IX: Morgan's Raiders
The account of Morgan’s Raiders is included here because this invasion of the North by Confederate troops included incursions into Gallia County and included Clay Township where the Henry Wise family lived, and because the 7th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry was involved in their pursuit and capture. Salmon Bickel, John Wise Jr. and John M. Alexander’s brother-in-law, John Hill, all served in that regiment. Of these only John Wise Jr. came home alive.
July of 1863, just 4 months after Henry Wise’s death, the war
had reached its climax. On July 3 the Battle of Gettysburg had been
decided and the tide of war had turned in favor of the North. On the
next day, July 4, following a horrendous forty-seven day siege, Vicksburg
finally fell into Union hands. It would be the year 1948 before Vicksburg
would again celebrate the 4th of July. But although history would show
that the tide had turned, the outcome was still very much in doubt
to those who were taking part, and on the day before these two momentous
events took place, another military adventure began, which would cause
concern to the residents of the northern states of Indiana and Ohio.
On July 2, Brigadier General John Hunt Morgan, a Confederate cavalry
commander on the Tennessee-Kentucky border, led 2,500 troops across
the Cumberland River and headed north. He broke through Union lines.
Over the next few days Generals Hobson and Judah assembled a 2,500
man Federal Force for the long chase.104
Morgan’s men reached the Ohio River at Brandenburg,
Kentucky, just west of Louisville, on July 8, and they crossed over into Indiana.
Hobson’s men crossed the river the next day. Now, deep in enemy territory,
Morgan began to experience the disadvantages of being the invader. He began to
be harassed by local militia, and even ordinary citizens. But he left a trail
of destruction for his pursuers. He burned bridges, destroyed rail lines and
foraged for food and horses. On July 10, Hobson was five miles behind Morgan.
He was being slowed by Morgan’s tactics, and was especially hampered by
being unable to obtain fresh horses. Food, however, wasn’t a problem as
it was reported that the local populace kept the troops so well fortified they
complained of being overfed.105
Morgan crossed into Ohio on July 13. By that time he
had lost 500 of his troops to Hobson’s pursuers and to local militia. He
then crossed through what are today Cincinnati’s northern suburbs, and
then headed southeast again towards the Ohio River, and reached Ripley on the
14th. By this time escape back into friendlier Confederate territory seemed to
be uppermost on his mind, but he decided to not attempt a crossing here, and
instead would head for Buffington Island in Meigs County, where fording could
be done in water only two feet deep. General Judah had given up the land chase,
and had boarded steamboats in Louisville and was heading upstream, hoping to
head Morgan off.
On the 15th Morgan’s men set out for Buffington
Island. Brigadier General J. D. Cox, sent this message to the mayor of Gallipolis: “The
militia of Gallipolis may remain in that vicinity. If Morgan should be heard
of as positively moving in that direction, they must be used to fell timber into
the roads and remove planking of bridges, so as to delay him till our troops
can overtake him. Show this to the militia commanders as authority. We do not
think Morgan will get across the Scioto; but if he does, the directions above
should be spread every where and carried out by the militia and people.”106
Morgan did cross the Scioto, and later that day he was
in Jackson, just outside Gallia County. Military communiqués on that day
show Federal commanders trying to guess where Morgan will go. One mentions that
the force in Gallipolis is sufficient to prevent him from trying to cross there.
General Judah’s men have arrived and are protecting the main road into
Gallipolis. On the 17th there seems to be a strong suspicion that Morgan will
head for the Buffington Island crossing in Meigs County. That indeed is what
the main body of Morgan’s men did, but a smaller group separated and headed
into Gallia County. This was probably a foraging party, looking for supplies
and food. They came through the villages of Vinton and Porter, and at one point
were probably about 8-10 miles or so from the Bickel’s Perry Township farm.
The main body passed through Middleport, in Meigs County. (This is the town the
Atherton Fuller family moved to in 1868).107
Morgan passed just north of Pomeroy on the 18th and
pushed slowly on toward Portland, on the river. He had wanted to cross the river
on this day, but his advance had been slowed considerably by the delaying tactics
of the local militia and private citizens. They had taken their axes and tools
and felled trees to block roads, and they had destroyed bridges. Anything at
all they could do to slow Morgan down.108
General Judah had moved his troops up from Gallia County, and Hobson was coming from behind. There were gunboats on the river. The following morning, Morgan found himself surrounded. Morgan’s Raiders were defeated in the Battle of Buffington Island, and 700 of his troops were captured, and an additional 120 killed or wounded. Morgan and about 40 of his men escaped capture and headed up river. A 1000-man force continued on the chase. Military dispatches on the 24th indicated that troops had been dispatched by rail to Bellaire, in Pultney Township, because they expected Morgan to try and cross the Ohio River there. Morgan, however, skirted Belmont County, possibly because of this force, but then continued due north and two days later, he was captured on July 26 at the village of West Point in Columbiana County, more than 1000 miles from where his raid had started.109
On July 19, a detachment of Morgan’s men who had
become separated, were caught by Federal troops as they tried to ford the Ohio
River at the northern Gallia county village of Cheshire, and after a short battle,
were forced to surrender.
The 7th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry participated in the pursuit of Morgan. The following is quoted from a short sketch about that regiment. “In July it followed John Morgan into Ohio and took part in his capture, and in September returned to East Tennessee, where it met disaster in the Holsten Valley, losing over one hundred men.”110 The 7th Ohio Cavalry is also mentioned in the final pursuit of Morgan just before he reached Buffington Island,111 and
after the battle the 7th OVC escorted some of the prisoners off the battlefield.112
An interesting aftermath to this episode occurred in November of the same year. Although the majority of his captured troops had been sent to Camp Morton in Indianapolis, and Camp Douglas in Chicago, Morgan and his close associates were incarcerated at the Ohio state prison in Columbus. On November 27, he escaped along with six of his companions, and returned to the South to resume the war as a cavalry leader.113 One of the captives had been a stone mason and another remembered the underground adventures from Victor Hugo's Les Miserables and they developed a plot to tunnel from their confinement chamber to an adjacent air chamber. They then made their escape. Morgan, himself, then bought and used a train ticket to Cincinnati and then hired a boy in a rowboat to take him across the river to Kentucky.114
The end of the war in 1865 must have been an enormous
relief for the entire country. Ohio and the rest of the North for the most part
had escaped the direct effects of the war as far as actual confrontation with
enemy troops, but considering lost sons and husbands and disrupted lives, the
war had taken a terrible toll.