John Hunt Morgan
John Hunt Morgan was born in Huntsville, Alabama on June 1, 1825. He lived
in Huntsville until the age of six, at which time his family moved to Kentucky to
work and live with his maternal grandparents. After a frustrating stint at
Transylvania University, a duel ended his college career, and he soon enlisted
in the army. He was promoted to first lieutenant and saw action during the
Mexican War. After the war, he settled down in Lexington, Kentucky, ran a
hemp factory and eventually married his partner's sister, Becky.
But still, Morgan had a yen for military service, and in the late 1850's he
organized the Lexington Rifles, a pro-Southern militia. His command of the
militia was to set the stage for his Confederate cavalry activities.
In 1861, Kentucky remained neutral. Morgan, like most Kentuckians was
forced to choose sides. As a pro-Southern business owner, he flew a rebel
flag over his factory, and as the commander of a militia, he was clearly a threat
to the Union. When he smuggled militia rifles out of town, leaving empty crates
for the Federals to "confiscate," his arrest warrant was issued. He lost his
factory, and when Becky (who had been ill for some time) died in July, he had
nothing to live for but the new republic.
Morgan joined the Confederacy and assumed his command in the Autumn of
1861. He was joined by his brother-in-law, Basil Duke, and eventually by his
brothers, Tom (who had enlisted in early July, 1861), Cal, Charlton, Dick, and
later on, Key. Morgan saw action at Shiloh, and even led what the Southern
press called a successful cavalry charge, but he was frustrated by his inability
to operate in the guerrilla fashion that he had been accustomed to. He was
more experienced at staging lightning raids and harrassing certain targets, in
particular, the L&N Railroad, a major line of supply for the Union army
occupying sections of Middle Tennessee.
By early 1862, Morgan had earned a reputation both in the North and South for
his daring raids and was even being compared to the famous Revolutionary
War guerrilla, Francis Marion. In February of that year, he moved his
headquarters to Murfreesboro, Tennessee and became friendly with Charles
Ready, a prominent lawyer who had served as a U.S. congressman from 1853
until 1859. After several dinners at the Ready home, Morgan became quite
smitten with one of the Readys' daughters, Martha, who was affectionately
known as Mattie. The age difference didn't seem to matter...he was 37 and she
was 21...the two became engaged in March, and were married the following
December. The ceremony was a storybook wedding and was performed by
Leonidas Polk, an Episcopal bishop who served as a Confederate general. It
was, in fact, a double celebration; Morgan had been promoted to brigadier
general the day before the wedding. Ten days later, however, Morgan was
back at work, this time conducting his infamous Christmas Raid, an excursion
that would divert 7,300 troops from Rosecrans' advancing army and would
close down the L&N for five weeks.
In the summer of 1863, Morgan embarked on his most dangerous, ill-advised,
and self-destructive raid yet. It was a raid that would take him and his raiders
into Indiana and Ohio... farther north than any other Southern force would
advance in the course of the war. Morgan had gotten the approval from Bragg
to attack Louisville, but, knowing such a scheme would never be approved, he
failed to mention that his plans included the crossing of the Ohio River.
In conducting his Great Raid, Morgan's ultimate goal was to divert Federal
troops in Union-occupied Tennessee, enlist new recruits in Kentucky, create
mass confusion and terror in Indiana and Ohio, and then to cross over into
Pennsylvania and join forces with Lee. Unfortunately, Morgan's
overconfidence kept him from using his scouts as he typically used them, and
the summer rains had caused the Ohio River to rise, which impeded his
crossing and allowed Union gunboats to help prevent his escape, and to
make matters worse, Lee was having problems of his own in Gettysburg.
Morgan and his men were captured and sent to a maximum security civilian
prison in Columbus, Ohio. After a few months of prison life, however, he and
Thomas Hines a several of his officers devised a plan to tunnel out, using the
airshaft below the cells on the lower level. Although risky, the plan succeeded,
and on November 27, 1863, Morgan and six of his men escaped, separated,
and with the exception of the two who were caught, made their way back
south. Morgan and Hines changed into civilian clothes and caught a
southbound train. Morgan even sat next to a Union officer as the train passed
by the prison where he had been confined only hours before.
Once he was safely back behind Confederate lines, Morgan tried to
reassemble an army to replace the one he lost in Ohio. However, things had
changed. Although the Southern press hailed him as a hero, the Confederate
command gave him a chilly welcome...mainly because he had failed to inform
them of the plans of his ill-fated raid. Although he tried desperately, he was
never to achieve the successes of his previous raids. Also, some critics
claimed that he had simply grown more cautious since his marriage to Mattie.
In fact, he had promised Mattie that he would never be captured again.
In the summer of 1864, Morgan was reeling from accusations that he had been
involved in the robbery of a civilian bank in Mt. Sterling, Kentucky. Some of his
men had been involved in the crime, but to this day there is no evidence that
Morgan knew about it beforehand. On the eve of September 4, 1864, Morgan
was still trying to clear his name and hold off an impending court martial. He
was staying in the home of a friend in Greeneville, Tennessee with his men
camped near by. On the morning of the fourth, a surprise attack was mounted
by the Federals through the streets of Greeneville. Morgan, remembering his
promise to Mattie, tried in vain to escape and was shot in the back by Andrew
J. Campbell, a Confederate-turned-Yankee private. He died a few minutes later
on the Greeneville street.
Our New Gen. John Hunt Morgan Monument on the
town square in Alexandria TN.
The monument sets on a three tiered base filled with
concrete and steel reinforced. The main stone weighs
9,000 lbs. and has a bronze relief of the general. On
each side there is a brief history of two of the general's
raids which started from this spot, The Christmas Raid
and his Ohio Raid. On the remaining side is the SCV
The Monument is the New Centerpiece of the
Alexandria Town Square.