Tag Archives: Basil W. Duke

The Death of John Hunt Morgan

September 4, 1864 – A Federal private ended the life of one of the Confederacy’s most legendary raiders.

John Hunt Morgan | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Since escaping from Ohio State Penitentiary last year, Brigadier General John Hunt Morgan had raised a new cavalry command to raid his home state of Kentucky once more. Now commanding the Confederate Department of Southwestern Virginia, Morgan moved out from Wytheville in hopes of securing horses for the cavalry.

No horses were taken, but Morgan’s new, undisciplined raiders found time to rob at least two banks and loot Mount Sterling. Confederate authorities scheduled an inquiry to look into this matter, but before it convened, Morgan learned that Federal troopers were patrolling Bull’s Gap. Despite being ordered not to move, Morgan led 2,000 men into eastern Tennessee to intercept them.

The Confederates arrived at Greeneville on the 3rd, where Morgan set up headquarters at the mansion of Catherine Williams. Scouts warned him that Federal troopers were nearby, but he disregarded the reports. In fact, a Federal force under Alvan Gillem was just 18 miles away when Gillem received word that Morgan’s troopers were at Greeneville. Gillem reported, “I immediately resolved not to wait for him but to endeavor to surprise and attack his forces in detail before they could be concentrated.”

The Federals arrived outside Greeneville near dawn the next morning and pushed the Confederate pickets back. Since the people of Greeneville had mixed sympathies, somebody might have told the Federals that Morgan was at the Williams mansion. They rode into town and surrounded that residence.

Morgan and Captain James T. Rogers hurried out of the mansion before the Federals arrived. Rogers recalled, “He handed me one of his pistols, and said that he wished me to assist him in making his escape. I told him it was almost useless, as we were entirely surrounded. He replied, saying that we must do it if possible.” Morgan said, “The Yankees will never take me prisoner again.”

Morgan and Rogers separated, with Morgan meeting up with a brown-clad soldier whom he thought was a comrade. But the soldier was Federal Private Andrew J. Campbell, who demanded his surrender. No Confederates saw Morgan again until he was brought out into the street, dead. Rogers later acknowledged that the Federals preferred to take Morgan dead rather than alive, but he wrote, “If General Morgan surrendered before he was shot I do not know it.” Private Campbell later reported:

“I, in a loud tone, ordered him to halt, but instead of obeying he started into a run. I then repeated the order, and at the same time brought my gun to my shoulder so as to cover him, when seeing that he still disregarded me, I deliberately aimed at and shot him. He dropped in his tracks and died in a few minutes. But I did not know at that time, nor even had the least idea of, who it was I had shot.”

Basil W. Duke, one of Morgan’s longtime lieutenants (though not with Morgan at the time of his death), wrote after the war:

“His friends have always believed that he was murdered after his surrender. Certain representations by the parties who killed him, their ruffianly character and the brutality with which they treated his body, induced the belief; and it was notorious that his death, if again captured, had been sworn. His slayers broke down the paling around the garden, dragged him through and, while he was tossing his arms in his dying agonies, threw him across a mule and paraded his body about the town, shouting and screaming in savage exaltation.

“Thus, on the 4th of September 1864, in a little village of east Tennessee, fell this almost unequaled partisan leader. But not only was the light of genius extinguished then and a heroic spirit lost to earth–as kindly and as noble a heart as was ever warned by the constant presence of generous emotions was stilled by a ruffian’s bullet.”

But Morgan’s exploits would live on in poems and folklore.



CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 12480-500; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 494; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 566-67

Morgan’s Northern Raid: Surrender

July 26, 1863 – Confederate Brigadier General John Hunt Morgan and his cavalry troopers surrendered to Federal officials after a month-long raid through Indiana and Ohio.

John Hunt Morgan | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Morgan had embarked on a raid through Kentucky to disrupt Federal supply lines. He violated direct orders not to cross the Ohio River when he invaded Indiana and then rode east into Ohio. Morgan initially targeted Cincinnati for attack, but because the city was the headquarters of Major General Ambrose E. Burnside’s Department of the Ohio, Morgan feared it would be heavily defended. So part of his force demonstrated at Hamilton, north of the city, while the rest bypassed it in a grueling night ride on the 14th and into the 15th. Colonel Basil W. Duke, one of Morgan’s top lieutenants, recalled:

“It was a terrible, trying march. Strong men fell out of their saddles, and at every halt the officers were compelled to move continually about in their respective companies and pull and haul the men who would drop asleep in the road–it was the only way to keep them awake. Quite a number crept off into the fields and slept until they were awakened by the enemy.”

Increasing Federal resistance compelled Morgan to move east of Cincinnati to try re-crossing the Ohio back into Kentucky. Federal troops and local militia in pursuit on land and water began closing in. Confident that the threat had passed, the Chicago Tribune reported on the 16th, “John Morgan’s raid is dying away eastward, and his force is melting away as it proceeds. Their only care is escape and their chances for that are very slight.”

Morgan passed Pomeroy, 150 miles east of Cincinnati, where he clashed with Federal troops for the first time. He next stopped at Chester to wait for the increasing number of stragglers to catch up. Morgan knew that a Federal cavalry force under General Edward Hobson was pursuing from the west, but he did not know that another cavalry force under General Henry Judah was approaching from the south. Also, a fleet of gunboats patrolled the Ohio to prevent Morgan from crossing.

Morgan hoped to cross the Ohio into West Virginia at Buffington Island, but his troopers did not get there until nightfall, and by then rains had swollen the river and 300 Federal troops guarded the fords. Morgan resolved to fight his way through the next day, unaware that gunboats led by the ironclad U.S.S. Moose under Lieutenant Commander Leroy Fitch held the Ohio.

The Confederates moved to attack on the morning of the 19th, but the Moose fired two rounds that sent many of them running, leaving their artillery behind. Judah’s cavalry then attacked from the south, surprising Morgan and pushing back his advance guard. Hobson’s troopers came next from the west, and the combined Federal force nearly surrounded Morgan’s raiders.

The Confederates formed a line shaped in a right-angle to fight off both Hobson and Judah while under fire from the gunboats. While Duke and Colonel Adam “Stovepipe” Johnson led the defense, Morgan and about 700 men slipped away to the north. Duke and Johnson tried to follow, but the gunboats closed in and blocked their path with heavy fire. The Federal horsemen then attacked and routed the remaining Confederates.

Map of Morgan’s Raid | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

The Federals killed or wounded 120 raiders and captured 700, including Duke and Morgan’s brothers Richard and Charlton. Johnson and 300 raiders escaped by swimming across the river. The prisoners were taken to Cincinnati, and most were then shipped to Camp Douglas, a Confederate prisoner of war compound, in Chicago. Hobson and militia from Ohio and Pennsylvania continued pursuing Morgan and the remnants of his command.

Morgan moved northeast along the Ohio in search of another river crossing. He tried at Hockingport, but a Federal brigade led by Colonel (and future U.S. president) Rutherford B. Hayes stopped him, taking another 200 prisoners. After another two days of constant riding and exhaustion, Morgan resolved to try crossing the Ohio at Blennerhassett Island, near Parkersburg. Burnside received word that General Lew Wallace’s brigade was waiting for Morgan there, with Federal pursuers just five miles behind the raiders.

After a brief rest on the 24th, Morgan confused the Federals by suddenly veering east toward Cadiz. They then destroyed the railroad yard at Hopedale. President Abraham Lincoln telegraphed Burnside, “What, if anything, do you hear further from John Morgan?”

Burnside replied, “Just now we have conflicting reports as to Morgan’s whereabouts. One report places him within 10 miles of Cadiz Junction, and the other between Antrim and Hendrysburg. (General James) Shackelford is close after him, and we will try to have forces in his front, whichever report is correct.”

Morgan’s surviving troopers rode northward along the right bank of the Ohio River. While seeking an escape under close pursuit, Morgan fought near Steubenville and Springfield. Each skirmish weakened Morgan’s already depleted force.

Finally, Morgan and his remaining 364 men, exhausted and surrounded, surrendered at New Lisbon, near the Pennsylvania border. Morgan initially surrendered to a militia captain with the understanding that he would be paroled and sent home, but General Shackelford soon arrived and informed Morgan that he and his men would be held in confinement.

This marked the first and only Confederate invasion of Indiana and Ohio. Since their unauthorized raid began, Morgan’s Confederates had traveled over 700 miles, damaged railroads at 60 points, destroyed 34 bridges, captured some 6,000 Federal troops, diverted 14,000 more from other assignments, and prompted the raising of 120,000 militia. The raiders averaged 20 hours a day in the saddle after crossing the Ohio River. However, while the raid generated sensational headlines in newspapers and temporarily diverted Federal attention from Tennessee, many (including his superior, General Braxton Bragg) considered it an unnecessary waste of Confederate soldiers.

Burnside wanted Morgan and his raiders treated as prisoners of war, but Ohio Governor David Tod insisted they be treated as outlaws and confined in the Ohio State Penitentiary at Columbus. Morgan and some of his men escaped from that prison in November and returned to Kentucky, where he resumed wreaking havoc among the Federals.



Brooksher, William R./Snider, David K., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 511; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 309-12; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 681-83; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 330, 332-35; Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 186-87; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 387-89, 391; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q363

Morgan’s Raid: The Northern Penetration

July 13, 1863 – Confederate Brigadier General John Hunt Morgan embarked on another Kentucky raid, but this time he crossed the Ohio River and invaded the North.

John Hunt Morgan | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Morgan planned to relieve Federal pressure in Tennessee by disrupting the enemy’s supply lines in Kentucky. He originally proposed invading Indiana and riding east through Ohio and Pennsylvania before joining with General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, then still at Gettysburg. But Morgan’s superior, General Braxton Bragg, would only authorize a Kentucky raid and prohibited him from crossing the Ohio River.

On July 2, Morgan set out with 2,460 men in 11 cavalry regiments and a section of rifled guns. They struggled to cross the swollen Cumberland River and entered Kentucky near Burkeville. Major General William S. Rosecrans, commanding the Federal Army of the Cumberland at Tullahoma, Tennessee, had notified Major General Ambrose E. Burnside, commanding the Federal Department of the Ohio at Cincinnati, that Morgan was heading his way.

Burnside dispatched Federal cavalry forces under General Henry Judah, but they did not react quickly enough to stop Morgan’s advance. Elements of the two forces clashed as Morgan tried crossing the Green River on the 3rd. Morgan sustained heavy losses before riding off to find another place to cross.

The next morning, Morgan demanded the surrender of a garrison on the north bank of the Green. The Federal commander replied, “It is a bad day for surrender, and I would rather not.” Morgan attacked but was repulsed, losing 80 killed or wounded out of less than 600 men. The Federals sustained less than 30 casualties, with most only wounded. Morgan withdrew to find a different crossing, moving through Campbellsville and camping near Lebanon for the night.

Morgan’s raiders attacked the Federal garrison at Lebanon after it also refused to surrender. Brutal fighting took place from house to house within the town, and the Federals finally gave in after being pushed back to the railroad station. The Confederates took over 400 prisoners and valuable medical supplies. Morgan’s youngest brother Tom was killed in the fight, with 79 others either killed or wounded. Morgan burned the town in retribution for his brother and then moved on.

The Confederates cleared out Bardstown and captured a train on the Louisville & Nashville Railroad. They feinted north and east while the main force rode west through Garnettsville and Brandenburg. The troopers seized the steamers John T. McCombs and Alice Dean at Brandenburg, which they used to cross the Ohio River on the 8th.

The troops that Burnside dispatched to oppose Morgan did not arrive in time to stop him from entering Indiana. Morgan’s crossing blatantly violated Bragg’s orders not to go any farther north than Kentucky, but Morgan believed he could not fully divert Federal attention without invading the North. Panic spread among the nearby residents, as many feared that anti-war Copperheads would join Morgan’s raid.

Morgan’s forces reached the former Indiana capital of Corydon on the 9th, having covered an unprecedented 90 miles in 35 hours. The Confederates dispersed a large militia force, losing nearly 400 men in the process, and looted the town. Their practice of destroying everything in their path and robbing local treasuries ensured that they would get no Copperhead support.

During the pillage, Morgan ate at a local hotel and received news that Lee had been driven out of Pennsylvania. This thwarted Morgan’s plan to link with him. He resolved to continue moving east through Indiana and on into Ohio nonetheless. However, straggling and civilian opposition hindered the Confederate advance. Colonel Basil W. Duke, one of Morgan’s top commanders, later recalled:

“The country was full, the towns were full, and the ranks of the militia were full. I am satisfied that we saw often as many as 10,000 militia in one day, posted at different points. They would frequently fight, if attacked in strong position, but could be dispersed by maneuvering.”

Part of the reason for such an intense pursuit was, as Duke recalled, “The (Confederate) Provost guard had great difficulty in restraining the men from pillaging, and was unsuccessful in some instances.” It soon became “impossible to stop a practice which neither company nor regimental officers were able to aid him in suppressing. This disposition for wholesale plunder exceeded any thing that any of us had ever seen before. The men seemed actuated by a desire to ‘pay off; in the ‘enemy’s country’ all scores that the Federal army had chalked up in the South…”

On July 10, Morgan moved through Palmyra to Salem, less than 40 miles from the state capital of Indianapolis. Alarmed citizens gathered at the Bates House to hear Governor Oliver P. Morton read the latest dispatches, and over 60,000 men heeded Morton’s call for volunteers. Fearing that Indianapolis would be heavily defended, Morgan veered east at Salem and moved through Vienna before stopping at Lexington, where he spent the night at a luxurious hotel.

By Sunday the 12th, many of Morgan’s men had straggled and fallen out due to exhausted horses, and some were captured by pursuing civilians and militia. Nevertheless, the bulk of the force reached Sunman, 15 miles from the Ohio-Indiana border. The raiders crossed into Ohio the next day and entered Harrison, just 20 miles from Cincinnati. Federal officials declared martial law and blocked the river crossings.

Now that the armies of both Lee and Bragg were retreating, Morgan’s objective changed from destroying communications and supplies to preventing Burnside’s Federals from moving on Knoxville. However, the raid was losing its momentum as tens of thousands of volunteers joined militias to stop Morgan’s invasion.



Brooksher, William R./Snider, David K., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 511; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 300, 303, 305-06, 308-09; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 677-80; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 322-29; Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 186-87; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 375-76, 381-83, 385

Morgan’s Third Kentucky Raid

December 21, 1862 – Confederate Brigadier General John Hunt Morgan embarked on his third Kentucky raid after a successful operation and a marriage earlier this month.

John Hunt Morgan | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

On December 6, Morgan’s Confederate partisans, detached from General Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee, advanced on Hartsville, 35 miles northeast of Nashville. They consisted of nearly 2,000 men in four infantry and two cavalry regiments. Their advance was screened by a Confederate infantry feint toward Lavergne on the Nashville-Murfreesboro road, and Lebanon northeast of Nashville. That night, Morgan’s men began crossing the Cumberland River in bitter cold.

The next day, Morgan descended on Hartsville and attacked the 3,000-man garrison under Colonel Absalom B. Moore of Illinois. The Confederates inflicted 300 casualties within an hour while losing just 125. According to Colonel Basil W. Duke of Morgan’s force, “The white flag was hoisted an hour and a half after the first shot was fired.” Moore surrendered 1,762 men, along with all their supplies and equipment. Morgan’s men then returned to Bragg’s army at Murfreesboro.

A week later, Morgan married Mattie Ready at Murfreesboro. Bragg and all his ranking officers attended the ceremony, which was performed by Lieutenant General Leonidas Polk, an ordained Episcopal bishop who wore his vestments over his military uniform. The guest list was so large that the marriage had to take place in the town courthouse. The parties that followed made this the main event of Christmas and the social event of the year, even if it did hinder military discipline.

Another week later, Morgan set out for his home state of Kentucky, leading about 2,500 men out of Alexandria near Carthage, Tennessee. Morgan planned to cut the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, the principal supply line for Major General William S. Rosecrans’s Federal Army of the Cumberland. To do this, Morgan intended to destroy the two enormous railroad trestles over Muldraugh’s Hill, near President Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace and current site of Fort Knox.

Skirmishing occurred at various points as Morgan’s troopers crossed the Cumberland and entered Kentucky on the 22nd. They rode through Glasgow on the 24th, and crossed the Green River on Christmas Day. The troopers clashed with Federals at Green’s Chapel and Bear Wallow, taking hundreds of prisoners.

The Confederates camped near Elizabethtown, north of Munfordville, on the 26th, and they launched a surprise attack on the Federal garrison there the next day. Morgan captured the entire 600-man force at Elizabethtown, and his men started wrecking track on the Louisville & Nashville. Taking Elizabethtown gave them a clear path to Muldraugh’s Hill.

The troopers captured the Federal garrison at Muldraugh’s Hill the next day. They then burned the 500-foot-long, 80-foot-high railroad trestles as planned. This wrecked Rosecrans’s supply line via the Louisville & Nashville Railroad. Morgan’s troopers skirmished with Federals at Bacon Creek before continuing eastward.

Morgan began heading back toward Tennessee on the 29th, capturing Boston and clashing with Federals at Springfield and New Haven. Federal forces in the area began assembling after their initial confusion to pursue Morgan. The Confederates skirmished outside New Haven on the 30th, and near New Market on New Year’s Eve. The raid continued into January, with Morgan having already accomplished his mission.



Brooksher, William R./Snider, David K., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 511-12; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 238, 246-47; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 8, 83-84; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 236, 242-47; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 293-94, 299-301; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: C.B. Richardson, 1866; revised version New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 552-53; Street, Jr., James, The Struggle for Tennessee: Tupelo to Stones River (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 85-88, 90-91

Morgan’s Second Kentucky Raid

October 15, 1862 – As the two Confederate armies pulled out of Kentucky, Colonel John Hunt Morgan’s Confederate cavalry conducted another raid in the state.

John Hunt Morgan | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Morgan’s cavalry had been assigned to Major General Edmund Kirby Smith’s rear guard as Smith’s Army of Kentucky headed back to eastern Tennessee. When Morgan discovered that the Federals were not pursuing, he requested permission to go back into the heart of Kentucky to disrupt communication and supply lines. Smith, whose army remained 25 miles southeast of Richmond, approved without consulting General Braxton Bragg, who was leading the second Confederate army out of Kentucky.

Morgan and 1,800 troopers headed northwest on the 17th. The force consisted of Lieutenant Colonel Basil W. Duke’s 2nd Kentucky Cavalry, Colonel Richard M. Gano’s 3rd Kentucky Cavalry, and Major William C. Breckinridge’s Kentucky cavalry battalion. Morgan’s first objective was to seize his vulnerable home town of Lexington.

Posing as a Federal colonel, Morgan had a Unionist guide him to the nearby camp of the 4th Ohio Cavalry, assigned to guard Lexington. The Ohioans were divided between a camp outside town and a camp near the courthouse. The Confederates attacked at dawn, hitting both camps from opposite directions and sustaining casualties from friendly fire in the process. After the confusion was sorted out, Morgan’s troopers captured about 125 Federals.

The Confederates left Lexington that afternoon to continue Morgan’s mission of encircling the Federal Army of the Ohio like Jeb Stuart’s ride around the Federal Army of the Potomac the previous week. As the Confederates camped near Versailles that night, Federals at Frankfort learned of their presence and moved to attack them in front and rear. Morgan found out about the surprise attack and avoided the trap by moving his force to Lawrenceburg.

Morgan entered Bloomfield on the 19th, where the pro-Confederate residents cheered his arrival and supplied his troopers with everything they needed. The horsemen then continued southwest toward Bardstown. Learning that a large Federal force was there, Morgan made camp about six miles away.

That night, Confederate foragers moving toward Louisville captured a Federal supply train consisting of nearly 150 wagons, along with the cavalry escort and some Federal stragglers. The Confederates burned every wagon except two, which, according to Colonel Duke, “contained everything to gladden a rebel’s heart, from cavalry boots to ginger-bread.”

After six days of hard riding, Morgan’s men ultimately reached Springfield in northern Tennessee, ending their second successful raid into Kentucky. The Confederates rode through six towns (Lexington, Lawrenceburg, Bloomfield, Bardstown, Elizabethville, and Litchfield), crossed two rivers (the Green and the Muddy), and encountered minimal Federal resistance. Although this raid was minor in terms of prisoners taken and casualties inflicted, it kept Federals on close guard in Kentucky.



CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 225; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 222-23, 227; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 279-80; Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 511