This is the final installment of three. This is the story of Confederate General John Hunt Morgan’s raid through the Indiana Territory is one of the most interesting phases of the Civil War and was one of the most well-known Confederate campaigns conducted through Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana during the summer of 1863.
We had left off our last installment as the confederate troops of General Morgan and his Raiders were making their way towards Lexington. The lanterns were still burning that night in the courthouse yard when a messenger came riding over the hill telling the people that Morgan was within two miles of the town. As the Raiders came over the hill, the town’s light could be seen by the riders twinkling like campfires and the old brass canon lay at the foot of the hill where it had been last used. Morgan entered the town peacefully and without force.
His men patrolled, and a few came into the square and formed a line. As no citizen seemed to object or resist, Morgan and his staff rode up to the only hotel in town and ordered supplies and feed for his horses. The rest of the band came straggling in and made camp below the community. By twelve o’clock the lights were out. About sunrise the Madison Home Guard swept into town forming a line on Main Street. The Captain was just preparing to give a command for a cavalry movement to show off their horsemanship and new uniforms when a citizen informed him that General Morgan and his staff were asleep in the hotel and his men were camped by the cave spring northeast of town. Upon hearing this, the Captain and his men wheeled their horses and made haste to leave the area.
As morning progressed, the Postmaster was held up, the post office, was looted of all cash and postage stamps. According to Josephine Shea, General Morgan and a few of his men took the mail bags down to her grandfathers Patrick Shea’s home and emptied the contents on the living room floor, opening all the letters. Many of the letters contained money from soldiers to their families which was also stolen. After opening the mail Morgan demanded that the Shea family cook dinner for him.
In town, three general stores were broken into and the men fitted themselves in new clothes and boots and took corn and sides of bacon.
At about eleven o’clock the raiders left town. Two miles east of Lexington a farmer hailed them shouting “Hurray for Jeff Davis.” Morgan’s response was “good, now bring me your best horses and help the cause.” And they forced him to lead the way to Dupont. The farmer eventually walked home a much wiser man.
All horses were not as easy to come by for General Morgan and his troops. However, a lawyer living in Lexington decided to ride to Vienna on July 10th to catch a train to Seymour. He rode a neighbor’s horse called “old Bill,” known throughout the county as having spells of temperament. On this day, when a rider from Morgan’s Raiders intercepted him, they tried to commandeer or steal Old Bill for their cause, the cantankerous old horse would not budge. Raider after readier attempted to mount the horse. The raiders finally gave up and let the lawyer mount him and at which time Old Bill relaxed and moved on down the road, having displayed his loyalty.
Later that evening, General Shackford’s advance guard rode through Lexington in search of Morgan and his Raiders. Many of Shackford’s men were asleep in their saddles, tired from the long pursuit.
In Lexington, as in many other places, the Confederates plundered dwellings and stores and appropriated horses and supplies. On Saturday, July 11th, they moved north to Blocher, Deputy and Paris, Indiana. The northern route was chosen because Morgan’s scouts had learned that Colonel Sering, with 2000 troops, was between him and the Ohio River. However, Morgan’s right wing under Colonel Smith, went eastward, threatened Madison, and fought Jefferson County Home Guard at Kent and at Paris, the Raiders robbed a store before leaving the town.
From Paris they continued north to Vernon where they encountered a well-entrenched force of 500 men under Colonel Williams. In order to conceal his weakness, Morgan sent in a demand under a flag of truce to surrender. Colonel Williams replied, “that he was abundantly able to hold the place; if General Morgan got it he must take it by a hard fight.”
Under the cover of minor skirmishes, Morgan continued on to Dupont, eight miles south of Vernon. They arrived there at midnight and raided the F.F. Mayfield’s new packing factory. The Confederates also destroyed the depot and tracks of the Madison & Indianapolis Railroad. Morgan continued on to Versailles and Osgood, burning bridges and plundering as he traveled. Finally, he crossed the White River into Ohio on July 13th.
General John Hunt Morgan was captured and imprisoned in the Ohio State Prison at Columbus, from which he escaped on the night of November 27, 2863, and eventually rejoined the Confederate forces in the south.
The colorful career of this daring capable southern leader was brought to an abrupt end on September 4, 1864 in the town of Greenville, in eastern Tennessee. He was betrayed by a woman, Mrs. Lucy Williams in whose home he was quartered at the time, to a group of Federal cavalry. General Morgan, realizing the enemy had surrounded the house, attempted to make his escape through the garden behind the house, but while mounting his horse, he was shot and killed, although, it is said he had attempted to surrender.