We are grateful to Beverly Mussari for sending the following to us.
Morgan’s Ohio Raid by Mort Künstler
“The Rebels are coming, the Rebels are coming!” General John Hunt Morgan’s Raid Montgomery, Ohio - July 14, 1863
Confederate General John Hunt Morgan crossed the Ohio River near Louisville on July 8th, 1863, with 2500 cavalry. His plan was a diversionary raid intended to draw Union forces away from the Confederate fighting front in Tennessee. Five days later, on July 13th, they entered Ohio near Harrison, and in one long night and day crossed northern Hamilton County with Union forces in close pursuit. After an exhausting, moonless night march, the Confederate column crossed the Mill Creek at Sharonville and burned the bridge to slow the Union forces that were at times just hours behind. Men as well as horses were exhausted from want of sleep, having been in their saddles for eleven days. They were often both nodding together, and at times the horses staggered as if they were intoxicated. In the pitch-black night, some would lose sight of the column ahead and wander off on a side road and get lost. With the first light of dawn appearing on the horizon, Morgan and his colonels decided to spread out and forage, covering over a six mile swath of northeastern Hamilton County. He sent his troopers on multiple routes from Sharonville to conceal their planned crossing of the Little Miami River and to maximize foraging. Cavalry separated into groups of two to twenty men in search of food, water, and fresh horses. Colonel Basil Duke’s 1st Brigade with the wagons and supplies marched toward Montgomery by way of Creek Road, Glendale Milford Road, and Zig Zag Road. Other detachments were sent along Lebanon Road, Kemper Road and Cornell Road. Morgan led another column along Reading Road, Cooper Road, then south on Plainfield to Blue Ash and Galbraith Road to the planned rendezvous at Montgomery.
General John Hunt Morgan
General Morgan was the epitome of a southern gentleman and had ordered his men not to harm citizens, to respect women and children and not to fire their weapons unless provoked. They sought only a meal, drink and fresh horses to replace their exhausted mounts. However looting and pillaging did occur. In some houses, “they turned over beds, peeped into cellars, cupboards, drawers, closets, and even babies’ cradles, in search of arms, ammunition, greenbacks, and such. They helped themselves very liberally to such eatables as could be found, besides ordering the women to prepare more”. Some pillaging seemed senseless, without method or purpose. Calico was the staple article of appropriation. Riders who could find one, tied a bolt of it to their saddle, only to throw it away and get a fresh one at the first opportunity. One man carried a bird cage, with three canaries in it, for two days. There were very few articles of real value taken. They would, with few exceptions, throw away their plunder after a while, like children tired of their toys. Many stories of the raid were told by residents and have persisted in family and local histories.
- At 3:30 AM, Morgan’s men approached Mt. Notre Dame, the Catholic Boarding school in Reading. The sisters, who had been alerted, had hidden their horses in the basement of their laundry after covering the floor with straw to quiet the hooves. Their prayers were answered when Confederates failed to find the horses.
- At the Gorman Farm near Reading and Cooper Roads, the cavalry stopped for water at the spring house and left with several horses.
- Around 5AM on July 14th, a group of Morgan’s guard arrived at the Schenck farm near East Galbraith Road looking for horses and food. One of the Schenck family, disguised as a nurse, greeted the soldiers at the door. When the raiders demanded food, she offered to feed them outdoors, warning that a child was sick with smallpox in the parlor which had sheets covering the door and shuttered windows. Morgan himself and his staff later arrived and sat outside briefly for breakfast. A short time later they left, never realizing that that the family had hidden their two prized horses and a family of escaped slaves in the parlor.
- The Hunt family at 4364 Hunt Road lost six horses to the raiders.
- Residents of the Christ home at 9854 Zig Zag Road lowered a bag of jewels into their well by their kitchen until the raiders had passed.
- The Todd family, whose elegant home stood at 8765 Montgomery Road, had a beautifully matched black team of horses and buggy stolen. The two Kentucky thoroughbreds left by the raiders provided the start for a harness horse stable that he, his son, and grandson operated well into the 20th century.
After breakfast at the Schenck farm, General Morgan proceeded east along Galbraith Road, crossing Montgomery Road, continuing on Kugler Mill Road past Miami and Blome Roads. As the lead elements approached Loveland-Madeira Road at the Sycamore Creek, they found their route blocked by barricades and rifle pits newly placed the day before by Union militia from nearby Camp Dennison. After a brief firefight, the Confederates were unable to dislodge the militia. In order to avoid a time consuming engagement, Morgan decided to turn back along Blome and Montgomery Roads to rendezvous with Colonel Duke in Montgomery. They passed through Montgomery about 7:30 AM without major incident. From there, they turned east on Cooper, travelled over Spooky Hollow Road, through Remington to the Little Miami River ford just below the current Remington Bridge. After fording the river, Morgan and his main column headed north on Beech Road while Colonel Duke headed south along the river to Miamiville with plans to capture and burn the strategic railroad bridge just north of Camp Dennison. General Morgan continued his raid through southeastern Ohio. Union forces prevented him from crossing the Ohio back into Kentucky or West Virginia and on July 26th, he finally surrendered near the Pennsylvania border with 363 officers and men. It is estimated that he had successfully diverted over 140,000 Union soldiers from the main fighting fronts of the Civil War. Morgan and his cavalry became heroes of the Confederacy and left hundreds of stories of their trek north of the Ohio River that will never be forgotten by those whose paths they crossed.
(The State of Ohio has placed signs directing motorists along the route followed by Morgan and his men. There are two signs at the Hunt House as well as a commemorative marker.)