Morgan’s Raid

In June of 1863, Brigadier General John Hunt Morgan and his group of Cavalrymen began an 1,100-mile raid that would bring Confederate troops within 40 miles of Pittsburgh. Morgan’s Raid was meant to coincide with the Confederate Vicksburg and Gettysburg campaigns. Morgan and his 2,460 handpicked cavalrymen rode out from Sparta, Tennessee through Kentucky where they were met with cheers from Confederate sympathizers. As they attempted to cross the Green River, Morgan’s troops encountered the 25th Michigan Infantry at Tebb’s Bend as the Battle of Gettysburg was occurring. On July 5, 1863, Morgan captured a very small Union Garrison at Lebanon, Kentucky. Morgan and his troops continued north crossing into Indiana. Morgan had a union split off and head East to confuse Union soldiers, but the unit was soon captured by the Union. After crossing into Indiana, a member of Morgan’s unit tapped telegraph lines and gave the war office several different descriptions of which way the troops were going, this caused great concern throughout the state as some thought the troops were headed to Indianapolis. Morgan and his troops continued East, crossing into Ohio. Major General Ambrose Burnside who was the commander of the Department of the Ohio for the Union Army tried to quickly organize Local troops and militia to stop and capture Morgan and his troops. Morgan and his troops were able to outflank Burnside and his troops and continued east through Indiana, pillaging food and supplies along the way. On July 13, 1863, Morgan and his troops crossed into Ohio, passing just north of Cincinnati.

Morgan - American Battlefield Trust
Brigadier General John Hunt Morgan – American Battlefield Trust

“The raid of the rebel Morgan into Indiana, which he seems to be pursuing with great boldness, has thoroughly aroused the people of that State and of Ohio to a sense of their danger. On 13th General Burnside declared martial law in Cincinnati, and in Covington and Newport on the Kentucky side. All business is suspended until further orders, and all citizens are required to organize in accordance with the direction of the State and municipal authorities. There is nothing definite as to Morgan’s whereabouts; but it is supposed that he will endeavor to move around the city of Cincinnati and cross the river between there and Maysville. The militia is concentrating, in obedience to the order of Governor Tod.”

Morgan and his Cavalrymen continued across Ohio, bypassing Burnside’s troops guarding Cincinnati, The Ohio Governor and General Burnside called for all available men to form militias and take up arms against the invaders. Morgan and his men encountered multiple skirmishes as they crossed Ohio, continuing to pillage and steal items along the way. Morgan’s troops reached the Ohio River, Burnside had troops and a gunboat waiting for Morgan there. Morgan and his men arrived there on the evening of July 18, 1863, Morgan decided not to engage the Union troops with daylight fading. By morning, the Union troops were had the advantage and the Battle of Buffington Island began. 750 of Morgan’s troops were captured by the Union, Morgan and his 400 remaining troops headed North through Ohio, not far from the river. Morgan and his men took rest in Triadelphia, WV, about 20 miles from the Pennsylvania border. On July 26, Morgan and his men had their final encounter with Union troops at Salinesville, Ohio, after Union soldiers had received notice that Morgan and his men passed just West of Steubenville. After a brief encounter, Morgan and his men were captured, and the raid ended. The reaction in the Pittsburgh area of the raid was one of fear, earthworks were built up and reinforced around the city and troops based in Pittsburgh were readied for an attack that luckily never came.

Entry_of_Morgan's_Raiders_into_Washington,_Ohio - Ohio History Central
Morgan in Washington, Ohio – Ohio Historical Society

One of the issues with the panic caused from the Confederate incursions was that many companies and the City of Pittsburgh itself too on expenses fortifying the city for a potential attack. While the City and its businesses would have had much to lose in a Confederate invasion, they felt they should be paid a common wage. The City of Pittsburgh billed the federal government $73,000 for workers and supplies, however, denied the claims and refused payment. The city continued to fight for his citizens and businesses. The U.S. Congress finally agreed to pay the city for these expenses in 1905. Payment was finally made in 1913, 50 years after the work had been done.

Another important part of the Pittsburgh area’s role in the Civil War was the old Western Penitentiary which was in what is now West Park in Pittsburgh’s Northside, Then Allegheny City. The first two prisoners arrived in Pittsburgh with many of the wounded from the Battle of Shiloh, the two men were also wounded and treated at the Marine Hospital in what is now Pittsburgh’s Wood Run neighborhood. After they were cleared by the staff at the Marine Hospital, they were transferred to Western Penitentiary. On June 9, 1863, 2,000-Rebel prisoners arrived in Pittsburgh and marched through the streets from the Pennsylvania Railroad station to another train headed for the prisoner camp ate Fort Delaware, these men had been captured by General Sherman’s troops at the Battle of Vicksburg. From the Summer of 1863 until Spring 1864, 111 Confederate prisoners were held at Western Penitentiary, these men were all from Morgan’s Raid. After Morgan and several of his officers escaped form the Ohio State Prison in Columbus, the 111 prisoners at Western Penitentiary were separated and placed in individual cells away from each other. notification of the change of their confinement was sent to Confederate President Jefferson Davis and published in the Pittsburgh Gazette on December 27, 1863.

“Humanity and justice for your captured officers require that you have their present situation told you. In Western Penitentiary, Allegheny City, there are 106 (actually 111) of Morgan’s officers, principally Lieutenants. Since the escape of General Morgan, they have all been separated, put in the condemned cells and kept there day and night. The are allowed to cook twice a week, a small allowance of bacon and a few cold potatoes.”  – Warden Captain Birmingham.

Morgans-Raid-by-M-Kunstler-1080 - Montgomery County History
Morgan’s Raid – Montgomery History, Ohio


Ohio History Central. n.d. Ohio History Connection – Morgan’s Raid. Accessed April 2018.

Fox, Arthur B. 2002. Pittsburgh During the American Civil War 1860-1865

Harper’s Weekly. 1863. July 25: 467.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: