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1863 July 25: Morgan’s Raid and the Battle of Buffington Island

July 27, 2013

This following account of Confederate General John Hunt Morgan’s raid into Ohio appeared in the July 25, 1863, issues of both The Polk County Press and The Prescott Journal.  The “Late War News, Capture of Morgan” headlines are from The Polk County Press, which alone published the first two paragraphs.  The “End of John Morgan’s Raiding Expedition” is the headline from The Prescott Journal.  Both newspapers published everything following that.  Following the divider is a small item from the Journal, probably written by Editor Lute Taylor.

Morgan’s Raid was of little military consequence, but it did spread terror among much of the population of southern and eastern Ohio, as well as neighboring Indiana.  The battle described below by General Shackelford is the the Battle of Buffington Island, sometimes known as the St. Georges Creek Skirmish.  General Morgan and about 700 of his men escaped, only to be caught on July 26 at the Battle of Salineville.



CINCINNATI, July 20.Morgan with about 4,000 men has been turned back.  He was moving this P. M. towards Gallipolis closely followed by our forces.  Squads of his men are being picked up hourly.  The “Commercial’s” Columbus dispatch says after the fight at Burlington, the rebels moved up the river to Bellville ahead of gunboats, and by threats compelled the citizens to furnish flat boats by which three hundred escaped to the other shore just as the gunboats hove in sight.  The remainder on the Ohio shore were attacked by our forces and scattered.  Our men continued picking them up till only about 1,500 were left who finally succeeded in breaking our lines and pushed back in the direction of Burlington.

At 9 o’clock this morning they passed through Harrisonville, ten miles north-east of Pomeroy, apparently exhausted with fatigue.

Morgan's Raiders, from “Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War” (see footnote 1)

Morgan’s Raiders, from “Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War” (see footnote 1)


CINCINNATI, July 21, 10 A. M.—The following has just been received at Gen. Burnside’s headquarters [Ambrose E. Burnside]:

July 20,—P. M. }

Lieut. Col. Richmond, A. A. G :

We chased John Morgan and his command over fifty miles to-day.  After heavy skirmishing for six or seven miles, between the Forty fifth Ohio of Colonel Wolford’s² brigade, which was in advance of the enemy, we succeeded in bringing the enemy to a stand about three o’clock this afternoon, when a fight ensued which lasted an hour, when the rebels fled, taking refuge upon a very high bluff.

I sent a flag of truce demanding an immediate and unconditional surrender of Morgan and his command.  The flag was received by Col. Coleman³ and other officers, who came down and asked a personal interview.

They asked an hour for consultation, I granted them forty minutes, in which time the command, excepting Morgan who deserted it, taking with him a small squad, surrendered.

It was my understanding that Morgan had surrendered, and found it was the understanding of Morgan’s officers and men.

The number of killed and wounded is inconsiderable.  The number of prisoners is between 1,000 and 1,500, including a large number of Colonels, Majors and line officers.

I captured between 600 and 700 prisoners yesterday.  I think I will capture Morgan himself to-morrow.

Brig. Gen.

Morgan’s artillery and about 2,000 prisoners, including Basil Duke, are expected to arrive here to-day.


This small item appeared only in The Prescott Journal:

Finger John Morgan’s race in Ohio is run.  The principal body of his force was brought to a stand and campelled [sic] to surrender.  But John sneaked off with a small squad while the formalities were going on.  His artillery and 2,500 prisoners were expected in Cincinnati yesterday.  BASIL DUKE,5 who, it is generally conceded, bears the brains of the expedition, is captured.

1.  Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War, by Alfred H. Guernsey and Henry M. Alden, Chicago: McDonnell, 1866-68; available in the UWRF Archives (E 468.7 .G87 1866).
2.  Frank Lane Wolford (1817-1895) was a lawyer and Kentucky state representative before the Civil War. During the War he was the colonel of the 1st Kentucky Cavalry (Union) from 1861 to 1864. He served as adjutant general of the State of Kentucky in 1867 and 1868. After the War, he again served in the Kentucky house of representatives and in the U.S. Congress.
3.  Cicero Coleman (1833-1915) was the colonel of the 8th Kentucky Cavalry (Confederate) at this time. He enlisted in 1862 and was commissioned as lieutenant colonel of that regiment 1862. In August of 1863 he was captured and remained a prisoner of war until the end of the Civil War. He then returned to his estate in Kentucky where he farmed and raised stock.
4.  James Murrell Shackelford (1827-1907) served in a Kentucky unit in the Mexican War at a young age, and returning to Kentucky studied law. He was appointed colonel of the 25th Kentucky Infantry (Union) on January 1, 1862. He recruited another regiment which became the 8th Kentucky Cavalry (Union) with Shackelford as its colonel. On January 1, 1863, he was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers. Shackelford fought at the battles of Fort Donelson, Buffington Island (July 19, 1863), Salineville (July 26), New Lisbon, Cumberland Gap, Blountville, Campbell’s Station, Bean’s Station, and the Siege of Knoxville.
5.  Basil Wilson Duke (1838-1916) was a lawyer before the Civil War. He is most noted as the second-in-command for his brother-in-law John Hunt Morgan. In 1864 he took over Morgan’s command after Morgan was killed by Union soldiers. At the end of the war, Duke was among Confederate President Jefferson Davis’ bodyguards after his flight from Richmond. After the War, Duke wrote a popular account of Morgan’s 1863 raid into Ohio called History of Morgan’s Cavalry, published in 1867. He also helped found the Louisville (Ky.) Filson Club and in 1904 he was appointed commissioner of the Shiloh National Military Park. The UWRF Library has a copy of the 1969 reprint of Duke’s 1911 Reminiscences of General Basil W. Duke (E 470 .D89)

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