Raiders doomed by change in strategy

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second and last part of a series about Morgan’s Raid.)

A SIGNIFICANT Union force occupied Rayland, then called Portland, when Confederate Brig. Gen. John Hunt Morgan and his raiders were trying to find a way to cross the Ohio River so they could travel to the South 150 years ago.

This is part of the information on one of the interpretive signs for the John Hunt Morgan Heritage Trail. It’s included on a sign for Deyarmonville near Dillonvale.

This sign dating events for July 25, 1863, also mentions Bellaire where federal troops had landed.

Morgan and his men knew that their federal pursuers were closing in, and an important change was made when Major Gen. Ambrose Burnside, directing the Union pursuit from his Cincinnati headquarters, changed his strategy.

The sign notes in part: “Morgan and his troops continued to hold the advantage as long as they left the countryside in their wake strewn with tired horses and stripped of provisions. Burnside decided to place fresh troops in front of Morgan and sent Major William B. Way of the 9th Michigan Cavalry and Major George Rue of the 9th Kentucky U.S. Cavalry, up the Ohio River. They disembarked at Steubenville and Bellaire, equipped with fresh horses and artillery. Burnside’s change in strategy would doom Morgan and his raiders.”

When extending his raid from Indiana to Ohio on July 13, 1863, Morgan and the raiders invaded Harrison in Hamilton County where the first of 56 interpretive signs on the trail was erected.

In the immediate Eastern Ohio area, interpretive signs for Harrison County along with the headings for information presented include Piedmont, “The Ride Gets Harder”; Moorefield, “Avoiding Another Fight”; Georgetown, “Fight or Ride On?”; and Harrisville, “Tired But Safe Now.”

The Jefferson County signs include Deyarmonville (near Dillonvale), “A New Union Strategy”; Smithfield, “Another Trick”; Wintersville, “Two Ridges Church and Friendly Fire”; The Eastern (a mining community), “Nearing the End”; and Bergholz, “Overnight at Old Nebo” (Bergholz’s former name); and Monroeville, “In A Trap.”

Columbiana County’s signs are at West Grove Cemetery, “A Running Fight”; Salineville, “Final Engagement at Sharp’s Farm”; Favers, “A Premature Surrender”; and the West Point vicinity, “Surrender Site.”

The Raiders had decreased from about 2,000 when they entered the Buckeye state to less than 350 when the surrender occurred at West Point in Columbiana County, Some were killed and some – including approximately 300, who left from Meigs County — had escaped across the river to the South. Morgan and his men were attempting to reach the Ohio River so they could return to the South.

When they reached Eastern Ohio, they were hungry, sore and deprived of sleep. At one point in the New Athens area, the raiders were camped barely 2 miles from the Union forces.

Morgan had disobeyed the orders of Confederate Gen. Braxton Braxton by leaving Kentucky and crossing the Ohio River. He entered Indiana July 8 and traveled eastward. His aim was to divert as many Union troops as possible from Tennessee.

TheRaiders not only stole horses and money, but they also took keepsakes for their families. Later, they might discard some of their loot.

An interpretive sign in Harrison, for example, noted that one man came out “with a whole stock of women’s hats, all piled on top of each other on his head. There must have been a dozen of them.”

Most descriptions reveal Morgan as a gentleman. The Civil War Trust website notes that he is “remembered as the ideal of the romantic Southern cavalryman.”

After his surrender at West Point, Morgan eventually was taken to the Ohio State Penitentiary, and he and six others escaped. He and another raider were able to board a passenger train bound for Cincinnati. They separated and Morgan found himself to be seated beside a major in the Union Army. When the train passed the penitentiary walls, the major is said to have remarked that there was the prison where they put the Rebel, General Morgan, for safekeeping.

Morgan reportedly smiled and replied that he hoped “they’ll always keep him as safe as he is now,” according to “Morgan’s Raiders’ by Dee Alexander Brown.

Lester Horwitz in “The Longest Raid of the Civil War” reports that Morgan once said, “Everything important (for better or worse) happens to me on Sunday.”

That was true in several instances , personal and otherwise. The Battle of Buffington Island occurred Sunday, July 19, 1863, and his capture in the West Point area was on Sunday, July 16, 1863.

The dashing and daring Southerner was killed in Greemeville, Tenn., Sept. 4, 1864 – also, a Sunday.

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