General John Hunt Morgan’s Raid, July 14, 1863
“The Rebels are coming, the Rebels are coming!”
Confederate General John Hunt Morgan crossed the Ohio River near Louisville on July 8, 1863, with 2500 cavalry. His plan was a diversionary raid intended to draw Union forces away from the Confederate fighting front in Tennessee. Five days later, on July 13, they entered Ohio near Harrison, and in one long night and day crossed northern Hamilton County with Union forces in close pursuit. After an exhausting, moonless night march, the Confederate column crossed the Mill Creek at Sharonville and burned the bridge to slow the Union forces that were at times just hours behind. Men, as well as horses, were exhausted from want of sleep, having been in their saddles for 11 days. They were often both nodding together and at times the horses staggered as if they were intoxicated. In the pitch-black night, some would lose sight of the column ahead and wander off on a side road and get lost.
With the first light of dawn appearing on the horizon, Morgan and his colonels decided to spread out and forage, covering over a six-mile swath of northeastern Hamilton County. He sent his troopers on multiple routes from Sharonville to conceal their planned crossing of the Little Miami River and to maximize foraging. Cavalry separated into groups of two to 20 men in search of food, water, and fresh horses. Colonel Basil Duke’s 1st Brigade with the wagons and supplies marched toward Montgomery by way of Creek Road, Glendale Milford Road, and Zig Zag Road. Other detachments were sent along Lebanon Road, Kemper Road, and Cornell Road. Morgan led another column along Reading Road, Cooper Road, then south on Plainfield to Blue Ash and Galbraith Road to the planned rendezvous at Montgomery.
At 3:30 a.m., Morgan’s men approached Mt. Notre Dame, the Catholic boarding school in Reading. The sisters, who had been alerted, had hidden their horses in the basement of their laundry after covering the floor with straw to quiet the hooves. Their prayers were answered when Confederates failed to find the horses. General Morgan was the epitome of a southern gentleman and had ordered his men not to harm citizens, to respect women and children, and not to fire their weapons unless provoked. They sought only a meal, drink, and fresh horses to replace their exhausted mounts. However, looting and pillaging did occur. In some houses, “they turned over beds, peeped into cellars, cupboards, drawers, closets, and even babies’ cradles, in search of arms, ammunition, greenbacks, and such. They helped themselves very liberally to such eatables as could be found, besides ordering the women to prepare more.” Some pillaging seemed senseless, without method or purpose. Calico was the staple article of appropriation. Riders who could find one, tied a bolt of it to their saddle, only to throw it away and get a fresh one at the first opportunity. One man carried a bird cage, with three canaries in it, for two days. There were very few articles of real value taken. They would, with few exceptions, throw away their plunder after a while, like children tired of their toys. Many stories of the raid were told by residents and have persisted in family and local histories.
After breakfast at the Schenck Farm, General Morgan proceeded east along Galbraith Road, crossing Montgomery Road, continuing on Kugler Mill Road past Miami and Blome Roads. As the lead elements approached Loveland-Madeira Road at the Sycamore Creek, they found their route blocked by barricades and rifle pits newly placed the day before by Union militia from nearby Camp Dennison. After a brief firefight, the Confederates were unable to dislodge the militia. In order to avoid a time-consuming engagement, Morgan decided to turn back along Blome and Montgomery Roads to rendezvous with Colonel Duke in Montgomery. They passed through Montgomery about 7:30 a.m. without a major incident. From there, they turned east on Cooper, traveled over Spooky Hollow Road, through Remington to the Little Miami River ford just below the current Remington Bridge. After fording the river, Morgan and his main column headed north on Beech Road while Colonel Duke headed south along the river to Miamiville with plans to capture and burn the strategic railroad bridge just north of Camp Dennison.
General Morgan continued his raid through southeastern Ohio. Union forces prevented him from crossing the Ohio back into Kentucky or West Virginia and on July 26, he finally surrendered near the Pennsylvania border with 363 officers and men. It is estimated that he had successfully diverted over 140,000 Union soldiers from the main fighting fronts of the Civil War. Morgan and his cavalry became heroes of the Confederacy and left hundreds of stories of their trek north of the Ohio River that will never be forgotten by those whose paths they crossed.