Henry County residents part of Gen. John Hunt Morgan’s Civil War escape

-A A +A
By Brad Bowman

The Civil War divided just as many people in the county as it did in the state and nation. In this second article of a Civil War series, an escape involving two Henry County residents and the famed Confederate rogue officer John Hunt Morgan.

A graduate of Transylvania University, Morgan reached fame after Gen. Braxton Bragg selected Morgan to lead a cavalry division into Kentucky. Bragg’s plan for Morgan’s rough riders included tormenting the Union supply lines, disrupting railroads and depots.

Morgan would receive instruction and communication between Louisville and Nashville.

Bragg gave Morgan mostly free reign to do as he saw fit but limited him to excursions in Kentucky. Bragg’s strategy saw Morgan’s diversion as a way to buy his troops time to retreat into Tennessee and gather with forces for a more decisive battle.

According to first hand recollections by Brig. Gen. Basil W. Duke, Morgan decided early on that he had every intention to disobey Bragg’s orders to stay within Kentucky.

Morgan relayed to Duke that the state of the Confederate Army’s situation called for disobedience and disobedience was critical for  him to aid the cause. Morgan’s force included 2,460 men for the raid, which included a brigade from Duke and one from Col. Adam R. Johnson.

The raiders carried two 12-pounder howitzers and two 3 inch Parrotts cannons.

Shortly after his meeting with Bragg, Morgan’s plan ,in Duke’s recount, involved crossing the Cumberland River near Burkesville, march across Kentucky to reach the Ohio River. Morgan would take his troops west of Louisville and would feign an attempt to capture Louisville, which Bragg suggested he should actually do but Morgan didn’t think practical, and cross into Indiana.

Morgan planned to terrorize his way east into Ohio bringing paranoia to Cincinnati.  Morgan thought this strategy would bring the most fear to the Union Army generals and split their tactics between the three states.

Morgan knew his excursions could ultimately lead to his capture. His capture and imprisonment with Capt. Thomas Hines in an Ohio penitentiary lead him to Henry County.

The Escape

Union Gen. Burnside sent Morgan with 68 of his officers to the Ohio State Penitentiary in Columbus, Ohio. Hines and Morgan read in the local newspaper the train schedule and found a 1:15 a.m. departure for Cincinnati. Hines had found a tunnel underneath his cell covered by a few inches of cement with an air chamber leading outside. The escape involved many classic elements.

Hines had his sister in Kentucky mail him a book with train fare money hidden in a flap. The hole dug in Hines’ cell was covered by a satchel containing his clothes, which was never moved nor inspected. Morgan’s brother constructed a linked ladder of bed ‘ticking.’ Hines paid a convict who was allowed to leave the prison money for a newspaper and six ounces of brandy. In Hines recollection, “…He was quite an old man, called Heavy, had been in the penitentiary for many years, and as he had been so faithful, he was permitted to go on errands for the officials of the city,” Hines wrote. “Neither he nor anyone within the prison or on the outside had any intimation of our contemplated escape.”

Hines and Morgan contemplated the schedule and found that they couldn’t make it to the Canadian border on a train before their escape was discovered. Their only alternative was the train departing for Cincinnati.

After escaping to the train station Hines and Morgan boarded the train for Cincinnati. Hines went to the rear of the train and Morgan took a seat by a Federal major in uniform. Morgan gave the major a drink of Hines’ brandy and the two, according to Hines, became more talkative at that point. When the train passed near the penitentiary’s wall, Hines wrote that the major remarked, “…There is where the rebel General Morgan and his officers are put for safe keeping.” According to Hines, Morgan remarked, “ I hope they will keep him as safe as he is now.”

After being delayed for an hour near Dayton, Ohio, the two jumped from the train near Ludlow Ferry on the Ohio River and crossed in a skiff.

With the hour delay at the train station, prison officials who had learned of their escape telegraphed all possible outlets offering a reward for Hines and Morgan and another six Confederates who escaped and went in other directions.

Sympathizers in Northern Kentucky gave the two officers horses and they traveled from Florence with information from a Dr. Dulaney on the safest route for their escape. They spent the night in Union and left Nov. 29th with a guide which led them through Gallatin to Owen where they spent another night near the county line.

The Confederate officers traveled through New Liberty and crossed the Kentucky River at the ferry on the road to New Castle, according to Hines which may have been near Monterrey and Gest. On Dec. 1st, Hines wrote that the guide traveled with them as far as the ferry. The two escapees traveled to Pollard’s Inn , now on present day US 421, where they arrived at 2 a.m. In Hines account, the two proceeded with caution not knowing the ‘politics’ of Mr. Pollard.

Pollard led the men into the family room of the inn where the Cincinnati Enquirer rested on the table. Hines deduced that since Pollard took the newspaper it was sufficient evidence that he was a Southern sympathizer. The exchange was written by Hines as follows:

“I see that General Morgan, Hines and other officers escaped from the penitentiary,” He responded, “Yes; and you are Captain Hines, are you not?”

I replied “Yes; and what is your name?”

“Pollard,” he answered.

“Allow me, then, to introduce General Morgan.”

Pollard furnished the fugitives with cattle whips so they could disguise themselves as cattle buyers. The pair didn’t want to raise suspicions given the inn was on a busy public highway. The two headed to Judge W. S. Pryor’s house, the federal style home sits not far from the courthouse, then considered to be on the outskirts of New Castle. After dinner, Hines wrote the judge rode with them to another guide who, “…conducted us that night to Major Helm’s, near Shelbyville, where we remained during the day of the 2nd, and were joined by four of our command in citizen’s dress,” Hines wrote.

The officers traveled to Taylorsville and then arrived in Bardstown on Dec. 3. Hines and Morgan crossed the Cumberland River into Tennessee near Burkesville. Hines and Morgan would be separated trying to pass over a mountain region near Kingston, Tennessee when Hines, searching for a guide, was captured by a Union Cavalry unit. Hines escaped and he and Morgan both rejoined Confederate lines by the end of the month.

E-mail us about this article at news@hclocal.com