By Ben Morris, MA, RPA
---- — Last Sunday my wife and I and some friends attended a lecture on John Hunt Morgan.
As you know the American Civil War was a test to determine if the U.S. was to remain an undivided nation or a Confederacy of many independent states. Eleven southern states attempted to secede.
Leading the effort to keep the U.S. together was the president of the U.S., Abraham Lincoln. The leader of the Confederacy was Jefferson Davis. To determine who would prevail, more than 600,000 men would die of battle wounds and disease.
The population of the U.S. in 1860 was 31 million of which 4 million were slaves. There were 34 states,19 were “free” states and 15 were states where slavery existed. Four of the 15 slave states were considered “border states,” such as Kentucky and actively supported both the North and the South.
The secessionists’ cause however, was grossly outnumbered - only six million supported the Confederacy. During the course of the war, 76 major battles were fought plus 10,000 minor engagements. There were 64 mounted raids.
John Hunt Morgan’s Raid was unique because it was 1,000 miles in length, the longest sustained cavalry raid of the Civil War. On July 8, 1863, Confederate Brigadier General John Hunt Morgan and 2,000 cavalrymen using two captured steamboats crossed the Ohio River from Kentucky, into Indiana. For six days they rode through Southern Indiana.heading north
toward Indianapolis. On July 9, The Battle of Corydon occurred. The raiders spent the next night in a field 16 miles south of Salem. The next day the raiders entered Salem where they looted businesses and burned the railroad depot. Throughout the raid men spread out from the main column, pillaging the road. The railroad and telegraph were primary targets. The
inexperienced Indiana militia were unable to deter Morgan and his men.
However, that was about change. A Union cavalry force of 4,000 under General Edward Hobson was in pursuit. They crossed the Ohio River from Kentucky July 10 and were within 25 miles of Morgan’s column. In Indianapolis, Gov. Oliver P. Morton responded with 20,000 men.Thirteen regiments were mustered into service under the command of Major General
Lew Wallace. When Morgan learned that Wallace was on his tail, he turned east and began to parallel the Ohio River. He entered Lexington, Ind. at dusk July 10.
At Vernon, for the first time the raiders were turned back. The vice was closing on Morgan. On July 12, the raiders arrived in Versailles where they robbed the county treasury of $5,000. General Hobson was four hours behind. Next the raiders headed northeast toward Sunman where they camped for the night. Unknown to Morgan, on the railroad siding in Sunman, were 2,500 Union soldiers.
At 5 a.m. Monday, July 13, the bone-tired raiders resumed their eastward ride, crossing into Harrison, Ohio at 1 p.m. The great raid through Indiana was coming to a close.
One last bridge was torched. Twenty Hoosiers had been killed and at least 24 wounded.
Hobson continued the chase through Southern Ohio with only 364 men. His total losses were estimated at 28 officers killed, 35 wounded plus 250 enlisted men killed and wounded.
On July 26, the raid ended. Morgan was captured in northeast Ohio and imprisoned in the Ohio State Penitentiary until Nov. 27, 1863 when he and six others made an escape.
Morgan was shot and killed in Greensville,Tenn. on Sept. 4, 1864 by a Union soldier. He was 39-years-old.
Ben Morris, MA, RPA, is an archaeological and historical columnist for the Daily News. He can be reached at 812-932-0298 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.