Friday, December 26, 2008

From Bardstown to Brandenburg

At 10:00 a. m., Morgan’s main column left Bardstown following the Shepherdsville Road and passing through Lebanon Junction.

Departing Bardstown, Morgan had first directed the column west. He then turned his column northward, feinting an attack on Louisville. Morgan had planed to attack the Salt River stockade but when the Raiders arrived, they found it abandoned. After crossing the Salt River Bridge, Morgan halted and granted his men a rest of a little more than two hours.

Meanwhile, Union Generals Hobson and Shackelford arrived in Lebanon with their forces.

Louisville, July 7, 1863 – 3:40 p. m.

Major- General Burnside:
Operator at Lebanon Junction telegraphs me as follows:
The repair man on the railroad told me that Morgan was encamped 2 ½ miles from Long Lick last night, and up to about 9 o’clock this morning. Small gangs were scouting the country and stealing horses. Morgan had a force of between 3,000 and 4, 000 cavalry and three brass pieces of artillery. A late arrival says that some of Morgan’s men were seen this p. m. at Rolling Fork, about 2 ½ miles south, at Lacefield Still-house, drinking whiskey and stealing horses. Our informant thinks there is about 80 of them.


I believe Morgan will go out by Elizabethtown, but will destroy all bridges first. The infamous domestic rebels, I fear, mislead Hobson as to course Morgan takes, and that he will miss him. My operator detected Morgan’s operator. He is still on line, taking off communications.

J. T. Boyle,

As Morgan’s main column reached Bardstown Junction, George A. “Lighting” Ellsworth, Morgan’s infamous telegrapher, calmly walked into the telegraph office disguised in a Union telegrapher’s uniform. With dusk falling outside the office door, James Forker, an actual Union Telegraph operator, found himself staring down the barrel of Ellsworth’s pistol.

“Hello sonny. Move one inch except as I tell you, and you’ll be buried in that fancy rig.”

~ George Ellsworth to James Forker

For several minutes Ellsworth listened to messages gaining information for General Morgan. Finally, when the superintendent in Louisville inquired if a passenger train from Nashville had past on it way north to Louisville, Ellsworth ordered Forker to say yes.

“Morgan's tactics were to stop the train and put the locomotive out of commission. Then they would set fire to the freight cars and; if near a water house, destroy it too. The rails did not fare any better either. Dismantling several of them, the men would proceed to twist them around a tree in what became known as Morgan's neckties.”[iii]

Morgan’s Raiders set fire to a trestle and surrounded the train. After a brief skirmish in which one Union soldier aboard the train was killed, the remaining soldiers, along with 30 passengers were ordered off the train and lined up along the track. Raiders took their boots, hats, money, and jewelry and then took the money in the train’s safe. Finally, they opened all the mail bags carried on the train searching for cash. Some of the Raiders opened and burned letters immediately. Others, like Cutis Burke, were too excited to stop and stuffed handfuls of letters into their shirts. These letters were opened when the Raiders stopped for the night.

The frightened women passengers begged John Hunt Morgan to allow the train to return southward to Elizabethtown. Morgan agreed and the women later praised him as a gentleman.[iv]

“Louisville, July 7, 1863 – 3:50.

General Burnside:
Morgan captured the train this side of Lebanon Junction. He robbed all the passengers, including 25 Jews. He placed all passengers in front car and his soldiers in hind cars, and started down the road for Elizabeth town. The wires are up, but Morgan’s operator is on the road. He decoyed train by dispatches to superintendent, and when it came up captured it. Several officers were captured on train.

J. T. Boyle,

At Shepardsville, Morgan again turned west and stopped in the area that is now Otter Creek State Park.

“Weather clear. I opened all my letters by sun up and had been very successful having sixty six dollars and seventy five cents in all in greenbacks which I stuffed in my pocketbook with eighty dollars in Confederate money. I found about a dozen different pictures of Yankee officers and soldiers in the letters and kept them, also I did not read a single letter. A good many of the boys had found something, most of them less and some of them more than I did. We fed our horses from the crib [corn storage building] and saddled up and moved off in the direction of Brandenburg.”

~ Curtis R. Burke, 14th Kentucky Calvary, Co. B[vi]

As Morgan’s main column bivouacked near Garrettsville, the advanced scouts, a few miles ahead, captured two steam boats near Brandenburg.

“We heard that our scouts had captured two steamboats on the Ohio river at Brandenburg. At dusk we halted and dismounted to rest. I learned that we were in sight of the Ohio River. A good many of us hitched our horses and laid down by them in the fence corners. I was very sleepy and took a short nap. I woke up and found that all of the boys expect horse holders had marched down into the town of Brandenburg to skirmish with some home guards across the river. They had overlooked me in waking the boys up. They all soon came back without any fighting and we mounted and went into camp in a lot near by. A detail was sent out to get something for us to eat. A corn detail brought in a little corn and I got a few ears for my horse. We made no camp fires for fear of drawing the attention of the yanks. I made my bed down in a fence corner and was soon asleep. The night air was chilly.”

~ Curtis R. Burke, 14th Kentucky Calvary, Co. B[vii]

Morgan designated the third man in each group of four as “the Horse Holder.” Horse Holders each took four horses behind the battle for safe keeping as the other three men dismounted and fought. Cavalry tactics were changing. Guns and cannons were now favored over sabers. It was much easier to shoot on foot rather than in the saddle. Thus horses had primarily become instruments of swift travel from one battle field to the next.

Raiders were desperate for strong, fast horses that showed enough native intelligence to fall in with the column. Speed was of the essence and Morgan was setting an incredibly rapid pace. Obtaining a horse capable of maintaining that pace was a constant challenge.

“About ten o’clock I went out with our horse detail in hopes of getting a fresh horse as my old C. S. horse began to show signs of giving out. We went about five miles crossing the Louisville pike and stopping at every stable, but with little success. We turned back. I and one of the men rode up to a house and asked where their horses were, they said that they had nothing but colts and old mares in the field. This did not satisfy us so I went to the stable and examined it, but found nothing in it. We asked if they had anything cold to eat in the house, they said yes, and invited us in. We went in and eat a piece of meat and bread, drank a glass or two of milk then caught up with our party of eight or ten. We all stopped at a spring house [underground stone building cooled by a spring and used as cold storage] and got as much milk as we could drink. We had four or five horses but none that I would swap my tired C. S. Tennessee horse for. We soon fell in with the command. I took one of the fresh horses to the lead. We got separated in our attempts to push ahead of our regiment. The road was very dusty. I succeeded in passing several regiments when I found myself in a little town called Meadville. The rear guard of the next regiment did not want to let me pass so I had to flank them and go ahead. Just after leaving town I received the benefit of a hard shower of rain. I came up with the General and staff. Not wishing to crowd past I rode leisurely along and soon came up with my regiment dismounted to rest in the woods. I had hardly dismounted and tied my horses when the regiment moved forward again. I led the horse awhile and gave it to Henry [Harrison] White who gave his tired horse to Robert Reeves Negro boy to ride.”

~ Curtis R. Burke, 14th Kentucky Calvary, Co. B [viii]

That evening Union General Hobson arrived in Bardstown Junction. When he sent his men out to look for food and provision, they discovered that the Raiders had taken all supplies in the area. Hobson was forced to request that a train loaded with food and supplies be sent from Louisville. John Hunt Morgan’s tactics had purchased the Raiders valuable time.

“Shepherdsville, KY., July 7, 1863 – 5:45 p. m.

Colonel Drake:
My command, eight regiments of cavalry and mounted infantry, numbering 2,500, are at Bardstown Junction, Louisville and Nashville road. I am in pursuit of Morgan, who will either move toward Brandenburg or Elizabethtown. My advance are picking up his stragglers. I will do my best to engage him. He is hard pressed. He has been damaged more this trip than either of his former raids. He lost 10 to 15 of his officers and a number of men in the fights at Marrowbone, Green River Bridge, and Lebanon. I am here for rations; cannot find any. My men are considerably exhausted, but in fine spirits. I am moving without wagons. Railroad all safe; but one small bridge burned; can be repaired in two days. I will remain at this place half hour. Have you instructions?

E. [H.] Hobson,

Lines all down between this point and Louisville. We received Hobson’s message via Indianapolis and Cincinnati, which caused its delay so much.


While waiting for the train to arrive, Hobson wired Brigadier-General Jeremiah T. Boyle, and informed him that Morgan was moving north toward the Ohio River. Hobson wisely suggested that a gunboat be at the ready to prevent the Raiders from crossing the River.[x]

“Morgan and Duke were exceedingly fertile in producing false impressions regarding their movements, but our pursuing force ignored all the alluring temptations thrown out by these skilled and artful raiders, and we stuck close behind them on their broad trail day and night.”

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

Hoping to confuse the Union Generals on his trail, Morgan created a diversion by sending Captain William J. Davis and 130 men north to Falls City[xii] to further the hoax, Morgan ordered Davis cut telegraph wires and burn railroad bridges as he went along. These men reached the Ohio in the area of Twelve Mile Island. They then stole boats and rejoined the rest of the Raiders at Salem, Indiana.

“Cavalry Crossing a Ford”
Walt Whitman

A Line in long array, where they wind betwixt green islands;
They take a serpentine course – their arms flash in the sun – Hark to the musical clank;
Behold the silvery river – in it the splashing horses, loitering, stop to drink;
Behold the brown-faced men – each group, each person, a picture – the negligent rest on the saddles;
Some emerge on the opposite bank – others are just entering the ford – while,
Scarlet, and blue, and snowy white,
The guidon flags flutter gaily in the wind.

On the evening of July 7th, Morgan ordered his men to strike camp and prepare for a night march into Brandenburg.

General Hobson’s pursuing troops were a distant fifty miles behind Morgan’s main column.


[i] “Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies Part –I, Reports” p. 702
[ii] Brown, Dee Alexander. “Morgan’s Raiders” 1959 pages 185-186.
[iii] Thomas, Edison H. "John Hunt Morgan and His Raiders" chapter 5, 46-54.
[iv] Ramage, James A. “Rebel Raider” p. 166.
[v] “Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies Part –I, Reports” p. 702.
[vi] Journal of Curtis R. Burke.
[vii] Journal of Curtis R. Burke.
[viii] Journal of Curtis R. Burke.
[ix] “Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies Part –I, Reports” p. 703.
[x] “Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies Part –I, Reports” p. 659.
[xi] 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.226.
[xii] Duke, Basil W. “ History of Morgan’s Cavalry,” 1865, p. 428

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