Morgan's Raiders Ride On The Monon
July 12, 1863, Salem, Indiana
General Morgan had sent spy Thomas Hines and a party of 25 Confederates (posing as a Union patrol) on a secret mission into Indiana in June to determine if the local Copperheads would support or join Morgan's impending raid. After visiting the local Copperhead leader, Dr. William A. Bowles, Hines learned that no desired support would be forthcoming. He and his scouts were soon identified as actually being Confederates, and, in a small skirmish near Leavenworth, Indiana, Hines had to abandon his men as he swam across the Ohio River under gunfire. He wandered around Kentucky for a week seeking information on Morgan's whereabouts.
By now reduced to 1,800 men, Morgan's main column had arrived on the morning of July 8 at Brandenburg, Kentucky, a small town along the Ohio River, where Hines rejoined them. Here, the raiders seized two steamboats, the John B. McCombs and the Alice Dean. Morgan, against Bragg's strict orders, transported his command across the river to Indiana, landing just east of Mauckport. A small company of Indiana home guards contested the crossing with an artillery piece, as did a riverboat carrying a six-pounder. Morgan chased off the local defenders, capturing a sizeable portion as well as their guns. After burning the Alice Dean and sending the John B. McCombs down river with instructions not to pursue him, Morgan headed away from the river.
Governor Oliver P. Morton worked feverishly to organize Indiana's defense, calling for able-bodied men to take up arms and form militia companies. Thousands responded and organized themselves into companies and regiments. Col. Lewis Jordan took command of the 450 members of the Harrison County Home Guard (Sixth Regiment, Indiana Legion), consisting of poorly trained civilians with a motley collection of arms. His goal was to delay Morgan long enough for Union reinforcements to arrive.
Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside, commander of the Department of the Ohio with headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio, quickly organized local Federal troops and home militia to cut off Morgan's routes back to the South. Morgan headed northward on Mauckport Road, with another brother, Col. Richard Morgan, leading the forward elements. On July 9, one mile south of Corydon, the county seat of Harrison County, his advance guard encountered Jordan's small force, drawn in a battle line behind a hastily thrown up barricade of logs. The colonel attacked, and in a short but spirited battle of less than an hour, he simultaneously outflanked both Union wings, completely routing the hapless militia. Accounts vary as to the number of casualties of the Battle of Corydon, but the most reliable evidence suggests that 4 of Jordan's men were killed, 10-12 were wounded, and 355 were captured. Morgan counted 11 dead and 40 wounded raiders. Among the dead Federals was the civilian toll keeper who perished near his tollgate. Raiders killed a Lutheran minister on his farm, four miles (6 km) from the battlefield and stole horses from several other farmers.
General Morgan led his division into Corydon, where he paroled his demoralized prisoners and ransomed the town for cash and supplies. Morgan's soldiers then traveled east and reached Vienna on July 10, where they burned a railroad bridge and depot, and tapped a telegraph line. After spending the night in Lexington, they headed to the northeast, terrorizing the small towns along the way, including Vernon, Dupont, New Pekin, Salem, and Versailles.
In Versailles a group of freebooters invaded the local Masonic Lodge and lifted the Lodge's silver coin jewelry. Morgan, himself a Mason, ordered the jewels returned, punishing the thievery of his own men.
On July 11, while crossing Blue River near New Pekin, Confederate Capt. William J. Davis and some of his men were captured by 73rd Indiana Infantry and a detachment of the 5th U.S. Regulars. Davis and several other soldiers were taken to New Albany and secured in the county jail.
Entering Salem the next day, Morgan immediately took possession of the town and placed guards over the stores and streets. His cavalrymen burned the New Albany and Salem Railroad brick depot, along with all the railcars on the track and the railroad bridges on each side of town. Quick action by the Depot master assured that the Raiders did not take possession of the contents of the depot's strong box. When the Confederates opened the box, all they found were masonry tools. With ample warning, the Depot master removed the valuables and hid them under a house a few doors down from the depot. As a consequence, the Raiders burned down the depot. They demanded taxes from area flour and grist mills. After looting stores and taking about $500, they departed in the afternoon. Morgan finally left Indiana at Harrison, closely pursued by Federal cavalry. Pictures (Left) The depot strong box on display at the Depot Museum in Salem. (Right) Historical marker on the Courthouse Square.
Morgan's Raiders in Indiana.
@2012 Monon Railroad Historical-Technical Society, Inc.