Today, July 19, 1863: Union Stops Infamous Confederate Morgan’s Raiders

John Hunt Morgan, born June 1, 1825, was suspended from Transylvania College in Lexington for two years for dueling with a fraternity brother.

In 1846, Morgan enlisted in a cavalry regiment due to the Mexican-American War.

In 1847, Morgan was promoted to First Lieutenant due to his actions during the Battle of Buena Vista.

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In 1848, Morgan established a hemp business.

In 1857, Morgan, still living in Lexington, organized the Lexington Rifles, also referred to as Morgan’s Kentucky Cavalry Squadron, a militia group that was supportive of the South.

In 1861, Captain Morgan flew a Confederate flag over his factory in Lexington. Since Kentucky was a neutral state at the beginning of the Civil War, so after the death of his wife in July, 1861 and recovering from some health issues, Morgan and his squadron went south to Camp Boone, Tennessee to join the Confederacy.

On April 6-7, 1862, Colonel Morgan and his Kentucky Cavalry Squadron, now part of the Army of Tennessee, participated in the Battle of Shiloh, in southwestern Tennessee.

On July 4, 1862, Colonel Morgan took 900 troops and rode through Kentucky behind Union lines. He raided the land as he quickly swept across the Bluegrass State and ended up capturing 1,200 Union prisoners. Morgan returned to Tennessee from his first raid into Union territory with his prisoners on August 1, 1862. On his thousand-mile raid, Morgan’s cavalry destroyed railroad and telegraph lines, seized many Union supplies and created a lot of havoc and confusion to the Union rear lines. After this raid through Kentucky, Morgan and his cavalry became known as Morgan’s Raiders.

In October, 1862, Morgan’s Raiders made another daring ride through Kentucky, behind Union lines, again destroying railroad and telegraph lines, seizing Union supplies and wreaking havoc along the Union rear.

In December, 1862 Morgan’s raiders made their third raid into Kentucky with the same results as the earlier raids.

By the end of 1862 Morgan had been promoted to Brigadier General.

On June 11, 1863, Morgan’s Raiders, a force of 2,400 cavalry and infantry troops, left Sparta, Tennessee and began their fourth raid north into Union territory. After Morgan hinted about wanting to cross the Ohio River into Indiana and Ohio, Confederate General Braxton Bragg ordered him not to cross the Ohio River or enter Indiana or Ohio.

In early July 1863, Morgan’s Raiders captured two steamboats at Brandenburg, KY. Ignoring General Bragg’s orders, Morgan used the steamboats to ferry his Raiders cross the Ohio River to a landing near Maukport, Indiana.

For the next couple of weeks, Morgan’s Raiders pillaged their way through southern Indiana and across Ohio. Word of Morgan’s Raiders reached Ohio officials and Union leaders including Major General Ambrose Burnside who moved troops ahead of the Raiders.

On this day, July 19, 1863, Union forces trapped Morgan’s Raiders at Buffington Island while trying to cross the Ohio River into what is now West Virginia. Union troops captured over half of Morgan’s Raiders. General Morgan managed to escape with only 400 of his Raiders and headed north, looking for another place to cross the Ohio River and escape into West Virginia.

On July 26, 1863, Union forces captured General Morgan along with most of his remaining Raiders. He was imprisoned in the Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus.

On November 27, 1863, Morgan and six of his fellow Confederate officers dug their way out of the prison and escaped south to Cincinnati where they were able to cross the Ohio River into Kentucky. He located some southern sympathizers in Kentucky who helped them cross south into Confederate territory.

In the summer of 1864, Morgan tried to rebuild his Raiders until he and some of his men were accused of robbing the bank at Sterling, Kentucky.

On September 4, 1864, while camped at Greenville, Tennessee, Union troops launched a surprise attack in which Morgan was shot and killed while trying to escape.


Sources for the above includes: John Hunt Morgan; John Hunt Morgan, (1825-1864); John Hunt Morgan; Morgan’s Raid; General Morgan’s Raid on Indiana; Tracing the Trail of Morgan’s Raid; Morgan’s Raiders Defeated at Buffington Island; Morgan Raid Driving Tour; Mr. Morgan’s Daring Raid


Dave Jolly

R.L. David Jolly holds a B.S. in Wildlife Biology and an M.S. in Biology – Population Genetics. He has worked in a number of fields, giving him a broad perspective on life, business, economics and politics. He is a very conservative Christian, husband, father and grandfather who cares deeply for his Savior, family and the future of our troubled nation.

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