Tag Archives: Ohio River

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

The End of Neutral Kentucky

September 3, 1861 – Kentucky’s neutrality, which had been in question for several months, officially ended when Confederate forces entered the state ahead of the Federals.

Confederate General Leonidas Polk | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Confederate General Leonidas Polk | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

On the same day that the new Unionist Kentucky legislature approved raising the U.S. flag over the State House at Frankfort, Confederate Major General Leonidas Polk, commanding the Western Theater, received news that Federal forces were gathering across the Mississippi River from Kentucky.

Federals had already encroached upon the state’s avowed neutrality by arranging the election of a Unionist legislature, recruiting troops, and training them at Camp Dick Robinson. Kentucky’s Federal congressmen had already voted to pay for arming and supplying men to destroy the Confederacy, and in late August Major General John C. Fremont (without authorization) had directed Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant to openly violate Kentucky’s neutrality by leading Federal troops into the state.

Polk therefore resolved to beat Grant to the punch, directing Major General Gideon Pillow’s forces to advance northward and seize Columbus, a key Kentucky town on the Mississippi. Situated upon a high bluff, Columbus commanded the waterway between the Federal base at Cairo, Illinois, and the Confederates in northwestern Tennessee. It was also the northern terminus of the important Mobile & Ohio Railroad.

Pillow loaded his troops on transports at New Madrid, Missouri, and steamed upriver to seize Hickman, just below Columbus, which was covered by Federal artillery; the Confederates took Columbus shortly thereafter. Most residents welcomed the troops as protectors from the threatening Federal cannon across the river. Polk had hinted to Kentucky Governor Beriah Magoffin that his forces may invade the state, having informed him that the Confederates “should be ahead of the enemy in occupying Columbus and Paducah.”

Occupying Columbus created a war front that now extended from the Atlantic Ocean westward to the American frontier. Unionists protested that the Confederate military had violated Kentucky’s neutrality first, disregarding prior Federal encroachments as well as the fact that the Federal military had planned to invade the state just one day later.

Some Kentuckians resented the Confederacy for violating the state’s neutrality first, causing a rise in Unionist sentiment. Others welcomed the Confederates as protectors. Polk argued that he had ordered his troops into Kentucky to counter the Federals, who “in defiance of the wishes of the people of Kentucky, disregarded their neutrality by establishing camp depots for their armies, and by organizing military companies within the territory, and by constructing military works on the Missouri shore immediately opposite and commanding Columbus, evidently intended to cover the landing of troops for the seizure of that town.”

Not all Confederates supported Polk’s move. Tennessee Governor Isham Harris wrote to Polk calling the action “unfortunate, as the President and myself are pledged to respect the neutrality of Kentucky.” Unless the Confederate “presence there is an absolute necessity,” according to Harris, it should be “withdrawn instantly.”

Polk responded on the 4th: “I regret that a movement so entirely acceptable to the people of Kentucky… and so essential to the security of Western Tennessee, does not permit me, in the exercise of the above authority, to concur with your views.” Polk asserted that he “had never received official information that the President and yourself had determined upon any particular course in reference to the State of Kentucky.”

That same day, Confederate Secretary of War LeRoy Walker telegraphed Polk to lead his troops on a “prompt withdrawal from Kentucky.” Before receiving Walker’s message, Polk wrote to President Jefferson Davis:

“The enemy having descended the Mississippi River some three or four days since, and seated himself with cannon and entrenched lines opposite the town of Columbus, Kentucky, making such demonstrations as left no doubt upon the minds of any of their intention to seize and forcibly possess said town, I thought proper, under the plenary power delegated to me, to direct a sufficient portion of my command both by the river way and land to concentrate at Columbus, as well to offer to its citizens that protection they unite to a man in accepting, as also to prevent, in time, the occupation by the enemy of a point so necessary to the security of western Tennessee. The demonstration on my part has had the desired effect. The enemy has withdrawn his forces even before I had fortified my position. It is my intention to continue to occupy and hold this place.”

Davis overruled the secretary of war and supported Polk.

Meanwhile, Federal gunboats U.S.S. Lexington and Tyler traded fire with Confederate gunboat C.S.S. Yankee and fired on Confederate shore batteries at Hickman. Commander John Rodgers of Tyler observed that Confederates had assembled a large force and a battery at Hickman to fire on Federal vessels trying to pass. Rodgers later reported that “the (Confederate) army at Hickman is considerable.”

Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

At the Federal base in Cairo, General Grant received intelligence on September 5 that Confederates were advancing from Columbus to occupy Paducah, 40 miles away at the important confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee rivers, with the equally important Cumberland River nearby. Grant shared this information with Fremont at St. Louis and stated that he would begin moving that night to get to Paducah first unless Fremont objected. Hearing nothing back, Grant assembled his troops on steamers just before midnight.

At St. Louis, Fremont received Grant’s dispatches and informed his superiors that the Confederates, having captured Columbus and Hickman, would likely seize Paducah the next day. He issued orders to Grant to both establish a foothold in Kentucky and pursue withdrawing Confederates to New Madrid in Missouri, “taking Charleston and Sikeston, as well as holding Belmont.” However, Grant did not receive those orders before making “preliminary arrangements” and informing Fremont, “I am now ready for Paducah.”

Three Federal army transport steamers, protected by the gunboats U.S.S. Lexington and Tyler, traveled 45 miles down the Mississippi and arrived at Paducah around 8:30 a.m. on the 6th. The small Confederate force in the town quickly evacuated by rail. Most residents supporting secession rushed to pull down their Confederate flags as Grant directed the raising of U.S. flags over the public buildings.

As Federals seized the railroad and telegraph offices, Grant issued a “Proclamation, To The Citizens of Paducah” which began: “I have come among you, not as an enemy, but as your friend and fellow-citizen, not to injure or annoy you, but to respect the rights, and to defend and enforce the rights of all loyal citizens.” Grant declared that “an enemy, in rebellion against our common Government,” was “moving upon your city” after invading Kentucky. Grant assured residents that his troops were there to “defend you against this enemy… and maintain the authority and sovereignty of your Government and mine.”

It was soon discovered that no Confederates were headed toward Paducah from Columbus. Nevertheless, Grant’s bold, bloodless action prevented Polk from moving closer to the Ohio River to threaten Illinois and possibly take control of all Kentucky. Taking Paducah earned Grant the respect of his troops. It also demonstrated Grant’s skill in conducting joint army-navy operations.

Grant issued orders for the troops to take “special care and precaution that no harm is done to inoffensive citizens.” Looting was prohibited, but Grant permitted his men to take all money from the town banks and store it on one of the gunboats in case of a Confederate attack.

Placing the highly respected Brigadier General Charles F. Smith in command of Federal forces in western Kentucky, Grant returned to Cairo around 12 p.m. There he finally received Fremont’s order to take not only Paducah but points along the Mississippi in Missouri. The orders had been written by one of Fremont’s Hungarian staff officers and could not be understood.

The question over whether Kentucky would stay neutral was now settled. From this point on Federals and Confederates would battle to control the state.



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