Morgan’s Trail

EASTERN Ohioans probably felt relieved 149 years ago today when Confederate Brig. Gen. John Hunt Morgan was captured in Columbiana County.

The dashing gentleman had two nicknames. He was known as the “Thunderbolt of the Confederacy” and “King of Horse Thieves,” depending on whether one favored the South or the North.

Morgan was familiar with Eastern Ohio because he traveled through the area as a drover.

CURRENTLY, Morgan’s Raiders are gaining attention because of the John Hunt Morgan Heritage Trail. It was announced earlier this year that the delivery of trail signs for Ohio is scheduled in August or September. The Ohio Morgan Trail guidebook also is expected to be completed in that time frame.

The Ohio Historical Society and Ohio Civil War Trail Commission have been working on 550-mile project in Ohio since 1999.

The trail, a 1,000-mile long driving tour, involves the states of Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio. State-wide dedications of the trail in Ohio are scheduled in July of 1863, the 150th anniversary of the Morgan’s Indiana-Ohio Raid, in Hamilton County, Meigs County and Columbiana County.

Morgan led the raid by violating Gen. Braxton Bragg’s orders not to cross the Ohio River. The raiders traveled farther north than any other Confederate unit.

AN ARTICLE about Morgan Raiders’ entry into Guernsey County was given by a Cambridge newspaper in 1863. As related in the “History of Guernsey County, Ohio,” by Col. Cyrus P. Sarchet, the article notes, in part:

“John Morgan, with the remnant of a band composed of the most villainous cut-throats and scoundrels, the sweepings and accumulations of two years of murdering and plundering among helpless people, amounting in number to probably six hundred, found his way into this county on Thursday, the 22nd inst., and entered Cumberland about three o’clock in the afternoon of the same day.”

AFTER his capture, Morgan and six officers escaped from the Ohio Penitentiary in November 1863. He and another officer rode by train from Columbus to Cincinnati.

He reportedly was seated beside a Union officer who talked about Morgan in unflattering terms, and Morgan agreed with him.

We don’t know if that story is true, but it fits the daring of the Confederate leader.