As a person who has always been involved in varied sorts of leadership positions and having to work with people in groups, every so often you come across someone who has great leadership capacity – people naturally follow them. But a negating problem that is also resident in some is a lack of capacity for “followership.” These folks are unable to coordinate their efforts within the larger picture of what others are doing around them. Though they may have some accomplishments, as time goes by, they become more of a curse than a blessing.
The Confederate raider John Hunt Morgan was one of these “lone wolf” types, and his most dramatic adventure into northern territory ended on this date of July 26 – 150 years ago today.
Morgan was born in Huntsville, Alabama in 1825 but was more connected to his mother’s home state of Kentucky. Attending Transylvania College, he was expelled after a couple of years due to bad behavior – dueling with a frat brother will get you into that sort of trouble! He served in the Mexican War, where he saw combat with the First Kentucky Cavalry under Zachary Taylor in the Battle of Buena Vista.
A merchant in Lexington, KY between the wars, he was not at first in favor of secession, though by the Spring of 1862 was connected to the Confederate cause in cavalry command (2nd KY). He achieved a good measure of fame and even the gratitude of the Confederate government for a series of raids in the first half of the Civil War, advancing to brigadier general on 12/11/1862. Morgan was a major pain for Don Carlos Buell, and also later against General Rosecrans (Murfreesboro Campaign), as he hampered their supply lines, etc.
As with other Southern cavalrymen and their exploits, his actions provided copious quantities of material for the press in both the North and South. This was especially true of his final raid from July 2-26, 1863.
Morgan had been granted permission to enter Kentucky, but he violated Braxton Bragg’s instructions not to journey over the Ohio River. Crossing over into Indiana, he moved into Ohio – passing near Cincinnati and sending it into a virtual panic. Pursued by cavalry and militia, he was bleeding men from his command, as they would spend even 21 hours a day in the saddle. Many of his cavalrymen were captured and held prisoner for the remainder of the War in the Camp Douglas Prisoner of War camp in Chicago – a place with a terribly high death rate.
Morgan and the fractional remains of his command were finally captured near New Lisbon, Ohio on July 26th. (Only about 400 of his original 2,400 made it back safely to the South.) Morgan and his officers were sent to the newly opened Ohio State Penitentiary. Adding to his legend, he and his men tunneled out on November 27, 1863; however, Morgan was killed in battle a year later.
I have often thought that if I had to go back in time and fight in the Civil War, I think I’d like to be a cavalryman – sure seems exciting. But I don’t think I’d want it to be under Morgan, as that is just about more excitement than I think I could handle!