John Hunt Morgan: Biography
A breif biography of John Hunt Morgan, one of the South's most gallant generals.
John Hunt Morgan was born on June 1, 1825, in Huntsville, Alabama. He moved to Lexington, Kentucky as a young boy. He was educated at Transylvania College in Lexington, Kentucky. He enlisted in the Mexican War and saw service at Buena Vista. After the war he manufactured hemp in Lexington and had a general merchandising business left to him by his Grandfather Hunt. He supported Kentucky neutrality at the start of the war but was compelled to join the Confederate Forces after his state declared its support for the Union.
He organized the Lexington Rifles in 1857, officially enlisted in the Confederate Army on October 27, 1861, and was quickly promoted to the rank of Colonel on April 4, 1862, after leading the 2nd Kentucky Cavalry on a successful campaign. His exploits made him one of the legendary figures of the Confederacy. Morgan was infamous for his raids from Tennessee into Kentucky by which he would not only disrupt enemy communications by tapping into Union telegraph lines, but also round up fresh troops and supplies for the Confederate Army. His series of raids into Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio earned him a vote of thanks from the Confederate Congress and the undying animosity of a large segment of the frightened North. The raids of the romantic Morgan thrilled Southerners throughout the Confederacy and struck fear in the heart of many a Yankee. Morgan went on to be promoted to Brigadier General and commander of the Department of Western Virginia and East Tennessee.
In February of 1862, John Hunt Morgan established his headquarters at Murfreesboro and became acquainted with the Mattie Ready's family. Morgan, in fact, was quite taken with Mattie, and after a brief courtship, they became engaged in March 1862. They were married the following December, after which Morgan immediately left on another raid. This particular raid resulted in the destruction of the L & N's Muldraugh trestles.
In the summer of 1863, Morgan's pursuit of danger would lead him on his Great Raid into Indiana and Ohio, and ultimately into the awaiting arms of the Union army as he was captured and imprisoned. On his most famous raid north of the Ohio in 1863 he was captured near New Lisbon and imprisoned in the Ohio State Penitentiary, together with a number of his officers. Back in Tennessee, Mattie, who was pregnant, anxiously awaited his every letter. Morgan managed to escape on November 27, 1863, the same day Mattie gave birth to a little girl. The baby struggled to live, and died as Morgan finally made his way to freedom.
Toward the end of the civil war, John Hunt Morgan bivouacked in Greeneville, Tennessee, on the night of September 3, 1864. John Hunt Morgan was resting in a third-floor bedroom of Catherine Williams's mansion. He was surprised by enemy troops. He quickly arose, grabbed his belt and holster, and fled, dressing himself as he ran down the stairs. He slipped out the back door and drew his weapons: a pair of Colt Navy revolvers, which he had carried earlier in the war. Sarah E. Thompson, pointed him out to Union troops. He tried vainly to escape and was shot in the back, dying several minutes later.
A bullet fired by a Confederate-turned-Yankee soldier cut short the life and military career of one of the South's most gallant generals, leaving behind his wife, Martha, pregnant with their daughter.
"But our victories have not been achieved without loss. We have to mourn some brave and dear comrades. Their names will remain in our breasts, their fame outlives them. They died in defense of a good cause. They died like gallant soldiers--with their front to the foe. Officers and men! Your conduct makes me proud to command you! Fight always as you fought yesterday, and you are invincible."