John Hunt Morgan


Confederate cavalry commander John Hunt Morgan was born in Huntsville, Alabama, on June 1, 1825. He fought in the Mexican War as a first lieutenant in the Kentucky Mounted Volunteers and saw action at the battle of Buena Vista. Morgan married Rebecca Bruce in 1848.

From 1852 to 1854, he served as captain of an artillery company in the state militia and, in 1857, he formed the Lexington Rifles. Morgan initially supported Kentucky neutrality, but in September 1861, on his own authority, he led the Lexington Rifles in a series of guerrilla raids before joining the Confederacy as a captain of cavalry in October 1861.

In April 1862, Morgan was promoted to colonel and continued his raids. On August 12, 1862, Morgan successfully disrupted General Don Carlos Buell's campaign against Chattanooga by burning the twin Louisville and Nashville Railroad tunnels near Gallatin, which were vital links in the Union supply line. Morgan's success emboldened Confederate plans for a Kentucky invasion, and Morgan's cavalry joined General Braxton Bragg in the Perryville campaign.

In Murfreesboro, on December 14, 1862, Morgan, widowed since 1861, married 17-year-old Martha Ready. Three days before that he had been promoted to brigadier general. Two weeks later, Morgan's troops participated in raids during the battle of Stones River, diverting Union troops from assisting General William S. Rosecrans's army.

In early 1863, as Union cavalry in the western theater gained proficiency and strength, Morgan began suffering losses in his confrontations. In an attempt to recoup some lost prestige and morale, he embarked on his legendary "Great Raid” through Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio. During the raid, which lasted from July 1 to 26, 1863, Morgan spread panic throughout the north passing within seven miles of Cincinnati. This was the northernmost incursion of western Confederate troops and served to bolster Southern morale and secured Morgan's legendary status.

Despite the Confederate high command's anger at his unauthorized raid, he was restored to command. Morgan was surprised by Federal soldiers in Greeneville, Tennessee, on September 4, 1864 and died attempting to escape. He is buried in Lexington, Kentucky.

  • Burned vital railroad tunnels near Gallatin.
  • Led raids at Stones River, diverting Union troops from assisting General William S. Rosecrans's army.
  • Spread panic on his legendary "Great Raid” through Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio.