Thursday, June 1, 2017

Birth Dates of Notorious Kentuckians: June 1, 1824 - John Hunt Morgan



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From The Kentucky Encyclopedia -

John Hunt Morgan, Confederate guerrilla and regular officer, was born in Huntsville, Alabama, on June 1, 1825, the eldest son of Calvin and Henrietta (Hunt) Morgan. In 1831 the family moved to Lexington, Kentucky, and in 1842 he enrolled in Transylvania University . During his second year, in July 1844, he was suspended for dueling with a fellow student. In the Mexican War (1846-48), he served as a first lieutenant in the Kentucky Mounted Volunteers from June 9, 1846, to June 7, 1847, and fought in the Battle of Buena Vista on February 23, 1847. Back in Lexington, he became a respected manufacturer and captain of the Union Volunteer Fire Company. He was a Mason and served on the town council and school board. In 1852 he organized a state militia artillery company and was its captain until the state deactivated the militia in 1854. Three years later he organized the Lexington Rifles volunteer infantry company.

In the Civil War, Morgan supported Kentucky neutrality and joined the Confederacy only after the state declared itself for the Union. On September 20, 1861, he led the Lexington Rifles into Confederate lines on Green River , where he conducted guerrilla warfare for twenty-seven days. He formally enlisted in the Confederate army on October 27, 1861. As captain of a cavalry company he continued raiding behind enemy lines, achieving small victories that earned him promotion to colonel on April 4, 1862, and won him the tag "Francis Marion of the War." He was the primary model for the Confederacy's Partisan Ranger Act of April 21, 1862, which authorized the president to commission units of Partisan Rangers for detached guerrilla operations.

Having fought in the Battle of Shiloh on April 6-7, 1862, Morgan's men were organized as the 2d Kentucky Cavalry, and Morgan began a series of raids from Tennessee into Kentucky. In addition to disrupting communications and causing other damage, he sought to inspire support for the Confederates. On the first Kentucky raid, July 4 to 28, 1862, the raiders marched from Knoxville to Cynthiana and circled back into Tennessee, having recruited three hundred volunteers. Abraham Lincoln was impelled to wire: "They are having a stampede in Kentucky. Please look to it!" Morgan's reports exaggerated southern sentiment in Kentucky and convinced the Confederate high command that an invasion would inspire a secessionist uprising.

On August 12, 1862, Morgan conducted the most strategic raid of his career, burning the twin Louisville & Nashville Railroad tunnels north of Gallatin, Tennessee. The damage disrupted the main artery of supply for the Army of the Ohio, and Gen. Don Carlos Buell suspended the Union advance on Chattanooga for ninety-eight days. The raid gave Gen. Braxton Bragg the initiative to move into Kentucky. Morgan participated in the Confederate invasion of Kentucky during September and October of 1862. At Hartsville, Tennessee, on December 7, 1862, Morgan's force captured 1,834 Union troops. Six days later he was promoted to brigadier general. In the long term, Morgan's greatest strategic role was diverting Union forces from the battlelines. By the time of the Christmas Raid, December 22, 1862 to January 1, 1863, he and other cavalrymen had forced the Union to deploy 20,357 men in the rear in the West. With fewer than 4,000 men on the Christmas Raid, he diverted 7,300 soldiers from Gen. William S. Rosecrans's army at the Battle of Stone River.

Early in 1863 Morgan suffered a series of defeats and decided to restore morale with a raid across the Ohio, which came to be called in the Morgan legend the Great Raid (July 1-26, 1863). The division crossed the Ohio River (without the permission or knowledge of Morgan's superiors) at Brandenburg and advanced through Indiana and Ohio, living on the land. At Buffington Island the Union cavalry in pursuit captured several hundred of the command. Morgan and most of the men fled, and he was captured a week later near West Point, Ohio. In spite of the losses, the raid restored his status as a hero in the South. On November 27, 1863, he escaped from the Ohio State Penitentiary in Columbus. Although Confederate authorities were not pleased with Morgan's freewheeling, he was restored to command. He requested assignment to southwestern Virginia, and from there he launched the last Kentucky raid in June 1864. On June 12, 1864, a Union force attacked at Cynthiana and drove Morgan's men from the state in retreat.

On June 22, 1864, Morgan was appointed commander of the Department of Western Virginia and East Tennessee. On August 22 he was relieved of the departmental command, and on August 30 suspended from command of his men. A court of inquiry was scheduled for September 10 to consider reports of robbery and looting by some of Morgan's men on the last Kentucky raid.

On September 4, 1864, he was surprised in Greeneville, Tennessee, and killed attempting to escape. He was buried first in Richmond, Virginia, then in the Lexington Cemetery on April 17, 1868.

Morgan married Rebecca Bruce on November 21, 1848. In 1853 she had a stillborn son and was an invalid until her death on July 21, 1861. Morgan's second wife was Martha Ready, of Murfreesboro, Tennessee; their daughter, Johnnie, was born after Morgan died. The equestrian statue unveiled in Lexington in 1911 exemplifies his appeal as a symbol of the Confederate cause.

JAMES A. RAMAGE, Entry Author

Selected Sources from UK Libraries:

Corn, James Franklin. Death in a Garden : A Civil War Chronicle. Cleveland, Tenn.: James F. Corn, 1983. Print.
E475.18 .C67 1983, Special Collections Research Center

Milward, Burton., and Clay. Lancaster. The Hunt-Morgan House. Lexington: Foundation for the Preservation of Historic Lexington and Fayette County, 1955. Print.
F459.L6 M53x, Special Collections Research Center - Reading Room

Hunt-Morgan Family Papers, 1784-1949. (1784). Print.
63M202, Special Collections Research Center - Manuscripts Collection
PA63M202, Special Collections Research Center - Photographic Archives

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