Sunday, December 14, 2008

Crossing the Cumberland: The Raiders Reach Burksville and Columbia

June 30, 1863

Unusual weather patterns continued to torment the combatants.

“The rain was pouring in torrents as night fell over our camp at Somerset, Kentucky, June 30th, 1863. We were hugging ourselves in congratulation over the fact that we had a good dry camp, and pulled our tent flaps tight to keep out the storm as we settled down to a quiet night’s rest, at peace with all the world for that night anyhow.”

~Captain Theodore F. Allen, Seventh Ohio Cavalry [i]

These rains were so heavy that the Cumberland River spilled its banks and pour forth in a wild and raging torrent.

“The Federal watchers thought the great flood in the Cumberland River could temporarily stop Morgan, and with the water on their side, they did not believe it possible for the Confederates to pass over with their artillery and ammunition and get lodgment on the north side of the stream."[ii]

July 1, 1863

“Lexington, July 1, 1863 - 6:55 p. m.
Received 7:30 p. m.

General Burnside:

Just received dispatch from Judah, who is at Tompkinsville. The enemy is nearly opposite Burkesville, from 5,000 to 7,000. They probably intend advancing by two routes. The present disposition of his force is better that at Burkesville, which, if occupied, must be with his entire division, leaving enemy free to cross anywhere after river falls. His supplies are ample, and he can keep them up. He would like to have an iron-clad gunboat come to Burkesville; it could shell the enemy’s camp. I sent you in full this morning the positions of the troops. I shall order Colonel Chapin, of the Twenty-third Michigan, to Carthage, to command. Would like, if possible, reply to questions whether you can give two regiments.

Geo. L. Hartstuff,

July 2, 1863

This Map tracing the route of the raid was developed by Historic Hoosier Hills R C & D. It is used with the kind permission of Mr. Richard Skidmore, Coordinator, J H M Heritage Trail

Union intelligence sorely underestimated Morgan’s determination to press northward. Despite the rampant flooding, Morgan crossed the Cumberland River at Burkesville, Kentucky.

Rivers were still a major means of moving goods and materials at the time of the Civil War and Burkesville served as an active port city. Morgan had selected to cross in an area where his men would surely draw the attention of the local citizenry. Thus Morgan waited on the river bank until nightfall. Under the cover of darkness, a few of the raiders began to cross the swollen river in flatboats and canoes.[iv] Others simply placed their clothing in the canoes and swam across the river.[v] Their state of undress caused one incredulous Union picket on the opposite bank to cry out, “They’re naked as jay-birds!”[vi]

“We marched to Burkesville, Ky. July 2nd 1863 on south side of Cumberland River. We, the 1st Brigade prepared to cross on one old flat boat and skiffs (river very high and out of banks). We put our saddle and blankets in the old boat with ourselves and crossed over, one to two hundred at a time, put our horses in the river and they swam across and some already across would hold our horses until owner got across.

Some of the command were crossing above and below Burkesville. As soon as we crossed we formed in line of battle and about 2 P.M. General Judah's Company attacked us. Morgan at our head, we formed out about a mile or more from Burkesville. We charged them and drove them about 12 miles to their encampment at Marrowbone. They had 12 thousand men, so some of the prisoners informed us. We checked them so they did not follow very closely till next day. Our division of the 1st and 2nd Brigade camped that night 10 miles from the river on the road to Columbia Ky.”

~ John Weatherred, 9th Tennessee Cavalry [vii]

“On July 2, 1863, Brig. Gen. Morgan, with about 2,450 hand-picked cavalrymen, rode into Kentucky to disrupt the communications of the Union Army of the Cumberland, which began its operations against Bragg’s Army of Tennessee (Tullahoma Campaign) on June 23. Crossing the Cumberland River at Burkesville, Morgan’s column advanced to the Green River where it was deflected by a Union regiment at Tebb’s Bend on July 4..” [viii]

In an effort to distract General Hobson, Morgan sent a group of scouts west of Burkesville along the Glasgow Road. The daring scouts headed straight for the Union Camp and gave chase to a group of Union pickets. Colonel Ward's 9th Tennessee Cavalry and Colonel Grigsby's 6th Kentucky Cavalry joined the pursuit. So much dust was raised that the scouts failed to notice Union infantry until shots rang out. A brief skirmish followed in which two of the scouts were killed. Captain Kirk was shot in the left arm. The wound was so severe that he was forced to return to Tennessee.

General James M. Shackelford arrived to support Hobson. He set off in chase of the raiders until he was three miles outside of Burkesville. There he received orders from General Judah, Hobson’s superior officer, directing him to halt and return to Marrowbone.

General Judah found himself powerless to prevent Morgan’s progress. Following what must have seemed ridiculous orders, he found himself trapped by flooding and lost valuable time having his troops ferried across the Green River at Vaughn’s Ferry.

It was now up General Hobson to stop the raid.

“Jul 2
Crossed Cumberland at & near Burksville [sic] with 2500 men and 4 pcs. artillery. Skirmished with Hobson on Marrow Bone [sic].”

~Captain Thomas Monroe Coombs, Co. C, 5th KY Cavalry, Morgan’s Division, CSA[ix]

July 3, 1863

“Marrowbone, July 3, 1863 – 12:30 p. m.
Via Glasgow, July 4 – 1:45 p.m.)

General Hartsuff, Lexington, KY:

An Attempt to force General Hobson’s position was made yesterday by two commands of cavalry, one consisting of four regiments, about 1,500 t0 1, 800 in the aggregate, on the two flanks; the other counted 970 strong, following up the Ninth Kentucky Cavalry on the direct road from Burkesville, and charging it up to the main camp. Our loss, 20 killed, wounded, and missing; that of the enemy not known. From evidence, consisting of empty saddles, his loss was probably greater than our own. The narrow road preventing the display of a front greater than it’s width, neutralized the disparity of the forces engaged, which were greatly in favor of the enemy. A strong reconnoitering party is now out, and my movements are dependent on their report. It is certain that the enemy on this side of the river is 3,00 strong. It is probable that he is more than 4,000 strong from other evidences deemed reliable but not positive .The approaches to Columbia, which are more numerous than designated upon the map, should be guarded at once. Unless I am enabled to withdraw my force, or a portion of it, from Tompkinsville (which, with the enemy’s plans still undeveloped, I dare not do), I can do [no] more with the enemy [than] hold this position. The enemy can reach Columbia without being encountered by my scouting parties. The gunboat would be useful now. The enemy crossed on flat and ferry boat. These the gunboat could destroy and place his force on this side in a critical situation. An Advance of both my brigades and attack on Burkesville may recommend itself. If adopted, it will be intelligently.

H. M. Judah
[Commanding Third Division, Twenty-third Army Corps.]
(Forwarded to Burnside)”

Lexington, KY, July 3, 1863 – 11:45 a. m.

Three hundred of General Hobson’s cavalry, from Marrowbone, went within 2 miles of Burkesville, skirmishing all the way. They were then driven back, by 800 or 1,000 of the enemy, to the main body, which then advanced. There is skirmishing on all the roads leading to Burkesville. Hobson’s loss, 20 killed, wounded, missing. Rebel loss supposed to be greater .Judah has gone to the front, and Shackleford’s brigade is moving up from Paces. I don’t know whether this is a party which got caught this side by high water or whether it is advance of the main force. If the former, we will catch them all. If the later, I think can manage. Party of Wolford’s men from Jamestown captured 7 men near Burkesville, and report that the rebels have nine regiments opposite Burkesville, Morgan being there in person. Please replay about Sanders commanding Carter’s brigade. Carter wants two brigades to be made out of it, to be commanded by Colonels Byrd and Carter. I prefer the other arrangement decidedly, and want only to know whether Sanders belongs to me.

Geo. L. Hartsuff
[Major-General, Commanding Twenty-third Army Corps.]”

“Arriving at the Cumberland River, above Burkesville, we found Morgan with his division of cavalry occupying the south bank of the Cumberland River. For a day or two we had skirmishing, ‘give and take.’ It was impossible for us to picket the entire length of the river, and by July 3rd, Morgan had succeeded in transferring his command to the north bank of the river, his force crossing mostly at Turkey Neck Dend and at Scott’s Ferry, some fifteen miles below Burkesville, and we were called in from our picket duty to join in the pursuit.”

~ Captain Theodore F. Allen, Seventh Ohio Cavalry [xii]

After a skirmish between Col. Wolford’s 1st KY Cavalry and battalions of the 2nd and 45th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, house to house fighting took place in Columbia.[xiii].

“Next morning, July 3rd we moved out on the road to Columbia where the blues were encountered, a few were captured, some wounded on both sides. Two of our boys in the advance guard were killed in driving them out of Columbia. That night we camped 6 or 8 miles from Columbia.”

~ John Weatherred, 9th Tennessee Cavalry[xiv]

“Jul 3

Fight at Columbia, KY, with Capt. Carter of Woolford’s Cav.”

~ Captain Thomas Monroe Coombs, Co. C, 5th KY Cavalry, Morgan’s Division, CSA[xv]

“A Columbia resident observing the shooting and horsemen galloping down the street later recalled. ‘I ran to the window, and looking out I saw a Union soldier going down the road at full speed, his head and body bent low on the side of his horse, a few feet behind him were four or five men in gray in hot pursuit, shooting as rapidly as they could with pistols... I expected at every fire to see him fall from his horse, but in less time than I have taken to tell it, they were over the hill in the direction of town and out of sight... in a few moments I saw Union soldiers cautiously making their way over the brow of the hill from the direction of town. I could see Federal and Confederate soldiers, but they could not see each other. Soon skirmish fire opened up from both sides. The Federals were evidently deceived as to the force with which they were contending. I could see there were indications of quite an army over the hill.’”[xvi]

“Our men behaved badly at Columbia, breaking open a store and plundering it. I ordered the men to return the goods, and made all the reparations in my power. These outrages are very disgraceful, and are usually perpetrated by men accompanying the army simply for plunder. They are not worth a damned, and are a disgrace to both armies.”

~ Lt. Colonel Robert Alston[xvii]

After Columbia fell, Morgan allowed his men to camp for the night at Cane Valley near the Taylor/Adair county line, between Campbellsville and Columbia. They were now roughly one day ahead of Hobson’s pursuing forces.[xviii]

“A regiment of Federal infantry was stationed at Green river bridge, where the road from Columbia to Campbellsville and Lebanon crosses the Green river. General Morgan sent Captain Franks to watch them, who reported that, during the entire night, he heard the ringing of axes and the crash of falling timber. The next morning we learned what it meant. Early on the 4th the column was put in motion, and the second brigade (marching in front), soon came upon the enemy.”

~ Gen. Basil W. Duke[xix]

“This was the start of Morgan’s famous raid, which extended across the States of Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio. This bold dash of the Confederate cavalry, hotly and most persistently pursued by the cavalry of the Union Army for a distance of a thousand miles, reaching into and across the Northern States of Indiana and Ohio at the high tide of the Civil War, was one of the most interesting, and certainly one of the most picturesque events of the war; and a particularly striking feature of this raid was that it came under the observation of more persons and was witnessed by more than any other military operation of the entire war, as thousands, even tens of thousands, of people in Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio thronged the line of march taken by Morgan and the pursuing force under General Hobson. It was also one of the most talked-of events of those days, when startling events crowded upon one another in a rapid succession. General Morgan and his troopers were the beau-ideal raiders of the South. Morgan, and his Chief Lieutenant, General Basil Duke, were very skilled in misleading their pursuers, and pervious to this time had been universally successful in their raids, inflicting much damage upon railway lines supplying our armies in the field, and had become overbold in their operations.”

~ Captain Theodore F. Allen, Seventh Ohio Cavalry [xx]


[i] Allen, Theodore F. “In Pursuit of John Morgan,” Sketches of War History 1861-1865, Papers prepared for the Commandery of the Sate of Ohio, Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States 1896 -1903, p. 223.
[ii] Young, Bennet H. “Confederate Wizards of the Saddle, “1999. pages 367-390.
[iii] “Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies” Chap. XXXV, No 20 p.679
[iv] Duke, Basil W. “History of Morgan’s Cavalry” p. 414, Cecil Fletcher Holland “Morgan and his Raiders” p. 226.
[v] Stone, Henry Lane .“Narrative of Personal Experiences”, April 8, 1919, p. 10.
[vi] Hemingway, “America’s Civil War” p. 56.
[vii] The Wartime Diary of John Weatherred
[viii] CWSAC Battle Summaries, NPS
[ix] Diary of Thomas M. Coombs.
[x] “Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies” Chap. XXXV, No 20 pages 679-680.
[xi] “Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies” Chap. XXXV, No 20 p. 680.
[xii] Allen, Theodore F. “In Pursuit of John Morgan,” Sketches of War History 1861-1865, Papers prepared for the Commandery of the Sate of Ohio, Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States 1896 -1903, p. 225.
[xiii] Metzler, William E. “Morgan and His Dixie Cavaliers,” 1976, p. 48.
[xiv] The Wartime Diary of John Weatherred.
[xv] Diary of Thomas M. Coombs.
[xvi] Trails-R-Us: John Hunt Morgan, 22-A The Door Was Left Open
[xvii] Henry Steele Commager, “The Blue and The Gray,” Journal of Lt. Col. Alston, p. 56
[xviii] Lester V. Horwitz, “The Longest Raid of the Civil War,” Chap 5, p. 22
[xix] Gen. Basil W. Duke "A History of Morgan's Cavalry"
[xx] Allen, Theodore f. “In Pursuit of John Morgan,” Sketches of War History 1861-1865, Papers prepared for the Commandery of the Sate of Ohio, Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States 1896 -1903, pages 225-226.

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