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Morgan's 3rd Kentucky Raid

  • Time Period: December 21- January 2, 1863
  • Area: Kentucky area

Late in 1862, Maj. Gen. William S. Rosecrans was preparing an unexpected assault on the Confederate army near Murfreesboro in an attempt to reverse the desperate Union situation in the Tennessee theater of war. Gen. Braxton Bragg's countermove to impede Rosecrans sent Brig. Gen. John Hunt Morgan on his 3rd cavalry raid into Kentucky to sever the long Union supply line stretching from Louisville.

Morgan's 3,100-man cavalry division crossed the Cumberland River into Kentucky on the 22nd. Their objective was to break up the Louisville & Nashville (L&N) Railroad, Rosecrans' lifeline, by destroying 2 huge trestles near Muldraugh's Hill. Amid growing Union uncertainty about his purpose and movements, Morgan skirmished with Federals at Glasgow, crossed the Green River, and camped near Elizabethtown on the 26th. He captured that town on the 27th, and on the 28th, decisively severed Rosecrans' railway supply line. By the 30th, despite their initial confusion and delay, Union forces were closing on the Confederates. Realizing his danger, Morgan raced through Campbellsville, Columbia, and Burkesville and crossed the Cumberland to safety on January 2nd.

Durind Morgan's 12 day raid, his cavalry destroyed the trestles near Muldraugh's Hill, several bridges, 3 depots, 3 water stations, long sections of the L&N railway, and, by his own estimate, Union equipment and supplies worth $2,000,000. He captured more than 1,800 prisoners, killed and wounded many others, and pulled nearly 20,000 badly needed troops away from Rosecrans. Morgan's own losses were 2 killed, 24 wounded, and 64 missing.

In retrospect, however, Morgan's raid drew his cavalry away from Bragg when the latter met Rosecrans' Union army at Stones River. His presence there might have been just enough to turn a monumental but indecisive battle into a Confederate victory and to alter the course of the war.

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