Morgan's Surrender Marker
Backstory and Context
John Morgan was born in Alabama in 1825 but lived most of his life in Kentucky. Right before the Civil War he was living in Lexington where he owned a woolen factory. When Morgan joined the Confederate Army he turned out to be a very daring but dignified officer. He became a Brigadier General in December 1862. Up until the summer of 1863 the primary assignment of Morgan and his cavalry unit was to periodically raid the border state of Kentucky and cause disorder for Union operations.
In June of 1863 things were not going real well for the South. General Stonewall Jackson had died at the Battle of Chancellorsville. And by early July the Union would be victorious at Gettysburg and Vicksburg. Union General Ambrose Burnside was preparing to invade eastern Tennessee and Confederate General Braxton Bragg did not want his troops to be overwhelmed in Tennessee. Morgan convinced Bragg to authorize an additional raid into Kentucky in the hope of diverting Burnside’s forces and delaying Union movement into Tennessee. Bragg specifically ordered Morgan not to cross the Ohio River. However, Morgan always intended to cross the Ohio. He felt a typical Kentucky raid would not cause the needed disruption. His plan was to dash across Ohio, causing as much damage and confusion as possible, and recross the Ohio River at Buffington Island. Then he would hopefully be safe.
He lead his troops through Kentucky and on July 8th he entered Indiana. He was not in Indiana long because he crossed the border into Ohio on July 13th at Harrison, just north of Cincinnati. While they were in Ohio the Raiders tore up railroad tracks and destroyed bridges. The constant movement also meant exhausted horses. The raiders stole thousands of horses during the raid. But horses and necessary food were not the only things stolen. While Morgan and his fellow officers did not order or approve it, the men engaged in general pillaging. They wanted northeners to feel the same pain and fear that their friends and families had been experiencing in the south.
They were able to avoid capture in Ohio for almost two weeks. Morgan had a telegraph expert who could both tap telegraph lines and mimic other telegraph operators. False telegraph messages were sent. Also, incorrect information was given to captives. When they were freed this false information caused militia units to defend the wrong areas. The militia in Ohio was ineffective against the Raiders. They were inexperienced and either too young or too old. More important were the Union troops that pursued Morgan from Kentucky. For much of the raid these troops were only a day behind.
By July 18th the end was in site. Troops and gunboats were closing in. At the Battle of Buffington Island things did not go well for Morgan. About 700 of his troops were captured but Morgan and the rest escaped north. Later, another attempt at crossing the Ohio was made. Only 300 got across the river before gunboats started mowing them down. Morgan was about hallway across but returned to the bulk of his stranded men. Again they were able to get away but only for a short time.
On July 26rd, in Columbiana County Ohio, Morgan could see the dust of approaching Union troops. He attempted to control his surrender terms by offering to surrender to the Ohio militia man that he had taken with him to serve as a guide. When the troops arrived the surrender terms were denied. Morgan and some of his fellow officers ended up imprisoned in the Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus. He later escaped and made his way back to Confederate territory. He was not trusted with leadership and died in battle in September 1864.
Historians debate whether the raid was a success. In the short run the raid did slow down Burnside. This helped the south win at Chickamunga. In the long run it was not a military success for the south because it had lost a valuable cavalry unit. In terms of southern morale however, the raid was a success. It caused confusion and fear in the north and southerners were happy about that.