American soldier John Hunt Morgan, also referred to as Thunderbolt, fought as a Confederate commander from 1861 until 1865. Morgan organized the 2nd Kentucky Cavalry Regiment and participated in the Tennessee Battle of Shiloh in April 1862. Read on to learn more about his remarkable tale.
Confederate General John Hunt Morgan led a force of 2,400 cavalrymen on a raid through southern Indiana and Ohio in the summer of 1863. The operation terrified much of the Midwest and made stunning headlines in newspapers all throughout the nation. After being chased for more than six weeks, Morgan and the remaining members of his command were cornered and taken prisoner in Columbiana County, Ohio. Morgan and his officers were sent to the state prison in Columbus instead of a POW camp because it was said that federal officers had been mistreated.
The widowed Morgan had married Tennessee’s Mattie Ready, 22, six months before the start of his raid. A few months later, as federal soldiers occupied east Tennessee, a pregnant Mattie was compelled to escape her house and was eventually taken in by a family in Danville, Virginia. The stress of her husband’s captivity caused Mattie to give birth to a baby girl on November 27, 1863, when she was in Danville. The next day, the kid passed away.
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On the exact day his daughter died, John Hunt Morgan and six other convicts tunneled out of their cells and scaled the prison wall using ropes made from bedsheets and a grappling hook built from a fireplace poker. This allowed them to escape from their prison. Morgan made his way south by hopping trains, traveling at night, and receiving help from Confederate supporters. By Christmas, he and Mattie were in Danville thanks to his daring escape, which increased his notoriety as a folk hero.
However, despite the fact that Morgan was feted, wined, and dined by fans, his star was not shining brilliantly within the military command, which understood that his flashy (and unapproved) raids had little military benefit and did not warrant the expense in men and resources. In June 1864, after yet another chaotic and disastrous raid, the Confederate government started secretly putting together charges against Morgan in an attempt to get rid of him as leader.
While this was going on, in August, John Hunt Morgan was given command of the Confederate forces in the strongly pro-Union and bitterly split regions of southwestern Virginia and eastern Tennessee. He relocated to his new headquarters in Abingdon, Virginia, and started making plans for the raid on Knoxville right away. On September 3, Morgan’s 1,600-man force entered east Tennessee.
On the first night of the attack, John Hunt Morgan established his headquarters at the residence of Mrs. Catherine Williams in Greeneville, Tennessee, on the first night of the attack, while the rest of his men camped nearby. One of Mrs. Williams’ sons served in the Confederate army and one served in the Federal army. She was a widow.
That night, a Greeneville kid was returning home with cornmeal from a neighboring grist mill when Confederate foragers stopped him and grabbed the grain from him. The irate lad immediately galloped to the Federal Colonel Alvan Gillem’s headquarters and informed him that there were Confederates nearby. He instantly gave the order to attack, presuming they were the kind of tiny force he was used to dealing with. Gillem’s force rode through the night, the sound of their approach being muffled by the heavy rain, and at first dawn, unaware of what they were actually up against, they launched a surprise attack against the Confederates.
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A Greeneville resident raced to the Union lines shortly after the battle started, yelling, “For God’s sake, get out of here! If you don’t leave right away, Morgan will kill each and every one of you! Morgan is here with thousands of men. The man responded that General Morgan was at Mrs. Williams’ house when pressed for more details. Even as they were starting to leave, a federal commander dispatched a squad to the Williams residence with orders to bring Morgan back, alive or dead.
When the shooting started, John Hunt Morgan, who was still in bed, didn’t pay it any attention until Mrs. Williams hurried in and said that there were Yankees in the yard. Morgan jumped out of bed, pulled his pants over his nightshirt, slipped his feet barefoot into his boots, and sprinted out of the home holding two pistols. When he entered a vineyard, Private Andrew Campbell noticed him.
When the war first started, Campbell, an Irishman, enrolled in a Confederate regiment of Arkansas infantry. He eventually deserted and enlisted in a Union regiment of Tennessee cavalry. Campbell raised his gun, fired, and missed after spotting a man running around with a gun in his hands while wearing boots and a nightshirt in the grape arbors. He swiftly got off his horse, placed his rifle across a fence, carefully aimed, and fired once more. This time, John Hunt Morgan was instantaneously killed as the shooter’s bullet pierced the man’s heart.
General John Hunt Morgan’s passing was the subject of intense debate. Southern newspapers reported that he had been shot while turning himself in, that his body had been tortured, and that he had been betrayed by Mrs. Williams’ daughter-in-law (whose husband was a Federal soldier). The events as stated above are probably correct, while there is still some space for question.
Seven months after the passing of her husband, Mattie gave birth to a daughter, whom she called Johnnie Hunt Morgan. Mattie remarried in 1873, and she had five additional children with her new spouse before passing away from tuberculosis at the age of 47. Johnnie married a Presbyterian preacher in Alabama at the age of 23, six months after the passing of her mother. A few weeks later, she passed away from typhoid.
Tale of John Hunt Morgan’s death
John Hunt Morgan was given command of the Trans-Allegheny Department on August 22, 1864, which at the time included the Confederate forces in eastern Tennessee and southwestern Virginia. However, around this time, certain Confederate officials were covertly looking into Morgan on suspicion of banditry, which most likely led to his dismissal from leadership. He started planning a raid on Knoxville, Tennessee.
He was taken by surprise by a Union raid on Greeneville, Tennessee, on September 4, 1864. He tried to flee, but Union cavalrymen shot him in the back, killing him. In Lexington Cemetery, Morgan was laid to rest.
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