Battles & Leaders of the Civil War
MORGAN'S CAVALRY DURING THE BRAGG INVASION.
BY BASIL W. DUKE, BRIGADIER-GENERAL, C. S. A.
While Bragg was concentrating at Chattanooga, in August, 1862, preparatory to his march into Kentucky, Colonel John H. Morgan, with his cavalry command, numbering some nine hundred effectives, was actively engaged in middle Tennessee, operating chiefly against the Federal garrisons in the vicinity of Nashville, and the detachments employed immediately north and to the east of that city. All of these were successively captured or dispersed, and on the 21st of August Morgan defeated and completely routed a select body of cavalry, twelve hundred strong, sent under command of General B. w. Johnson to drive him out of Tennessee. Of this force 164 were killed and wounded, and a much larger number, including Johnson and his staff, were made prisoners.
Morgan had been notified of the intended invasion of Kentucky, and part of his duty was the destruction of the railroad track and bridges between Nashville and Bowling Green, for the purpose of retarding Buell's movements when the latter should begin his retreat to Louisville.
On the 28th of August Bragg crossed the Tennessee River at Chattanooga, and pushed northward. General Kirby Smith had previously entered Kentucky, and had ordered Morgan to report to him at Lexington, in the blue-grass region. Morgan marched from Hartsville, Tenn., on the 29th of August, and on the 4th of September reached Lexington, already occupied by General Smith. His command consisted of the 2d Kentucky Cavalry C. S. A., about 700 strong, and Gano's squadron, of 2 companies of Texan cavalry, about 150 strong. It was very largely recruited, however, during the occupation of Kentucky. A small detachment of the 2d Kentucky, leaving Lexington on the same day, made a rapid march of some 90 miles, and captured the garrison, 150 strong, of the stockade fort erected for the protection of the railroad bridge over Salt River; 17 miles south of Louisville. The bridge was burned in pursuance of the program to destroy rail communication between Bowling Green and Louisville. By order of General Smith, the command was then divided for separate service. I was ordered to proceed with 600 men of the 2d Kentucky to the vicinity of Covington, whence General Beth, who had threatened Cincinnati, was then retiring. Colonel Morgan was ordered, with the remainder of the regiment, Gano's squadron, and all the cavalry recruits then organized, to march to the assistance of General Marshall in the mountains of eastern Kentucky. The Federal general, George w. Morgan, had evacuated Cumberland Gap, and followed by Stevenson, who bad been instructed to observe and pursue him if he moved, was making his way to the Ohio. It was intended that Marshall and Morgan should intercept and arrest his march until Stevenson could overtake him and attack him in Tear.
The detachment under my command became immediately very actively engaged with the enemy, who, in considerable numbers, had crossed the river and advanced to Walton, twenty-five miles south of Covington. For several days, skirmishing went On constantly, and I was steadily driven back, until I became convinced that it was an advance in force. Discovering, however, by careful reconnaissance that the entire Federal strength consisted of only 7000 or 8000 infantry, about 1000 cavalry, and 8 pieces of artillery, and that troops were being transported in large numbers by the river from Cincinnati, I became satisfied that the movement was intended to cover and divert attention from the real concentration at Louisville, and was not meant as a serious movement on Lexington, and I so reported to General Smith. Reports from my scouts and from citizens, to the effect that these troops wore quite raw and inexperienced, and that, on account of the omission to scout or reconnoiter, the encampment at Walton, where the enemy had halted, could be easily approached, induced me to attack the camp. By a quick dash upon it, just after daybreak, I secured 90 or 100 prisoners, with very little loss on my part; but found that no effort by a force numerically so inferior could compel the enemy to retire.
It was important, however, that his column should be forced to fall back and not remain as a menace to Lexington, whence it was distant only two or three days' march. I learned that a regiment was organized for the Federal army out of some "home guard" companies at Augusta, a small town on the Ohio, about forty miles above Covington. I was also informed that at that season of year, when the river was at a very low stage of water, it was fordable immediately below this place. Leaving the greater part of my command in front of the enemy at Walton to observe and follow him if he retreated, I marched rapidly with 250 men to Augusta, believing that the recruits there could be captured or dispersed with ease, and without loss on my part, and that I could cross the river into Ohio, enter the suburbs of Cincinnati, and induce such consternation that the troops at Walton would be recalled. On the 27th of September I attacked, meeting, however, with fierce resistance. Two small river steamers were there, bulwarked with bales of hay, and each carrying a 12-pounder howitzer. On these boats were about one hundred infantry. The "Home Guards," 400 or 500 strong, were ensconced in the houses of the little town. I planted two small howitzers attached to my command on a hill overlooking the village, and within a half-mile range of the river. After the exchange of a few shots on each side, the boats, with the troops upon them, steamed off in disgraceful panic. I thought then that the affair was over, but when I entered the town I found nearly every house a fortress, and was met with severe volleys which did much damage. Before I could overcome the resistance of the inmates, I was forced to burn some of