Journal-News, Wednesday, July 2, 2003
Hamilton braced for Confederate attack in 1863
By Jim Blount
Hamilton was a large town by Civil War standards, although not on a scale with Cincinnati, the nation's sixth largest city in 1860 with 161,044 inhabitants. Capture or destruction of the Butler County seat, population 7,223, would provide a psychological advantage as well as a military achievement for Confederate forces in the middle of the Civil War. For a force of about 2,000, Hamilton would have been a more realistic objective than Cincinnati.
Hamilton hadn't thought much about its defenses since the start of the war. A Confederate attack hadn't been considered a serious threat until July 12, 1863.
At noon that day, Major-General Ambrose E. Burnside, commander of the Department of the Ohio, based in Cincinnati, announced that "martial law is hereby declared in Butler County." Burnside, a native of nearby Liberty, Ind., also began frantic efforts to organize a substantial defense of Hamilton. Brigadier-General John Hunt Morgan had brazenly announced, via the telegraph, that Hamilton would be the target of his Confederate raiders.
Morgan's 2,460 cavalrymen crossed the Tennessee-Kentucky border and the Cumberland River July 2. Six days later Morgan was in Indiana, his destination unknown. Conflicting reports had him heading toward Chicago, Indianapolis or back into Kentucky. His real destination was Ohio -- the cities of Hamilton and Cincinnati, key industrial and transportation centers.
July 13, "after remaining at Harrison [Ohio] two or three hours, and sending detachments in the direction of Hamilton, he moved with the entire column on the Hamilton road," recalled Colonel Basil W. Duke, Morgan's brother-in-law and confidant.
"But as soon as he was clear of the town [Harrison] he cut the telegraph wires -- previously left intact with the hope that they might be used to convey intelligence of his apparent movement towards Hamilton," explained Duke, who commanded half of Morgan's force.
"He hoped that, deceived by his demonstrations at Harrison, the larger part of the [Union] troops at Cincinnati would be sent to Hamilton, and that it would be too late to recall them when his movement towards Cincinnati was discovered." Duke said Morgan "trusted that those remaining would be drawn into the city [Cincinnati] . . . leaving the way clear for his rapid transit" between Hamilton and Cincinnati."
"The intelligence that Morgan was pointing toward our county," the Hamilton True Telegraph said, "created quite a flurry in our quiet city."
"It might have been termed a big scare. The seemingly bravest men shook in their shoes," the writer observed. "Property was removed, military companies ordered out."
Martial law was declared in the city at noon. At 2:25 p.m. Gen. Burnside urged Major F. M. Keith, the acting commander of Hamilton's scant defense force, to "keep the roads in the direction of Harrison well picketed."
That Monday afternoon -- as Morgan's cavalry rode out of Harrison toward Hamilton -- five quickly-organized companies of Home Guards marched out of Hamilton on the road to Venice (Ross) to confront the raiders.
If they had met, it is doubtful the Home Guards would have been much of a match for about 2,000 experienced cavalrymen. The valiant Home Guards, although numbering around 600 men, had only about 300 to 400 weapons. "Up to this time, no considerable force from any other point had re-enforced us," the Telegraph observed.
At 6:30 p.m., Major Keith in Hamilton wired Burnside in Cincinnati that the "enemy's advance came through New Haven [just south of Butler County] about 4 o'clock."
As darkness came July 13, many residents expected that sunrise July 14 would find Confederate cavalry on the southern and western outskirts of Hamilton. Because of inflated telegraph reports -- some planted by Morgan as a tactical ploy -- as many as 20,000 to 30,000 raiders could be expected to challenge the city's sparse defenders.
Recalling the trauma, the Hamilton Telegraph said "the situation was not very promising" as the town prepared for Morgan's attack.
(This column is the second in a series on Morgan's 1863 raid into Ohio.)
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Journal-News, Wednesday, July 9, 2003
Hamilton on alert as Confederate raiders bypassed city
By Jim Blount
As Hamilton braced for an expected Confederate attack the night of July 13-14, 1863, enemy raiders struggled through the dark rural area between Cincinnati and Hamilton. Instead of approaching Hamilton at sunset, Gen. John Hunt Morgan's advance units were on Colerain Pike at Bevis, near the present site of Northgate Mall.
With about 30,000 Union troops defending Cincinnati and about 15,000 on his heels, Morgan -- with no more than 2,000 men -- decided to bypass both Cincinnati and Hamilton instead of provoking a fight. But the defenders of Cincinnati and Hamilton didn't know this and preparations for an attack continued.
During the night of July 13-14, portions of Morgan's command came within 10 miles of Hamilton -- close enough to sustain the fear of an attack on the city.
Morgan had been full of surprises since moving from Tennessee into Kentucky July 2. The Lexington officer had conducted previous raids in his adopted state. But this time his 2,460 troopers crossed the Ohio River July 8 west of Louisville and for the next five days befuddled Union army pursuers in Indiana.
The Confederates had started toward the Ohio border at sunrise July 13 from near Milan and Sunman, Ind., after three hours of sleep. They were still in the saddle throughout the nearly moonless night on a route that took them across northern Hamilton County from New Baltimore to Peach Grove, Bevis, New Burlington and Glendale.
By the time they stopped to rest July 14, the Confederates had covered more than 95 miles in 35 hours -- "the longest continuous cavalry ride in the history of warfare by such a body of men," wrote Allan Keller, author of Morgan's Raid, one of several books on the campaign.
During the night, the alarm had increased in Hamilton when red sky to the south indicated that the raiders had applied the torch to something. Later it was learned that the fire had been the bridge across the Great Miami River at New Baltimore, just south of the Butler County line. Morgan's rear units had burned the wood span to slow Union army pursuers who had been trailing the raiders across Indiana and into Ohio.
Some Hamiltonians believed the fire, or fires, had been set by the Hamilton Home Guards. They had been urged to burn bridges to hamper Morgan's advance, but ignored the advice. No Butler County bridges were torched. The Home Guards cut hundreds of trees along the road to Venice (Ross) and placed in the path to slow any attempted advance by Morgan.
In town, cannon secured from some source were placed around the courthouse.
By Tuesday morning -- after Morgan had passed to the east and southeast -- more than 5,100 men were assembled to defend Hamilton, more than twice the number in Morgan's ranks. The town remained tense because of the uncertainty of Morgan's intentions. There was concern that the Confederate could swing back toward Hamilton instead of proceeding east in Ohio or turning south to cross the Ohio River back into Kentucky.
In Hamilton, 703 men had been organized into new militia companies, mostly led by officers who had earlier Civil War experience. They included Captain Ransford Smith, the temporary commander, and Captains Thomas Moore, John Wilson, F. Bender, John P. Bruck and Joseph Traber.
An additional 730 men were raised in the remainder of Butler County, but many of them also were unarmed. Newly-arrived troops included 813 men from neighboring Preble and Montgomery counties; 2,600 militia from Indiana; and about 300 men from Ohio, Indiana and Michigan regiments.
According to an accounting, the total was 5,146 men to defend a city that had an 1860 population of 7,223. A newspaper reported that "Tuesday and Wednesday the [courthouse] square and our streets were thronged with militia."
Obtaining an adequate force was only one problem in defending the city. Finding an officer to command the odd assortment of 5,146 defenders also was a challenge. Major-General Ambrose E. Burnside, commander of the Department of the Ohio, sent to Indianapolis for a brigadier general to direct Hamilton's hastily-formed defense.
(This column is the third in a series on Morgan's 1863 raid into Ohio.)
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Journal-News, Wednesday, July 16, 2003
Commander too late to direct Hamilton defense in 1863
By Jim Blount
When Confederate cavalry threatened Hamilton in July 1863, the commander of Indiana's militia, Brigadier-General Henry Beebee Carrington, was ordered to take charge of the city's defense. The native of Wallingford, Conn., had a distinguished background, starting with his grandfather, who had been a partner of Eli Whitney, the inventor of the cotton gin.
Carrington's job was to protect Hamilton against an expected attack by Brigadier-General John Hunt Morgan's raiders. Morgan had led 2,460 southern cavalrymen from Tennessee into Kentucky July 2. His force crossed the Ohio River into Indiana July 8. The troopers -- reduced to about 2,000 by their campaigning -- were in the area of Milan and Sunman, Ind., at sunrise July 13, ready to ride toward Cincinnati and Hamilton.
Carrington, an 1845 Yale graduate, had been a teacher in Tarrytown, N. Y., and came under the influence of Washington Irving, author of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow . Irving encouraged Carrington to become a writer. He took the advice and published a history of the American Revolution while teaching and studying law.
After earning a law degree, Carrington moved to Ohio in 1848. In Columbus, he became a partner of William Dennison, who was Ohio's governor at the start of the Civil War. Carrington was a close friend of former Gov. Salmon P. Chase, who became secretary of the treasury in the Lincoln cabinet. Chase had appointed Carrington commander of Ohio's militia. Carrington also had helped start the Republican Party in Ohio.
As the Civil War began, Gov. Oliver P. Morton asked Carrington to take command of the Indiana militia. He helped raise more than 100,000 Hoosiers for service in the Union army.
When Major-General Ambrose E. Burnside in Cincinnati asked Indiana authorities for help in defending against Morgan, Gov. Morton dispatched Carrington. The Hoosier soldier arrived in Hamilton the afternoon of July 14, when Morgan's cavalry was 30 miles east of Cincinnati at Williamsburg.
"My last troops were dispatched from Indianapolis to head them [Morgan] off at Hamilton after five hours delay caused by the intoxication of their commander," explained Brigadier-General Orlando B. Willcox, the Union commander in Indianapolis. Carrington allegedly had stopped at a friend's house and became drunk while Hamilton officials were waiting for him to assume command of the town's 5,146 defenders.
Fortunately, Morgan bypassed the city of about 7,200. After a strong feint toward Hamilton, the Confederates avoided sizable, but disorganized defenders in Cincinnati and Hamilton. Instead, the raiders rode between the cities during the moonless night of July 13-14, 1863, crossing northern Hamilton County from New Baltimore to Bevis, New Burlington and Glendale.
By the time Carrington reached Hamilton, Morgan's raiders had moved east, no longer posing a threat. Butler County residents quickly turned their attention to seeking reimbursement for their losses. Residents filed claims for damages and losses caused by both Union and Confederate forces.
A total of $7,463.50 was asked for horses taken by Morgan's men and his Union pursuers, other property damaged or taken by soldiers, and expenses for soldiers defending Hamilton.
Eventually, a state commission paid for 43 horses taken by Union troops, paying out $5,405, mostly to farmers in Morgan and Ross townships who were victimized after the raiders advanced from Indiana.
Carrington's July 1863 misdeed apparently didn't tarnish his reputation or impede his career. He rejoined the regular army in 1865 at the close of the war, and was involved in the Indian wars in the west for 24 years. He directed the building of Fort Phil Kearney; negotiated treaties with Indians; guarded construction of the first transcontinental railroad; and suffered wounds fighting Indians before his retirement in 1889.
Carrington also resumed his writing career after the Civil War. He died in 1912 at age 88, his failure to rush to command in Hamilton only a small blemish on his long record of public and military service.
(This column is the fourth in a series on Morgan's 1863 raid into Ohio.)
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Journal-News, Wednesday, July 23, 2003
Hamiltonian credited with capturing Confederate raider
By Jim Blount
John Hunt Morgan's Ohio Raid ended calmly Sunday afternoon, July 26, 1863, near Salineville and Lisbon in Columbiana County, near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border. Credit for capturing the Confederate leader and his decimated cavalry was claimed by two Union officers. They were a Hamiltonian, Major George W. Rue, and Brigadier-General James M. Shackelford, who commanded part of the force that had chased Morgan on his 1,006-mile, 25-day sweep through Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio.
Official reports appear to support the 35-year-old Rue, who persisted in his claim until his death in Hamilton in 1911.
Before Morgan threatened Ohio, illness had forced Kentucky-born Rue to leave his regiment, the Ninth Kentucky, a Union cavalry unit. When strong enough, he made his way from a farmhouse in southern Kentucky to Cincinnati on his own. Rue reported to Major-General Ambrose Burnside in Cincinnati in time to take part in the defense of the city when Morgan approached the night of July 13-14, 1863.
After Morgan moved east of Cincinnati, Burnside "summoned me to his headquarters and informed me I was to go after Morgan," Rue said. "I soon had over 400 well-armed men with plenty of ammunition. Most of them were U. S. regular troops," Rue explained.
The major's special force of veteran troops from Kentucky, Michigan and Indiana and their horses left Cincinnati by train at 10 p.m. Thursday, July 23, and arrived in Bellaire in eastern Ohio at 1 o'clock the next afternoon. Two days later, Sunday, July 26 -- after less than four hours sleep -- Rue's mounted men rode out of Knoxville, Ohio, at 4 a.m. They reached Salineville about five hours later.
"At Salineville, I learned from scouts and telegraph operators that Morgan had crossed the C&P [Cleveland & Pittsburgh] Railroad and that his column was leisurely moving down the West Beaver Road . . . some 10 to 12 miles from Salineville," Rue recalled later.
Rue encountered a local doctor, who was familiar with the region, and persuaded him to guide him to a point in advance of Morgan's path.
Instead of a confrontation, a flag of truce from Morgan greeted Rue. The major said his "troopers came back and reported that General Morgan demanded my surrender." Instead, Rue sent back a reply that Morgan "must surrender or fight."
Within a few minutes, the rival Kentucky cavalrymen were face to face, and the legendary Confederate -- who had started the raid with 2,460 men -- surrendered to the unknown Union trooper.
Rue's telegram to Burnside in Cincinnati said: "I captured John Morgan today at 2 p.m., taking 336 prisoners, 400 horses and arms. Morgan presented me his fine sorrel mare."
Shackelford's wire to Burnside said: "By the blessing of Almighty Good, I have succeeded in capturing General John H. Morgan, Colonel Cluke and the balance of the command, amounting to about 400 prisoners."
Although dispatches from others at or near the surrender site seem to verify Rue's version, Shackelford immediately protested. Unfortunately, Morgan didn't live long enough to settle the dispute. Colonel Basil Duke, the raid's historian, couldn't help either. He had been captured a few days earlier.
Rue wrote that he "held the prisoners until General Shackelford came up some three quarters of an hour afterward." He said "I had to send two messengers after Morgan had surrendered before he came up to Morgan's camp. He was about five miles back, and had stopped at a farmhouse where he was eating dinner." Still later, Rue insisted that "neither Shackelford nor any of his troops took any part in the capture."
Historical markers later placed at the site on Ohio 518 near West Point, Ohio, credit Rue with the capture. A stone marker dedicated in 1909 said: "This stone marks the spot where the Confederate Raider Gen. John H. Morgan surrendered his command to Major Geo. W. Rue July 26, 1863, and is the farthest point north ever reached by any body of Confederate troops during the Civil War."
Later, that plaque was replaced by an Ohio Historical Society marker which said: "At this spot on July 26, 1863, General John Hunt Morgan with 336 of his Confederate raiders surrendered to Major George W. Rue after spreading panic across southern Ohio for 23 days."
(This column is the fifth in a series on Morgan's 1863 raid into Ohio.)
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Journal-News, Wednesday, July 30, 2003
Morgan captor lived in relative obscurity in Hamilton
By Jim Blount
John Hunt Morgan gained fame during the Civil War as a Confederate cavalry commander. Hundreds of books and magazine articles have heralded his exploits, including his daring raid into Indiana and Ohio in July 1863. In contrast, George W. Rue, Morgan's captor, lived in relative obscurity in Hamilton for about 45 years after the Civil War.
Major Rue accepted Brigadier-General Morgan's surrender Sunday, July 26, 1863, in Columbiana County, near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border, ending Morgan's 1,006-mile, 25-day raid from Tennessee into Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio.
By telegram, Rue's modest report said "I captured John Morgan today at 2 p.m., taking 336 prisoners, 400 horses and arms." Morgan had started his northern sweep July 2 with 2,460 troopers.
After his capture, Morgan and some of his officers were sent to the Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus, but he didn't stay long. The evening of Nov. 26-27, 1863 -- through methods still in doubt -- Morgan and a few of his men escaped after about four months in captivity and returned to the Confederacy.
Morgan was killed at Greeneville, Tenn., Sept. 4, 1864, taking to his grave the answers to many questions and mysteries associated with his daring dash through three states, including a threatened attack on Hamilton the night of July 13-14, 1863.
His captor, Major Rue, was born June 8, 1828, at Harrodsburg, Ky., one of seven children. In June 1846, at age 18, he enlisted in Captain R. B. Thompson's Second Kentucky Infantry. He served under General Zachary Taylor in the Mexican War, fighting in the Battle of Buena Vista. Rue was wounded in the right eye, possibly losing sight in that eye.
He returned to Harrodsburg to recuperate and remained in Mercer County until 1854, working as a builder or carpenter. That year Rue moved to Dayton, Ohio, and married Elizabeth Brown, 27, who died seven weeks after giving birth to their son, Isaac Rue.
In 1855, he moved to Glendale, Ohio, for about eight months before relocating to Hamilton. He was married Dec. 20, 1855, to Amanda Kline, who died in Hamilton in 1889. They were the parents of a daughter, Mary Rue.
Rue was mustered into the Ninth Kentucky Cavalry Aug. 22, 1862, and saw Civil War action Oct. 8 in the Battle of Perryville, Ky.
In early July 1863, he was involved in the pursuit of Morgan's raiders when he became ill. He resumed the chase from Cincinnati July 14.
Rue was mustered out Aug. 21, 1863 -- less than a month after capturing the Confederate leader -- upon completion of his one-year term. He apparently immediately returned to Hamilton then, although evidence is sketchy.
After the Civil War, Rue was a prominent citizen and active in Democratic Party politics in Butler County. He was one of the first door-to-door mail delivery men in Hamilton, but his prime business interests were construction and real estate,
He was married a third time in 1895 to Marietta (Mary) Miller Seward. Rue, then a resident of 236 North 11th Street, in Hamilton died April 3, 1911, at age 82.
He is buried in Greenwood Cemetery, but there is no grave marker mentioning his Civil War feat of capturing the legendary General Morgan, ending the "panic [that spread] across southern Ohio for 23 days" 140 summer ago.
(This column is the last of a six-part series on Morgan's 1863 raid into Ohio.)