trained to war under Morgan
In their judgment, informed by a long experience in just such service, his view of the situation was the correct one.
And, at any rate, his resolve was fixed, and opposition would have been useless.
It would have been easier to halt the stag-hound in full stretch after his quarry, than to have induced him to abandon this purpose.
I do not remember to have ever seen General Morgan
's remarkable military genius so vividly indicated as when he sketched his plan of that raid, and predicted its general events.
Concealing from himself in no wise the dangers before him, and fairly calculating all the adverse chances, he explained, as he traced his proposed course upon the map, the expedient by which he expected to avoid every difficulty as it should arise.
In these conferences he exhibited in a marked degree his extraordinary power of anticipating the effect of his own action upon his opponents, and of calculating what they would do; and more than once afterward, when Indiana
guides proved stubborn or recusant, and our devious march seemed about to end in abrupt disaster, I had occasion to recall his previous delineation of it, and wonder at his singular faculty of arriving at a correct idea of the nature and features of a country of which he was informed only by maps, and the most general description
While conceding that, from first to last, his progress would be attended with unusual difficulty and peril, he anticipated very serious danger at four points only, viz., at the crossing of the Cumberland river
, the crossing of the Ohio
, the march past Cincinnati
, and, if compelled to attempt it, the recrossing of the Ohio
He hoped, however, to be relieved from the necessity of this latter risk by joining General Lee
's army, if it should still be in Pennsylvania
On the 2d of July, 1863, with two brigades of cavalry, aggregating an effective strength of twenty-four hundred and sixty men, and a battery of four field-pieces, he commenced the passage of the Cumberland
, at Burksville
The heavy rains, of eight or ten days duration, just previously, had immensely swollen the river.
Its banks no longer confined the volume of its waters; its width was far greater than usual, and its current very strong and rapid.
No large boats could be procured, and the only means of transportation
for the men and artillery were small rafts, constructed by lashing canoes together, and making a flooring upon them of fence-rails.
The horses were forced to swim, and, after laboring through the fierce stream and painfully climbing the crumbling, treacherous bank, they stood panting and trembling, in little groups, until comforted by the arrival of their masters.
With such inadequate facilities, the passage of the river was necessarily tedious; but something worse than hard work, and loss of time, was to be apprehended.
As has already been intimated, this, the initiatory step of the expedition, was one of the most perilous.
's cavalry was stationed only twelve miles distant from Burksville
, where it had been concentrated immediately when Morgan
appeared upon the border.
It was more than double our entire strength, and if its commander had closely watched the river, and had attacked vigorously when our passage was partially effected, not only would the raid have been crushed in its inception, but we would have been cut to pieces.
It is possible that his vigilance had been deceived by the apparent withdrawal of our regiments, after they had remained inactive for nearly a week upon the banks of the river; and he may have believed that, having recruited men and horses in the fertile and grassy valleys where they had been encamped, Morgan
intended to seek safer proximity to Bragg
But, even if the Federal
commander was beguiled into such a delusion by demonstrations made with no other view than to mislead him, his negligent watch was inexcusable.
So far from himself trusting to chance, Morgan
, finding the river unguarded, and not even observed by videttes, chose the very time that the difficulty of getting over was the greatest, for the reason that the attempt would then be least expected.
The result verified the accuracy of his calculations.
Information of our movements was not transmitted to the enemy until late in the day, and it was not until nearly three in the afternoon that a column of about one thousand strong approached Burksville
, so closely as to threaten the First Brigade, of which some eight hundred men were, by that hour, across.
This force was promptly disposed to receive the advancing cavalry, and the ground about a mile back of the village being favorable, the greater part of it was placed in ambuscade.
The Federals, unsuspectingly, trotted into the trap, and, recoiling before one stinging volley, delivered at short range, rushed back in confusion.
, at the head of a reserve of two hundred men, whom he had kept mounted, pressed the retreat so energetically that he dashed into Judah
's camp along with the fleeing squadrons.
For a few minutes there ensued a scene
of indescribable turmoil, which promised to become a panic of the entire Federal command.
Tents were overthrown, men were trampled down by their comrades rushing blindly about, riderless horses plunged in every direction, and the startled soldiers thronged and huddled together in fear and amazement, which paralyzed them while it lasted.
But even while the Confederates
were firing into their faces, and the confusion seemed irremediable, the discipline of these veterans reasserted itself, and their coolness began to return.
Rallying in squads, without alignment or formation, for which there was no time, they poured a quick and continuous fire upon their assailants.
Two or three pieces of artillery, wheeled rapidly into position, opened like a succession of thunder-claps, and raked the road along which the Confederate
column was charging.
To have continued the attack would have been madness, and Morgan
, drawing off his riders as suddenly as he had brought them on, retired, leaving his adversaries so stupefied by the unexpected blow he had dealt them that they remained quietly in camp until next morning.
But before that morning's sun had risen, Morgan
had gotten everything across the angry flood, and was miles away upon the road to Northern Kentucky
Thus actually had he, from the nettle “danger,” plucked the flower “safety.”
It would be impossible, even were it desirable, to give, in the limits of an article like this, a detailed account of all the minor incidents which make up the history of an expedition of this character; and, of course, the numerous personal adventures of constant occurrence, when such a body of daring, reckless cavalrymen were threading or forcing their dubious way through the multitude of foes encompassing them, cannot well be told.
The acts of individual prowess, the “hair-breadth escapes” which add such zest to the campaign, and afford the veteran “fighting his battles o'er again” exhaustless themes of interest or amusement, will scarcely be worth recital, unless the raconteur, forsaking all graver topics, devotes exclusive attention to them.
The usual concomitants of a cavalry raid, the petty, but often sharp and desperately contested combats between small scouting parties, the fatal duels between videttes and pickets, which, trifling as they seem, yet fearfully swell the tale of blood and death, were uncommonly frequent in the six days during which we were traversing the breadth of Kentucky
Our line of march brought us in contact with the enemy far oftener than General Morgan
wished, for he was anxious to economize his strength for the long, tough strain that he was yet to encounter.
Nevertheless, as we had no choice but to pass through points strongly garrisoned, or avoid
them by deflections from the direct route which would have greatly lengthened the march, and, perhaps, enabled the cavalry force we had eluded at the Cumberland
, and now following, to overtake and attack us, we were forced to fight more than once when little inclined to do so. On the evening of the 3d, our advance guard and the Second Kentucky found a sharp skirmish with Woodford
's regiment necessary to win the right of way through Columbia
On the 4th, one of the hottest collisions I ever witnessed occurred between five or six hundred men of the Third, Fifth, and Sixth Kentucky Regiments of ours, and a Michigan regiment four or five hundred strong, at the crossing of Green river
The officer commanding this Federal detachment had selected an exceedingly strong position, and had fortified it hastily, but skilfully.
Summoned to surrender, he answered that the 4th of July was not “a good day for surrender.”
The assault was spirited and resolute, but was repulsed, and, after severe loss, we marched around the position without taking it. On the 5th, we attacked and captured Lebanon
, occupied by a Kentucky infantry regiment.
cavalry regiments advanced to relieve the garrison, but were driven off. The fighting lasted several hours, and the town was badly battered by our artillery.
On the 6th, the column passed through Bardstown
without meeting with resistance, although it was a point where we had anticipated serious opposition.
On the same evening we crossed the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, at the Lebanon Junction
, thirty miles from Louisville
, and ascertained that a large and satisfactory panic was prevailing in that city.
We had now run the gauntlet of garrisoned towns, and passed the cordon of cavalry detachments stretched through Middle
and Southern Kentucky
's cavalry, under General Hobson
, was following us, but was far in the rear.
We had reason to believe the distance between us was hourly increasing.
Our column marched the more rapidly and constantly, and uncertainty about our course would delay Hobson
Finding that we had not attacked Louisville
, and had turned to the left, he would naturally suppose that we were seeking to escape through Western Kentucky
It was improbable that he would divine Morgan
's intention to cross the Ohio
On the 8th, before mid-day, we reached Brandenburg
, and the Ohio river
rolled before our eyes.
Never before had it looked so mighty and majestic-and so hard to cross.
A small detachment, under picked officers, had been sent in advance to capture steamboats, and had successfully accomplished its mission.
We found two large boats awaiting us, and preparations to cross were instantly commenced.
At this point the Ohio
is about one thousand yards
wide, and the Indiana
shore, just opposite, favorable for the landing of the boats and disembarkation of men and horses.
A dense mist which had overspread the surface of the river during the morning, suddenly lifted just before noon as one of the steamboats was about to push off with the Second Kentucky and Ninth Tennessee, which two regiments (leaving their horses for the nonce) were detailed as the first to cross.
Almost simultaneously with the disappearance of the foggy curtain which had obstructed our view of the farther bank, and before the quickened eye well had time to take in the situation, our glances were attracted by the spouting flashes from, perhaps, a hundred rifles, aimed from the very spot where the boat must land, and quickly followed by the long, leaping flame and sullen roar of a field-piece.
The range was too great for the small-arms to do danger, but several shell from the piece smashed into the groups scattered about the wharf, before it was silenced, and two or three men were wounded.
at once ordered the section of three-inch Parrotts, which made part of the battery, to be brought up. A few well-directed shots from these dispersed this party of hospitable Indianians, whose eager haste to welcome us anticipated our actual arrival in their State, and although they tried hard to save their artillery they were forced to abandon it. The boat immediately shoved across, and the two regiments which she carried sprang ashore, formed, and pressed forward, under fire from the party just before driven back by the steel guns, but which had retreated no further than a wooded ridge some five hundred yards from the river, where they either rejoined or were reinforced by another body of about the same strength.
Before more troops could be put over an interruption occurred, which threatened to stop all further proceedings.
A river gunboat, small but vicious, put in an appearance, and opened fire alternately upon the men on the Indiana
shore, the boats, and the troops in town.
She carried three guns, and it was evident that, if well and boldly handled, it was possible for her to become mistress of the situation.
So long as she remained within range, it would have been suicidal to have attempted to pass the river.
A single well-aimed shot would have sent either boat to the bottom, and caused the loss of every man on board.
But delay would be equally fatal.
If the gunboat should do no more than stand guard over the ferry, and hold us inactive, we were ruined.
Two of our strongest and best regiments were already dangerously compromised.
Separated from the main body by the broad torrent, and, in that most awkward of all predicaments for cavalry, cut off from their horses, they might
be attacked at any moment by overwhelming odds, while debarred retreat or assistance.
We were only thirty or forty miles from Louisville
So soon as a true comprehension of the situation was obtained there, a sufficient force might be sent thence to capture our comrades on the Indiana
side, and successfully resist our passage, even if the gunboat should then release us from durance.
Moreover, although Hobson
might be mystified for a short period in regard to our movements, his doubt could not last long, and nothing could be more certain than, if we were detained twenty-four hours, he would be upon us, reinforced, perhaps, by every Federal cavalry detachment in Central Kentucky
We were not strong enough to cope with the half of such a force, for our original total of twenty-four hundred and sixty was now diminished by one hundred and fifty or sixty men, killed and wounded in the engagements sustained on the march, and some two hundred detached for necessary diversions.
It was a sheer, absolute necessity that the gunboat should be sunk, or driven off, and the Parrotts were posted on a small hill, immediately overlooking the river, and set to work at her in dead earnest.
Nothing loth, she instantly accepted the challenge, and, turning her broadside to the battery, gave back shot for shot.
Crowding upon the bluffs, the men watched this duel with intense interest.
The hardiest veterans of the command, inured to a service in which every day brought its peculiar peril, every hour had its hazard, paled, and breathed thick and hard with keen excitement.
For once, General Morgan
's coolness and self-command forsook him, and he could not disguise the emotion he felt.
No one realized so thoroughly as he the magnitude and imminence of the danger to which delay exposed him. No one knew so well the importance of promptly accomplishing this invasion, now that he had notified the people of Indiana
that he was about to enter their territory.
The news was speeding over the State
Everywhere resistance was being organized.
He felt that he must cross that river at once; to be free to fight or flee, to elude the danger by celerity of movement, or quell it by audacious aggression.
But the feeling with which every man in our ranks regarded that scene was quite different from that which conflict, grown familiar with custom, usually evoked.
That wide, strong current, pouring steadily along, as if in contemptuous indifference of our struggles, divided us from a momentous future.
Thrice our number of eager enemies were upon our track.
The broad States of Kentucky
separated us from the retreating Confederate armies.
passed the great river, we would be confronted by the angry and hostile North
--a vast and infuriated population, and a soldiery outnumbering us twenty to one.
We were throwing down the gauntlet to the “nation.”
We could expect no such sympathy as in Kentucky
often guided our movements, and rendered us valuable aid. But we knew that the whole people would rise in arms, and rush from all quarters against us. Our march would be incessantly harassed.
The omnipresent telegraph would constantly tell of our course.
Railroads would bring fresh assailants from every point of the compass, and we would have to undergo this ordeal-night and day, with no intermission, not an hour of safety — for nearly seven hundred miles.
After a contest of perhaps an hour, but which, to the impatient spectators, seemed interminable, the gunboat backed out and steamed up the river.
Whether she had sustained injury from our guns or had exhausted her ammunition, we never knew.
Without speculating about the cause of her withdrawal, we witnessed it with an exquisite sense of relief.
Both boats were immediately crowded with men and horses to their fullest capacity, and the crossing was resumed and hastened with all possible dispatch.
About five P. M. the gunboat returned, accompanied by a consort, causing us lively apprehension.
They hovered in sight until dark, and once came so near as to elicit a few shots from the Parrotts, by way of protest, but made no further effort to interrupt the ferriage.
Both brigades and the artillery were gotten over by midnight and encamped not far from the river.
The panic of the people was excessive.
Leaving their houses with doors unlocked and ajar, they fled into the woods, and concealed themselves so effectually that, thickly settled as was that portion of the State
, we did not see the face of one citizen, man, woman, or child, until after noon of the next day. At Corydon
, the first town through which our march conducted us, we encountered a spirited resistance from a considerable body of militia, who, selecting a position where the road ran between two rather abrupt hills, had erected a long barricade of timber, from which they opened a brisk fire upon the head of the column.
The advance guard charged this work on horseback, and as it was too high for the horses to leap, and too strong to be broken down by their rush, some sixteen or eighteen men were unnecessarily lost.
A demonstration up]on the flank, however, quickly dislodged the party, and we entered the town without further molestation.
On the following day, before we reached Salem
, we found parties of militia thick along the road, and at that place several hundred
were collected, while squads were rapidly coming in from all directions.
To attack instantly was the only policy proper with these fellows, for although they were raw and imperfectly armed, they would fight, and if we had hesitated in the least, might have become dangerous.
The Second Regiment, dashing at full speed into the town, dispersed this body with trifling loss on either side.
I have seen the number of militia called out in the two States to resist this raid estimated at one hundred and fifty thousand.
I know not how correct this may be, but I am confident that I quite often saw as many as ten thousand per diem, and it wasn't always a “good day” for militia.
To men, accustomed as we were to the sparsely populated Southern States, drained by the demands of the war, the dense, able-bodied male population of Indiana
was as astonishing as it was disagreeable, and we never collided with an exceptionally stubborn gang without cursing the lack of patriotism which kept them at home and out of the army.
Sending out detachments in every direction, General Morgan
was enabled to prevent, in some measure, a concentration of the large bodies of militia.
This method also caused his actual strength to be greatly magnified, and occasioned perplexity and doubt in regard to the course of his march, and the points at which he was really striking.
Very nice calculation and careful management, however, was necessary to guard against their permanent separation from the main body.
, where we tapped the telegraph lines, General Morgan
obtained the first reliable information he had gotten, since crossing the river, of the movements of the regular troops under Burnside
I use the term “regular” in contradistinction to “militia.”
He learned that an immense force of infantry was being disposed to intercept him, and that points on the river were already being occupied by the soldiery.
, the most dangerous of these points, with one regiment, he turned due northward, toward Vernon
, where heavy bodies of militia were concentrating.
Amusing the officer in command here with a demand for his surrender, and apparent preparations for battle, he flanked the town without fighting, and urged his march rapidly in the direction of Cincinnati
He had learned the fact that Burnside
was in that city, and inferred therefrom that a strenuous effort would be made to capture or rout him in that neighborhood.
He expected to find the enemy in strong force along the line of the Hamilton and Dayton Railroad, and between Hamilton
He believed that if he could elude this danger his ultimate success would be assured, unless the Ohio
should be so high that boats could convey
troops to the upper fords.
It was important, therefore, to deceive General Burnside
in regard to the point where he would cross this railroad.
Accordingly, so soon as he reached Harrison
, on the Indiana
line, and twenty-five miles from Cincinnati
, he dispatched a strong detachment in the direction of Hamilton
, and bivouacked the entire command on the road leading to that place, as if he meant to pursue it. But, that afternoon, when he thought time enough had elapsed for the news of this demonstration to have reached Burnside
, he pressed directly for Cincinnati
In a few hours the detachment which had maneuvred toward Hamilton
rejoined him by a flank march across the country.
As he had expected, General Burnside
, believing Hamilton
to be his objective point, sent there the greater part of the troops posted at Cincinnati
and in the vicinity.
Hoping, although, of course, not knowing, that this could be done, and that Cincinnati
would be left with a garrison no stronger than the absolute defense of the place might require, Morgan
marched with unusual celerity, and penetrated into the suburbs of the city.
This threat had the anticipated effect.
The troops remaining there, about twenty-five hundred or three thousand in number — were withdrawn from the outskirts to the interior of the city, under the impression that it was about to be attacked, but uncertain where the blow would be delivered.
Our advance videttes were instructed to cut the telegraph wires, so that no troops could be recalled, and also to chase in the pickets on every road; and thus feigning assault, while really bent on escape, the column cautiously wound its way through the populous environs of the big town.
So long as I live I shall never forget that night march around Cincinnati
We had now been almost constantly in motion for eleven days and nights, and gone nearly four hundred miles. It had been a period of almost total deprivation of rest and sleep; for, when not marching, we had been fighting, or hard at work.
The column was incumbered with the men wounded in Indiana
; and those still in the saddle, reduced in number to less than two thousand, were worn with the enormous fatigue consequent upon such exertions, of which no one, who has not had a similar experience, can form the slightest conception.
The Second Brigade had comparatively little trouble, for it was in front, and General Morgan
rode at its head with the guides.
But the First Brigade was embarrassed beyond measure.
If the regiment in the rear of the advance brigade had been kept “closed up,” and held compactly together, the entire column would have been directed by the guides.
But, although composed of the very best fighting material, this regiment
had always been under lax discipline, and the effect was now observable.
Its rear companies would straggle, halt, and delay all behind them.
When forced to proceed, they would move at a gallop.
A great gap would thus be opened between the two brigades, and we, who were in the rear, were obliged to grope our way without assistance.
At the frequent junctions of roads, which occur in the suburbs of so large a city, we were compelled to consult all sorts of indications to ascertain the right path.
The night was intensely dark, and it was necessary to light torches at all such points.
The horses' tracks, on paved and dusty streets, so constantly traveled, afforded no clue to the route our comrades had taken; but we could trace it by noticing the manner in which the dust “settled” or floated.
On a calm night, the dust occasioned by the passage of a large body of cavalry will remain in the air for minutes, and moves slowly in the direction followed by those who have disturbed it. We were, also, aided by remarking the slaver which had been dropped from the mouths of the horses.
At every halt men would fall asleep, and even drop from their saddles, and the officers were compelled to exercise constant vigilance to keep them in ranks.
Daylight returned just as we reached the Little Miami Railroad, the last point at which we anticipated immediate danger, and, after the trials of the night, its appearance was gratefully hailed.
Our progress was continued, however, save an hour's halt, in sight of Camp Dennison
, to feed the horses, until we reached Williamsburg
, where we rested, after a march of ninety-seven miles, and, for the first time during the raid, slept the sleep of the righteous who know not fear.
Our experience in Ohio
was very similar to that in Indiana
Small fights with the militia were of hourly occurrence.
They hung about the column, incessantly assaulting it; keeping up a continuous fusilade, the crack of their rifles sounded in our ears without intermission, and the list of killed and wounded was constantly swelling.
We captured hundreds daily, but could only break their guns and turn them loose again.
They finally resorted to one capital means of annoyance, by felling trees and barricading the roads.
The advance guard was forced to carry axes to cut away these blockades.
While thus pleasantly occupied, we learned that Vicksburg
had fallen, and General Lee
, after Gettysburg
, had retreated from Pennsylvania
The information did not conduce to improve our morale
. General Morgan
had managed, in both Indiana
, to successfully avoid any serious engagement, and as his progress through the latter State drew near its conclusion, he was more than
ever anxious to shun battle.
, where we approached the river again, a large force of regular troops appeared; but, although our passage by the place was one sharp, continuous skirmish, we prevented them from gaining a position that would have forced us into a decisive combat.
On the night of the 18th, we encamped again on the banks of the Ohio
, at the little village of Portland
, not far from Buffington Island
This was the point where Morgan
had planned to recross the river (when he first contemplated the raid), in the event he could not join General Lee
; and here was the scene of the disaster which closed the expedition, and virtually terminated his own career of almost unparalleled success.
An important element in his calculations, when he was planning this enterprise, was the fact that, after what is known as the “June rise” in the Ohio
, the river generally runs down, and becomes fordable, at certain points, in the latter part of July.
But this “rise,” produced by the melting of the snow in the mountains, came, this year, not in June, but in July, so that the ford at Buffington
, usually quite shallow and practicable in the latter month, was, in 1863, deep and difficult.
We were unfortunate, also, in arriving at Portland
after nightfall, and feared to attempt, in the solid gloom, and without guides, the passage of the stream.
Men and horses were alike exhausted; a train of vehicles of every description, filled with wounded men, and the artillery, had to be crossed.
If we missed the ford, as we might easily do in the darkness, many lives would be lost.
knew that he would probably be attacked on the following day. He at once, and correctly, conjectured that the troops we had seen at Pomeroy
were a portion of the infantry which had been sent from Kentucky
to intercept us, and that they had been brought by the river from Cincinnati
He knew that if the boats could pass that place, they could run up as far as Buffington's Island
The transports would certainly be accompanied by small gunboats.
Against these, small-arms would be useless, and our artillery ammunition was nearly exhausted.
Moreover, an attack from the forces under Hobson
was to be apprehended, for our recent delays had enabled him to gain rapidly upon us.
It is needless to dwell upon the anxiety of the commander in such a situation, and impossible to describe the despondency which now assailed the subaltern officers and the men. The latter, demoralized by tremendous and constant toil, and forced and long-continued abstinence from sleep, for the first time doubting a successful issue of their efforts, lay down along the river shore in dogged despair.
They forgot their long experience of victory; they seemed, temporarily, to discard the confidence which they had hitherto unreservedly given their general; they could think only of the safety and repose which were just beyond the river, but separated from them by difficulties they saw no means of overcoming.
At the first streak of dawn, five hundred men, detailed for that service, advanced to carry an earthwork thrown up at the entrance to the ford, and which on the previous night had been occupied by three hundred Federal infantry, and had mounted two heavy guns.
They found the work abandoned, and the guns rolled over the bluff.
But as this detachment moved on down the Pomeroy
road, which it was instructed to guard while the main body was fording, a sharp rattle of musketry suddenly announced that it had encountered an enemy.
This turned out to be Judah
's advance guard, and sustained a smart loss in killed and wounded, beside a piece of artillery and some fifty men captured.
One of Judah
's staff was wounded, and his adjutant general made prisoner.
Our triumph, however, was short-lived.
The Federal infantry, eight or ten thousand strong, instantly deployed and advanced, flanked by three regiments of cavalry.
Two pieces of our battery were taken at the first onset.
They were no great less, inasmuch as but three cartridges remained to the guns, and the bores were so clogged with dust and dirt that they could scarcely be loaded.
Our effective strength was now little more than eighteen hundred.
The men were almost without ammunition; it had either been shot away in the frequent skirmishes, or worn out in the cartridge-boxes.
Nevertheless, they formed with alacrity, and prepared for a resistance which should secure a safe retreat.
And it would have been successfully done had not Hobson
arrived just at this crisis with three thousand men and attacked our right flank.
If the reader will picture in his mind a long valley, which may be roughly described as in the shape of an enormous V, one side of which is a wooded, ridgy hill, and the other the river; if he will imagine this angle crowded with Confederates, while Judah
pressed into the opening, Hobson
aligned his command upon the ridge, and three gunboats steamed up the river and took position at short range on the left, he will have formed a tolerably accurate idea of the situation.
The only means of egress from the valley left open to us was at the apex or northern end — the river runs here nearly due north and south.
Upon the level and unsheltered surface of this river bottom we were exposed to a tremendous direct and cross-fire from twelve or thirteen thousand small-arms, and fifteen pieces
The screams of the shells drowned the hiss of the bullets; coming from three different directions, and bursting between the two lines formed at right angles — a disposition we were compelled to adopt in order to confront both assailants — the air seemed filled with metal, and the ground was torn and ploughed into furrows.
Only some twenty-five men were killed, and about eighty wounded. The open, skirmish line formation, which our system of tactics prescribed, saved us from heavier loss.
The odds were too overwhelming and too apparent for the contest to have lasted long, even had the men been in better fighting condition.
After sustaining the attack for little more than half an hour, we began to retreat, at first in good order.
The upper end of the valley was filled with wagons and ambulances, whose wounded and terror-stricken occupants urged the scared horses to headlong flight.
Often they became locked together, and were hurled over as if by an earthquake.
Occasionally a solid shot, or unexploded shell would strike one, and dash it into splinters.
As the retreating battalions neared the point of exit, and discovered that-only two narrow roads afforded avenues of escape, they broke ranks and rushed for them.
Both were instantly blocked.
The remaining section of artillery was tumbled into a ravine, during this mad swirl, as if the guns had been as light as feathers.
The gunboats raked the roads with grape, and the Seventh and Eighth Michigan Cavalry dashed into the mass of fugitives.
In a moment the panic was complete, and the disaster irretrievable.
Between seven and eight hundred of the command were captured on this field.
Some three hundred swam the river at a point twenty miles above.
Several were drowned in the attempt to do so. General Morgan
succeeded in withdrawing about a thousand men from the fight, and effected their reorganization, although closely pursued and continually attacked by cavalry.
This was a last effort, gallant but unavailing.
Fresh thousands met him everywhere.
He was baffled at every point, and, finally, about a week later, surrounded and obliged to surrender.
Thus ended a raid which, in boldness of conception and purpose, vigor and skill of execution, and importance of object, has no equal in the history of such enterprises.
The soldier who carefully studies it will pronounce that its failure was not disgraceful, and that even success could have furnished no stronger proof, than did its conduct, of the genius and nerve of its author.