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History of Morgan’s Cavalry

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History of Morgan’s Cavalry
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Author(s): Basil W. Duke
Date Published: 2010/04
Page Count: 464
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-115-7
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-116-4

The South's raiding cavalry on campaign

This substantial, well known and highly regarded work presents itself to the reader as a history of a renowned unit of Confederate Cavalry. Whilst that is undoubtedly the case, the narrative is made the more relevant, interesting and indeed entertaining because its author rode within its ranks. So the book also works admirably as a first hand account of the experiences of a cavalier of the South at war. John Hunt Morgan was a Kentuckian and a regular soldier who was drawn, in common with so many of his native state, reluctantly into war against the federal government. He raised the 2nd Kentucky Cavalry regiment and as its Colonel fought at Shiloh, but it was as a raider that Morgan's Cavalry achieved most fame and, for some, notoriety. 'Morgan's Raid' which took place in July 1863 was a remarkable feat of cavalry command. With lightning manoeuvres Morgan broke past the Union lines and led nearly 2,500 Confederate cavalrymen deep into Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio making this action the deepest incursion into the north of any body of uniformed Confederate troops in the war. For those interested in the dash, élan and actions of this redoubtable body of horse soldiers and their talented commander, Duke's book—a deservedly recognised classic—is essential. Available in soft cover and hard cover with dust jacket for collectors.

While traversing the region between Knoxville and Sparta, we were repeatedly fired upon by bushwhackers, but had only one man killed by them—a Texan of Gano’s squadron. We made many unsuccessful attempts to capture them, but they always chose the most inaccessible points to fire from and we could never get to them. Frequently they would shoot at us from a ledge of rocks not forty feet above our heads, and yet to get to it we would have had to go hundreds of yards—they consequently always escaped.<br>
At Sparta, Champ Ferguson reported himself as a guide, and I, for the first time, saw him, although I had often heard of him before. He had the reputation of never giving quarter, and, no doubt, deserved it (when upon his own private expeditions), although when with Morgan he attempted no interference with prisoners. This redoubted personage was a native of Clinton County, Kentucky, and was a fair specimen of the kind of characters which the wild mountain country produces. He was a man of strong sense, although totally uneducated, and of the intense will and energy, which, in men of his stamp and mode of life, have such a tendency to develop into ferocity, when they are in the least injured or opposed. He was grateful for kindness, and instinctively attached to friends, and vindictive to his enemies. He was known as a desperate man before the war, and ill-treatment of his wife and daughter, by some soldiers and home-guards enlisted in his own neighbourhood, made him relentless in his hatred of all Union men; he killed all the parties concerned in the outrage upon his family, and, becoming then an outlaw, kept up that style of warfare. It is probable that, at the close of the war, he did not himself know how many men he had killed. He had a brother, of the same character as himself, in the Union army, and they sought each other persistently, mutually bent on fratricide. Champ became more widely known than any of them, but the mountains of Kentucky and Tennessee were filled with such men, who murdered every prisoner that they took, and they took part, as their politics inclined them, with either side. For a long time Ferguson hunted, or was hunted by, a man of his own order and nearly as notorious on the other side, namely, “Tinker Dave Beattie.” On the evening of the 7th, we encamped in the vicinity of Livingston. Leaving early next morning, by midday we reached the Cumberland River at the ford near the small village of Selina. Here Colonel Morgan received positive information of the strength and position of the enemy at Tompkinsville, eighteen miles from Selina. He had learned at Knoxville that a Federal garrison was at this place, and had determined to attack it. One battalion of the 9th Pennsylvania, under command of Major Jordan, about three hundred and fifty strong, constituted the entire force. It was Morgan’s object to surprise and capture the whole of it. He accordingly sent forward scouts to watch and report everything going on at their camp, while he halted the bulk of the command until nightfall. The men employed the interval of rest in attention to their horses, and in bathing in the river. At eleven o’clock the March was resumed; the road was rough and encumbered at some points with fallen timber, so that the column made slow progress. When within four or five miles of Tompkinsville, Gano’s squadron and Hamilton’s company of Tennessee Partisan Rangers, which had joined us the evening before, were sent by a road which led to the right to get in the rear of the enemy and upon his line of retreat toward Glasgow. The rest of the command reached Tompkinsville at five o’clock. It was consequently broad daylight, and the enemy had information of our approach in time to form to receive us. Colonel Hunt was formed upon the left, and my regiment upon the right, with the howitzers in the centre. It was altogether unnecessary to form any reserve, and as our numbers were so superior, our only care was to “lap around” far enough on the flanks to encircle the game.<br>
The enemy were posted on a thickly wooded hill, to reach which we had to cross open fields. They fired, therefore, three or four volleys while we were closing on them. The Second Kentucky did not fire until within about sixty yards of them, and one volley was then enough. The fight did not last ten minutes. The enemy lost about twenty killed and twenty or thirty wounded. Thirty prisoners, only, were taken on the ground, but Gano and Hamilton intercepted and captured a good many more, including the commander, Major Jordan. Our force was too much superior in strength for them to have made much resistance, as we outnumbered them more than two to one. <br>
Our loss was only in wounded, we had none killed. But a severe loss was sustained in Colonel Hunt, whose leg was shattered and it was necessary to leave him; he died in a few days of the wound. Three of the Texans also were wounded in their chase after the fugitives. The tents, stores, and camp equipage were destroyed. A wagon train of twenty wagons and fifty mules were captured and a number of cavalry horses. Abundant supplies of coffee, sugar, etc., etc., were found in the camp. The guns captured were useless breech-loading carbines, which were thrown away.