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Morgan's cavalry during the Bragg invasion.

by Basil W. Duke, Brigadier-General, C. S. A.
While Bragg was concentrating at Chattanooga, in August, 1862, preparatory to his march into Kentucky, Colonel John H. Morgan, with his cavalry command, numbering some nine hundred effectives, was actively engaged in middle Tennessee, operating chiefly against the Federal garrisons in the vicinity of Nashville, and the detachments employed immediately north and to the east of that city. All of these were successively captured or dispersed, and on the 21st of August Morgan defeated and completely routed a select body of cavalry, twelve hundred strong, sent under command of General R. W. Johnson to drive him out of Tennessee. Of this force 164 were killed and wounded, and a much larger number, including Johnson and his staff, were made prisoners.

Morgan had been notified of the intended invasion of Kentucky, and part of his duty was the destruction of the railroad track and bridges between Nashville and Bowling Green, for the purpose of retarding Buell's movements when the latter should begin his retreat to Louisville.

On the 28th of August Bragg crossed the Tennessee River at Chattanooga, and pushed northward. General Kirby Smith had previously entered Kentucky, and had ordered Morgan to report to him at Lexington, in the blue-grass region. Morgan marched from Hartsville, Tenn., on the 29th of August, and on the 4th of September reached Lexington, already occupied by General Smith. His command consisted of the 2d Kentucky Cavalry C. S. A., about 700 strong, and Gano's squadron, of 2 companies of Texan cavalry, about 150 strong. It was very largely recruited, however, during the occupation of Kentucky. A small detachment of the 2d Kentucky, leaving Lexington on the same day, made a rapid march of some 90 miles, and captured the garrison, 150 strong, of the stockade fort erected for the protection of the railroad bridge over Salt River, 17 miles south of Louisville. The bridge was burned in pursuance of the programme to destroy rail communication between Bowling Green and-Louisville. By order of General Smith, the command was then divided for separate service. I was ordered to proceed with 600 men of the 2d Kentucky to the vicinity of Covington, whence General Heth, who had threatened Cincinnati, was then retiring. Colonel Morgan was ordered, with the remainder of the regiment, Gano's squadron, and all the cavalry recruits then organized, to march to the assistance of General Marshall in the mountains of eastern Kentucky. The Federal general, George W. Morgan, had evacuated Cumberland Gap, and followed by Stevenson, who had been instructed to observe and pursue him if he moved, was making his way to the Ohio. It was intended that Marshall and Morgan should intercept and arrest his march until Stevenson could overtake him and attack him in rear.

The detachment under my command became immediately very actively engaged with the enemy, who, in considerable numbers, had crossed the river and advanced to Walton, twenty-five miles south of Covington. For several days, skirmishing went on constantly, and I was steadily driven back, until I became convinced that it was an advance in force. Discovering, however, by careful reconnoissance that the entire Federal strength consisted of only 7000 or 8000 infantry, about 1000 cavalry, and 8 pieces of artillery, and that troops were being transported in large numbers by the river from Cincinnati, I became satisfied that the movement was intended to cover and divert attention from the real concentration at Louisville, and was not meant as a serious movement on Lexington, and I so reported to General Smith. Reports from my scouts and from citizens, to the effect that these troops were quite raw and inexperienced, and that, on account of the omission to scout or reconnoiter, the encampment at Walton, where the enemy had halted, could be easily approached, induced me to attack the camp. By a quick dash upon it, just after daybreak, I secured 90 or 100 prisoners, with very little loss on my part; but found that no effort by a force numerically so inferior could compel the enemy to retire.

It was important, however, that his column should be forced to fall back and not remain as a menace to Lexington, whence it was distant only two or three days march. I learned that a regiment was organized for the Federal army out of some home guard companies at Augusta, a small town on the Ohio, about forty miles above Covington. I was also informed that at that season of year, when the river was at a very low stage of water, it was fordable immediately below this place. Leaving the greater part of my command in front of the enemy at Walton to observe and follow him if he retreated, I marched rapidly with 250 men to Augusta, believing that the recruits there could be captured or dispersed with ease, and without loss on my part, and that I could cross the river into Ohio, enter the suburbs of Cincinnati, and induce such consternation that the troops at Walton would be recalled. On the 27th of September I attacked, meeting, however, with fierce resistance. Two small river steamers were there, bulwarked with bales of hay, and each carrying a 12-pounder howitzer. On these boats were about one hundred infantry. The “Home guards,” 400 or 500 strong, were ensconced in the houses of the little town. I planted two small howitzers attached to my command on a hill overlooking the village, and within a half-mile range of the river. After the exchange of a few shots on each side, the boats, with the troops upon them, steamed off in disgraceful panic. I thought then that the affair was over, but when I entered the town I found nearly every house a fortress, and was met with severe volleys which did much damage. Before I could overcome the resistance of the inmates, I was forced to burn some of [27] the houses, storm many others, and even double-shot the small field-pieces and fire them point-blank from the street into some whose defenders were unusually stubborn. The hand-to-hand fighting in this little skirmish was the fiercest I ever saw. In many instances when the firing from the windows was stopped by the volleys poured into them from the streets, the inmates still refused to surrender, and the details of my men who broke down the doors and entered were compelled to kill all they found inside. Captain S. D. Morgan killed seven men with his own hand, and was himself killed before the house he entered was taken. In some houses I saw blood dripping down the stairways.

My loss was 21 men killed and 18 wounded. A very much larger number of the Home guards was killed, and I carried off between 300 and 400 prisoners. The combat lasted not more than fifteen minutes after I entered the town; but my loss, the number of prisoners, and especially the fact that I had nearly exhausted my ammunition, decided me not to cross the Ohio and carry out the movement on Cincinnati I had contemplated. I knew, also, that 500 or 600 Federal troops at Maysville, not far distant, would be ordered immediately to Augusta, and that my return by that point would be intercepted. On the next morning I was at-tacked at Brookville by these troops, under Lieutenant-Colonel H. B. Wilson, nine miles from Augusta; but the affair was trifling, the loss on either side slight, and I carried off my prisoners. Four or five days afterward I was ordered to return to Lexington.

Col. John H. Morgan had been sent to eastern Kentucky, as I have said, to intercept the retreat of the Federal general, George W. Morgan. He did not find Marshall in the vicinity where he was instructed to seek him, nor, indeed, at all. Learning that the Federal column was moving from Manchester via Booneville to Mount Sterling, doubtless to reach the Ohio at Maysville, Colonel Morgan expected to strike the enemy between Booneville and Mount Sterling. But General Morgan concentrated at Irvine on the 21 st, and moved toward Proctor. The Confederate cavalry then moved as rapidly as the mountainous country permitted, and receiving further information that the enemy had turned to the right and was at Campton, in Wolfe County, succeeded in getting directly in his front near Hazel Green. From the 25th of September until the 1st of October every effort was made to arrest or delay the Federal retreat. The roads were barricaded, the column was attacked in front and flank, and the skirmishing was continuous. During that time the enemy progressed only thirty miles; nevertheless, John Morgan received no aid as promised him, nor did Stevenson overtake the Federal commander and force him to battle. At noon, October the 1st, Colonel Morgan received orders to withdraw from the enemy's front, and rejoin General Smith “at Lexington, or wherever he might be.” He reached Lexington on the 4th of October. I reported to him there the next day. The town was about to be evacuated, and General Smith's entire army, Stevenson having arrived, was marching to effect a junction with Bragg. We left Lexington on the 6th, and until the 10th were employed in preventing the debouchment of Sill's and Dumont's divisions (Federal) from the rough country west of Frankfort, where they were demonstrating to induce Bragg to believe that Buell's at-tack would be delivered from that direction when the latter had in reality marched to Perryville.

After General Bragg had moved from Munfordville to Bardstown, the entire Confederate strategic line, including the disposition of the forces under General Smith, may be described as extending from Bardstown on the left flank, via Lexington, to Mount Sterling on the extreme right. It was one admirably adapted for defense. However threatened, the troops could be marched to the point menaced by excellent interior roads, and favorable ground for battle was available wherever attack was probable. The base at Bryantsville was secure, and was an exceedingly strong natural position. The aggregate strength of the Confederate armies was little, if any, less than 61,000 men.

On October 1st Buell moved out of Louisville with 58,000 effective men, of whom 22,000 were raw troops.

Under the impression that Buell was about to throw his entire army upon Smith at Frankfort, Bragg, on the 2d, ordered Polk to march with the Army of the Mississippi from Bardstown via Bloomfield toward Frankfort in order that he might strike the enemy in rear, while Kirby Smith should assail him in front. Until the 7th he remained apparently under the impression that Buell was advancing to attack Smith. But on the evening of the 7th, Gilbert, in command of Buell's center, came in contact with Hardee near Perryville, and compelled him to prepare for action. Hardee called for reinforcements, and Cheatham's division was sent him, while the remainder of Polk's corps continued its march toward Versailles with the view of joining the forces under General Smith.

It thus happened that General Bragg, completely misled by the mere demonstration upon Frankfort, kept more than two-thirds of the entire force under his control idly manoeuvring in a quarter where nothing could possibly be accomplished, and permitted less than 20,000 men to become engaged upon afield where more than 45,000 of the enemy could have been hurled upon them. Buell's whole army (with the exception of the divisions of Sill and Dumont — together 10,000 or 12,000 strong) was concentrated at Perryville on the 8th, and but for the unaccountable circumstance that McCook had been fighting several hours before Buell was informed that a battle was in progress, the Confederate line would have been overwhelmed by an attack in force. If such had been the result at Perryville on the 8th, and Buell had then gotten between the scattered remnants of the troops that opposed him there, as he would almost surely have done, he would have been master of the situation, and nothing but disaster could have befallen the Confederates. For on the 9th Sill and Dumont were marching to rejoin the main body, and in another day Buell could have had his entire 58,000--minus the loss sustained in the battle — well in hand. [28]

After Perryville, Morgan was ordered to rejoin the army, when everything was concentrated at Harrodsburg, as if for a battle which General Bragg could have won but never meant to fight. When the army, leaving Harrodsburg, without battle, began its retreat to Tennessee, Morgan, assisted by Col. Henry Ashby with a small brigade of cavalry, was employed in covering its rear. This rear-guard was engaged very arduously, and almost constantly, in contact with Buell's advance regiments until the 17th. At that date Morgan received permission to retrace his march, capture Lexington, which was, of course, in the hands of the enemy, and then move southward, directly across Buell's rear, doing the latter all possible damage. Marching rapidly for twenty-four hours, he reached Lexington at dawn of the following morning, and immediately attacked the 4th Ohio Cavalry, which was encamped at Ashland — once the residence of Henry Clay — about two miles from the city. The enemy was defeated after a short combat, and nearly six hundred were made prisoners. The loss in killed and wounded on either side was slight. Resuming his march at noon that day, Morgan encamped on the following night at Shryock's ferry on the Kentucky River. At midnight he was attacked by Dumont, and fearing that he would be surrounded and entrapped in the rugged hills of that region, he marched with all speed for Lawrenceburg, four miles distant, reaching and passing through that little town just as a heavy Federal column, sent to intercept him there, was entering it upon the Frankfort turnpike. Passing around Bardstown on the next day, we encamped between that place and Elizabethtown. We were now directly in Buell's rear, and during the next twenty-fourhours captured many laggards, and several wagon trains--one quite large and richly laden.

From the 20th to the 25th of October Morgan continued to march in a south-western direction, reaching Hopkinsville on the 25th. Here he had entirely passed beyond the zone of Federal garrisons in middle Kentucky, but still had arduous work before him in Tennessee and in front of Nashville, whither Buell, having turned aside from pursuit of Bragg through the mountains of south-eastern Kentucky, was now directing his course. After a short sojourn at Hopkinsville for much-needed rest, Colonel Morgan moved directly to Gallatin, Tennessee, with a view of completing the destruction of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad in that vicinity, and to that extent impeding the transportation of troops and supplies to Nashville. While engaged in this work he received orders from General John C. Breekinridge, who was stationed with a small infantry force at Murfreesboro‘, to cooperate with Forrest in a movement intended to effect the destruction of the rolling-stock of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad Company collected at Edgefield, on the bank of the Cumberland River, opposite Nashville. It was planned that Forrest should make such a demonstration south of Nashville that the attention of the garrison would be attracted, while Morgan should dash into Edgefield and burn the cars, several hundred in number.

Leaving Gallatin on the night of November the 4th, Morgan entered Edgefield at daybreak the next morning, and immediately attacked the 16th Illinois and part of another regiment stationed there. After a sharp fight he drove this force back and obtained possession of the cars it was intended he should destroy. We heard Forrest's artillery at the same moment on the other side of the river. But Nashville was so strongly fortified on that side, and perhaps, also, the inadequacy of the small force under Forrest to make any serious attempt upon the place was so apparent, that although he advanced resolutely upon the works, the movement failed: a large portion of the garrison was dispatched to reinforce the detachment we had at tacked; and before the work of demolition was fairly commenced, a column of infantry streamed at the double-quick over the pontoon-bridge, and reinforced the troops with which we were already engaged. The fight grew too hot to be maintained so near to yet stronger hostile forces, and under the heavy batteries which commanded the ground on which we stood. Morgan accordingly withdrew, followed a short distance by the enemy. Our loss in killed and wounded was not so heavy as the enemy's, and we carried off a few prisoners. Only a small number of the railroad cars were burned, and the expedition was a failure. Rosecrans's army1 was now close at hand, marching upon three or four roads leading into Nashville, and we were immediately in its path. Crittenden's corps was in advance, the major part of it marching on the Louisville and Nashville turnpike. Morgan sent strong detachments to harass these troops, and, if possible, delay their m arch. The leading division was ambuscaded near Tyree Springs, and a volley delivered at seventy-five yards' range inflicted some loss. Similar attacks were kept up all day on the 8th, but of course the efforts of so small a body against more than twenty thousand men were merely annoying. Early on the morning of the 9th Wood's and Van Cleve's divisions moved into and on either flank of Gallatin, nearly surrounding our people, who incautiously resisted the advance of the central column too long, thus necessitating brisk movement as well as sharp fighting to effect an escape. That afternoon Morgan crossed the Cumberland and encamped in a safe position between Lebanon and Murfreesboro‘. Morgan's loss during the entire campaign, in killed and wounded, was not more than one hundred. He had inflicted a much greater loss on the enemy, and had captured nearly twelve hundred prisoners. He had entered Kentucky with less than 900 effectives; his command when he returned to Tennessee was nearly 2000 strong. It was admirably mounted, and well armed, and the recruits were fully the equals of the original “Morgan men,” in spirit, intelligence, and capacity to endure.

1 General Buell was succeeded in the command of the troops of the Army of the Ohio by General W. S. Rosecrans on the 30th day of October. Under General Orders of October 24th the Department of the Cumberland was created, and the troops within it were designated the Fourteenth Army Corps.--editors.

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