Saturday, February 28, 2009

July 19, 1863: The Battle of Buffington Island

* WARNING: This section contains period writing in which racial slurs appear. These remarks in no manner reflect the views or opinions of the blog’s author. Frank and open discussions regarding racism are strongly encouraged and advised.

With the raiders nearly encircled by Union troops, the Battle of Buffington Island erupted during the early morning hours of July 19. Amazingly, this battle involved three future presidents of the United States: James Garfield, Rutherford B. Hayes, and William McKinley.[i]

Dawn found the Raiders on a flood plain between Union gunboats on the Ohio River to the East and the forces of Brig. Generals Henry Judah, James Shackelford and Edward Hobson to the West. Eager to return to Southern soil, the Raiders approached the river discovering that earthworks, built by the local militia, had been abandoned during the night. But all was not well. Too late, the Raiders realized they had entered a well laid trap.

“With its cloud of skirmishers in advance,
With now the sound of a single shot, snapping like a whip, and now an irregular volley,
The swarming ranks press on and on, the dense brigades press on;
Glittering dimly, toiling under the sun – the dust-cover’d men,
In columns rise and fall to the undulations of the ground,
With artillery interspers’d – the wheels rumble, the horses sweat…
As the army corps advances.”

Union Artillery rolled over a bluff. As the morning fog lifted, it became plain to see that the Raiders had been ambushed. The Raiders were standing in a v shaped funnel with Union defenders at each side and gunboats on the river. They were faced attack from three directions.

Hobson’s cavalry had finally caught up with Morgan.

“Just as the sky was growing gray with coming dawn on July 19th the welcome sound of half a dozen shots by our advanced guard told us we had struck Morgan’s outpost. Colonel Kautz immediately pushed his command forward at a brisk gait. Debouching from the river hills into the valley of the Ohio, near Buffington Island, we developed Morgan’s force where it had been delayed by fog, waiting for daylight to ford the river into West Virginia. Morgan’s two thousand horsemen were waiting on the lower end of a valley that lay between the hills and the river. The Union troops under General Judah, coming up the river from Pomeroy, where the steamboats had landed them, approached the enemy about the same time our vanguard of General Hobson’s force, led by Colonel Kautz, began the decent into the middle of the valley occupied by Morgan. Colonel Kautz attacked immediately upon arrival; our two pieces of artillery, answering Judah’s guns, informed Morgan that those who had followed him from the Cumberland River had closed in on him.

With the rising of the sun the fog lifted, showing the gunboats in the river, and to Morgan all hope of escape by fording the shallow bar was gone.”

~ Captain Theodore F. Allen, 7th Ohio Cavalry [iii]

Northern soldiers and gunboats commenced shelling from the Ohio River.

Parkersburg, July 19,1863. (Received 4:10 p. m.)

General Burnside:
News just in that the gunboats prevented Morgan crossing 18 miles below here. This was seen by the scout himself. The boats are loaded and ready to start.

Wm. Wallace,
Colonel Fifteenth Ohio Volunteer Infantry.”

General Judah had arrived during the night as Morgan slept.

“Headquarters United States Forces, Buffington Bar, July 19, 1863 – 10 a. m. (Received July 23.)

Major-General Burnside:
Agreeably with my promise by telegraph last night, I announce the defeat of Morgan’s force. I traveled all night from Pomeroy; reached Buffington Flats at 5:30 this morning. A dense fog pervades everything. I took a small advance guard, and, with my escort, advanced with my staff, to reconnoiter down a road surrounded by enclosed fields. I had proceeded cautiously but one-fourth of a mile, when I found myself surrounded by the enemy, in front and on my flanks, dismounted, who poured in a heavy fire. Before I could get a piece of artillery in position it was captured. Two men were killed –Major McCook and Lieutenant Price – and some enlisted men wounded; Captain Kise, assistant adjutant-general, and Captain Grafton, volunteer aide-de-camp, with about 30 men, were captured. Finding it impossible to resist the heavy force of three regiments brought up against me, led by Basil Duke, I retreated upon the main body, brought it into action, and, in less than half an hour, completely routed the enemy. I recaptured the piece I lost; captured large quantities of camp equipage, two pieces of the enemy’s artillery, and forced him to abandon the only three he had left, driving him upon General Hobson. Particulars given more fully in report. Large number of prisoners taken. Enemy’s loss not yet ascertained; it cannot fall short of 100 killed and wounded.

H. M. Judah,

The Raiders’ luck had run out. There was little choice but to try to evade capture.

“Cincinnati, July 19, 1863.

Lieutenant-Colonel Drake, Lexington, KY.:
Morgan’s force broken up today; about 1,000 prisoners already captured; a great many killed and wounded. Troops pursuing and picking them up. Colonels Ward and Dick Morgan among the prisoners. I will telegraph Colonel Harney direct. Expect to start back in noon train.

Geo. L. Hartsuff,

Morgan encouraged those who dared to swim across the river under an unholy rain of cannon fire.

“In the early morning General Morgan rode into the river, but when about half way across, seeing that the greater number of his men would be forced to remain on the Ohio shore, he turned and rode back to that side of the stream, resolved to share the fate of his men.

Accompanying the raiders were a number of active and intelligent colored boys serving their young masters, to whom they were singularly devoted. Among them was a little fellow named “Box,” a privileged character, whose impudent airs were condoned by the cavaliers in consideration of his uniform cheerfulness and enlivening plantation melodies. When General Morgan had returned to the Ohio shore he saw Box plunge into the river and boldly swim toward the other side. Fearing the little fellow would be drowned, The General called him to return. ‘No, Marse John,’ cried Box, ‘if dey ketch you dey may parole you, but if dey ketch dis nigger in a free State he ain’t a-gwine ter git away while de wah lasts.’ Narrowly missing collision with a gunboat, Box crossed the river all right and escaped southward to the old plantation.”

~ Private George Dallas Mosgrove, 4th Kentucky Cavalry[vii]

Morgan turned northeast and made a second attempt to cross the Ohio River into West Virginia.

“Columbus, Ohio, July 19, 1863. (Received 9:30 p. m.)

Major-General Burnside:
Morgan struck the river at Buffington Island and was there repulsed. Proceeded up the river. Has twice tried to cross, without success. We have a good force at Marietta, and at Parkersburg militia force under command of Colonel Runkle. I doubt not we will take his entire command.

David Tod,

“The one desperate chance of escape was by the road leading out of the upper end of the valley, and towards this Morgan’s confused troopers swept through the standing grain fields of the fertile farm lands, with Colonel Kautz’s command in hot pursuit.”

~ Captain Theodore F. Allen, 7th Ohio Cavalry [ix]

“Sunday, July 19
Still pressing hard on Johnny. Came up with him about noon. Capture over 1000 prisoners at eight mile island.”

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

“July 18 – 19. All are on the ‘qui vive,’ for the Ohio River is full of gunboats and transports, and an immense force of cavalry is hovering in our rear. We reached Buffington tonight. All was quiet. A dense fog wrapped this woodland scene. Early in the morning of the 19th the Yankees guarding the ford were attacked by our force, and driven away and their artillery captured. Immediately after this, and whilst we were trying the river to ascertain if it was fordable, the gunboats steamed up the river. The transports landed their infantry, thousands of cavalry moved down upon us, and the artillery commenced its deadly work. We formed and fought here to no purpose. The river was very full inconsequence of a heavy rain away up the river. Shells and Minnie balls were ricocheting and exploding in every direction, cavalry were charging and the infantry with its slow, measured tread moved upon us, while broadside after broadside was poured upon our doomed command from the gunboats. It seemed as if our comparatively small command would be swallowed up by the innumerable hordes. About half of it was captured or killed. I made my way out by charging through the enemy’s lines with about one-half the Regiment, and finally formed a juncture with the remnant of our command under Gen Morgan, now numbering 1,200. With these we moved toward Cheshire, traveling rapidly all night, passing around the enemy’s pickets, over cliffs and ravines, which, under ordinary circumstances, would have been considered insurmountable.”

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

“ The first streak of morning light aroused us from our weary slumbers and mounting our tired and starving horses we prepared to meet the enemy, who in overwhelming numbers were rapidly closing around us, and several Gun Boats Gun Boats had ascended the river immediately in our front. We fought until our ammunition was expended and then retreated up the river, losing three or four hundred men; among them Cols. Duke, Smith & Morgan. I now had the command of our right & moving 9 m. up the river we again attempted to cross. Col. Johnson with about 300 men succeeded, but Gen. Morgan with the main body of the Comd. was nearly all night and making a wide detour on the 20th of July at 4 P.M. we arrived at Cheshire, O., on the river some 50 or 60 miles below Buffington. For several hours previous to arriving at Cheshire the 5th Ky. under my Comd. & the 6th Comd. by R. D. Logan were actively engaged with Woolford’s and Judah’s Cavalry that hotly pressed our rear. Ammunition being entirely exhausted, and one-half the command having lost their guns during the rapid retreat of the preceding day and night, and the river being impassable, we were forced to surrender. We held a Council of War on a high hill about 4 mi. below Cheshire and sent a flag of truce to Col. Coleman, of Cluke’s Regt. Was our senior officer left, & the terms of surrender was agreed about sunset.”

~ Captain Thomas M. Coombs[xii]

With about one thousand gallant but hopeless men, General Morgan withdrew form the Melee at Buffington Island and rode eastward, closely pursued by Hobson’s indefatigable cavalry. Weary and harassed, the Confederate chieftain continued to elude his relentless pursuers for six days, when, his followers reduced to two hundred men, he surrendered, July 26th, to a detachment of Hobson’s Kentucky Cavalrymen – Greek against Greek.”

~ Private George Dallas Mosgrove, 4th Kentucky Cavalry[xiii]

Another 700 Raiders became trapped with Basil Duke and Col. Smith and fought stubbornly until they were completely overwhelmed and forced to surrender.

“The dreaded missiles passed overhead and their hiss increased the panic. A shell struck the road throwing up a cloud of dust. Troopers began unloading their booty of the raid. Shoes, parasols, skates, birdcages were scatted to the wind. Long bolts of muslin and calico spun out in banners of brilliant colors, streaming in the morning sunlight. The wounded and terror-stricken occupants of the ambulance wagons urged the scared horses into headlong flight. Often they became locked together and were hurdled over as if by an earthquake. Occasionally a solid shot or unexploded shell would strike one, and dash it into splinters. The remaining section of Confederate artillery tumbled into a ravine as if the guns had been as light as feathers. The gunboats raked the road with grapeshot. In a moment the panic was complete and the disaster irretrievable.”

~ Brigadier-General Basil Duke[xiv]

“Immediately after the stampede began each one of Morgan’s troopers began to unload the plunder carried on his horse – boots, shoes, stockings, gloves, skates, sleigh bells, and bird cages scattered to the winds. Then the flying horsemen let loose their bolts of muslin and calico; holding one end, each cavalryman let the whole hundred yards stream out behind him. The most gorgeous kaleidoscopic view imaginable would not serve to describe the retreat of this ‘army with banners,’ and instantly, though greatly to our surprise, we found ourselves to be rainbow chasers in almost the literal sense of the word. No road could accommodate such a confused mass of two thousand flying horsemen, and they spread across the narrowing valley. Across the upper end of the valley a stream came down out of the hills to the river, cutting its way through the plain in a deep gorge. Into this gorge plunged and piled the flying cavalry, with their wagons of plunder, and our force close behind them. Some succeeded in getting beyond this sunken gorge to continue their flight, though many, dismounted and disabled, were captured here, while some halted a short distance beyond in the forest-clad hills to surrender, rather than continue a hopeless flight.”

~ Captain Theodore F. Allen, 7th Ohio Cavalry [xv]

“Sunday, July 19th, 1863. Weather clear. Day light came slow. We went to a stable and got corn for our horses before the fog cleared off. After feeding we rode down the river bank four or five hundred yards to a little village called Portland, Ohio where we dismounted to rest. I went to a house and got some bread and meat. About half of the people had left their houses. I had not been in town more than an hour when a detail of thirty men was called for to strengthen the pickets a few hundred yards below town. Sergeant Miller detailed me for one. We all went to the picket base and halted. We learned that one of our Brigades had taken some earthworks and a piece of artillery a short distance below us. About fifteen prisoners passed to the rear. We were on the river bank. Three of four of us gave our horses in charge of others and went down to the river and took a wash. We heard the boats puffing very plain and hurried to our horses. Buffington Island lay just below us. In five minutes more a shell burst some distance below us. The next one burst nearer on a bee line with us. We knew at once that the Yanks were shelling us. I dismounted and held my horse. The next shell burst right over us about fifty feet high. The boys commenced moving back slow, and I led my horse thinking it safer from the shells. Then two or three of the boats followed us up the river shelling us every few minutes. I saw a shell or solid shot strike the ground within two feet of the heels of a horse in the rear of one of the regiments, giving both horse and rider a shower of dirt. On reaching the hills our regiment bore a little too far to the left and got separated form the rest of the command. Myself, Henry Allen, Sergeant Brown and several others in going through the thick woods and bushes got separated from the regiment. We could hear them ahead of us. Sergeant Brown dropped a bundle and as he was leading an extra horse I dismounted and got it for him. The Yanks getting pretty close in our rear, we moved on. I took the lead. We crossed gullies, climbed steep banks, through thick matted undergrowth that I would have thought impossible to do. I felt proud of my horse for the manner in which he carried me through. In climbing a steep bank a grape vine took off my hat and nearly pulled me off my horse. I had to choose between my hat and my gun which I would loose. I concluded to let the hat go and save my gun and went on without going back for it. I reached an open road and found myself alone. I passed several pieces of our artillery upside down in a ditch with the horses cut loose. I soon found the regiment. A shell or two passed over us about tree top high showing that the Yanks were determined to shell us as long as we were within range. We still had hopes of getting with the balance of the command. The Yanks came up and fired into our rear. Co. A dismounted and fought them till the balance of the regiment reached a rise in the woods, and formed a line. We dismounted to fight and advanced about twenty-five yards. We stood behind trees waiting for the enemy to come up again. There was about two hundred stragglers from other regiments with us. They attempted to get away while we were in line, but they did not go more than a few hundred yards when a sharp fire was opened on them from the front and they came back in a hurry. Nothing coming up in the rear we mounted our horses, but had hardly done so when the Yanks came up and fired into us. We moved back slowly firing a few shots. I saw one Yankee horse loose in the front without a rider. No one hurt on our side. We soon found out that we were surrounded and cut of from the command entirely. Some of the officers by order of Col. Dick Morgan, who had been lost and just got with us, raised a white flag in the shape of a handkerchief on a ram rod. I left the regiment and took a road to the left in hopes of getting away. I did not go far till I met three or four of our boys coming back. They said they had tried to get out on several roads but the Yanks were all around us. I picked up a new hat that was too large for me and went back with them to the regiment. While Col. Dick Morgan was making the conditions of our surrender, we threw away nearly everything we had got on the raid. All of the pistols were thrown as far into the bushes as we could throw them. Some were thrown away in pieces. I met Pa [Burke’s father was a member of the same Company] looking as if he had lost something. I laughed and told him that we were trapped and had better make the best of it. Some of the boys even threw away greenbacks and watches for fear that the Yanks would treat them rough if they found such things about them. We cleared our saddles of everything new. There was enough things scatted through the woods to set up quite a respectable variety store. I got a hat to fit me. Most of us put on what ready made clothing we had on hand. There was some eight or ten left us with the bold intention of cutting their way out. We mounted, took our places, and rode four or five hundred yards down the road handing a Yank our guns as we passed. This made the second gun the Yanks had gotten from me. We came to where two or three regiments of Yankee cavalry and some artillery were in line. We formed two lines in front of them and were counted. The boys gave their spurs to the Yanks standing around. I called a young Yank and told him to take mine off and he did so thanking me for them. We then dismounted and stood in front of our horses. I loosened my saddle girt and slipped my bed comfort out knowing that I would need it to sleep on. I also took my journal from my saddle pockets and wrapped it up in the comfort, feeling very uneasy for its safety. We went through a light examination for arms and were marched into a field near by in the shade. We silently bid our horses good-by as they were led away. It was very warm and we were all very thirsty. Some of the Yankees took our canteens to a spring and filled them for us. WE were impressed with the unwelcome fact that we were no longer at liberty to do as we pleased. We were all in hopes that our being captured would give the rest of the command ample opportunity to escape from the large army in pursuit. Pa came across Lt. J. S. Pankey who before the war was one of his best marble agents in business. Lieut. Pankey said he would do anything he could for us. He appeared a little tipsy and gave me a fifty cent green back bill and would not let me give it back. We then marched through the dust back to our old camp near the river, a distance of three miles, where we found Lieut. Peddicord and a lot more of our boys. We halted in the middle of a wheat field with infantry guards around us. I noticed a good many pieces of artillery, also our own pieces that the yanks got before we could get them out of the bottom. I saw but one of our men dead on the field, but I heard that our loss in killed was five. In an hour or two Cols. Basil Duke and D. Howard Smith with about a hundred more of our command was brought in. The boys were all sorry that Duke was captured, but they cheered him when they found he was unharmed. The yanks issued some fat bacon and army crackers to us, and I picked up one of their haversacks with a tin cup and a spoon in it. I soon silenced all honest scruples and kept them. They were just the things that I needed. The guards and by standers handed us the nearest wheat shocks to sit on and sleep on. I opened three or four bundles of wheat and spread it on the ground myself. Henry White and Leven Young slept on it, and covered with my comfort. It was a warm one and the only thing in the mess in the way of bed clothing. I slept very well.

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

Very few Confederates managed to swim across the Ohio River and flee into West Virginia. Reports vary, giving numbers between 300 and 400 men managing to reach the opposite shore.

“About 350 of the boys crossed the river some distance above Buffington Island in the afternoon of July 19th under the command of Col. Adam R. Jackson [Johnson].”

~John Weatherred, 9th Tennessee Cavalry[xvii]

Among those who escaped across the river were David Berry, Colonel Adam “Stovepipe” Johnson, Warren Grigsby, and George Lighting Ellsworth.

“Looking back across the river I saw a number of hats floating on the surface, and knew that each represented a brave and gallant Confederate who had found a watery grave…”

~ Colonel Adam R. Johnson[xviii]


[i] Wittenberg, Eric J. “The Fight to Save The Buffington Island Battlefield”
[ii] Whitman, Walt. “An Army Corps on the March.”
[iii] 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 236-237.
[iv] “Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies,” Part I –Reports, p. 779.
[v] “Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies,” Part I –Reports, p. 776.
[vi] “Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies,” Part I –Reports, p. 775.
[vii] Mosgrove, George Dallas. “Following Morgan’s Plume Through Indiana And Ohio.” Southern Historical Society papers. Vol. XXXV. Richmond, VA., January – December. 1907.
[viii] “Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies,” Part I –Reports, pages 778 -779.
[ix] 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. 237.
[x] Diary of Charles W. Durling.
[xi] Diary of James B. McCreary.
[xii] The Diary of Captain Thomas M. Coombs.
[xiii] Mosgrove, George Dallas. “Following Morgan’s Plume Through Indiana And Ohio.” Southern Historical Society papers. Vol. XXXV. Richmond, VA., January – December. 1907.
[xiv] Duke, Basil W. “History of Morgan’s Cavalry,” 1867, pages 452.
[xv] 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 237-238.
[xvi] Journal of Curtis R. Burke.
[xvii] Diary of John Weatherred.
[xviii] Walsh, George. “”Those Damned Horse Soldiers” p. 195.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

July 18, 1863: Going Home to Dixie

As Morgan’s men drew nearer the Ohio River, a change in attitude swept over the ranks. Hunger, exhaustion, and the anticipation of returning home mingled with the uneasy fears that the Union troops were still all too close and that the next bullet fired by a bushwhacker or Ohio militia member might not miss.

“Athens, [July 18, 1863.]

General Burnside:
I have obtained the following from the military committee:

We sent out yesterday at 4 p.m. 100 men with axes, under Lieutenant Long, Seventh Ohio Cavalry, with 50 scouts, to impede Morgan’s progress; also 250 armed men from our county to their support. We have had dispatches from our front this fore-noon, saying that Morgan was moving on line of road through Rutland to Pomeroy. Our forces expected that they would move to get on his front in case he moved to go up river. Colonel Gilmore’s forces moved from here this morning at 3 a. m. on the line of our force. Will have 50 mounted men here waiting our orders, and we are all the time at our headquarters, and will forward any dispatches you may wish to any point desired.

M. M. Greene,
Chairman Athens County Military Committee.”

The morale of the Raiders had faded. Only the promise of returning to the South propelled them onward toward the river.

“There is a land where cotton grows,
A land where milk and honey flows,
I'm going home to Dixie; Yes; I am going home
I've got no time to tarry, I've got no time to stay,
'Tis a rocky road to travel, to Dixie far away.
I've got no time to tarry, I've got no time to stay,
'Tis a rocky road to travel, to Dixie far away.”

At every possible location, the Ohio militia had blocked the roads with fallen trees and destroyed bridges. Thus, the engineers among the Raiders, known as sappers and miners, found themselves in constant demand.

Saturday, July 18th, 1863. Weather pleasant. We fed our horses well and saddled up. We moved early passing through the little village of D. where we saw a company of sappers and miners from our command with axes and shovels. The planks had been removed from the floor of a little bridge in the village by some home guards and hid so we had to go some distance to get by. We rode lively till about twelve o’clock when we came to a place in the road that was blockaded with trees cut across the road which brought us to a halt.”

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

Burnside was pushing harder than ever for Morgan’s capture. Constantly pestering his field commanders by telegraph, he obsessively “micromanaged.”

“Cincinnati, July 18, 1863.

Captain Barringer, Parkersburg:
Keep the boats on your side of the river, and let nothing pass below for the present. Send messenger to Conine, asking him to scour the country well, and urge the blockading of the roads from Big Hocking to Athens. Will telegraph Colonel Wallace.

A. E. Burnside,

“July 18, 1863.

Commanding Officer or Operator at Hamden:
Send following dispatch to General Hobson by swift courier:
General Hobson:
Push your command to the utmost of its capacity. If you can overtake Morgan with half your force, I am satisfied you can whip him. Judah ought to have been in front of Morgan, but stopped at Centreville last night. Left there this morning at 5 in pursuit. Send message by this courier.

A. E. Burnside,
P. S. General Hobson no doubt passed through Jackson this morning.”

“Cincinnati, July 18, 1863.

General Manson: Portsmouth:
Have any of your command gone up the river? Am I to understand that Judah was at Centreville last night with his whole force, and was to leave there this morning at 5? Did you leave any of your command with him? Telegraph all you know of the position of the enemy. It was reported at Pomeroy that he was at Rutland at 2 this morning.

A. E. Burnside,

Union troops advanced on the Raiders from the west and south.

“Saturday, July 18 .
John said to be moving towards Gallipolis. Feed at Keystone furnace. Travel all night till broad day light and passed through Manchester, Vinton, Winchester, Rutland & Chester.”

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

“Gallipolis, July 18, 1863.

General Burnside:
A part of Morgan’s forces camped 15 miles from here last night. He is supposed to be in neighborhood of Pomeroy. General Scammon, with a portion of his command, left here early this morning. Three gunboats above. Re-enforcements, infantry and artillery, en route from the Kanawha. I can hold this place. Hobson and Judah about 10 miles behind Morgan. He will likely be surrounded tomorrow, if line is closed between Hamden and Athens.
A. A. Hunter,
Captain, Commanding Post.

Pomeroy, July 18, 1863

Major-General Burnside:
I marched all night from Portsmouth, and continued to Centreville yesterday. Morgan’s Advance got to within 4 miles of me ignorantly, then fell back, and made for Keystone Furnace, Rutland, and Chester. I pushed on to this place, 30 miles, where I arrived two hours since. Hobson is on this side of Rutland. All information assures me that Morgan passed Chester some three hours since, for Buffington Island. So certain, that I sent word to Hobson to push on all that can keep up in track of enemy, via Chester. I move in less than one hour to Buffington, via Racine, my best road. Moving thus, Morgan is in a trap, from which he can’t escape. I think I will be able to telegraph you his defeat tomorrow morning, should he have taken the route I am almost certain he has. A prisoner, who has been with Morgan all day, and released and came on foot from Chester, tells me that Morgan thinks Hobson has given out and given up pursuit. He does not know my position. He thinks he can manage the gunboats with his 10-pounder pieces. Scammon has gone from here to Buffington. I have sent boat to Gallipolis for rations for Hobson and myself.

H. M. Judah,

Gunboats and Union transports plied the Ohio River delivering troops and supplies.

“Parkersburg, July 18, 1863.

Major-General Burnside:
One of my messengers just in, and reports Morgan at Chester, 26 miles from here, and 5 miles from Pomeroy, at 4 p.m. Four hundred militia went down to Buffington, with artillery, yesterday. Lieutenant Conine is at Little Hocking Bridge, with 1,200 men. I have no steamboat; expecting one down hourly, from Pittsburg, drawing 30 inches, The ferry-boat, drawing 26 inches, is at Blennerhassett’s Island, helping off steamer Eagle, which draws 36 inches. Stores all in Parkersburg, on Virginia side. Can use floats, if necessary, to help artillery or men.

A. V. Barringer,
Captain, and Commissary of Subsistence.”

Yet, Morgan seemed almost cavalier and completely heedless to the difficulties laying before him. Alas, crossing the Ohio into West Virginia would prove to be a far more difficult matter than simply splashing across a shallow ford.

Early on the morning of July 18th, the Raiders regrouped at Pomeroy. The area swarmed with Union troops and local militia.

“In passing near Pomeroy, there was one continual fight, but, now not with the militia only, for some regular troops made their appearance and took part in the programme. Colonel Grigsby took the lead with the Sixth Kentucky, and dashed through at a gallop, halting when fired on, dismounting his men and dislodging the enemy, and again resuming his rapid march. Major Webber Brought up the rear of the division and held back the enemy, who closed eagerly upon our track.”

~ Brigadier-General Basil Duke[x]

“General John Hunt Morgan led a force of 2,000 Confederate cavalrymen into Meigs County on July 18, 1863, during a forty-six day raid north of the Ohio River. After a skirmish with the 23rd Ohio Infantry, the Confederates paused to drink and replenish their canteens with cool spring water found in Rocksprings. Nearby, Isaac Carleton, a Meigs County native, was shot and wounded by a Confederate soldier.”[xi]

Finding the Ohio River swollen by recent rainfall to the north, the Raiders discovered it would not be possible to cross the river, normally shallow at this time of year, without a ferry or boat. They were forced to keep moving down a narrow canyon with Union troops firing at them from both sides.

"Every bridge had been destroyed, and at every pass and ravine the road was blockaded and defended by troops in concealment. A large number of 'blockaders' were captured and compelled to clear away the obstructions that many of them had assisted in making. Poor fellows, they felt their time had come, so badly were they frightened. Oftentimes the boys would dismount, and go in pursuit of these bushwhackers and command them to halt, but on they ran....never stopping until the boys laid violent hands upon them, holding them fast by main force. Even then they would strive hard to get away, just as some wild animals would do."

~ Lieutenant Peddicord

“We were within a few miles of Pomeroy, O. on the Ohio River where we intended going. The blockade was in a place where the road run between hills, besides it was defended by a strong force of home guards and bushwhackers to prevent our clearing away the obstructions. While we were waiting orders a lot of us went to a large white house on our right and got as much milk, bread, preserves, molasses, honey, etc. as we could eat and took some to the balance of the boys. The people had run off from home. Where people stayed at home and behaved themselves we did not disturb the house, but where people run away from home we rated them as home guards or bushwhackers, and took everything in the way of something to eat in the house. We waited about an hour and finding that we would lose too much time in clearing out the obstructions we turned back nearly a mile and took a road to our tight. The road was in a bottom or valley following the course of a branch [creek]. As usual the dust flew in clouds. We did not go far before the advance guard was stopped by a volley from home guards on a high bluff of rocks in a fork in the road. A ridge on our left sheltered us. We dismounted to fight. The enemy’s firing sounded as if it was nearing the fence on top of the ridge. So we hurried up to get the fence first. On reaching the fence we were surprised to find a deep wide valley with the left fork of the road between us and the enemy. We were ordered not to waste our ammunition as they were too far off to do any execution. Their spent balls passed over us once in a while. We fired a shot a piece at them to get the old loads out and load fresh again. Co. C and D. with assistance of [Colonel Adam “Stovepipe”] Johnson’s regiment dismounted and took up the hill on the right and flanked the party at the bluff driving them off. The right hand fork of the road led to the river but it was strongly blockaded. I could see the black clouds of smoke rising from the gunboats and transports on the other side of the hills in front of us. I was surprised to find that we were so close to the river. We mounted our horses and took the left fork about five hundred yards and dismounted to fight again. We nearly reached the enemy’s old position on the bluff when we were ordered back to our horses, the firing had ceased and we moved on the road still following the course of the branch with high hills and ridges on either side. The road was of gravel and a very good one. The rumor was that we were going some distance up the river to cross into Virginia. I began to wish that Gen. Morgan would take us to the river so high up that the gunboats could not get at us. We were bothered a great deal by the bushwhackers firing on us from the hills. In several places I saw them walking leisurely along firing and loading. I heard of several persons being wounded by them. We came to a place where the bridge was destroyed. The planks were taken off and hid and the balance burnt. The branch on both sides of the bridge was filled with fallen trees. The water was two or three feet deep and not running. Our only chance was to fill the branch up and make a solid bridge. Our regiment was dismounted to help the sappers and miners. We carried logs, rails, rocks, and dirt, throwing them in the branch till the pile was well out of the water then took the planks of the old bridge and made a good floor on ours. We cut the bank a little and the bridge was completed to the satisfaction of Gen. Morgan who was present. We had worked like Turks making some citizens living near work also. We mounted and moved on. Every mile or so we would come to places where trees were cut across the road. The advance guard would sing out ‘Sappers and miners to the front! Pass it back!” The sappers and miners would pass us in a jump and go clearing the road. We would hardly stop but pick our way around the obstacle and dash ahead to the next blockade. Sometimes the sappers and miners would be called in front before finishing their last job. We made all the citizens we could catch help clear the road. In this way the command did not have to wait. At last we got ahead of the blockades and double quicked five miles to the town of Chester, Ohio. We halted in the street and dismounted to rest. We opened a store and found a lot of provisions cooked in boxes and baskets that had been cooked for home guards who were to collect to blockade the roads, but we made good use of all the good things. I got two hats, a few yards of cotton and calico, a new curry comb and brush, a hand full of nutmegs, and a few other little tricks. The command coming up, we mounted our horses and moved a square down the street and halted a few minutes. One of the boys went into a grocery and brought us out some hard cider. Then we rode hard till dusk when we halted and dismounted to fight. We were told we were within a half mile of the Ohio River. The advance guard went ahead. We received no orders to move forward so we laid around by our horses and all came near going to sleep.”

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

By late evening, they reached Buffington Island. Morgan’s scouts informed him that it would be too dangerous to attempt a crossing in the darkness as the ford was guarded infantry who had entrenched themselves in an earthworks and installed artillery.

“The General and staff passed us. We mounted our horses and rode quietly down a lane and halted within a hundred yards of the river. We were ordered not to unsaddle or make any noise. We dismounted and sat or lay in the fence corners holding our horses. Everything was quiet except a shot now and then from the advance guard and a scout from the regiment who were after home guards. Three or four squads of prisoners passed us to the rear. A thick fog arose and the night grew very chilly.

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

Morgan postponed the crossing until morning, allowing his weary men to rest. His sympathy for the condition of his men exhausted would prove their undoing. Union gunboats were making their way toward Buffington Island.

“From the 9th until the 19th through Indiana and Ohio was almost a continual skirmish day & night with Soldiers, Home Guards, & Citizens. We marched very hard and fast, breaking down our horses and procuring fresh ones. On the night of the 18th of July we reached the Ohio River at Buffington Bar and found a wide, deep and unfordable river, rapidly rising. We could not cross in the Stygian Darkness by which we were surrounded, and sinking down upon its shores, exhausted nature found repose in sleep.”

~ Captain Thomas M. Coombs[xiv]

“Deciding to wait, Morgan ordered Warren Grigsby's 6th Kentucky, D. Howard Smith's 5th Kentucky, and Captain Byrne's battery to approach within four hundred yards of the earthwork. At the first light of dawn these units were to storm the Yankee defenders. In the meantime scouts moved out in both directions along the river, searching for other possible fords. One of these parties found a number of leaky flatboats about a mile and a half upstream, and as best they could in the darkness set about caulking the seams. Junior Officers and sergeants making a hasty check of ammunition supplies found that some men had no more than two or three rounds left. But no one worried too much about that; Virginia and safety lay across the ford.

Here and there musicians with guitars, banjos, and fiddles - confiscated from luckless Ohio merchants along the way - began playing sentimental tunes. In the darkness the musicians drew together, and a few of the boys came to listen. Soon they were singing and playing "My Old Kentucky Home," then "Juanita," and "The Hills of Tennessee." To show off his dexterity a fiddler played a fast version of "The Arkansas Traveler," and some of the listeners tried to dance a mock reel on the wet stubble of the wheat field in which they were camped.”

Morgan slept comfortably that night, secure in the belief that the greatest risks were behind him. He was confident that his scouts had, in pre-raid planning, determined optimal crossing points. So secure was he that no videttes were posted that night.

While the leadership refused to acknowledge it, the average Cavalryman knew the hour for escape was at hand.

“In passing near Pomeroy, Ohio on the 18th of July, we had to fight at every cross road and every joint where the Blue Boys could find a good position to fight us and they were regular, who had come up by boats to Pomeroy from Cincinnati and had come out on every road from Pomeroy to fight us. After passing this the road ran through a deep ravine for 4 or 5 miles. We were fired on from the hills about all the way through. About 1 p. m. we reached Chester where we stopped for about two hours. This stop brought us to the Village of Portland on the Banks of the Ohio; a short distant above Buffington Island about 8 p. m. and the night was very dark and we remained all night holding our horses by the bridle reigns. Sleeping and talking and saying to one another often we would wake up at intervals through the night. That if we stay here until morning we will be surrounded and many of us will be captured.”

~ John Weatherred, 9th Tennessee Cavalry [xvi]

“ I was detailed about midnight with nine others under Lieut. [K. F.] Peddicord to cross the river in a couple of skiffs, and hunt for boats to cross the command in. We went to the river and the fog was so thick that we could not see ten feet in front of us. We could not see how wide the river was or anything about it. We had a citizen with us but he did not give us any information that was satisfactory. We stumbled around there for awhile and the Lieut. Postponed the project till day light. We were chilled through. I could hardly have put a cap on my gun, and we were glad to return to our horses. The boys made a few small rail fires, but were soon ordered to put them out for fear that the Yanks would see them and send a gun boat up and shell us. We could hear the boats puffing away on the river below us. I laid three rails near a deadened fire and slept about ten minutes."

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

[i] “Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies,” Part I –Reports, p. 769.
[ii] Emmett, Daniel Decatur and Grafulla, C. S. "I'm Going Home to Dixie."
[iii] Journal of Curtis R. Burke.
[iv] “Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies,” Part I –Reports, p. 769.
[v]“ Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies,” Part I –Reports, p. 770.
[vi]“ Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies,” Part I –Reports, p. 771.
[vii] Diary of Charles W. Durling.
[viii] “Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies,” Part I –Reports, p. 770.
[ix] “ Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies,” Part I –Reports, p. 769.
[x] Duke, Basil W. “History of Morgan’s Cavalry,” 1867, pages 445-446.
[xi] Marker #6-53: Morgan's Raid Route, Ohio Historical Society.
[xii] Journal of Curtis R. Burke.
[xiii] Journal of Curtis R. Burke.
[xiv] The Diary of Captain Thomas M. Combs.
[xv]“ Morgan, the Hope of the West: Jackson to Buffington Island”
[xvi] The Wartime Diary of John Weatherred.
[xvii] Journal of Curtis R. Burke.

Monday, February 16, 2009


Lexington, KY., July 17, 1863

The general commanding the corps hereby extends his thanks to the 200 officers and soldiers of the Twenty-fifth Michigan Regiment, under Col. O. H. Moore, who so successfully resisted, by their gallantry and heroic bravery, the attack of a vastly superior force of the enemy, under the rebel General John Morgan, at Tebb’s Bend, on Green River, on the 4th of July, 1863, in which they killed one-fourth as many of the enemy as their own little band amounted to, and wounded a number equal to their own.

The general also desires to commend, in the warmest terms, the officers and soldiers of the Twentieth Kentucky Regiment, under Lieut. Col. C. S. Hanson, who, at Lebanon, Ky., for six hours sustained a most unequal contest with the same force, only yielding when entirely surrounded, and the town was being burned over their heads, further resistance being impossible.

By command of Major-General Hartsuff:

George B. Drake,
Assistant Adjutant-General.

[i] “Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies,” Part I –Reports, pages 768-769.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

July 17, 1863: What’s Taking So Long?

“I was at work that morning. Someone came riding like mad
Over the bridge and up the road—Farmer Rouf’s little lad.
Bareback he rode; he had no hat; he hardly stopped to say,
“Morgan’s men are coming, Frau, they’re galloping on this way.”[i]

Why was it taking so long for Morgan’s Raiders to reach Buffington Island? Why did it seem to take several hours, sometimes more than a day, for the column to pass a town? There are multiple reasons which, when viewed in combination, explain the impeded pace of Morgan’s Men as they crossed southern Ohio.

The Ohio militia, aided by able bodied citizens, were blocking roads with fallen trees and removing planking from bridges. This meant that the Raiders would have lost time at each instance they were forced to clear roads, ford a river, or splash through a stream. Futhermore, the Raiders were forced to carry axes to chop through the barricades erected in the roadways.

“July 17. Today we find our road badly blocked and “axes to the front” is now the common command. We have today passed through many little Dutch towns with which this country abounds. Tonight we halt near Pomeroy. The enemy are in considerable force in front. We attacked them and drove them from our front, and then moved rapidly in the direction of Buffington, where we intend to cross.”

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

As the men were traveling by horseback, the progress they could make each day was far slower than that of a modern unit traveling in motorized transport vehicles.

“It was thought best to vary the rate of march during a raid, whenever possible, to relieve the tedium occasioned by a sustained gait. Often the canter was temporarily substituted for the predominating gait, the trot, and sometimes a limited gallop would be employed for short periods. The minimal rate of travel over most terrain was slightly less than three miles per hour; any slower speed, except when riding over rough and broken land, was considered undesirable.

Usually the raiding column would halt for a ten-minute rest period every hour or two, with stops coming more frequently in unfavorable weather (unless, of course, the raiders were being closely pursued by enemy forces). Longer halts for midday and late afternoon meals were dictated by circumstances. The horsemen encamped for at least a portion of the night, for it was difficult if not impossible to sustain, a cohesive movement in total darkness.”

Skirmishes and bushwhackers also hindered the progress of the Raiders. As the Raiders became concerned that every thicket and fence row might hide armed men, progress was slowed by wariness.

“Although extreme danger seldom materialized, cavalrymen in unfriendly territory could never be certain that a bushwhacker was not hiding behind the nearest tree, with his rifle cocked and aimed. To combat all of these hardships, a raider needed an enduring spirit, a high degree of adaptability, implicit faith in his commander's judgment, and, ideally, a professional soldier's stoicism.”[iv]

Morgan’s Advance Guards were occasionally able to fool Ohio Militia members into the believing that the Raider’s members of the Union cavalry. However, on July 17, 1863 there were skirmishes at Berlin, Centreville, and Hamden.

“We rode along near the railroad for some distance. It was lined with burning cord wood. All the cowgaps and bridges were burning also. We got in advance but not without raising a terrible dust, and incurring the displeasure of acting Brigadier General Basil Duke. We came to a halt near a little town on a branch of the Cincinnati and Marietta railroad. We dismounted to fight. Our advance vidette Thomas Murphy had been dangerously wounded by a shot from some bushwhackers as soon as he entered town. In counting off I came out number three. Our boys deployed forward. A piece of artillery came to the front. We took the horses in the woods on our left. We saw some home guards in a point of woods. Three or four shells was thrown at them, but the order was countermanded. We moved through the town without further trouble.”

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

“Cincinnati, July 17, 1863

Capt. A. A. Hunter, Gallipolis:
After a skirmish with the militia at Berlin, the enemy have got away on the road to Pomeroy or Buffington. Cannot you send mounted messengers to cross the roads they must take, and order tout the citizens to blockade the roads in their advance? Do this instantly and use every exertion to have Morgan delayed: a very short check will enable our forces to overhaul him. Send copy of this to some reliable persons at Pomeroy, say Major [R. S.]Curtis, formerly of the Second Virginia Cavalry; also a copy to Captain Fitch, of the gunboats. If the citizens will exert themselves, he will be checked long enough to let our men catch him.

J. D. Cox,

“Hamden, July 17, 1863

General Burnside:
General: The rebels have made a demonstration against my forces. We have driven them back, killing 2. We hold the roads and heights adjacent. The Second Ohio Volunteer Cavalry passed through Piketon, at 8 o’clock, in pursuit. In one hour I can telegraph [result of] pursuit.
Ben. P. Runkle”

Berlin, July 17, 1863 – 2 p. m.

Major-General Burnside:
The enemy renewed his attack on my front, and in double my numbers, out flanking me on my right and left. They had several pieces of artillery, part rifled; shelled my position, and made demonstration to surround me. After the militia heard the shells and my men had been driven out of town, it was as much as I could do to hold my position, and impossible to take the offensive. I would not move the undrilled militia at all. We detained them over three hours, killed 4, and this was all I could possibly do. The enemy withdrew on the Wilkesville and Pomeroy road. The Second Ohio Cavalry did not arrive. Colonel Gilmore, with 1,000 men, failed to arrive, leaving but 1,500 men. They burned the furnaces. I wait orders.

Ben. P. Runkle,

For the first time, Morgan was conducting warfare outside of the South. He no longer had the advantage of being intimately familiar with the terrain as he had been when conducting raiders into his native Kentucky. Dependence on the reports of his scouts, lack of maps, and being led at times by less than willing local guides slowed the pace of the column.

“Since most of the raiders would he given little or no advance information about the objectives of their operation, they were constantly plagued, to some degree, by uncertainty and doubt.”[ix]

Completely out of contact with Southern leadership in Richmond, Morgan had no official reports of Northern movements and often relied on newspapers for critical information. This heavy reliance on newspaper reports, as in the case of the reports of the depth of the Ohio River, proved disastrous.

“On July 17, The Daily Cincinnati Enquirer reported that the Ohio River was only thirty inches deep at Buffington. Even if a boat was able to make it through, it wouldn’t be able to maneuver too well.”[x]

Conversely, Burnside demanded constant reports from his general and commanders and was not above sending multiple telegraph messages when he felt he wasn’t being provided with the information he craved.

“Cincinnati, July 17, 1863.

Col. August V. Kautz, Commanding Advanced Guard, Piketon:
Colonel Runkle, with 2,000 to 3,000 militia, is at Berlin, about 6 miles northwest of Jackson, and General Judah, with cavalry and artillery, is between Gallipolis and Jackson. Leave message for Colonel Runkle to hurry up.

A. E. Burnside,

“July 17, 1863.

Colonel Runkle, Berlin:
Send messenger and copy of this dispatch back to General Hobson to hurry up and overtake Morgan tonight. If he can get his artillery and 1,500 men up, he can whip him, I think. Judah ought to be on the enemy’s flank by this time. You can join Hobson with any mounted force you have. Morgan ought to be caught.

A. E. Burnside,

Finally, the very nature of the Cavalry column and the large number of men Morgan was traveling with was slowing progress.

“As a rule, the column marched in a particular order.

Scouts, who knew the territory well, rode far in advance of the main body, usually several miles ahead on the ‘point’ of the column. Quite often these men were disguised as civilians or enemy soldiers, which made them liable to execution as spies if unmasked and captured, but usually enabled them to travel in relative safety.Some cavalry leaders preferred to send their scouts into a designated territory a week or more in advance of the raiding force, if such time was available.

Confederate commanders such as John Hunt Morgan often employed this tactic, with gratifying results. These ‘advance men’ would ascertain the state of affairs along the route to be traveled and would report to the main force at prearranged locations, to guide the raiders, at regular intervals, along their way.

Behind the scouts on point came the Advance Guard of the raiding column, which ordinarily consisted of a small band of soldiers, usually one or two companies from a single regiment. The size of the advance guard, which rode perhaps a half mile in front of the main column, would vary according to the extent of the enemy forces liable to be encountered along the way. As with the scouts, the advance guard had to consist of men who knew the lay of the land, who were capable of thinking and acting quickly under pressure, and who could speedily warn the raiding force if any trouble developed at the point. An especially observant officer was needed to take charge of the advance guard.

Following the advance guard came the Main Body of the raiding force. Usually several regiments followed one after another with narrow gaps among them. The commander of the raiding column rode in the midst or to the rear of this body, escorted by aides and couriers.

Any artillery and supply wagons present also traveled in the middle of the column; such a position made them readily available to the commander and also afforded protection to the teamsters and train guards, as well as to the gunners who rode mounted alongside their cannon.

On either side of the main body, usually a mile or less away, rode several companies of Flankers. These soldiers were directed to alert the main force to enemy units moving along perpendicular roads and to curtail stragglers from the main body; they presented the raiding leader with a wide front along which to engage any opponents who might appear ahead.

The Rear Guard, usually several companies from the last regiment in the line of march--covered the route of the entire force. Here, again, an able officer was required to oversee the fulfillment of a number of demanding duties. These included rounding up stragglers, fending off pursuers, and putting finishing touches to the destruction of bridges, rail lines and supply depots that the main column had seized. The rear guard had to be able to move in any and all directions to handle its assigned tasks. Like the point, advance guard, and flankers, the rear guard was changed often to keep such a heavy burden of responsibility from resting too long on the same shoulders.”[xiii]

Unlike most raiders who traveled fast and light, stripped of all but the basic necessities, Morgan was traveling with over 2,000 men and carrying his sick and wounded in buggies and wagons. His men, in turn, had loaded themselves with “the spoils of war” and were carrying items such as bolts of cloth, stockings, and shoes. Morgan had not only broken Bragg’s Order by crossing the Ohio River, he was breaking the general rules for successfully conducting a raid!

The Union troops were quickly closing upon Morgan’s rear, making up time every hour.

“Friday, July 17
Morgan takes the lead. We bring up the rear. Pass through Jaspur, Piketown, Beaverton and camp at Jacksonville. Camp in fair ground. Evening quite cool.”

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

Seemingly headless, the Raiders worried more about mosquitoes and flies than the rapidly advancing Union troops.

“At dawn on the 17th, the raiders entered Jackson and spent a few hours raiding the local shops for needed goods. One item of peculiar interest to the raiders was a mesh, veil-like fabric that they draped over their hats to combat the pesky flies and mosquitoes of summer. As the rebels rode down Broadway and Main Streets, townsfolk said they look like some Arab sultan’s harem.”[xv]

Exhaustion and hunger took their toll upon the saddle weary Raiders.

“ At Piketon and at Jackson, Ohio, the home Guards had delayed Morgan’s advance, and we picked up some of his stragglers, In the literal sense of the word, these men were not stragglers, but were mostly men who were so worn down and utterly exhausted that further effort was impossible. When found, these men were always asleep – not in a gentle doze, but apparently dead. We would have to shake them, and roll them about roughly to awaken them. Often they would reply to questions, but in a dazed sort of a way, and evidently yet asleep. When finally we got them awake, they showed the greatest consternation and alarm, and asked how it all happened, that they could go to sleep among ‘Morgan’s Men’ and wake up to find themselves prisoners in the hands of Hobson’s Union Cavalry. They always wanted to know what had happened in the meantime and what had become of Morgan.”

~Captain Theodore F. Allen, 7th Ohio Cavalry [xvi]

“Friday, July 17, 1863. Weather pleasant. We fed our horses well again, but found little for ourselves. We saddled up and moved on. In an hour or two a detail was made from each section in our company to get something to eat for the men. I was one of the detail. We went ahead to the vidette who would not let us pass so I visited the houses as I came to them in the rear of the vidette. A couple of us went to a house and found no person at home, but a couple of little children. We looked into the cupboard and found some milk and a little bread. Then we got into a large jar of honey and ate as much as we wanted. We saw the lady of the house coming and covered up the honey again. When she came in we asked her to cook some bread for us. She willingly went to work saying she was a butternut or a copperhead as the abolitionists called them. The command had nearly all passed and my bread was just put in the oven. I told the other fellow that I could not wait for the bread and he agreed to wait for it. I caught up with my regiment just before entering Jackson, Ohio. We halted awhile in town I made my report with a hand full of bread. Some got more and others none.”

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

Once more, Morgan made at attempt at misdirection, splitting his force. One group moved toward Wilkesville and the other toward Vinton. Crossing the Ohio River was still his foremost goal. Morgan, relying on newspaper reports, was unaware that the Ohio River was rising. Heavy rains in the West Virginia mountains had caused the Ohio River to reach almost six feet in the area of Buffington Island.[xviii] At this depth it would be impossible to move wagons and artillery across the river without the aid of a ferry.

Meanwhile, both Northern and Southern citizens called for reports of Morgan’s Men. Even the “New York Times” covered Morgan’s movements.

He is Moving Eastward –Cincinnati to be Released from Martial Law
Cincinnati, Wednesday, July 15
Morgan’s rebel forces this afternoon were within twelve miles of Hillsboro, Highland County, Ohio. He is supposed to be moving eastward.
This city will be released from martial law tomorrow.”

~"The New York Times”, July 17, 1863

As Morgan moved eastward, feelings of uneasiness were spreading among his men.

“Soon after[we passed] the houses of some butternut citizens who gave as all the milk, bread, butter, etc. they could raise. They were in favor of Vallandingham for their next governor. The horse pressing detail was still attending to business. We halted an hour before sun down and camped in a lot on the right side near a stable and house. The people had run off and left the house. We found plenty of corn for our horses. The boys got into the house cleaning it of everything fit to eat. I found a comic picture of Jeff Davis hanging from the gallows. The picture was framed and hanging over the mantel piece of the sitting room. One of the boys found a picture of Abe Lincoln in a magazine and cut it out and pasted it over the picture of Jeff Davis, so as to represent Lincoln hanging instead of Davis. I guess the family raised a howl when they saw it. We made out supper off of milk, bread and preserves. Some of the boys out too far from camp was fired on and six or seven of us took our guns and walked across the field a few hundred yards and seeing some citizens hailed them. They did not answer but started to run. We fired a shot or two at them and returned to camp. Several of us went to a little branch that run through our camp and took a good wash. We unsaddled and made our beds down on the grass. I was glad that we were going to have a good night’s rest, but something told me that we ought to ride all night, which would take us to the Ohio River and once across we would be safe. Several of the boys remarked that we ought to keep moving although they were in need of rest. Nothing disturbed us during the night, and I slept fine.”

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

“ Camp Marietta, July 17, 1863.

General Burnside:
I have sent about 200 infantry, two pieces of artillery, and 50 mounted scouts to guard the ford at Buffington Island; also 145 infantry, to guard the boats at Mason City. I am about to forward 750 infantry toward Chillicothe, to assist our forces in that direction.

W. R. Putnam,
Colonel, Commanding Post.”

[i] Constance Fenimore Woolson, “Kentucky Belle.”
[ii] Diary of James B. McCreary.
[iii] Longacre, Edward G. “Mounted Raids of the Civil War” Introduction.
[iv] Longacre, Edward G. “Mounted Raids of the Civil War” Introduction.
[v] Journal of Curtis R. Burke.
[vi] “Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies,” Part I –Reports, p.765.
[vii] “Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies,” Part I –Reports, p.766.
[viii] “Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies,” Part I –Reports, p.767.
[ix] Longacre, Edward G. “Mounted Raids of the Civil War” Introduction.
[x] Lester V. Horwitz, “The longest Raid of the Civil War,” Chap. 28, p 159.
[xi] “Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies,” Part I –Reports, p.764.
[xii] “Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies,” Part I –Reports, p.767.
[xiii] Longacre, Edward G. “Mounted Raids of the Civil War” Introduction.
[xiv] Diary of Charles W. Durling.
[xv] Murray, Jim. “ John Hunt Morgan Visited Southern Ohio in 1863,” The Southern Ohio Traveler, May 1995.
[xvi] 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. 233.
[xvii] Journal of Curtis R. Burke.
[xviii] Smith, Myron J. “Gunboats at Buffington, West Virginia History,” Vol. XLIV, No 2, p. 105.
[xix] Journal of Curtis R. Burke.
[xx] “Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies,” Part I –Reports, p.766.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

July 16,1863: Morgan’s Raiders Advance Across Southern Ohio

Burnside, anxious for Morgan’s capture, continued to tighten the net troops he’d cast about the Raiders.

“Jacktown, Ohio, July 16, 1863.
(Received 3:30 p.m.)

Commanding Officer, Aberdeen:
I have one brigade 3 miles in advance of this place. His [Morgan’s]route is either in direction of Chillicothe or Gallipolis. He is not more than 15 miles in advance of me. I am traveling 40 miles per day; men in good spirits; horses worn down; country very rough and rugged, but I will continue the pursuit as long as possible. Have sent forward today for purpose of blockading the roads with timber.

E. H. Hobson,
Major-General, Commanding.

July 16, 1863

General Hobson, Piketon:
Push on rapidly with your command. Runkle reports that he is fighting at Berlin, east of Jackson, and Judah is between Morgan and Gallipolis. Manson is on the river in boats, to prevent crossing. Gunboats are at Gallipolis and above. Push on and catch Morgan, if possible. Answer before leaving Piketon.

A. E. Burnside,

“Maysville, July 16, 1863

Col. Lewis Richmond:
Captured one of Morgan’s men. He says Morgan is pushing for the mountains, and expects to cross the Ohio at the mouth of Big Sandy [KY and W.VA. border] or at some point in vicinity. Hobson attacked rear guard at Williamsburg yesterday. I have heard nothing of Judah. He will be too late to do any good. Will leave for Manchester and up the river. There is no doubt but the most of Morgan’s force stayed last night near Locust Grove. He is moving by two columns.

Mahlon D. Manson,
Brigadier-General, Commanding.

Cincinnati, July 16, 1863

General Manson:
Do you mean that his main force was moving toward Locust Grove? If so, he means to try to cross the Scioto at Piketon.
A. E. Burnside,

“Thursday, July 16
Follow rebs in direction of Winchester where we stop & feed, go on, pass through several small towns, stop and feed near one called Locust Grove. Morgan as far ahead as ever I guess.”

~ Charles W. Durling, Company G, Ohio Infantry[iii]

Hoping to slow the pursuit General Hobson and his men, Morgan’s column burned each bridge they crossed as they raced toward Buffington Island. Likewise, hoping to slow the Raiders progress, the Ohio militia fell trees, built barriers across the roads, and burnt bridges.

“July 16. Today we find the first destruction in our way, consisting of felled trees. The enemy are now pressing us on all sides, and the woods swarm with militia. We captured hundreds of prisoners, but, a parole being null, we can only sweep them as chaff out of our way. Today we crossed the Scioto to Piketon, and as usual, destroyed the bridge. Thence we moved to Jackson.

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

The Raider’s progress was hampered by bushwhackers and skirmishes as they hurried between the towns of Piketon, Jackson, Hamden, Vinton, and Pomeroy.

“Thursday, July 16th, 1863. Weather pleasant. Awhile after day we halted in a stable yard and fed. While feeding the command passed us. The Colonel did not order us to move till he got his breakfast. We then rode lively being in the rear of the command. About twelve o’clock we came to a little town on the Sciota river and the Cincinnati and Dayton canal. On entering the place I found that our men had fired a canal boat that was in the employ of the U. S. government, and a mill caught fire from this, and the flying sparks fired a stable or two. The command, I was told, tired to put out the fire on the mill, but it was a windy day and their efforts were unsuccessful. We halted half an hour in town the command had left. The boys got whiskey by the bucket full. I got a large bottle to take along but changed my mind and poured it out, fearing that it might be the cause of somebody getting too drunk to ride, and being left behind. We knew very well that all that strayed too far or left behind was either killed or captured by the bushwhackers. We left town and as we were fording the Sciota river the bushwhackers commenced firing at us from the hills. We had a bad place to ford. As fast as we got across we formed in line to defend or protect some buggys and spring wagons containing our sick and wounded while fording. These vehicles were all captured or pressed on the raid, most of them since crossing the Ohio river. All got across safe, and as we moved on the firing became more rapid.”

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

“A March in ranks hard-prest, and the road unknown;
A route through a heavy wood, with muffled steps in the darkness;
Our army foil’d with loss severe, and the sullen remnant retreating;
Till after midnight glimmer upon us, the lights of a dim-lighted building;
We come to an open space in the woods, and halt by the dim-lighted building”

~ Walt Whitman[vi]

“The regiment rode lively till near dusk, when we caught up with the command and commenced crowding past to get to the front. The command halted in another little town. It was near dark enough for candle light when we all got past. We then halted in a lot on the left near a large white house. We formed in lines, each company by itself, one behind another and dismounted to rest. I went to the crib and got a heavy feed for my horse and had some trouble in finding my horse again. I then went to the house and took a good wash to get the dust out of my eyes. Supper was ready so I then took supper with some fifteen or twenty others at the house. I was hoping that we would all get a good nights sleep when I heard the most unwelcome order of, ‘Mount your horses,’ but I was willing to go ahead when the officers thought it necessary. The command had nearly all passed so we had to double quick to get in advance again. We had been in the rear all day. After riding three of four miles at a lively gate we camped on the right of the road in a lot next to a stable. The house where the Colonel put up was opposite. We unsaddled and made our beds down. Ben Young and others got into a dairy and got a lot of put up cherries. I slept well. The dew fell heavy during the night.

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

Burnside was certain that Morgan would attempt to cross the Ohio River at his first opportunity.

"Ohio, July 16, 1863.

Colonel Runkle, Chillicothe, Ohio:
What amount of force have you, and have you any artillery? Morgan’s advance was at Locust Grove last night. I think he will try to go out by way of Portsmouth, but he may make up toward your place. Keep a good watch.

A. E. Burnside,

July 16, 1863

Captain Fitch (or commander of any gunboat near Maysville):
I am fearful that Morgan may turn on our men, and try to cross at or below Maysville. You will, of course, look to them.

A. E. Burnside,

The anguish citizens of Ohio clamored for news of Morgan. Even small town newspapers avidly covered stories of the Raid.

"On July 16, 1863 at 8:15 a.m. they entered Poplar Grove riding down Chenoweth Fork Road, crossing the bridge over Chenoweth Fork Creek. The Raiders were lined for several miles, as they brought wagons and buggies carrying their sick and wounded and their canons. They ordered Mrs. Kendall to start baking bread. They were so hungry that the bread was snatched out of the hot oven and they began eating the half-baked bread. A few of the raiders stopped at the Lewis Beekman property and when they left, Mr. Beekman was without a horse and 20 pounds of honey. They burned the 12 foot long wooden bridge across Sunfish Creek and what the Raiders didn't eat, they destroyed."

~ Phyllis Kirkendall, Pike County Messenger 1863

Joseph McDougal, a schoolmaster, was killed over ten cents and a smart comment

"Money was taken from the prisoner and Joseph only had ten cents. He stated that was ten cents more than he wanted them to have. He was asked to step out of line and was taken to another area and questioned. Next two men placed Joseph into a boat and the two men were asked to aim and fire. He was hit below the right eye and the other shot hit his chest".

~ Phyllis Kirkendall, Pike County Messenger 1863

“MORGAN’S GREAT RAID IN INDIANA & OHIO RAILROADS TORN UP AND STEAMSHIPS SEIZED AND DESTROYED On Wednesday last, Morgan crossed the Ohio River at Brandenburg. He first seized the steamer John B McComb and with her seized and boarded the Alice Dean, one of the finest boats on the river. By the aid of the steamers, Morgan crossed with his whole force, consisting of about 4000 cavalrymen, with battery of guns. After crossing, he burned the Alice Dean. They first destroyed a bridge on the Indianapolis and Jeffersonville Railroad, where they were met by small forces. The track was torn up on both roads for a considerable distance and the bridge at Seymour on the Ohio and Mississippi road destroyed. Our mails from Cincinnati having been cut off since Monday evening, we are without reliable intelligence as to the exact tenor of events in that region. We learn, however, by telegraph that Morgan’s forces have passed around Cincinnati, destroying Camp Dennison, and tearing up the track and otherwise injuring the Little Miami and the Marietta and Cincinnati roads, from fifteen to thirty miles out of Cincinnati. The latest reports assert them to be coming up this way, probably striking for the river about Maysville, so as to re-cross into Kentucky. His forces, entirely of cavalry, Morgan can elude pursuit, at least for a short time. The country having been completely stripped of soldiers, the Militia has been called out to arrest his progress. Until an overwhelming force is obtained, he may around at will but any attempt to re-cross the river must be extremely hazardous and almost impracticable.”

~ The Marietta Republican, July 16, 1863

As the Raiders progressed, Burnside wisely turned his attentions to the possibility that Morgan might try to cross the Ohio River at Buffington Island.

“July 16, 1863

Colonel Runkle, Hamden:
I have ordered a fore from Marietta, under Colonel Putnam, to Buffington Island. Enemy threaten to cross there. Have force on cars, so as to be at Athens of Marietta, as occasion may require, in case the enemy are turned back from the river. The following is the dispatch I sent Colonel Putnam. I trust the movement to your good judgment, to impede Morgan as much as possible.

A. E. Burnside,
Major- General.

July 16, 1863.

Colonel Putnam, Marietta:
If you cannot be at Buffington before noon tomorrow, I fear you will be too late. You can embark them on the boat, and move down rapidly but carefully, and if you find the enemy has been turned back form the ford, you must hasten up river to Parkersburg or Marietta. Under no circumstances must you allow your boat to fall into the hands of the enemy. Have all the means of crossing the river destroyed that you find on the banks. I leave your movements to your good judgment. The object is to prevent the crossing at Buffington, and then, if the enemy is turned up toward Marietta, to move up quickly and assist that place. A gunboat will be at Buffington in four or five hours. Colonel Runkle will send troops to Marietta. Lose no time.

A. E. Burnside,

“July 16, 1863

Captain Fitch, Commanding Fleet, Pomeroy:
I trust to you to check the enemy at Pomeroy and Buffington Island until our men get up. There is a force of our men and two pieces of artillery at Buffington. Captain Sebastian’s boat is, of course, subject to your order. I am sure you will not allow them to cross if you can prevent it. Captain Sebastian should start at once.

A. E. Burnside,


[i] “Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies,” Part I –Reports, p.756.
[ii] “Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies,” Part I –Reports, pages 756- 757.
[iii] Diary of Charles W. Durling
[iv] Diary of James B. McCreary
[v] Journal of Curtis R. Burke.
[vi] Whitman, Walt. “A March in the Ranks, Hard-prest.”
[vii] Journal of Curtis R. Burke.
[viii] “Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies,” Part I –Reports, p.758.
[ix] “Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies,” Part I –Reports, p.760.
[x] “Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies,” Part I –Reports, p.761.