Battle of Hartsville


Confederate Col. John Hunt Morgan and his cavalry were ordered to harass Union communications around Nashville and protect the fords of the upper Cumberland River and nearby towns.

After the Confederate retreat from Perryville, Kentucky, Confederate General Braxton Bragg withdrew toward Middle Tennessee. Confederate Colonel John Hunt Morgan and his Kentucky cavalry, after raiding Union supply lines in their native state, were called to Tennessee shortly afterwards and ordered to harass Union communications around Nashville, and also to protect the fords of the upper Cumberland River. Hartsville, a small town near such a ford, was manned by the 39th Brigade of the Army of the Cumberland, about 2,400 troops under the command of U.S. Colonel Absalom B. Moore. Another Union force of about 6,000 men, under Gen. John Marshall Harlan, was stationed close by at Castalian Springs. Morgan decided to capture the garrison at Hartsville and escape before Harlan’s troops could reinforce Moore’s.

Morgan’s troops began marching from Baird’s Mills, about eight miles south of Lebanon, on December 6, 1862, and covered almost 40 miles over frozen ground, reaching the Cumberland during the night. By the time the Confederates reached the bluff south of Hartsville on the morning of December 7, the Union regiments were ready in battle formation. Even though the Confederates had to cross a ravine and climb the bluff to the Union position, they pressed the attack on both ends of the line while driving the Union regiments back. Col. Moore surrendered all the troops at his command.

The Confederates surrounded and captured approximately 1,800-2,000 Federals with a loss of only 149 of their own men and re-crossed the Cumberland intact. The entire action at Hartsville lasted only about 75 minutes.

Col. Moore resigned before he could be dismissed from duty for his failure to hold his troops in line. John Hunt Morgan, on the other hand, was promoted to brigadier general. Though the surprise of Morgan’s attack certainly unnerved and baffled Union officers, the Battle of Hartsville itself did little to disrupt Union supply and communication lines.

  • Morgan pushed his men 40 miles over frozen ground and captured the vedettes without a shot, but found Union troops ready for battle south of town.
  • The Confederates captured 1,800-2,000 Federals, losing only 149 of their own.