Campaigns with the daring raiding riders of the Confederacy
The war fought by the daring Confederate cavalry raiders is a singular and interesting element of the history of the American Civil War and one that has remained perennially fascinating to its students. Two of that war’s most successful CSA commanders were Nathan Bedford Forrest and John Hunt Morgan. The author of this book served under both generals with Duke’s 2nd Kentucky Cavalry and he kept a comprehensive diary of his wartime experiences which he later published as a memoir. Berry’s military career in such company could not have been anything but thrilling and, indeed, he was wounded in action several times and was captured by Union forces and escaped on thirteen occasions. Colonel Berry’s story is filled with the skirmishing actions typical of the war he fought in with men such as Jesse James and Charles Quantrell, both of whom also appear in these pages. This is an essential American Civil War personal account for every library on the subject and is recommended.
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General Morgan, followed by his well mounted staff, dashed by with hat in hand bowing and smiling his thanks. Morgan on horseback was a striking figure. There were few men in either army, who possessed the easy graceful poise and striking proportions. His easy management of his horse, made him appear almost a harmonious part of the animal itself. Six feet tall, finely, almost exquisitely proportioned, he had handsome, regular features, blue-gray eyes, and small foot and hand for a man. His was the air and manner of a polished gentleman, the noble bearing of a born leader, and a soldier. Straight as an Indian arrow shaft, always neatly and tastefully dressed, elegantly mounted, he was superb, the ideal cavalry officer.
At this moment he was at the height of his fame, and happiness—married only 10 days previously to an accomplished lady, made a brigadier general, justly, deservedly, in command of the finest cavalry division of the army, beloved almost to idolatry, by his men, retaining their devotion by an extraordinary great confidence in their valour and prowess, conscious of his own great powers, yet wearing this with modesty. This was John H. Morgan’s situation on that December morning.
Ah, what is fame? What is ambition? A shadow, a hollow empty thing.
This column marching all day, reached the sand shoals on the Cumberland river, just before dark. The first brigade crossed, and camped for the night. At early daylight next morning this division made thirty miles, and when, within five miles of Glasgow, Colonel Breckinridge sent Captain Will Jones forward as a scout. He encountered a battalion of Michigan cavalry, three companies, which he drove out of the town. Our loss was 4 killed and 7 wounded. Captain Jones died of his wounds received here.
On the following morning, Christmas Day, pushing forward the advance, we encountered one hundred of these Michigan cavalry and charged and routed them, killing nine of them. We reached a place known as Bear Wallow, where we had a brisk skirmish. Our scouts had frequent encounters with small bands of home guards. Two regiments were sent to make a feint upon Murphysville.
I shall never forget this day because we came across and captured the largest sutler’s wagon I ever saw, loaded with all kinds of Christmas good things. The sutler was going to Glasgow. This was the most enormous outfit I have ever seen and was drawn by 20 large percheron horses. I believe this wagon would hold more than the largest railroad car and it was loaded with a fabulous variety and quantity of everything good to eat. What a tempting prize to hungry soldiers! This wagon belonged to a Yankee army sutler. He met eager customers who prepared themselves for a much longer credit than he anticipated. I believe there was enough to furnish every man in the command a Christmas dinner and supper for three or four days.
On reaching Rolling Fork Bridge, a natural fortiication and a very strong position, we found it guarded by some two hundred and fifty men in two impregnable stockades. We being in the advance met with a stubborn resistance. Having received a very severe wound in the right leg I remained on my horse because I could not dismount, but dismounted my men and sent for the artillery to reduce the place. After placing several shells and solid shots into these stockades and the covered bridge we induced the garrison to surrender. We charged through the bridge and cleared the road on the north side of the creek.
Marching rapidly forward, we surprised and captured twelve Yankee pickets. On this road near the town of Lebanon, Kentucky, some two miles away. General Morgan sent two regiments to the right and left and waited for them to reach their positions; then from the opposite direction we entered the town, and sent a demand for a surrender. Colonel Dick Hanson’s regiment occupied the town. The demand was refused, a company of this regiment which had been out on a scout was returning to town and coming suddenly upon our men, attacked us vigorously. We promptly made a counter charge and compelled them to surrender, killing 30 and wounding 17.
We now captured the town and moved on the freight depot; from all directions these soldiers fought us for several hours, until they were forced to surrender some six hundred men. Our loss was serious. Lieutenant Tom Morgan, brother of General Morgan, was killed. Our loss in killed was 39, wounded 47. We found here large supplies of fixed ammunition, arms and commissary stores of all kinds. Our command was better armed now than at any previous time. We marched to Springfield and here my company was detached to guard the prisoners while they were being paroled by our adjutant general and his assistants. As they received their paroles, they were turned loose to go home. It took us until night to get through with this duty. When Colonel Alston finished the work, we followed the command.
Now we moved toward Woodsonville on Green River, thence north along the Louisville & Nashville rail, road capturing some provisions after a sharp fight at Nolin Bridge at Bacon Creek. We reduced the stockades there and at various other places along the line of railroad. We captured about a hundred prisoners, paroling them to be exchanged. The command moved upon Elizabethtown where an unusual and very ridiculous thing occurred.
The advance met a large body of men under a flag of truce. The officer, a very talkative pompous fellow, handed our captain a letter from the colonel commanding the town to General Morgan demanding our immediate and unconditional surrender. He said we were now amidst the thickest of our foes; that we were practically surrounded and to prevent the unnecessary effusion of blood, it was best that we should surrender at once with all our forces. General Morgan came forward and glancing over the contents of the letter, said, to the officer, with a very polite bow, a ludicrous smile on his face, “Give the colonel my compliments and say to him I should much prefer to discuss this matter with him personally in Elizabethtown.”
We moved forward upon the town. General Morgan had already sent forward two regiments to surround the place on the north and east sides. Dispositions being made, we attacked the town vigorously and after a sharp two hours’ fighting, we compelled them to surrender. There were about eight hundred prisoners captured here, eighty killed and one hundred and twenty-six wounded. The doughty colonel fled at the first fire, and left his soldiers to their fate. Our losses here were six killed and thirteen wounded. Moving along the line of the railroad we destroyed the two light trestle bridges across the gorges in Muldraugh’s Hill to the mouth of the tunnel, and also the bridge across Rolling Fork. We crossed this creek with much difficulty as the banks were precipitous and boggy.