July 25, 1863 (Saturday)
Again, here is a GoogleMap of the very very approximate route taken by Morgan.
John Hunt Morgan and his ever-depleting band of Rebels got little sleep through the night, as they seemed to wander in an easterly direction toward the Ohio River. If their wandering was to throw their Federal pursuers off their trail, for a time, it worked well. General Ambrose Burnside, commanding the forces from his headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio, did his best to keep track of Morgan’s whereabouts, but must have realized that he could do nothing before the dawn.
When dawn came, Morgan was spotted riding through Harrisville, southeast of Cadiz, where rumors placed him the day before. All knew that he was trying to cross the Ohio, and through the night, Union troops effectively cut off all major crossings from Wheeling, West Virginia, to Steubenville, Ohio.
Steubenville was commanded by William Brooks, head of the Department of the Monongahela (which mostly encompassed western Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh). Brooks had led a brigade and then a division through most of the war, fighting on the Peninsula, at South Mountain, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville, before being sent to Pittsburgh as a sort of punishment for speaking out against Ambrose Burnside.
Brooks knew that Morgan was coming, but wasn’t sure if he’d try to cross above or below Steubenville. Against Morgan’s three or four hundred riders, Brooks had an array of troops. He had Kentucky Cavalry, Pennsylvania Militia, Ohio Infantry, West Virginia Militia, and Steubenville “Minute-men,” as he called them – basically 500 citizens who wanted to protect their town. In all, he probably had 3,000 troops, though many less than half were in any kind of shape to go to battle.
Word had come in that Morgan was on his way to New Alexandria, southwest of Steubenville. Brooks had dispatched the Minute Men to Mingo, the most likely crossing Morgan would try if he truly was moving in that direction. But before they could move out, further rumors had it that Morgan had turned north and was probably headed for Wintersville, a few miles west of Steubenville. This suited General Brooks just fine.
The Minute Men were called back and sent west towards Wintersville, accompanied by artillery and the Pennsylvania Militia. At Wintersville, they caught up with him, skirmishing, but doing little else. Unable to surround the Rebels, Morgan continued north, moving toward Richmond.
Since Morgan was definitely pinpointed, all crossings south of Steubenville were cleared, freeing up more and more Federal units to aide in the chase. The closest, however, got turned around, took a wrong road, and for a time, John Hunt Morgan was free again.
Along with Brooks’ men, were the troopers under General Shackelford, which had been pursuing Morgan since Kentucky. The previous day, they were five miles behind him. On this day, they were four, as the Rebels moved through Richmond, turning east again, hoping to cross the Ohio near New Cumberland, West Virginia. With little help from Shackelford, Brooks threw some infantry in the direction of Knoxville (now called Knox), attempting to cut off Morgan’s jab at the river.
Before the Federals (mostly Kentucky Cavalry) could gather at Knoxville, Morgan turned west. When Major George Rue of the 9th Kentucky Cavalry arrived, around midnight, Morgan had already passed. Not wishing to stumble through the darkness of Ohio in search of a small and illusive band of Rebels, he decided to wait for General Shackelford, who arrived soon after.
Rue and Shackelford had a quick discussion about what to do the next day. Shackelford was moving north and wanted Rue to accompany him. Rue, as he reported, “agreed to go with him provided he would give me the advance to intercept Morgan.” Shackelford was more than happy to oblige.
Late that night at Bergholz, thirteen miles west of Rue and Shackelford at Knoxville, John Hunt Morgan’s exhausted men dropped from their horses and fell instantly to sleep. They had been on a constant run for over a week now. Little sleep had been afforded and they were soon at their collective point of breaking.1
- Sources: Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 23, Part 1, p667, 674, 801, 802, 803; John Hunt Morgan and His Raiders by Edison H. Thomas. [↩]