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Rebel Raider

Rebel Raider: The Life of General John Hunt Morgan

James A. Ramage
Copyright Date: 1986
Pages: 336
  • Book Info
    Rebel Raider
    Book Description:

    "The first full biography of the famous Confederate cavalry leader from Kentucky. It provides fresh, unpublished information on all aspects of Morgan's life and furnishes a new perspective on the Civil War. In a highly original interpretation, Ramage portrays Morgan as a revolutionary guerrilla chief. Using the tactics of guerrilla war and making his own rules, Morgan terrorized federal provost marshals in an independent campaign to protect Confederate sympathizers in Kentucky. He killed pickets and used the enemy uniform as a disguise, frequently masquerading as a Union officer. Employing civilians in the fighting, he set off a cycle of escalating violence which culminated in an unauthorized policy of retaliation by his command on the property of Union civilians. To many southerners, Morgan became the prime model of a popular movement for guerrilla warfare that led to the Partisan Ranger Act. For Confederates he was the ideal romantic cavalier, the "Francis Marion of the War," and they make him a folk hero who was especially adored by women. Discerning fact from folklore, Ramage describes Morgan's strengths and weaknesses and suggests that excessive dependence on his war bride contributed to his declining success. The author throws new light on the Indiana-Ohio Raid and the suspenseful escape from the Ohio Penitentiary and unravels the mysteries around Morgan's death in Greeneville, Tennessee. Rebel Raider also shows how in the popular mind John Hunt Morgan was deified as a symbol of the Lost Cause.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4633-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xi)
  4. [Map]
    (pp. xii-xii)
  5. ONE Folk Hero of the Revolution
    (pp. 1-7)

    It was the eighth day of January, 1864, and sleigh bells rang in the crisp morning air; two inches of fresh snow covered the roofs and sidewalks, and horsedrawn sleighs glided smoothly through the broad, level streets of Richmond, the Confederate capital. The freezing cold and glittering snow heightened the festive mood of the large crowd assembling in the sunshine outside the elegant Ballard House Hotel. Gen. John Hunt Morgan, the Kentucky cavalryman, and his wife Martha had arrived during the snowstorm in the night, and Mayor Joseph Mayo had invited everyone to a parade and public reception in his...

  6. TWO Patriarchs and Southern Honor
    (pp. 8-17)

    As a folk hero, John Hunt Morgan mirrored the people’s belief in the Southern code of honor, a system of ethics with roots deep in mythology, literature, and civilization. A Southern gentleman’s evaluation of himself was based upon the judgments of the community. His inner conviction of selfesteem was formed by the public assessment of his behavior. One element of honor was loyalty to forefathers. John Hunt Morgan’s father, Calvin, taught his children to venerate the Morgan family tradition and exhibit traits of the Morgan lineage, whose patriarchs he brought parading forth after dinner in the parlor of their farm...

  7. THREE The Quest for Honor
    (pp. 18-29)

    In the antebellum South the great challenge of the adolescent was to establish an identity in the social order according to the accepted system of honor. For John Hunt Morgan, bridging the gap between childhood and adulthood was difficult. Not only was his father an inadequate role model, but he had to reconcile the unbridled militaristic tradition of the Morgans with the selfcontrol and stability of the Hunts. Naming him after his grandfather had cemented family harmony, but now he was expected to live up to the name, and the family’s economic dependence on Hunt added weight to the yoke....

  8. FOUR Honor Gained
    (pp. 30-39)

    When it finally dawned on John Hunt Morgan that an immediate military career was out of reach, he settled down in Lexington, entering business with his young friend Sanders Bruce. The Bruces, an established manufacturing family, wealthy, successful, and respected, lived in the beautiful Thomas Hart residence on the corner just across Second Street from Hopemont and only a few yards from Henry Clay’s law office. Before he died in 1836, John Bruce, Sanders’s father, had proudly showed visitors through his hemp factory on Mulberry Street. He was born in Northumberland, learned ropemaking in London, and was equipping ships in...

  9. FIVE The State Guard
    (pp. 40-45)

    It seems paradoxical that Morgan, who had longed for a military career and had always been interested in military activities, delayed entering the Civil War until more than five months after fighting began. Some believed he was waiting for Becky to die. Her condition had gradually worsened until in January, 1861, there was no choice but to amputate her leg. After that, she remained in bed, and on Sunday afternoon, July 21, 1861—the day of the first battle of Bull Run—her long years of suffering ended in death. If John had been delaying because of Becky, he was...

  10. SIX Gambler and Guerrilla
    (pp. 46-63)

    From all over Kentucky the majority of State Guard members were volunteering for Confederate service; it was the greatest single wave of Kentucky enlistment in the Southern army. The Lexington Rifles and about 200 additional men rendezvoused at Bloomfield, near Bardstown, and elected Morgan to lead them through the lines. Leaving on Saturday night, September 28, they marched for two days and nights, passing without incident between towns with strong Home Guards. Near Bowling Green, Kentucky, they entered Confederate lines and made camp with many of their State Guard friends.

    For the Confederacy it was still the morning of bright...

  11. SEVEN “O! For a Dozen Morgans”
    (pp. 64-79)

    News of Morgan’s exploits in the vicinity of Nashville rang through the South. In late March, Gen. Mansfield Lovell in New Orleans named fortifications on the Mississippi River above Baton Rouge “Fort John Morgan” in honor of “the gallant Kentucky Ranger, whose daring and dazzling exploits have recently won the admiration of his countrymen.” A war correspondent reported: “He is incessantly on the move, appearing suddenly and unexpectedly at some other place more than a hundred miles distant.” Another proclaimed: “He has a way of finding out things which no one but himself, or one equally fertile in resources and...

  12. EIGHT From Shiloh to Cave City
    (pp. 80-90)

    In Huntsville, Alabama, during the brief lull in military activity after his raid on Gallatin on March 16, 1862, John Hunt Morgan soon tired of innocent diversions and longed for more tantalizing entertainment. The people of Huntsville, proud of him as a native son, welcomed him royally. His host, John T. Fackler, held a party in Morgan’s honor, and Fackler’s young daughter Gypsy sang for the guests. Morgan made her honorary adjutant of the squadron, and Duke wrote out the commission in verse. After a few days, though, John felt the sadness coming on. He had not had a furlough...

  13. NINE The First Kentucky Raid
    (pp. 91-106)

    By the summer of 1862 the Morgan legend had become an important factor in Morgan’s career. The new 2nd Kentucky Cavalry regiment, authorized by Beauregard, included 370 Kentuckians from every part of the state, and the reputation of Morgan’s men attracted a regiment of Georgia partisan rangers, a squadron of Texas Rangers, and a company of Tennessee partisans, bringing the number of men to about 900. This was below brigade level, but Morgan declared it a brigade nevertheless and adopted the informal authority of brigadier general. During what became known as the First Kentucky Raid, he signed official documents “Acting...

  14. TEN The Gallatin Raid
    (pp. 107-118)

    Returning to Tennessee at the close of the First Kentucky Raid, Morgan broke off and accompanied the howitzers to Knoxville for repairs, thereby avoiding the tedium of camp life. The command proceeded to Sparta, where Duke and Grenfell attempted to turn it into a disciplined fighting machine, able to perform the manual of arms with precision and march from column into skirmish line with model symmetry. Dress parades were scheduled and daily drill initiated by company and regiment, on foot and horseback. The morning they first attempted to mount guard according to regulation, all was going well; but just when...

  15. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  16. ELEVEN Bragg’s Kentucky Invasion
    (pp. 119-133)

    The First Kentucky Raid and the Gallatin expedition, along with strikes by Forrest and other cavalry commanders, had brought Buell’s army to a halt. Morgan’s reports from Kentucky were a catalyst for the greatest offensive of the Confederacy in the West during the entire war—Bragg’s invasion of Kentucky. By late summer of 1862 the Confederacy had cast aside the defensive strategy and seized the momentum, taking the war to the enemy. It was the high-water mark for the strategy of annihilation. Lee’s victories in the Seven Days campaign and Second Bull Run (Manassas) had given him the initiative, and...

  17. TWELVE Wedding Bells and the Christmas Raid
    (pp. 134-147)

    Word spread through the Army of Tennessee in Murfreesboro that Morgan had given the Federal prisoners captured at Hartsville to his bride for a wedding present. On Friday, December 12, the Ready family servants were decorating the parlor with holly, cedar, and mistletoe and preparing turkey, ham, and other delicacies. Jefferson Davis arrived to quiet the complaints against Bragg and restore harmony to his command; on Saturday the President reviewed the troops and signed promotions, including Morgan’s to brigadier general. A rumor went through the Union army that Davis attended the wedding Sunday evening, but actually, he left town during...

  18. THIRTEEN The Winter of Romance
    (pp. 148-157)

    One of Morgan’s first priorities was to bring Mattie to his new headquarters in McMinnville. Bragg’s army was positioned in the Duck River Valley with Morgan on the right, guarding a line of over 100 miles, from Woodbury, Tennessee, to Monticello, Kentucky. “Am determined to have you near me,” he pledged. “Cannot bear the thought of your being away from home & my not being with you.” Once she came, Mattie declared: “My life is all a joyous dream now, from which I fear to awaken, and awake I must when my Hero is called to leave me again. My...

  19. FOURTEEN The Great Raid: Through Kentucky
    (pp. 158-169)

    The sun came out, blackberries and honeysuckles bloomed alongside the roads, and with their new uniforms and reinvigorated horses Morgan’s men seemed to have regained their old fighting spirit. But by June, 1863, Lincoln’s war of conquest was hurting the Confederacy. Grant was closing in on Vicksburg, the last bastion on the Mississippi River; Rosecrans was poised to drive Bragg from Tennessee; the blockade was slowly starving the Southern economy; and the Union cavalry in the West was stronger than its Confederate counterpart. On June 3, Lee began his invasion of Pennsylvania, hoping to regain the initiative for the South....

  20. FIFTEEN The Great Raid: Indiana and Ohio
    (pp. 170-182)

    Day and night from July 9 to 18, Morgan’s raiders rode eastward through Indiana and Ohio, burning bridges, canal boats, and depots, ripping up railroad tracks, seizing government funds, extorting money from millers and manufacturers, looting private retail stores, and helping themselves to food in private dwellings.

    The destruction was minor compared to that recently inflicted upon Southerners by Grant’s army in the Vicksburg campaign. Grant had ordered his men to seize horses, destroy farm implements, and burn all the crops in their track. And the damage was nothing like the sixty-mile swath laid waste by Sherman in Georgia in...

  21. SIXTEEN Free Shave and a Haircut
    (pp. 183-198)

    When the three small sternwheel steamers delivering the Confederate raiders captured at Buffington Island arrived at Cincinnati on July 23, they anchored in the middle of the Ohio River all morning. Word spread through the city and over the river in Newport and Covington that Morgan’s men had come, and a great crowd gathered on both sides of the river, on the landings and wharves, housetops and balconies. When an adequate guard detachment had been organized, the men were unloaded and placed in railroad cars. General Burnside and Governor Tod extended them the rights of prisoners of war and sent...

  22. SEVENTEEN Deprived of Command
    (pp. 199-207)

    From Christmas to New Year’s, John and Mattie stayed in Danville, but he was anxious to go to the capital to press for the release of his men and begin reorganizing his command. They made the trip as soon as Mattie was able to travel, and in Richmond, after a day devoted to receiving the public, John initiated his efforts on Saturday, January 9. He hoped to get the officers transferred to military prisons first; then work on their exchange. The Union War Department still maintained that Morgan’s men were hostages for Neal Dow and his command. Therefore, Morgan visited...

  23. EIGHTEEN The Last Kentucky Raid
    (pp. 208-225)

    Describing the guerrilla army of young David, the Hebrew chronicler wrote: “And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them.” Guerrilla movements tend to attract individuals from the criminal fringe, and Morgan’s had done so all along but never to so great an extent as in early 1864. In Decatur, Kirkpatrick’s battalion had been the dumping ground for volunteers who swarmed in, responding to Morgan’s call in the newspapers. Some were former Morgan’s men; others were loafers, bummers,...

  24. NINETEEN The Final Gamble
    (pp. 226-244)

    On his way back to Abingdon from the Last Kentucky Raid, John wrote to Mattie: “How very anxious I am to see you & to hold you in my arms. Do not think I shall permit myself to be separated from you again.” Upon his return he learned that he had been named commander of the Department of Western Virginia and East Tennessee, his first and only departmental command, and one of the least desirable assignments in the entire army. There was overlapping jurisdiction and great confusion; the position was a revolving chair in which, in less than a year,...

  25. TWENTY Hero of the Lost Cause
    (pp. 245-260)

    The undertaker in Greeneville embalmed Morgan’s body, but it would not come to rest in the Lexington Cemetery for nearly four years. Meanwhile, as a Southern folk hero, he was honored with three funerals: one in Abingdon for Mattie and his men, another in Richmond for the Confederate nation, and a third in Lexington for his hometown and the state of Kentucky. By the time he was laid under the bluegrass, he was being deified as a local symbol of the Lost Cause, uniting more Kentuckians under a banner of nostalgic hero worship than he was able to do in...

  26. NOTES
    (pp. 261-292)
    (pp. 293-294)
  28. INDEX
    (pp. 295-306)
  29. Back Matter
    (pp. 307-307)