Friday, December 26, 2008

Into Lebanon and Bardstown

Departing the disaster at Green River/Tebb’s Bend, Morgan drove his brigade deep into the heart of Kentucky.

July 5, 1863

July 5 1863. From Green River we passed on to Campbellsville and New Market, at which place we bivouacked for a short time.

~ Lt. Col. James B. McCreary, 11th Kentucky Cavalry CSA

Buoyed by return to his home state, Morgan pressed his men to move quickly and granted little time for rest or sleep.

By the Bivouac's Fitful Flame
Walt Whitman

By the bivouac's fitful flame,
A procession winding around me,
solemn and sweet and slow--but
first I note,
The tents of the sleeping army, the fields' and woods' dim outline,
The darkness lit by spots of kindled fire, the silence,
Like a phantom far or near an occasional figure moving,
The shrubs and trees, (as I lift my eyes they seem to be stealthily
watching me,)
While wind in procession thoughts,
O tender and wondrous thoughts,
Of life and death, of home and the past and loved, and of those that
are far away;
A solemn and slow procession there as I sit on the ground,
By the bivouac's fitful flame.

As the demands of warfare and results of Morgan’s notoriously lax discipline began to erode the civility of his men, that which is the darkest, the worst and most repressed aspects of men’s souls, furtively arose. Morgan, always desirous of his men’s adulation, rarely enforced adequate regulations or punishments upon those who committed infringements.

“We passed through Campbellsville, Taylor County, to within 10 or 12 miles of Lebanon and camped for the night or part of it. There was one Capt. Murphy of one of our regiments was accused of taking a watch from a store keeper in Campbellsville and Morgan's Assistant Adjutant General has Murphy arrested and his trial was to have taken place before a court-martial. The day before we crossed the Ohio River, in the afternoon: Capt. Murphy not being under guard came up to Capt. Magenis and with cursing him for his arrest shot Capt. Magenis dead and rode out of camp and got away.”

~ John Weatherred, 9th Tennessee Cavalry[ii]

Morgan’s drove his men toward Lebanon, his next target. Lebanon was under Union control and occupied by the Union 20th Kentucky Infantry under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Charles S. Hanson. Warned of Morgan’s approach, the vastly outnumbered Hanson grew desperate for more time to prepare. He ordered his men to over turn wagons and create obstacles in the streets while he, himself, set up fall back defensive positions in the strongest brick buildings of the town which includeded the L & N Railway depot.

“On July 5, Morgan fought a six-hour battle in Lebanon against Union forces under Col. C. S. Hanson. Morgan's men burned buildings in the center of town, where the Union soldiers were holding out, and eventually forced their surrender.”[iii]

“Jul 5

Fought at Lebanon, KY. Captrd. Col. Hanson Regt.”

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

Despite being outnumbered almost ten to one, Hanson’s Union forces in Lebanon refused to surrender without a fight. Calmly following his usual strategy, Morgan felt that a show of his cannons and parrot guns would frighten the pitifully small Union force into surrender. However, before the telegraph lines had been cut, Hanson had been ordered to resist and assured that the 8th and 9th Michigan Cavalry and 11th Michigan battery would arrive shortly. Thus, the men of the 20th prepared to defend Lebanon.

Morgan ordered his 6th Kentucky and 9th Tennessee regiments to attack on the right. These men fought house to house, driving the 20th back toward the depot. Morgan sent a second demand for surrender. Hanson, finding his forces overwhelmed and nearly out of ammunition, received reports that Morgan was burning the town around them. Even the roof of the depot was ablaze. Sensing his impending doom, Hanson surrendered putting an end to nearly seven hours of fighting.

“Colonel Charles Hanson, who commanded the Kentucky Federal Infantry, had prepared to make the best defense possible at Lebanon. He placed his men in the brick depot and in the houses surrounding it. General Morgan disliked to leave anything behind, and so he resolved to capture this force. It was captured, but the cost did not justify the losses. It was there that we saw General Morgan's youngest brother, “Tom," as they familiarly called him, go down in the storm. He was a first lieutenant in the 2nd Kentucky and was then serving on General Duke's staff. With the fiery courage of youth, backed by a fearless heart, in the excitement of battle he exposed his person and was struck down by a shot from the depot. War allows no time for partings. It permits no preparation for the great beyond. Standing close to his brother, he could only exclaim, ‘Brother, I am killed. I am killed,’ and then fell into the grief-stricken brother's arms. He was a mere lad, but he died like a hero. The taking of the brick depot with several hundred men inside, in war, is not an easy job. It was to cost ten killed and thirty wounded. Here I witnessed what appeared to be one of the bravest things I have ever observed. The 8th Kentucky-Cluke's- with which I was connected, was ordered to charge the front of the depot. The men were advancing through a field where the weeds were waist-high. It was difficult marching. The thermometer stood over a hundred in the shade, and the foliage of the weeds made the heat still more intense. It was this regiment's fortune to face the larger door of the depot. It was said that somebody had blundered, but the charge was ordered and the men enthusiastically and bravely obeyed. When within a few hundred feet of the door, the order was passed along to ‘lie down.’ The time in which the ‘lying down’ was done seemed many hours. The regiment was subject to the stinging fire of the Federals in the depot. A number of the men were hit by shots which struck the front of the body and ranged downward through the limbs of the soldiers. Such wounds produced excruciating tortures.”[v]

John Hunt Morgan was the eldest of six brothers, five of whom fought for the Confederacy, the sixth being too young to bear arms. Tragically, Morgan’s younger brother Thomas Morgan was killed shortly before the surrender of Lebanon. Morgan had ordered his nineteen year old brother to the rear in an effort to keep him from danger but Tom, wishing to impress his elder brothers, refused to stay put. During the battle Tom Morgan was shot and killed. With inconsolable heartache, the Raider’s went wild with rage and demanded revenge in the form of executing Union prisoners.

“Marching to Lebanon, the raiders captured the garrison, about three hundred men, but not without the loss of fifty of their comrades, among the killed being Lieutenant Tom Morgan, the general’s brother, the idol of the command.”

~ George Dallas Mosgrove[vi]

While it is commonly understood that the Civil War saw brother fighting brother and that families were torn asunder, it is sometimes forgotten that many long standing friendships were also destroyed. Union Lieutenant-Colonel Hanson’s brother was Confederate General Roger W. Hanson. General Hanson had been a guest at the wedding of John Hunt Morgan to his new young bride Mattie. Lieutenant-Colonel Hanson, himself, lived in Lexington, Kentucky and was well acquainted with John Hunt Morgan. [vii]

Morgan, both livid and anguished, literally spat his words into Hanson’s face.

“Charlie the next time you see mother, you be damn sure to tell her you killed brother Tom.”

~ John Hunt Morgan to Lt. Col. Charles Hanson[viii]

Morgan’s brother Charlton had to be restrained from murdering Hanson on the spot.

“I’ll blow your brains out, you damned rascal.”

~ Charlton Morgan as he shook Lt. Col. Charles Hanson by the beard.[ix]

Thomas Morgan was shot and killed during the battle at Lebanon

Here in the mist of this chaos, while grief-stricken and guilt ridden over the death of his young sibling, Morgan showed remarkable restraint and humanity.

“I’ll shoot the first one who molests a prisoner.”

~ John Hunt Morgan to his men who suggested they should kill Hanson’s men in revenge for the killing of Thomas Morgan.[x]

This was a display of the noble gallantry for which Morgan had gained international notoriety.

“Cincinnati, July 5, 1863

General Hartsuff:
Following just received:
Rebels attacked this post about 7 a. m. Colonel Hanson, commanding post, fought them six hours. Most of his command taken prisoners; 5 killed on our side. Reinforcements arrived about 2 o’clock, and rebels left as soon as they arrived, taking road to Springfield. Colonel Hanson was paroled. Rebels destroyed depot, telegraph office, and about 10 private dwellings, robbed stores, and killed one woman; Morgan’s command consisting of two brigades and two full batteries. Have sent word to Colonel David, commanding, that telegraph communication was opened.


A. E. Burnside,
Lebanon, KY., July 5, 1863

General Burnside:

I was attacked about 7 o’clock this morning by General Morgan, with 4,000 men and six pieces of artillery. I had only 350 men. I held out until 1 o’clock, when our ammunition became exhausted, and the rebels commenced burning the town, and my men wearied, quite a number wounded , and despairing of receiving re-enforcements, I deemed it wise to give up. ‘Tis regarded as a good fight on my part.

Charles S. Hanson

Clearly, the raid was not going well. Yet, even the death of his own brother could not sway Morgan from his single minded purpose. The dream was already beginning to control the dreamer. John Hunt Morgan was driven by his need to dominate the headlines. Gripped by a fanatically desired to one more be enshrined as the hero of poems and folk songs, Morgan was becoming a legend in his own mind.

General Bragg had granted Morgan permission to move as he pleased in his home state of Kentucky. Thus, Morgan could have slowed the pace of raid, turned back to the safety of Tennessee, or have chosen to base his operations from an area rich in Southern sympathy. Nevertheless, Morgan ignored these options in favor of progressing northward. So obsessively desirous was Morgan of a place in Confederate history, his sole focus lay in committing a deed so grand, a deed so splendid and impressive, it would never be forgotten. All history would resound with his name. Morgan’s need for acclaim had become pathological. No matter the cost of lives, no matter the number of wounded, Morgan would invade the North. He would become the equal, if not the superior of Lee. If necessary, Morgan would win this war by himself!

“On the 5th of July, at 8 or 9 A.M. we made an attack on Lebanon Ky. The Federal regiment was commanded by Charley Hanson. Morgan demanded his surrender, he refused, my regiment, under 9th Tenn. and Col. Wigsby reg. were in close quarters for a time. We had to charge the building they were in. 3 of my company were killed, Johnson of Wilson County, Tenn. and two others who's names I have forgotten. Several wounded. The command lost 12 or 14 killed and 25 or 30 wounded. Hanson surrendered about 11 A.M. We destroyed government property, wagons and guns and got plenty to eat. Crackers, sardines, bacon and meat. General Morgan's brother Thomas was killed here about the time the fight was over. We marched the prisoners 8 miles to Springfield where we paroled them.”

~ John Weatherred, 9th Tennessee Cavalry [xii]

Morgan then led a rapid ten mile forced march of his prisoners to Springfield. Several prisoners who could not keep up were killed. Those that survived were paroled.

The Court House in Springfield, Kentucky,despite having been burned, perserves many orginal documents.

“We knew that Morgan and his men were coming to Springfield. Rumors were flying on every side and Main Street was in the wildest confusion. I was seized with an uncontrollable desire to see Morgan and his men. I went to Cross Street where I could see up the pike towards Lebanon. Morgan’s Cavalry was coming down the hill into Springfield. My mind was made up; not to run from the rebels but to run toward them- regardless of the consequences. I drew myself up to my full height and gave the leader [Colonel Basil Duke] a military salute. With all the grace of a valiant knight he returned my salute and extended his hand, which I eagerly grasped.”

~ William McCord was only eleven years old when he met Colonel Duke[xiii]
The Raiders then prepared for a night march to Bardstown.
Leaving Springfield, Morgan showed his guile by divided his forces. The main body moved toward Bardstown while other parties were sent off toward Columbia, Frankfort, and Lexington.

“Leaving Springfield, Morgan deflected from the straight northward route, hitherto pursued, and marched westward to Bardstown, threatening Louisville. By this time the ‘rough riders’ had become weary and sleepy. While the column was making the night march from Springfield to Bardstown, the brilliant Colonel Alston, Chief of Staff, sought ‘nature’s sweet restorer’ on the veranda of a roadside residence, and awoke to find himself in the hand of the pursing Federal cavalry.”

~ George Dallas Mosgrove [xiv]

Morgan’s plan was effective in confusing the Union leadership.

“Louisville, July 5, 1863

Major-General Burnside:
Morgan left Lebanon for Springfield. He will move to Bardstown, and if he does not venture here he will go out by Elizabethtown, keeping west of the railroad, or he may go out by New Haven and the road toward Glasgow, pushing behind our forces. Troops at Lebanon are not pursuing him. It seems to me they ought to pursue.

J. T. Boyle

“Lebanon, July 5, 1863 – 5 p. m.

General Burnside:

I have just arrived with three regiments cavalry and section artillery. Colonel Wolford has five regiments cavalry. Morgan has gone in direction of Bardstown; the cavalry will pursue. General Judah is on his way with 1,200 cavalry, which I think should return down Lexington road or go in direction of Elizabethtown and Hodgensville.

E. H. Hobson

Company C of the 2nd KY Cavalry, CSA, led by Captain Ralph Sheldon, was broken into advance groups and sent to attack Bardstown from three directions. Lt. Thomas W. Sullivan of the 4th U. S. Cavalry and a group of twenty-five of his men chased the Raiders.

“Lieutenant, did I fall like a soldier?”

~ The last words of Private Bartholomew Burke as fell dying during the attack on Bardstown.[xvii]

Sheldon sent a demand for surrender to Lieutenant Sullivan who had taken cover in a livery stable. While Sullivan’s men managed to build a defensive breastwork of planks and manure and bring in provisions to last as long as their ammunition would hold out, one must question why Sheldon chose the stable. Would it not have been wiser to have selected one of the brick homes or public structures less vulnerable to fire and bullets? A two story structure would have allowed his men both a high vantage point and a chance to rain a hail of bullets down upon the Raiders. Nonetheless, Sullivan must have liked his odds as he rejected the demmand for surrender.

“I hope to gain the esteem of General Morgan by a gallant defense.”

~ Lieutenant Thomas W. Sullivan, 4th U. S. Cavalry[xviii]

Sheldon resumed his attack on Sullivan’s position. As darkness fell, Sheldon ordered the Raiders to stretch ropes across the streets to prevent Sullivan and his men from escaping on horseback. The Raiders then attempted to set fire to the livery stable but were unsuccessful.[xix]
Meanwhile, the main body of Morgan’s column was advancing toward Bardstown.

Jul 6. This morning we attacked Lebanon. After five hours of fighting, Lt. Charles Hanson surrendered his Regiment. Then we double quicked to Springfield and, at their request, paroled them. From Springfield we traveled all night and reached Bardstown early in the morning.

~ Lt. Col. James B. McCreary, 11th Kentucky Cavalry CSA[xx]

The Raiders took the spoils of war from 20th KY Infantry. They equipped themselves with ammunition, rifles, medicines, field ambulances and wagons.[xxi]

“We marched all night and reached Bardstown Ky. about 4 A.M. the 6th of July. Capt. Sheldon's company attacked some troops on a train and demanded their surrender. They fired a volley into Sheldon's company killing four, the little garrison of soldiers soon surrendered. We moved on and the night of the 6th we captured a train and government stores at Lebanon Junction not far from Louisville Ky. and threatened to attack the city. Remained several hours.”

~ John Weatherred, 9th Tennessee Cavalry[xxii]

“Around 4 a.m. on July 6, Morgan arrived in Bardstown. By 10 that morning, his men reached the tracks of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, 25 miles south of Louisville, where they burned a trestle, robbed a train and dispatched a company of 130 men under Capt. William J. Davis to threaten Louisville.”[xxiii]

Arriving at Bardstown, Morgan sent Captain Sheldon and Company C of the 2nd KY Cavalry on to Muldraugh’s Hill.[xxiv] Sheldon again demanded Lieutenant. Sullivan to surrender.

“If you refuse, we will blow you to hell with our artillery.”

~ Captain Sheldon

Captain Ralph Sheldon[xxv]

“I am obliged to the General’s kind intentions, but it is our duty to trouble him a little longer.”

~ Lieutenant Sullivan

One of Sullivan’s men reported that cannons were being set in place and that the streets teamed with Raiders. Sullivan approached Colonel Richard Morgan under a flag of truce to discuss terms of surrender.

“Go back! You have already refused these terms twice. You have no right to demand them now."

~ Colonel Richard Morgan

Poor Sullivan returned to the livery stable to prepare for what must have seemed his last stand.

“On his return under a flag of truce, he was fired upon several times. Residents of Bardstown, sympathizers of the Confederates, had been observing the conversation between Col. Morgan and Lt. Sullivan. When the lieutenant, carrying the flag of truce, was fired upon, they cried out, ‘Shame!’ ‘Shame!’” [xxviii]

Perhaps the people of Bardstown momentarily shook Richard Morgan out of his grief at the death of his brother Tom and brought him back to his senses. Something rekindled his feelings of chivalry. The Colonel quickly sent in a demand for surrender to which Sullivan agreed.

“General Morgan can treat me as a prisoner of war or satisfy his thirst for slaughter. Whatever he chooses.”

~ Lieutenant Sullivan

Alas, the Colonel’s civil demeanor had dissipated once more.

Colonel Richard Morgan[xxix]

“You don’t deserve it because of your foolishness and stubborn resistance.”

~ Colonel Richard Morgan

His brother, the General, was also in foul temper.

John Hunt Morgan In Military Dress [xxx]

“You twenty-five damned Yankees have cost me twenty-four hours.”
~ General John Hunt Morgan

“Monday, July 6 and Tuesday, July 7
Start towards Brad.fd.v. morning; quite rainy. Pass there. Get to Lebanon near 3 P.M. Yesterday 300 of our men fought all of Morgan's force for six hours here, were captured and shamefully treated. Go 7 miles beyond Springfield. Camp one A.M. Start again. Pass Bardstown 7 A.M. Camp near Shepherdsville. Co. G & K advance guards today. Capture several prisoners.”

~ Charles W. Durling, Company G, 45th Ohio Infantry[xxxii]

“Camp Nelson, July 6, 1863

General Hartsuff:
Just received the following dispatch per courier:

Danville, 6th, - 6 a. m.

Colonel Mott:
John Morgan is within 15 miles of this place. He has taken the pike from Lebanon to Springfield this morning with eleven regiments, numbering about 4,000 men. The Twentieth Kentucky surrendered about 3 p. m. yesterday. Prisoners think that he is making for Lexington or Louisville. I think he is making for Harrodsburg. The Eighth and Ninth Michigan and Colonel Byrd’s forces are coming into town now.

S. Mills
S. R. Mott”

“July 7. The regiment halted about four miles from Bardstown, fed and rested a little. Meanwhile I called at Col. Brown’s, a hospitable gentleman, near Bardstown, and wrote a letter to Dr. Chenault, informing him of the sad death of his brother. At this house I met the Misses Eddie and Sue Brown, who were as kind and hospitable to me as the noblest of their sex could be. When the great account of humanity shall be closed at the bright throne of Heaven, the fairest, noblest, purest best records will be of such ladies as these I have alluded to above. On the evening of this lovely day we captured a train of cars on the L& N road. It was the grandest, most imposing scene of the sort I have ever witnessed. From this point we moved on towards Garrettsville, across Salt River, and camped for four hours near Garrettsville.”

~ Lt. Col. James B. McCreary, 11th Kentucky Cavalry CSA[xxxiv]

Side view of Joseph Brown’s home where Col. James B. McCreary was entertained by Eddie and Sue Brown on July 7, 1863.


[i] Diary of James D. McCreary.
[ii] The Wartime Diary of John Weatherred.
[iii] Moon, Henry. “ ‘Reckless’ raid had a lasting effect”;topic+715.0
[iv] Diary of Thomas M. Coombs.
[v] Young, Bennett H. “Confederate Wizards of the Saddle,” 1999. pages 367-390.
[vi] Mosgrove, George Dallas. “Following Morgan’s Plume Through Indiana And Ohio” Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. XXXV, January- December 1907.
[vii] Horwitz, Lester V. “ The Longest Raid of the Civil War,” Chap. 5, p.27.
[viii] Trails-R-Us – John Hunt Morgan
[ix] Rampage, James A.“ Rebel Raider,” 1986, p. 164.
[x] Horwitz, Lester V. “The longest Raid of the Civil War,” Chap. 6, p. 30.
[xi] “Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies,” Part I –Reports, p. 692.
[xii] The Wartime Diary of John Weatherred.
[xiii] “Trails-R-Us – John Hunt Morgan – Bardstown”
[xiv] Mosgrove, George Dallas. “Following Morgan’s Plume Through Indiana And Ohio” Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol XXXV, January- December 1907.
[xv] “Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies,” Part I –Reports, p. 692.
[xvi] “Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies,” Part I –Reports, p. 693.
[xvii] Horwitz, Lester V. “The Longest Raid of the Civil War.” Chap. 6, p. 29.
[xviii] Horwitz, Lester V. “The Longest Raid of the Civil War.” Chap. 6, p. 29.
[xix] “Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies,” Part I –Reports, Lt. T. W. Sullivan’s Report, pages 652 – 653.
[xx] Diary of James B. McCreary.
[xxi] Senour, Rev. F. “Morgan and his Captors,” 1865, p. 113.
[xxii] The Wartime Diary of John Weatherred.
[xxiii] Moon, Henry. “ ‘Reckless’ raid had a lasting effect”;topic+715.0
[xxiv] “Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies,” Part I –Reports, p. 652.
[xxv] “Trails-R-Us – John Hunt Morgan – Bardstown”
[xxvi] “Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies,” Part I –Reports, p. 652.
[xxvii] “Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies,” Part I –Reports, p. 652.
[xxviii] Horwitz, Lester V. “ The Longest Raid of the Civil War,” Chap. 6, p. 31.
[xxix] “Trails-R-Us – John Hunt Morgan – Bardstown”

[xxx]Hanson, David C. ‘HIS 269 - Civil War and Reconstruction,” Virginia W. Community College
[xxxi] “Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies,” Part I –Reports, p. 653.
[xxxii] Diary of Charles W. Durling.
[xxxiii] “Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies,” Part I –Reports, p. 694.
[xxxiv] Diary of James B. McCreary.

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