Cavalry Raiders Morgan And Forrest 1862

In Kentucky and Tennessee, perhaps the Confederacy's two greatest cavalry raiders - BrigGens John Hunt Morgan and Nathan Bedford Forrest - began major operations.

At the start of the war Morgan commanded a militia in Lexington, Kentucky, and when that state declared neutrality he moved them south to join the Confederate army. He became a captain in October 1861, and immediately began targeting outposts and bridges behind Federal lines in Kentucky and Tennessee, sometimes dressing his men in Union uniforms. Nathan Bedford Forrest had enlisted in the Confederate army in Tennessee as a private, but soon proved his great ability as a scout, and was given authority to raise a cavalry battalion; collecting men from several states, he too was active by the end of 1861.

In summer 1862 MajGen Braxton Bragg ordered both these officers on a two-pronged raid in advance of his anticipated invasion of eastern Tennessee and Kentucky. Their aim was to disrupt communications, delay Federal troop movements, and destroy the opposing cavalry. Morgan's 2nd Kentucky Cavalry, along with units from Georgia and Texas, set out on July 4, winning a series of small engagements and destroying almost a million dollars' worth of property. In Tennessee on July 11, Forrest's amalgamated force targeted the railroad center of Murfreesboro, where he destroyed half a million dollars' worth of property

Georgia Partisan Rangers

A Northern cartoon lampooning Southern recruitment methods; one man lies on the floor drunk, while another is forced to volunteer at bayonet-point. In actuality, strong-arm tactics by recruiters on both sides caused significant numbers of men to hide out in the wilderness. Some resorted to banditry, while others fought the war in their own way as guerrillas. (LoC)

Missouri Partisan Rangers 1863Smoking Ruin
After Quant rill's raid Lawrence, Kansas, was left little more than a smoking ruin. (LoC)

including supplies and rolling stock. Later that summer the two commanders harassed the Union Army of Ohio's move towards Chattanooga. Working in groups ranging from ten to 600 men, they wore down BrigGen Don Carlos Buell's advance by targeting his long and poorly guarded supply lines, forcing him to withdraw.

In response to the raids local Union commanders raised Home Guard units. These tended to be poorly trained and led, but did free up regular troops for combat duty. Buell also started raising more cavalry, and built a system of blockhouses to protect key locations, especially on the railroads. The little forts proved effective against guerrillas, bur barely slowed cavalry raiders equipped with artillery. Bragg reorganized his own cavalry, dividing them into "regular" brigades attached to infantry corps, and two "partisan" brigades under Morgan and Forrest to concentrate on raiding. While raids were a part of both Confederate and later Union strategy in all three theaters, only the Confederate army in the Western theater had units specifically dedicated to such missions.

By December 1862, Bragg had concentrated 40,000 Confederates at Murfreesboro in anticipation of an advance by MajGen William Rosecrans' slightly larger force. Once again Bragg sent his two raiders off to harry the


On the night of 20/21 August 1863, William Quantrill led about 450 guerrillas across the border from western Missouri to Lawrence, Kansas, a center for abolitionism and home to Jayhawker leader Jim Lane. They used captive local farmers as guides; when each guide got past their area of familiarity they shot him and kidnapped another. After working their way through ten guides, theguerrillas galloped into Lawrence in the morning, finding the local Union garrison absent. They proceeded to sack and burn the town, and killed about 200 men and boys (though they did not molest women). When Union cavalry rode to Lawrence the Bushwhackers fought a running battle back across the state line, losing about 40 men before splitting up and disappearing into Missouri's thick woodlands.

1: Quantrill wears a slouch hat and the typical "guerrilla shirt" favored by Trans-Mississippi Bushwhackers. He carries a Sharps rifle, a pair of Colt Navy revolvers, and a Bowie knife, all favorite weapons of the guerrilla.

2: "Bloody Bill" Anderson, then one of Quantrill's captains, wears his hair long in typical Bushwhacker fashion, and is also armed with .36cal Colt Navy revolvers, which the guerrillas found handier for use on horseback then the heavier .44cal Army. 3: Quantrill's men fired the town, typically using sticks with cotton wads soaked in turpentine. They favored red guerrilla shirts, and in addition to several revolvers some carried shotguns, sawed to a shorter length for ease of use on horseback.

A warning to the "common foe of mankind - the guerrilla and bush-whacker", stating that every time a telegraph line was cut the Union command would hang a Bushwhacker prisoner and burn the house of a nearby secessionist. Such harsh tactics did little to discourage Bushwhackers, and much to stoke hatred among civilians. (Courtesy of the Littlejohn Collection, Wofford College)


HEAL QUARTERS DIST. of the FRONTIER, Fort Smith, Ark., Nov. 17, 1863.

The organized forces of the enemy having been driven out of the country in our rear, and there being none on our lines of Telegraphic and Mail Communications, except that common foe of mankind— the guerrilla and bush-whacker—and the cutting of telegraph wires being now the act of these men alone—men who have noJclaim to be treated as soldiers, and are entitled to none of the rights accorded by the laws of war to honorable belligerents, it is hereby ordered that, hereafter, iti every instance, the cutting of the telegraph wire shall be considered the deed of bush-whackers, and for every sueh act some bush-whacking prisoner shall have withdrawn from him that mercy whieh induced the holding of him as a prisoner, and he shall be hung at the post where&the wire is cut; and as many bush-whacKers shall be so hung as there are places where the wire is cut.

The nearest house to the place where the wire is cut, if the property of a disloyal man, and within ten miles, shall be burned.

By Command of Brig, Gen'l, John McNeil.

AeVg Ass't Adj't General.

Union rear in the hopes of destroying their supply lines, and of drawing enough cavalry away to blind the Union army. As before, Bragg staggered the raids, with Forrest setting out on December 11 and Morgan on December 22. Forrest led 2,100 horsemen and four cannon into western Tennessee to ravage the Mobile & Ohio Railroad, forcing Rosecrans to send cavalry in pursuit. The Confederate raiders defeated several Union detachments, whose fleeing soldiers spread exaggerated reports of enemy numbers and caused the 20,000 Union troops in that region to dig in. With his enemy thus immobilized, Forrest was free to burn supplies and tear up rails.

Morgan's mission wras to ride into central Kentucky and burn a pair of large railroad trestles at Muldraugh's Hill. His 3,100 men and seven cannon won a few quick skirmishes and reached the trestles on December 28, where they found that the 700-strong Union garrison had not completed their fortifications and lacked artillery. A three-hour bombardment convinced them to surrender, and Morgan destroyed both trestles and a large quantity of military stores. Union forces converged on the 2nd Kentucky from three directions, but superior horses and a fortuitous snowstorm allowed the Rebels to make their escape. The trestles would take five weeks to rebuild.

While the Union had begun implementing an antiraiding strategy before these so-called "Christmas Raids," it was not fully in place. As at Muldraugh's Hill, many blockhouses were incomplete or not equipped with cannon; Union cavalry had not yet been fully reinforced, and those that were present were spread thin guarding vital sites and hunting guerrillas. I [owever, despite the huge boost to Southern morale, Rosecrans had expected raids on his supply lines and had stockpiled months of stores at his advanced positions, so the destruction of the Muldraugh's Hill trestles was oniy a minor inconvenience. Moreover, Bragg's two "partisan" brigades accounted for half his cavalrymen, and their absence behind Federal lines blinded his own movements in the exact same way that he intended to blind Rosecrans. This lack of proper cavalry support was a contributing factor to his inability to defeat Rosecrans at the bloody battle of Stones River (December 31 to January 3, 1862/63}.

Meanwhile, control of western Virginia seesawed between the two sides. When Lee's invasion of Maryland in late summer 1862 drove the Federals out of northern Virginia, Confederate cavalry raiders, partisans under Col John Imboden, and local guerrillas all swept through the area. The Federals soon retook the region, and at the end of the year Imboden's men and other bands were reincorporated into the regular army; Capt John McNeill's group in western Virginia was one of the few allowed to continue independent operations, although they too lost their charter later. One of their primary targets was the Baltimore &c Ohio Railroad, an essential lifeline to the Federal capital stretching vulnerably through the forested mountains of western Virginia.

Forrest Cavalry Corps
While the Northern press denounced Confederate raiders as bandits and arsonists, it lauded Union cavalry raiders such as Col Benjamin Grierson a5 heroes. The Southern press, of course, did the reverse, and contributed to the image of the chivalric Southern cavalryman that lasts to this day. (LoC)

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  • Bob
    Who was the confederate cavalry raider?
    8 years ago

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