From the Book:
Indiana’s Role in Civil War
Greetings, this episode relates the events leading up to, and including, the only Civil War Battle fought in Indiana, the Battle of Corydon.
Confederate General John Hunt Morgan planned a raid across the Ohio River and sent a man named Thomas Hines to discover Confederate sympathizers in Indiana that might support his raid. Hines and about a hundred men stole some Union soldier uniforms from a supply depot in Brownsville, Kentucky, then robbed a train to acquire Union currency. They crossed the river below Leavenworth. They used the ruse that they were Union troops searching for deserters as they struck north towards Paoli, then to French Lick. Once there, they met with Doctor William A. Bowles, a Confederate supporter. Bowles told them he could not help them. Attempting to escape into Kentucky they hired a guide from Leavenworth to take them across the river. Instead, the man betrayed them to the Union troops that were chasing Hines group down. The Union troops used ammunition supplied by Leavenworth residents to attack the Confederates as they attempted to cross the river. The soldiers killed three of them and captured most of the rest. Hines managed to escape.
The failure of the raid did not deter Brigadier General John Hunt Morgan. In an effort to draw Union troops away from their campaign in Tennessee, the general crossed the Ohio River with over 2000 trained and seasoned Confederate troops. Fresh off two raids in Kentucky that rattled Union commanders in the area, he defied orders from his superior General Braxton Bragg, by crossing the Ohio River into Indiana on July 8 and 9, 1863.
John Hunt Morgan (June 1, 1825 – September 4, 1864)
The eldest son of ten children born to Calvin and Henrietta (Hunt) Morgan, John’s father migrated to Lexington, Kentucky after the failure of his pharmacy. He attended Transylvania College but the university tossed him out in 1844 for dueling. He enlisted in the Army in 1846 to serve in the Mexican-American War. He had an avid interest in the military and raised a unit in 1852, which the state legislature disbanded. When tensions began rising during the years before the Civil War, he raised another unit in 1857, which he trained well. When war broke out, he did not immediately favor secession. But when the southern states began seceding, he and his men joined the cause. Using his corps of “Lexington Riflemen” as a nucleus, he soon raised a unit, the 2nd Kentucky Cavalry Regiment. This unit fought at the Battle of Shiloh. On July 4, 1862, Morgan launched the first of his Kentucky raids. This successful action resulted in the capture of over a thousand Federal troops and the requisitioning of tons of Union supplies and hundreds of horses. A second series of raids against Union Major General William S. Rosecrans supply lines disrupted the Union troops and created havoc in the Union command in Kentucky. The success of these raids encouraged his foray into Indiana.
Morgan launched his raid from Burkesville, Kentucky, which is near the Tennessee/Kentucky state line. The beginning of this raid coincided with General Lee’s Battle of Gettysburg far to the northeast. From Burkesville, the troops rode north to Brandenburg, Kentucky. He had already scouted the Ohio to find suitable places to cross and had settled on this site. His soldiers commandeered two riverboats on July 7 and by the next day; they moved north towards Corydon and the only Civil War battle to occur on Indiana soil. Indiana home guard units and two Union gunboats attempted to stop his crossing, but were not successful. Morgan’s Raiders, as the Confederates have come to be called, numbered about 2500 soldiers. Artillery included two howitzers and two Parrott guns.
Designed by army Captain Robert Parker Parrott in 1860, the Parrott gun saw extensive use by both Confederate and Union forces during the Civil War. A type of muzzle-loading rifled artillery weapon, the weapon was accurate, but subject to shattering when fired. Thus, artillerists did not like it. The field version came in ten and twenty pound version. Morgan probably had the smaller, lighter ten pound version. Their extreme short range accuracy made them an effective weapon for troops on the move.
The howitzer was a short barreled gun that fired an explosive charge. Useful against a concealed enemy, the howitzer were mainly used for support of cavalry and infantry troops.
General John Hunt Morgan’s orders from his superior, General Braxton Brag, could not have been more explicit. His orders stated:
“Go ahead and raid Kentucky. Capture Louisville if you can. But do not, I repeat do not, cross the river. Stay in Kentucky. Go anywhere you want in your home state, but I command you to stay south of the river.”
Morgan never intended to follow those orders. He had sent Confederate Captain Thomas Hines ahead a few weeks before to scout southern Indiana. He hoped to find southern sympathizers, called “copperheads,” and recruits for the Confederate Army. Hines had escaped Indiana, closely pursued by Union Army soldiers and his report should have discouraged Morgan. It did not. Morgan launched his raid from Burkesville, Kentucky. He sent an advance guard ahead of his calvary troop to prepare for the crossing. this advance guard reached Burkesville, Kentucky on July 7. It found the riverboat, J. T. McCombs, which had docked at Brandenburg to deliver and take on mail. The Confederates captured it and sailed it to the center of the river. Once at midstream, they raised a distress float, luring another riverboat, the Alice Dean, to its aid. They also captured this boat. They returned to the Kentucky shore to await Morgan’s troops. Morgan and his calvary arrived on July 8. They began loading the boats around 9:00 AM. It took seventeen hours for him to transfer his troops across the river.
Colonel John Timberlake of the Harrison County Home Legion’s 100 men stood on the Indiana shore ready to oppose the Confederates. the Home Guard had one cannon which they had hauled up from Crawford County. As the Confederates approached, Timberlake shouted a warning to them. When the warning had no effect, Timberlake ordered his cannon to open fire. The gun fired three times. The first overshot the boat and the village of Brandenburg. The second wounded a Confederate officer. The third shot went wide, also. Morgan had two cannon mounted on the hills above Brandenburg. These cannon returned the Union fire, destroying a log cabin and scattering the untested Union troops. The Home Guard regrouped in a thicket, but were pinned down by Confederate gunfire. The Confederates could now return to ferrying troops across. A Union Gunboat appeared, the Springfield. Armed with twenty-four guns, the Springfield fired on the Confederates on both sides of the river. The Confederate cannon and rifles returned fire. After an hour long duel, the Springfield, afraid of being sunk, retreated. The Springfield returned later accompanied by a steamboat called the Grey Eagle. The Gray Eagle had a regiment of troops on board as well as several cannon. A cannon duel ensued, from which the Union boats inexplicably withdrew. They never returned, losing the chance to stop Morgan’s Raid before it began. Morgan’s troops on the Indiana side moved fast, soon capturing most of the inexperienced Home Guards. After securing a promise from them to not take up arms against him again, Morgan released them and moved on Corydon. Before leaving the river, Morgan had the Alice Dean set afire. It sank in the river near the mouth of Buck Creek.
A force of about 400 Indiana militia and citizen volunteers commanded by Col. Lewis Jordan, engaged John Hunt Morgan’s raiders on July 8, 1863 in a conflict that would become known as the Battle of Corydon. This was the only Civil War battle fought in Indiana. Morgan deployed his 2,400 cavalrymen along a wooded ridge a mile south of Corydon. The Hoosier defense caused General Duke, Morgan’s second in command, to comment, “They resolutely defended their rail piles.” Three Hoosiers and eight Confederates were killed in the battle. Morgan then brought up his cannon and flanked the militia forcing Jordan to retreat. After Morgan surrounded and began shelling Corydon, Jordan surrendered with all his men. After the battle residents of Corydon used the Presbyterian Church on Walnut Street as a hospital. When the Confederates recovered from their wounds the residents released them to travel back south. Morgan pardoned his prisoners after he departed, after extracting a promise that they would not attack him or his men again. Although considered a Confederate victory, the outnumbered Hoosiers delayed Morgan enough to allow Union Forces to close in on their pursuit. During the remainder of the raid, Union forces would dog him, keeping him constantly on the move until his eventual capture in Ohio.
Battle of Corydon Memorial Park
100 Old Hwy 135 SW
Corydon, IN 47112
This story is part of my new book release, Indiana’s Role in the Civil War, which is available on my web site http://www.mossyfeetbooks.com in both softbound and eBook copies. The web page has links to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and other book retailers. You can reach me at email@example.com
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