previous next

Morgan's Indiana and Ohio Railroad.

Colonel J. E. M'Gowan.
This writing was suggested by the perusal of a sketch of the Morgan raid of 1863, by General Basil W. Duke, printed in the Weekly times of April 7th, 1877. I have followed the thread of his narrative, when necessary to the continuity of my story, accepting, without question, his account of what his own forces did, and adding to its value by corroborating it when I could. I have corrected,where their historical importance seemed to demand it, his errors as to the numbers and movements of the forces which followed and captured Morgan's command. The summer of 1863 opened on a favorable outlook for the Federal forces in the departments south of the Ohio. They had been recruited from the “six hundred thousand more” who went afield in August and September, 1862. The new levies had been weeded of worthless material by a severe winter's work-guarding lines of communication, or facing the enemy under Grant, Burnside, or Rosecrans. Stone River, though a “drawn battle,” resulted in a considerable balance to the credit of the “invader,” who held the field, fortified it and kept his lines open by rail and wagon train to the Ohio river. These armies were, in short, on the 1st of June, 1863, strong in numbers, in vigorous health, full of confidence, thoroughly disciplined and splendidly equipped. Grant's Army of the Tennessee, and the Army of the Cumberland, had been reorganized into corps, and had become well used to that system. The scattered troops in Kentucky were being placed on the same basis by Burnside, who commanded the Department of the Ohio, with headquarters at Cincinnati. On the 10th of [751] June it was announced in general orders that the army of occupation in Kentucky had been consolidated, for active service, into the Twenty-third Army Corps, under command of Major General George L. Hartsuff. This corps numbered, of all arms, about twenty-four thousand men.

The army headquarters at Washington had planned to move these three forces as near simultaneously as possible, and by pressing the enemy heavily on all sides at once, prevent him from dividing any one of his defensive forces to reinforce another. Grant was already pushing Pemberton into his forts at Vicksburg. Burnside and Rosecrans were to move on parallel lines, the first toward Knoxville, the second toward Chattanooga. It was a most favorable moment to strike directly into the heart of the Confederacy. Bragg had weakened himself to strengthen Johnston in his vain endeavor first to prevent, and then to raise the siege of Vicksburg. Burnside and his troops concentrated near the Tennessee line. His cavalry was thrown well forward. He waited the signal from Murfreesboro to move southward in concert with Rosecrans. Buckner held East Tennessee feebly. It was one of those supreme opportunities that occur in all great wars, which, if seized in a strong hand and wielded with vigor, can be so improved as to end the strife in one heavy, short, and sharp campaign. A competent military critic, looking at the situation from to-day, would probably conclude that, had these three armies been controlled by one master of right qualities, he would have brought the campaign to a glorious end by autumn, and brushed the Confederacy out of Tennessee, North Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, if indeed he had not so weakened it that the whole structure would have tumbled into ruin before the dawn of 1864. But we had no such man at the head of Southwestern military affairs. They were in the hands of three commanders, entirely independent of each other, and probably jealous of each other. These chiefs had no very high opinion of General Halleck, the nominal commander-in-chief at army headquarters, and this last sentiment of the generals was indulged in by all ranks in their several armies. It was a different task to disconcert plans made by or for the heads of armies thus situated from that which would have been necessary to break the back of one of Grant's campaigns a year later. He had ample authority, and the rugged will to enforce his orders. But speculate as we may about “what might have been,” history will record the fact that the nicely fixed plan for a grand co-operative campaign of the three armies mentioned was completely balked, that one of them came to grief and well-nigh to destruction at [752] Chickamauga, while another was bottled up in a half-starved state, and that Grant's forces alone achieved anything but disaster until they were placed under one head the following November. For this fortunate escape of the Confederacy from a stunning blow, that government was indebted, first, to the divided councils of their enemies, and, second, to General John H. Morgan's dash, enterprise, and courage.

About the middle of June, Morgan appeared in the Cumberland river valley, on the south bank, at the head of a picked division of cavalry and a battery, aggregating about two thousand five hundred men. He maneuvred, or rather marched along the river, up and down, now approaching the stream, and now disappearing in some back valley. The last week in June he kept out of sight of the river, and was so profoundly quiet that the Federal commanders, who had been watching him closely for ten days, concluded he had returned to Bragg's main column near Tullahona. They were sure, then, that their first surmise, that he had come into the valley to recruit his stock on its fine pastures, was correct. All vigilance north of the river was slackened. Videttes along the bank were recalled and sent to their several commands. The cavalry, under Hobson and Woolford, was permitted to scatter about the country, the better to enable men and horses to be fed. The force nearest the river was at Tompkinsville, twenty miles from Burksville, the county town of Cumberland County, Kentucky, a few miles south of which Morgan lay, holding his command very still and watching a chance to make a crossing. He waited until the 2d of July. The river had been swollen of late by heavy rains. It was out of its banks, a broad, swift, muddy torrent, over which the Confederate chieftain put his command on rafts made of log canoes, overlaid with fence rails. It was one of the boldest undertakings of the war, and the skill with which it was executed was equaled by the pluck which conceived and carried it through. When Morgan had nearly finished his crossing, one of Hobson's regiments, by mere accident, ambled within reach of his strong outposts, a mile from the ferry, which provoked a lively skirmish, the Federals being soundly whipped. And now, when the raiders were at full speed on their northward journey, our commanders began to have an inkling that these fellows had come into the valley of the Cumberland for something else than grass.

On the evening of the 3d, the rebels struck Woolford,. with the First Kentucky Cavalry, and scattered him to the right and left near the village of Columbia. On the 4th, they made an unsuccessful attempt to capture Colonel O. M. Moore, of the Twenty-fifth [753] Michigan Infantry, and a small garrison of his regiment at Green river bridge. After losing more than one-fifth as many men as Moore had with him, Morgan called off his assaulting column and rode round the bridge, fording the stream below. On the 5th, the raiders took Lebanon by assault. The post was defended by the Twenty-first Kentucky Infantry, Colonel Hanson, who made a gallant resistance. In the final assault on this post, a younger brother of the Confederate general was killed. He was a favorite with his elder kinsman, who, in his wild wrath at the boy's death, for once forgot what was due to prisoners of war, and soiled his record by wreaking a mean revenge on the officers he had captured. He ordered Colonel Hanson and his officers to be “double-quicked” in front of a squadron of cavalry with drawn sabres six miles north of Lebanon to a village, where he directed them to be paroled. This brutal order was brutally executed. It is due Morgan's memory to say that the order was given under peculiar excitement, and that, though I served two years with troops which came in contact with him a score of times, the one just related is the only instance of Morgan's abuse of prisoners which ever came to my ears in such form as to justify belief in its truthfulness. On the evening of the 6th, the raiders crossed the Louisville and Nashville Railway, near Shepherdsville, north of Lebanon Junction. They stopped a passenger train, went through the passengers and mails in free-and-easy style, and then having passed the last fortified post on their route northward, pushed for the Ohio. The force sent in advance to seize boats with which to cross into Indiana, secured two large steamers on the morning of the 8th, and when Morgan reached Brandenburg at noon these transports awaited him.

Meantime, the whole of Burnside's army had been recalled from its line in the south of Kentucky, and had been pushed rapidly toward the northern border. Every available trooper was put in pursuit. General H. M. Judah, commandant Third Division, Twenty-third Army Corps, heard of Morgan's crossing of the Cumberland in his tent, at Glasgow, late on the night of the 2d. With his staff and a small escort he hastily rode to within a few miles of Burksville that night. Judah and Hobson held a short council; the scattered cavalry was speedily concentrated, and Hobson took command of that portion which made the chase direct astern, and he gathered into his command all the loose cavalry on his route. Judah, with the Fifth Indiana, the Fourteenth Illinois, the Eleventh Kentucky, a section of Henshaw's Illinois Battery and a section of three-inch Rodmans, manned by troopers of the Fifth Indiana, set out on [754] an interior line of the arc on which Morgan moved. And though his force was delayed almost an entire day in effecting a crossing of Green river, which was swollen by late rains, it reached Elizabethtown, on the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, on the evening of the 7th--the day before Morgan got to Brandenburg. From Elizabethtown Judah marched west to Litchfield, a village on the “old Hartford” road, the only practicable route of escape for raiders if they failed to make a crossing at Brandenburg.

There is plenty of internal and external evidence to show that Burnside intended that Morgan should cross the river and run through Southern Indiana and Southern Ohio. The Federal general's plan had been all thrown away by the necessity to pursue the raiders, and protect his supplies and communications; and he very naturally might conclude that the best compensation for this sacrifice was to give the “Knights of the golden circle” of Indiana, and the Vallandighammers of Ohio, a touch of the quality of their Southern friends. To one who was in a position to know pretty well what was afoot at headquarters, it looked very much as if Burnside was first intent on inducing the Confederates to visit the Northern States, and, second, that, failing in this, he would not let them return South without a fight with forces sufficient to whip and break in pieces, if not capture, the command. All the Federal dispositions were, apparently, made with these two objects in view, and the troops and gunboats acted precisely as if they were carrying out the programme. It was, also, regarded that his invasion of the North rendered his capture morally certain.

I am of opinion that either orders were issued to the troops and gunboats not to prevent Morgan from entering Indiana, or that the commanders of both the naval and land forces manifested gross carelessness and want of enterprise at that point in the pursuit, neither of which characterized their operations at any other time from the 3d of July, when the chase began, to the 26th, when it closed. I think it is clear, from Duke's account of the crossing at Brandenburg, that the master of the gunboat “Elk” offered the rebels very “judicious” resistance. Duke says: “A single well-aimed shot from her would have sent either of the boats to the bottom, and caused the loss of every man on board.” But it does not look as if Lieutenant Fitch, who commanded her, cared to do more than annoy and delay, withal hindering, Morgan's enterprise in beginning a campaign “on Yankee soil,” thus giving Hobson and Judah advantages in the pursuit which rendered the final capture of the rebels more certain. But, whatever may have been the orders [755] to the gunboats, I know that General Judah, on whose staff I was serving as provost marshal, could have reached Brandenburg nearly, if not quite, as soon as Morgan did. I am pretty clear that the Confederates, what with the “Elk” and her consort on the river, and fifteen hundred troopers and four field-pieces on land, to oppose them, would have had a very lively time in initiating their visit to the people of Southern Indiana. And whether or not, as Duke says, the gunboat “could have become mistress of the situation if well and boldly handled,” she and her mate, had they been supplemented by our forces of “horse marines” on land, could, with such aid, have scattered the raiders in flying fragments, if the attack had been made when the crossing was partially done, or forced a precipitate retreat by striking before the ferrying begun. During the whole day in which Morgan was crossing the Ohio, Judah lay within six hours march of him to the south. Whatever Burnside's intentions were in the premises, Morgan succeeded, during twelve hours of intense anxiety and hard work, in placing his force on the Indiana shore; and probably desiring to imitate, as near as he could with the appliances at hand, another celebrated invader, at midnight of the 8th the two large steamers which he used were set on fire, and, with full head of steam on, were sent down the stream. By this lurid light, seemingly kindled to wantonly intensify the wrath and increase the exertions of his foes, the invader began his perilous march on Northern ground.

On the morning of the 9th, Judah marched his force, with haste, back to Elizabethtown, where men and horses were loaded on trains and carried to Louisville. There the cars were exchanged for steamboats, and our column was all at the Cincinnati wharf on the morning of the 14th. We were fitted out with a fleet of steamers, and, leisurely waiting until Morgan passed the city, we started up the river, under orders to keep as near abreast of the enemy as practicable, and not to land until we were certain of reaching Buffington ford about the same time the raiders did. We steamed slowly up the Ohio, sending boats ashore from the headquarters' steamer every few hours to get reports of scouts and citizens on the movements and whereabouts of Morgan. We landed at Portsmouth on the evening of the 16th, and had some trouble in convincing the loyal people of that town that they ought, in consideration of liberal compensation in cash, to furnish us a sufficient train to carry our extra baggage and ammunition. A little coaxing, emphasized in special cases by resolute-looking fellows with drawn sabres, was successful. At nightfall I drove up in front of the shabby old [756] hotel, for the general's inspection, a dozen wagons. With vigilant guarding, we kept them a couple of days, and found them a tolerably efficient transportation force, though the men, mostly owners of the teams and wagons they managed, were ten times as great cowards as the average army mule-driver — a statement some old soldiers will be inclined to question, as they will hardly believe in greater cowardice than that displayed by the noble corps of patriots referred to. We struck out over the knobs that night, in a northeasterly direction, in order to reach the old Pomeroy stage road in the morning at Portland, on the Sciota Valley Railroad, by the time Morgan should cross the road at Jackson, a few miles further north. We reached Portland at sunrise. Smoke was rising over Jackson, and we were not long in ascertaining that it proceeded from the depot, which some foolish vandals of Morgan's had fired, thus revealing his whereabouts to his pursuers more accurately than they could otherwise have ascertained it.

And now began, on the morning of July 17th, the most exciting part of this exciting expedition. The rebels knew we were neck and neck with them. They knew Hobson was pursuing them in the rear with the eagerness of a bloodhound. They knew their only chance of escape lay in reaching the fords some time in advance of both pursuers. They had the advantage of distance on Judah-the road they traveled being several miles shorter than his, which followed the bends of the river.

From the morning of the 17th, on to the final encounter, we were constantly within reach of and feeling Morgan's right flank and rear. John O'Neil, since of Fenian and Canadian border fame, then a lieutenant in the Fifth Indiana Cavalry, was intrusted with the task of harassing the raiders, and keeping the Federal commander informed of all the enemy's movements. O'Neil was an ideal Irish dragoon, impetuous, brave, prudent. He did some as effective scouting and skirmishing with his command of fifty picked men along the bluffs of the Ohio on the two last days of the great raid, as any officer did during the war. As the raiders advanced they were, beside being harassed by O'Neil, harried by citizen militia, who felled trees across the road to halt the column, and that done poured in deadly volleys from rifles and shot-guns from secure perches on the steep hillsides. The Confederate officers and men said the resistance and annoyance by militia on their march of over three hundred miles of northern territory was nowhere so stubborn and effective as on the last day, from near Pomeroy to their last encampment on the Ohio, between Buffington and Blennerhasset shoals, though a good deal in [757] this line, attributed to the militia by Duke, was the work of O'Neil and his fifty troopers. In the rear of Pomeroy, O'Neil made a particularly spirited onset upon the Confederates, in which he was aided by a small squad of soldiers who were home on furlough, and happening to hear of Morgan's movements, armed with such weapons as were at hand, and went out to give him some trouble. In this affair several Confederates were wounded, as we learned next day, and at least two were killed.

We learned, while resting and feeding at Pomeroy, Saturday evening, that late rains in the mountains of Pennsylvania had swelled the Ohio, and rendered the fords at Blennerhasset and Buffington uncertain, and, for any but a person who knew them intimately, dangerous. The Confederates learned this, to their dismay, late that night or early next morning. They had a party of men inspecting the fords all night, and they reported that an attempt to cross would be attended with great hazard. Morgan seemed to agree with this conclusion for he went into camp late on the night of the 18th, about a mile and a half above Buffington, and as soon as they could see he set some men to work calking some old flatboats found near the island. Some of his men tried Blennerhasset, and failed to get across. Then a party was sent to dislodge a battery planted by some militia so as to command Buffington. They found the little redoubt deserted, and the guns were discovered at the foot of the river bank where the prudent garrison pitched them before retreating. Then a squadron tried Buffington ford, and several were drowned. Their guide, a former drover, who lived near by and was impressed into the service, told me the same day that he purposely misled the Confederates into a deep eddy. He said seventeen, with their horses, perished. Then a strong picket line, with a considerable reserve in support, the whole dismounted, was so stationed as to cover the ford, and the Confederates awaited results.

While the rebels were making ineffectual attempts to cross the river, Judah's column was marching in inky darkness from Pomeroy to Buffington. The road is as crooked as a ram's horn, and has innumerable roads and lanes leading from it at all sorts of appreciable and inappreciable angles. Those who made that march will not likely forget it while memory lasts them. At each of the by-roads it was necessary to station a sentry from the advance-Major Lyle's Battalion of the Fifth Indiana--the sentry being instructed to point the right road to the head of the column when it came up. Generally these sentries, two minutes after the officer gave them their orders, were fast asleep. Their horses would walk away in search of [758] something to graze or browse. The officer at the head of the command, thus left to his own judgment, several times took the wrong road. The moment the men were halted the majority of them would lean forward on their horses' necks and fall dead asleep. The task of rousing them, turning about the artillery which was twice involved in these blunders, and getting back on the right track was not a pleasant one, especially when the troops were jammed into a lane barely wide enough to hold them, and the high fences on either hand reinforced by impenetrable hedges of briars and underbrush. An officer who could get from the foot to the head of such a solid column of stupid somnolency without blaspheming, must be a man of rare self-control. I remember to have had my boots, a new and stylish pair, ruined, and my spurs dragged off in such a tedious expedition, and when my work was accomplished I had worn out my sword, and trampled a half-dozen poor fellows half to death, whose tumble from their horses was not enough to wake them from their deep slumbers, and whom it was impossible for one to see at a few feet distant, so dense was the darkness. Finally the general, with a volley of profanity by way of special emphasis, ordered Lyle to place three men at every by-road, and to order those who remained awake to take those who fell asleep under guard to headquarters, where they were to be punished by some infliction just short of decapitation. But despite mishaps and delays we arrived, as day was dawning, Sunday morning, July 19th, on the top of a high bluff, a mile and a half from Buffington ford, the road ahead of us leading directly to that point. A dense fog hung over the river and its shores, which was all that prevented the hostile forces from having a full view of each other. The bottom of the river where our road crossed it is fully a mile wide, and tapers almost to a point a mile and a half above, where the road by which the rebels reached their position passes close to the water's edge, and under a steep, high bluff. The Confederates were stretched out along a range of low hills, their left resting near and so as to cover a retreat through this narrow passage. Our position was not more than three-fourths of a mile from Morgan's right, with some broken and low woods between.

The command had halted, the staff and escort.were dismounted and waiting to hear from O'Neil, who was, as we supposed, feeling his way along the river bank in the fog, he having taken a road which lay close to the bank on the last ten miles of the march. While thus loitering and maledicting the fog, a staff officer approached, having in charge a colored man who was terribly frightened. He said he had just got away from the rebels. He told us [759] where they were, when they got there, how their force were disposed, where their wagon train lay, what they had been about during the night. The general at once began a raking cross-examination of the frightened creature, and, as a natural consequence, the witness stumbled. At once he was called a liar, and his story set down as sheer romance and the result of fright. The general refused to listen further to the man's story, and declared the whole of it improbable, as he was certain Morgan must be near Blennerhasset, several miles above. Staff officers interposed in vain with the plea that the fellow's story was sustained by every reasonable probability. We were silenced with the sneering dictum that niggers were natural liars, and that no sane officer would believe one unless he knew of his own knowledge that the story was true. Some of us may have thought that General Judah should have known the truth of the man's story, but military discipline forbade us putting such thoughts into words. We were not long to remain ignorant of our enemy's whereabouts. Lieutenant Armstrong, of the Fourteenth Illinois Cavalry, was sent for. The general directed him to proceed with his company-forty-five men — toward the river. The lieutenant was not ordered to load his pieces, nor given the slightest hint to be prepared for a sudden meeting with the enemy. Behind Armstrong's company rode the general and staff, and behind them, and close upon their heels, was Captain Henshaw with a piece of artillery. The road, after we descended the hills, was a narrow lane bordered on each hand by wheat fields, in which the grain was standing in shocks. The fences, which were high, were not let down; no kind of precaution was taken against a surprise, though the fog was so dense the men could barely, see from head to foot of the small company, and the advance, where it had moved the regulation distance ahead of the company, was lost to view in the white gloom. To round up and make complete in all its parts this splendid exhibition of tactical skill, our main body was left lying about loose and too far from the river to support us in any sudden emergency at that point, where one was likely to arise.

We had approached within six hundred yards of the ford when a gust of air, hot as the breath of an-oven, come down the valley; the fog lifted with nearly as great celerity as a stage curtain can be run up. Our party had no time to “take in the beautiful scenery disclosed to our view,” mostly because a strong skirmish line in gray jackets, on foot, and not more than a hundred yards to our left and front, was made visible to our eyes by the sudden letting in of sunlight on that particular spot. The fellows were not long in making [760] themselves heard and felt. On the instant the two parties discovered each other, our force received a rattling volley from a hundred carbines. The effect of this on a trap in a narrow line, moving by the flank in fours, carbines carelessly dangling, may be imagined by those who have “been there.” The first effect was a recoil; and when the rebels, reinforced by their reserves, dropped their carbines after the first shot and charged us on a run, firing their pistols and yelling like devils, the recoil degenerated into a scrambling, rushing, tumbling panic. The postillions on the lead horses of Henshaw's gun were killed by the first shot. The team to the gun and limber chest was hopelessly entangled in a moment, forming an ugly barricade in the lane behind the staff, escort, and Armstrong's company. It was a comical panic — as seen from a later hour, when our nerves and wrath had settled and cooled — to those of the staff who had persisted in saying to the general that we were going into a trap. We enjoyed seeing him “getting out,” as he lay on the opposite side of his horse's neck from the direction in which the leaden compliments were coming --that is, we enjoyed looking back upon this scene and laughing at it. While it was being enacted, we were looking out each for himself, and striving to get out of what we considered a disgraceful dilemma.

The result of this short interview with the enemy was not calculated to flatter our vanity. We, the general included, had learned that it was not safe to disregard all precautions dictated by the rules of war and common sense and prudence, when we had such men as Morgan, Duke, and Johnson for enemies, however jaded and toil-worn they and their men might be. We lost a half-dozen men killed and wounded. Captain R. C. Kise, Assistant Adjutant General, and Captain Henshaw, were captured; Lieutenant Fred W. Price, of the staff, was wounded, and our gun was carried off by the rebel skirmishers. And beside, and worse than all, we had made ourselves utterly ridiculous and lost immensely on our stock of pride and self-respect. By the time this affair, which did not occupy more than twenty minutes, was over, the fog had entirely disappeared, and Morgan's lines were within easy view of our forces on the hill.

“Business” was now the order. The Fifth Indiana, Colonel Butler, was ordered to move down the road from which all had just been stampeded. Throwing out a strong line of skirmishers, dismounted, the regiment advanced briskly, forming a line as soon as the ground would permit. The Fourteenth Illinois followed close in the rear as a reserve. The Eleventh Kentucky made a detour to the right, and swung around to form on Butler's right. When this movement was well under way, I heard, as I rode in advance of the [761] left of the Fifth, a rattling skirmish fire, and looking in the direction of the river, I saw O'Neil, at the head of his company, dashing over fences and ditches, and driving the enemy's guard from the ford pell-mell. The sight was inspiriting in the extreme. The entire line, which was by this time fully formed, dashed ahead and drove the enemy's advance back to his main force. In this dash two of Morgan's guns were captured and the one his men had taken from us was recaptured. Our four pieces were in position, and in less than five minutes after the first shot was fired we were engaging the enemy all along his line, and our guns were pouring into his left and centre a storm of case shot at a range of less than a half mile. We steadily pressed upon the rebels, crowding them back toward the point where the river road runs over a narrow strip and close to the bluff. A small force could hold that pass against a much larger one. We hoped Hobson was on the river road above, and that he, or the gunboat “Elk,” which was steaming up the stream and pitching schrapnel into the Confederates, would be able to head them off and turn them back upon us. The fight was spirited and lasted about one hour. The enemy was nearly out of ammunition. No men could have behaved better than they did in their circumstances.

About 9.30 Hobson's battery opened on the Confederate rearguard beyond the hills, and then the break began. Morgan, at the head of a portion of his command, rode through the narrow pass near the river, and made his way to Blennerhasset shoal. He crossed the river, being well mounted, and several men followed him. He had not more than reached the Virginia shore when the “Elk” rounded a bend in the river and opened on those who were trying to follow their leader. Morgan rode back to the Ohio side under fire of the boat's bow gun and rejoined his comrades. On that Sunday forenoon about one thousand of the raiders were captured, with the entire wagon train and a battery of four 10-pounder Parrott guns. That train was probably the most unique collection of vehicles ever assembled for the transport of military supplies and baggage. It contained every sort of four-wheeled concern; old, lumbering omnibuses, a monstrous two-story pedler's wagon, a dozen or more hackney coaches used as ambulances, a number of barouches, top buggies and open buggies, and several ordinary express wagons and farm wagons. And the loads most of them contained were as little suggestive of military service as the wagons. If there was ever a thing in the dry goods, grocery, drug, confectionery, or fancy goods line not to be found in those carriages, my memory failed to suggest the missing article when I passed the train under an official [762] inspection. Boots and shoes for men and women and children were everywhere. One barouche, in which a citizen who had been impressed as a guide, told me Morgan rode all night and all the day before, had a pair of ladies' fine kid boots suspended by their tiny silk lacings from one of the posts which supported the top. The field where was the first rebel line of battle, and the ground just in rear of it, showed equally with the train the ability of Morgan's command as “foragers.” The camp was on a series of low ridges, and the battle-field was thickly studed. with shocks of wheat, and both were literally strewn with every imaginable article of men's and women's wear. I was with the skirmish line which first advanced into this field, where the enemy had lightened themselves by abandoning most of their plunder, and well remember a tall trooper's unsoldierly performance in running his sabre through a bolt of calico which some Confederate had pitched into a wheat shock, and then cantering ahead with the line, while the gaudy-colored print streamed along the ground and flapped over obstacles many yards in his rear. A good many of our men's homes lay along the rebel line of march in Indiana and Ohio, and the sights I have described did not impress them with a solemn belief that the citizens of the Confederacy were the only people who had a right to apply the epithet “vandal” to their enemies.

The troops which captured a fraction of Morgan's command at Buffington, were those which had pursued him from Kentucky. As there had been no company reports possible from the 3d of July, it is not possible to more than approximate the number Judah and Hobson commanded that day. The two never had more than five thousand with them at any point of the chase. To estimate their losses by sickness and other causes, during those seventeen days, would be putting it within the truth. Their joint forces were about double Morgan's in this final struggle, not more. When Morgan returned to the hostile Ohio shore he gathered a few hundred of his men about him, hoping, probably, to make them a reorganizing nucleus for his little army. He struck out toward the interior, making a considerable detour to avoid Hobson's lines. But if he expected to be reinforced by the balance of his command, he was disappointed. Those he left behind were entirely surrounded, and out of ammunition. The fords were in the hands of the Federal forces, and all hope of final escape was gone. The officers wisely surrendered and made an end of their hardships. Morgan continued his flight until he was literally run down, as a fox is run down by hounds, and captured near Salinesville, a village in the southern part [763] of Columbiana county, on the 26th. The force which pursued him from Buffington was a semi-brigade under Colonel B. H. Bristow, of the Eighth Kentucky Cavalry, an officer noted for his indomitable grip, and regarded as the most relentless and persistent pursuer in all our forces. He did not, as Duke says, “surround” Morgan, in the usual accepted meaning of that term among soldiers. He rode onto him-tread off his tail and rear, as it were-and finally rode over and through him, scattered his men right and left, and, turning about, faced the flying raiders and forced them to halt and succumb.

Thus ended the boldest, the only really successful raid of the war on either side. The capture and destruction of Morgan's command were trifling losses to the Confederacy compared to advantages it gained by his operations. He destroyed no supplies; hardly touched, let alone injured, our lines of communication; captured nothing of any moment to him or anybody, save some forage, food, a miscellaneous collection of merchandise, and a comical wagon train. But he delayed the invasion of East Tennessee three months. He thus broke the plan of co-operation, and delayed Rosecrans at Murfreesboro, giving Bragg time to get back the men He had loaned Johnston. Instead of a strong joint movement, Burnside and Rosecrans found all they could attend to as each approached his objective. The latter was so late in pressing his enemy into decisive action that that enemy had time to obtain reinforcements from Lee and Chattanooga; and instead of being a base from which the Federal army dictated terms to a quarter of the Confederate territory, came near being that army's coffin. Had Morgan been readily beaten back from Kentucky in a crippled condition, Burnside would have met Rosecrans at Chattanooga by the 20th of July; the battle of Chickamauga would not have been fought; the war would have been abbreviated, how much General Duke treats Judah and Burnside as separate, independent commanders. He says: “Burnside was” --in June, 1863-“concentrating in Kentucky a force for the invasion of Tennessee, variously estimated at from twenty to more than thirty thousand men.” Further on, he says: “It was estimated that on the Kentucky and Tennessee border there were at least ten or twelve thousand Federal troops under command of General Judah-five thousand of which were excellent cavalry.” Again: “Bragg's chief object was to delay Judah and Burnside — the latter especially-to retard their advance and junction with Rosecrans,” etc. Very little research would have enabled the general to present the real relation between these officers, and the truth, as to the troops they commanded, is surely not difficult to come at. Judah was a subordinate [764] of Burnside's, being lowest in rank of all the brigadiers in the department. He commanded a division in the Twenty-third Army Corps, which corps and “Burnside's force” for active field duty were at that time identical. He was not only a subordinate, but out of favor at headquarters, and was given a meaner and less important part to play in the pursuit of Morgan than any officer of his rank. In the invasion of East Tennessee; which began some time after the destruction of Morgan's force, General Judah was denied any post-being sent into retirement by Burnside on account of what his superiors considered his blunders on the Morgan campaign. The “ten or twelve thousand troops on the Tennessee border under Judah” consisted solely of his division, made up of three brigades-two of infantry and one of cavalry, and two batteries. He had less than six thousand men for duty when Morgan crossed the Cumberland. General Duke says:

At Pomeroy, 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 decisive combat. * * * General Morgan knew that he would be attacked on the following day. He at once, and correctly, conjectured that the troops which had been 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 to Pomeroy.

Judah's command arrived at Pomeroy about the middle of the afternoon of that day. There was not an infantry soldier in the town from the time we got there until we left. We went into the town slightly ahead of Morgan's advance. By order of the general, I purchased forage for our horses of lion. V. B. Horton. The command lay and rested and fed until nearly night. The “sharp, continuous skirmish,” mentioned by Duke, was with O'Neil's squad of fifty men and a few soldiers, not more than a score, who happened to be home on furlough. I was with O'Neil a part of the evening, and am not surprised that General Duke thought, at the time, that he was “a host,” for he certainly made the most possible, both of show and noise, out of his limited force. But I am surprised that the general should set down such an error of fact as veritable history. It is not to be wondered at that General Morgan should have fallen into the error of “conjecturing” that a large infantry force had been sent by river from Cincinnati to intercept him, first at Pomeroy, and, failing there, higher up; but General Morgan's historian should not set down “conjectures” unless they are borne out by the facts. Morgan's men were so worn down that they could [765] not do very effective scouting, hence his information as to our forces and movements was limited, and, it also seems, erroneous.

General Duke's error regarding the number and character of our forces at Pomeroy on the 18th, is duplicated in some particulars, and thrown into the shade in others, by his curious account of the affair near Buffington ford on the 19th. Telling what happened after our advance was stampeded, the General says: “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. * * * 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 of artillery.” I was in the whole affair, from first to last, only ceasing my active work in the field when night came on, and I was ordered to find guards for a large number of prisoners. I was in the little tilt which resulted in capturing two of the Confederate, and recapturing our cannon. I was from end to end, and through and through Judah's lines all that forenoon, and fell in with Hobson's forces about one P. M. If there was a single infantry soldier engaged I failed to see him. I was utterly unable to procure an infantry guard for my prisoners that night-though “by order of the general commanding” I had plenary power-and I had to put my jaded cavalry provost guard on duty. The next day I had to put up with a squad of Cincinnati militia — who arrived on the 20th-as guards for a large party of Confederate officers. They turned out to be a first-rate set of men for the duty, being all ex-soldiers who had been discharged on account of wounds and sickness. We had four pieces of artillery. The gunboat “Elk” carried five, three of which she could bring to bear on the enemy's lines. Neither we nor the “Elk” fired a cannon after Hobson attacked. All of that infantry and several of these cannon were in General Duke's eye.

None of our regular infantry came above Cincinnati, and the few militia who found their way so far as Buffington arrived the day after the fight and capture.

General Duke puts the force at Green river bridge — which his forces failed to capture-at six hundred. There were just one hundred and sixty men reported for duty to Colonel Moore that morning by his post adjutant. They were behind a hastily-constructed, but strong, parapet, in front of which they had made an ugly abattis, by cutting down trees. Artillery could not be brought to bear on Moore's position, and Colonel Johnson, who was ordered by Morgan to take it by storm, could only charge in a narrow front through [766] several hundred yards of the abattis on horseback, as to dismount and lay siege would take too much time. After a few foolhardy attempts, and the loss of thirty or more men killed, the Confederates left Moore to celebrate the balance of the 4th of July in more peaceful style. It may be humiliating to Morgan's chief officers to admit that a paltry squad repulsed repeatedly, with heavy loss, their crack brigade; but history is not a record of the historian's feelings, nor is it such incidents as glory a party, or faction, or people. It is a cold-blooded truth, and the whole truth, or of no value. With the exceptions here noted, General Duke's account of the raid is a very correct one. He is particularly felicitous in pointing out the success of Morgan's strategy at and previous to his crossing the Cumberland. Had he been in our camps, and an habitue of our headquarters, he could not have more effectually set forth the completeness of the deception of our generals as to the movements and intentions of their enemy. And this capacity to deal in facts, and this ability to correctly conjecture what passes in the mind of an enemy with only his minor acts for a basis, makes blundering inexcusable in matters which are either of record or easily verified as to all their details by living witnesses.

Colonel R. A. Alston, chief of Morgan's staff, was captured on the evening of the 5th of July, on the road from Lebanon to Bardstown, together with an escort of twenty men, by Lieutenant Ladd, of the Ninth Michigan Cavalry, and seven men. Alston and his escort were riding some distance in Morgan's rear. Ladd, who was scouting, came upon them just after dark. He concealed himself in the bushes at the roadside, and, by various devices, completely fooled the Confederates as to the size of his force until he had them disarmed. Alston, who was a brave officer, was terribly chagrined, but, on his word of honor, he took his men to Lexington, the nearest military post, and surrendered the next day.

Major Dan McCook, paymaster, a gentleman probably sixty-five years old, but hale and much younger in appearance, accompanied General Judah from Cincinnati as a “volunteer aid.” Major McCook was the father of the celebrated family of generals and colonels, the two most noted of whom were Major General A. McDowell McCook and Brigadier General Robert L. McCook. Robert was killed in the fall of 1862, in Southern Tennessee, while riding ahead of his command in an ambulance. He was quite ill at the time, had turned the active direction of the march over to the senior colonel, and was riding in advance to keep out of the dust and noise of the column. Under these circumstances his ambulance was attacked by a scouting [767] party under a Captain Gurley, of the Confederate cavalry. He refused to surrender; a fight ensued, and General McCook was killed. It was charged and believed among our forces that Gurley was a “bushwhacker” after the pattern of Champ Ferguson and Gatewood. The old gentleman had heard that the slayer of his son was with Morgan, and his object in accompanying the pursuing column was to find and punish him for the deed, and he had no doubt of succeeding in his undertaking. He was constantly pushing himself into the most dangerous places. He was with our skirmishers back of Pomeroy, on the 18th, and gave the officers a good deal of trouble to keep him from uselessly exposing himself to danger, and, at the same time, betraying the weakness of our line to the enemy.

On the morning of the 19th, the Major insisted on going with the vidette in front of Lieutenant Armstrong's company. I advised him not to go, and other officers pointed out to him the fact that he did not know Gurley, and that no one in our command had any personal knowledge of him. At a bright rill of water, which runs through a dent in the river-bottom, a mile from Buffington ford, the staff halted to let their horses drink, and give the advance party time to ride ahead. When the vidette rode up the bank of the creek the old Major joined it, his eye flashing and his cheeks flushed with excitement. In return of our remonstrances, he swept a mock salute, and dashed out of sight into the fog, his fine sorrel charger seeming to partake of the spirit of his master. The little party he was with rode almost into the Confederate skirmish line before either saw the other. He and one soldier of the vidette were killed at the first fire. Major McCook's body was pierced by three balls. His horse, watch, and Henry rifle fell into the hands of the enemy.

I should, probably, add here that Captain Gurley was captured with others of Morgan's forces; that he was taken to Nashville, tried by military commission for the murder of General McCook; that he admitted the killing by his men; that he proved himself a regularly commissioned officer of the Confederate Government; that the court which tried him decided that the killing was a legitimate act of war; that the decision was confirmed by President Lincoln, and that Gurley then became an ordinary prisoner of war, and was exchanged with the others.

On board the steamer that carried General Judah and staff from Buffington to Cincinnati were one hundred and thirteen Confederate officers. Among these was one whom I have cause to remember, though his name has faded from my memory. How or where he got them I never cared to inquire, but he was dressed in a dainty, [768] neat-fitting suit of black broadcloth, with silk the and patent-leather boots to match. His face was fitted up with a rather thin aquiline nose, a firm mouth, kept resolutely closed, and a pair of keen black eyes. Under his hat was a symmetrical head, adorned with a heavy suit of black, slightly curly, hair. He wore a full beard, which was long, black, and very curly. He was decidedly a “sharp” --appearing fellow, and, withal, not bad-looking, and of both these facts he seemed to have full knowledge. Something in his bearing told us he intended to give us the slip, and all watched him intently. When the boat neared Cincinnati, a patrol was sent below with orders to clear the main deck of prisoners-sending them above. This done, guards were stationed on the stairs, with orders not to allow any one to pass up or down except by permission of the officer of the day. We landed at the foot of Broadway, and there was a great crowd on the wharf. My handsome captain had, somehow, eluded the guard sent to clear the main deck. He took advantage of the commotion among the mob on shore to step down the stage-plank while some of our officers were mounting their horses. He said to the officer in charge of the guard, which was standing with ranks open to receive the prisoners, that he was an officer of the boat. Naturally, he was believed. Slipping through the rank on his right, he mingled with the crowd at once, and made his way to and round the railway offices on the corner of Front and Broadway. He entered the first barber's shop he came to, had his hair trimmed close, his beard cut down to an inch in length, and shaved into a “Burnside” a fashionable cut among the “nobs” at that time. This done, he stepped into a clothing store, secured a wide-brimmed straw and a long linen duster, ordering his silk tile to be sent to the Spencer House, whither he repaired, and, secure in his disguise, drank and chatted with our officers until evening, when he took the mail boat for Louisville. At Louisville he “had a good time,” after which he left, mounted on a fresh horse; for Bragg's army. Whether he ever reached his destination or not I do not know. I gather all the facts related in this incident, after he left the boat, from a letter the captain had printed in the Louisville papers on the eve of leaving on his southward journey. He wound up with a graceful tender of thanks to Captain D. W. H. Day, and others of the staff, for their kind treatment; regretted that he had to leave us in unceremonious style; was sorry we could not have made the “grand round” of Louisville with him; but, really, his engagements called him South, and we must excuse him-we must, indeed. We read his good-natured banter with a laugh, and said he deserved his good luck. [769]

My knowledge of Hobson's movements is limited, but it was not a very eventful ride his command had. In fact, they never once touched the enemy until after Judah attacked him at Buffington, and then the stern-chasers did their whole duty, not only taking most of the raiders captured round Buffington, but following those who got off with Morgan, and, finally, making a clean sweep of the fleeing remnant. The endurance displayed by that part of Morgan's command which was last captured, and by their captors, has few precedents in modern warfare. They were in the saddle almost day and night for twenty-four days, and no one, except those who have experience of it, knows how terribly wearing such work and such nervous straining is.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Pomeroy (Ohio, United States) (8)
Cincinnati (Ohio, United States) (8)
Tennessee (Tennessee, United States) (7)
Kentucky (Kentucky, United States) (7)
Indiana (Indiana, United States) (7)
Brandenburg (Kentucky, United States) (5)
Ohio (Ohio, United States) (4)
Louisville (Kentucky, United States) (4)
Buffington (Missouri, United States) (4)
Green (Kentucky, United States) (3)
Chattanooga (Tennessee, United States) (3)
Portland (Maine, United States) (2)
Murfreesboro (Tennessee, United States) (2)
Jackson (Tennessee, United States) (2)
Elizabethtown, Ky. (Kentucky, United States) (2)
Burksville (Missouri, United States) (2)
Washington (United States) (1)
Vicksburg (Mississippi, United States) (1)
Tompkinsville (Kentucky, United States) (1)
Stone River (Tennessee, United States) (1)
Shepherdsville (Kentucky, United States) (1)
Portsmouth, Va. (Virginia, United States) (1)
Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania, United States) (1)
Ohio (United States) (1)
Mississippi (Mississippi, United States) (1)
Litchfield, Conn. (Connecticut, United States) (1)
Lexington (Kentucky, United States) (1)
Lebanon Junction (Kentucky, United States) (1)
Knoxville (Tennessee, United States) (1)
Hartford (Connecticut, United States) (1)
Glasgow, Ky. (Kentucky, United States) (1)
Georgia (Georgia, United States) (1)
Edgefield (Tennessee, United States) (1)
Cumberland county (Kentucky, United States) (1)
Cumberland River (Kentucky, United States) (1)
Columbiana (Ohio, United States) (1)
Columbia, Tenn. (Tennessee, United States) (1)
Chickamauga (Georgia, United States) (1)
Canadian (United States) (1)
Broadway (Virginia, United States) (1)
Bardstown (Kentucky, United States) (1)
Alabama (Alabama, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
18th (3)
1863 AD (2)
July 3rd (2)
June (2)
19th (2)
8th (2)
April 7th, 1877 AD (1)
1864 AD (1)
June 1st, 1863 AD (1)
June, 1863 AD (1)
September, 1862 AD (1)
August, 1862 AD (1)
1862 AD (1)
November (1)
July 20th (1)
July 19th (1)
July 17th (1)
July 5th (1)
July 4th (1)
July 2nd (1)
26th (1)
17th (1)
16th (1)
10th (1)
9th (1)
6th (1)
5th (1)
4th (1)
3rd (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: