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John Hunt Morgan (June 1, 1825 – September 4, 1864) was a Confederate general and cavalry officer in the American Civil War.

Morgan is best known for Morgan's Raid in 1863, when he led 2,460 troops racing past Union lines into Kentuckymarker, Indianamarker, and Ohiomarker in July 1863. This would be the farthest north any uniformed Confederate troops penetrated during the war.

Early life and career

John Hunt Morgan was born in Huntsvillemarker, Alabamamarker, the eldest of ten children of Calvin and Henrietta (Hunt) Morgan. He was an uncle of geneticist Thomas Hunt Morgan and a grandson of John Wesley Hunt, an early founder of Lexington, Kentuckymarker, and one of the first millionaires west of the Allegheny Mountains. He was also the brother-in-law of A.P. Hill and of Basil W. Duke.

Morgan's father lost his Huntsville home in 1831 when he was unable to pay the property taxes following the failure of his pharmacy. The family then moved to Lexington, where Calvin Morgan would manage one of Hunt's sprawling farms. Morgan also attended Transylvania Collegemarker for two years, but was suspended in June 1844 for dueling with a fraternity brother. In 1846, Morgan joined the Freemasons, as had his father before him.

In 1846 Morgan enlisted in the U.S. Army as a cavalry private during the Mexican-American War, and saw combat at the Battle of Buena Vistamarker. On his return to Kentucky, he became a hemp manufacturer and eventually took over his grandfather's prosperous mercantile business. In 1848, he married Rebecca Gratz Bruce, 18-year-old sister of Morgan's business partner. Morgan raised a militia artillery company in 1852, but it was disbanded two years later.

In 1853, Morgan's wife delivered a stillborn son. Rebecca Morgan contracted septic thrombophlebitis, an infection of a blood clot in a vein, which eventually led to an amputation. Relations with his wife's family suffered over different views on slavery and with her health problems. In 1857, Morgan raised an independent infantry company known as the "Lexington Rifles," and spent much of his free time drilling them.

Civil War service

Like most Kentuckians, Morgan did not initially support secession. Immediately after Lincoln's election in November 1860, he wrote to his brother, Thomas Hunt Morgan, then a student at Kenyon College in northern Ohio, "Our State will not I hope secede[. I] have no doubt but Lincoln will make a good President at least we ought to give him a fair trial & then if he commits some overt act all the South will be a unit." By the following spring, Tom Morgan (who also had opposed Kentucky's secession) had transferred home to the Kentucky Military Institute and there began to support the Confederacy. Just before the Fourth of July, by way of a steamer from Louisville, he quietly left for Camp Boone, just across the Tennessee border, to enlist in the Kentucky State Guard. John stayed at home in Lexington to tend to his troubled business and his ailing wife. Becky Morgan finally died on July 21, 1861. In September, Captain Morgan and his militia company went to Tennessee and joined the Confederate States Army. Morgan soon raised the 2nd Kentucky Cavalry Regiment and became its colonel on April 4, 1861.

Morgan and his cavalrymen fought at the Battle of Shilohmarker in May 1862, and he soon became a symbol to secessionists in their hopes for obtaining Kentucky for the Confederacy. A Louisiana writer, Robert D. Patrick, compared Morgan to Francis Marion and wrote that "a few thousands of such men as his would regain us Kentucky and Tennessee." In his first Kentucky raid, Morgan left Knoxvillemarker on July 4, 1862, with almost 900 men and in three weeks he swept through Kentucky, deep in the rear of Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell's army. He reported the capture of 1,200 Federal soldiers, whom he paroled, acquired several hundred horses, and destroyed massive quantities of supplies. He unnerved Kentucky's Union military government and President Abraham Lincoln received so many frantic appeals for help that he complained that "they are having a stampede in Kentucky." Historian Kenneth M. Noe wrote that Morgan's feat "in many ways surpassed J.E.B. Stuart's celebrated 'Ride around McClellan' and the Army of the Potomac the previous spring." The success of Morgan's raid was one of the key reasons that the Confederate Heartland Offensive of Braxton Bragg and Edmund Kirby Smith was launched later that fall, assuming that tens of thousands of Kentuckians would enlist in the Confederate Army if they invaded the state.

Morgan was promoted to brigadier general (his highest rank) on December 11, 1862. He received the thanks of the Confederate Congress on May 1, 1863 for his raids on the supply lines of Union Maj. Gen. William S. Rosecrans in December and January, most notably his victory at the Battle of Hartsville on December 7. Also in December, Morgan married Martha "Mattie" Ready, the daughter of Tennesseemarker United States Representative Charles Ready and a cousin of William T. Haskell, another former U.S. representative from Tennessee.

Morgan's Raid

General Morgan
General John Hunt Morgan

Hoping to divert Union troops and resources in conjunction with the twin Confederate operations of Vicksburgmarker and the Gettysburgmarker in the summer of 1863, Morgan set off on the campaign that would become known as "Morgan's Raid". Morgan crossed the Ohio River, and raided across southern Indiana and Ohio. After many skirmishes and battles, during which he captured and paroled thousands of Union soldiers , Morgan's raid almost ended on July 19, 1863, at Buffington Islandmarker, Ohiomarker, when approximately 700 of his men were captured while trying to cross the Ohio River into West Virginiamarker. (Intercepted by Union gunboats, less than 200 of his men succeeded in crossing.) Most of Morgan's men captured that day spent the rest of the war in the infamous Camp Douglas Prisoner of War camp in Chicagomarker, which had a very high death rate. On July 26, near Salineville, Ohiomarker (actually closer to New Lisbon-now called just Lisbon), Morgan and his exhausted, hungry and saddlesore soldiers were finally forced to surrender.

On November 27, Morgan and six of his officers, most notably Thomas Hines, escaped from their cells in the Ohio Penitentiary by digging a tunnel from Hines' cell into the inner yard and then ascending a wall with a rope made from bunk coverlets and a bent poker iron. Morgan and three of his officers, shortly after midnight, boarded a train from the nearby Columbus train station and arrived in Cincinnati that morning. Morgan and Hines jumped from the train before reaching the depot, and escaped into Kentucky by hiring a skiff to take them across the Ohio River. Through the assistance of sympathizers, they eventually made it to safety in the South. Coincidentally, the same day Morgan escaped, his wife gave birth to a daughter, who died shortly afterwards before Morgan returned home.

Though Morgan's Raid was breathlessly followed by the Northern and Southern press and caused the Union leadership considerable concern, it is now regarded as little more than a showy but ultimately futile sidelight to the war. Furthermore, it was done in direct violation of his orders from Gen. Braxton Bragg not to cross the river. Despite the Raiders' best efforts, Union forces had amassed nearly 110,000 Union militia in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio; dozens of United States Navy gunboats along the Ohio; and strong Federal cavalry forces, which doomed the raid from the beginning. The cost of the raid to the Federals was extensive, with claims for compensation still being filed against the U.S. government well into the early 20th century. However, the Confederacy's irreplaceable loss of some of the finest light cavalry in American history far outweighed the Union's replaceable losses in equipment and supplies. When taken in together with the defeats at Vicksburg and Gettysburg, the loss of Morgan's cavalry brigade dealt another serious blow to Confederate morale.

Late career and death

After his return from Ohio, Morgan was never again trusted by General Bragg. On August 22, 1864, Morgan was placed in command of the Trans-Allegheny Department, embracing at the time the Confederate forces in eastern Tennessee and southwestern Virginia.

However the men he was assigned were in no way comparable to those he had lost. Morgan once again began raiding into Kentucky, but his men lacked discipline and he was either not willing or able to control them, leading to open pillaging as well as high casualties. By now Confederate authorities were quietly investigating Morgan for charges of criminal banditry , likely leading to his removal from command. He began to organize a raid aimed at Knoxville, Tennesseemarker.

On September 4, 1864, he was surprised and killed while attempting to escape capture during a Union raid on Greeneville, Tennesseemarker. His men always believed that he had been murdered to prevent a second escape from prison, but it seems he was simply shot because he refused to halt.

Morgan was buried in Lexington Cemetery. The burial was shortly before the birth of his second child, another daughter.


Hart County High School, in Munfordville, Kentuckymarker, the site of the Battle for the Bridge, named their mascot the Raiders, in honor of Morgan's men. Also, a large mural in the town depicts Morgan.

Trimble County High School, in Bedford, Kentuckymarker, named their mascot the Raiders, in honor of Morgan's men.

The John Hunt Morgan Memorialmarker statue in Lexington is a tribute to him.

The Hunt-Morgan Housemarker, once his home, is a contributing property in a historic district in Lexington.

The General Morgan Inn, located at the spot he was killed in Greeneville, Tennessee is named after him.

See also


  • Brown, Dee A., The Bold Cavaliers: Morgan's Second Kentucky Cavalry Raiders. 1959. Republished as Morgan's Raiders, Smithmark, 1995. ISBN 0-8317-3286-5.
  • Dupuy, Trevor N., Johnson, Curt, and Bongard, David L., Harper Encyclopedia of Military Biography, Castle Books, 1992, 1st Ed., ISBN 0-7858-0437-4.
  • Eicher, John H., and Eicher, David J., Civil War High Commands, Stanford Univ. Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
  • Mackey, Robert R., The UnCivil War: Irregular Warfare in the Upper South, 1861-1865, Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 2004. ISBN 0-8061-3624-3.
  • Noe, Kenneth W., Perryville: This Grand Havoc of Battle, University Press of Kentucky, 2001, ISBN 978-0-8131-2209-0.
  • Ramage, James A., Rebel Raider: The Life of General John H. Morgan, Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1995. ISBN 0-8131-0839-X.
  • Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Vol. III Red River to Appomattox, Vintage Books, 1986, ISBN 0-394-74622-8.
  • Horwitz, Lester V., "The Longest Raid of the Civil War." Farmcourt Publishing 1999. ISBN 978-0967026725.


  1. Dupuy, p. 525.
  2. Eicher, p. 397.
  3. Noe, p. 31.
  4. Eicher, p. 397. "...for their varied heroic and invaluable services in Tennessee and Kentucky immediately preceding the battles before Murfreesboro, services which have conferred upon their authors fame as enduring as the records of the struggle which they have so brilliantly illustrated."
  5. Eicher, p. 884.

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