My new book, Civil War Rogues, Rascals, and Rapscallions, is the second in my series, “Civil War Personalities, 50 At a Time.” Over the next few days I will be presenting samples from the book, which is available, along with all my other books, at
“Rogue, rascal, rapscallion – these were all “titles” which Morgan earned during his various schemes to ride around the North and embarrass the Union. In fact, other than destroying some property, scaring a few civilians, and stealing a few chickens, Morgan’s raids had next to no impact on the Civil War. The fact that his antics have brought him fame, statues, and several biographies is a testament to the continued fascination by some elements of the population with “legendary bad boys.”
Morgan made his most famous raid in the summer of 1863 into Indiana and Ohio, though it was done in violation of General Braxton Bragg’s orders not to cross the Ohio River. Inevitably the raid struck fear into the residents as Morgan looted, killed home guards, and brought the war home to these people for the first time, though broadly speaking it had little effect in the war. After several weeks of harassment by Union troops, Morgan and most of his troops surrendered in late July. Morgan escaped from prison in Columbus that December and made it back to Kentucky.
General Jacob Cox, whose forces captured Morgan in Ohio in 1863, wrote of him, “it cannot be said that he showed any liking for hard fighting. Like boys skating near thin ice, he seemed to be trying to see how close he could come to danger without getting in…Morgan achieved notoriety by the showy temerity of his of his distant movements, but nobody was afraid of him in the field at close quarters…his raid into Ohio and Indiana was of very little military importance.”
On the other hand, one historian summarized why Morgan is so well remembered: “For the Southern people, Morgan personified adventure and romance in combat in which they could not participate directly…He gave them an outlet for their suppressed fear and aggression…The public’s identification with their “knight” was affectionate and familiar.”
Below is a picture of the book, of Morgan (top left of the book cover0, and of the statue of Morgan designed and funded by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, dedicated in Lexington, Kentucky in 1909.