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Morgan's Raid

In June of 1863, a force of 2,500 Confederate cavalrymen and 4 pieces of artillery led by Brigadier General John Hunt Morgan moved through Tennessee and Kentucky in an effort to distract Union forces.  Morgan eventually led his men across the Ohio River into Indiana and Ohio, disobeying orders not to move this far north.  On July 13th, Morgan's Confederates entered Ohio through Harrison and threatened Cincinnati.  Their route took them just south of Butler County and they eventually passed beyond Cincinnati with little incident, except for a skirmish near Camp Dennison.  Morgan's force was hotly pursued through Ohio where on July 19th, it was confronted and defeated at the Battle of Buffington Island.  Morgan was captured on July 26th near Salineville, Ohio.

Below is an account of Morgan's Raid as recalled by George Richards.  The account was written by Robert Mulford and published in the Venice Graphic on September 9th, 1887.  Source: Wells, Ruth J., "Colerain Township Revisited", 1994.

It was on the glorious Forth of July, in 1860, that the fountain was dedicated.  (Richard's watering trough on Old Colerain Road).  Several years later Morgan's Raiders approached within half a dozen miles of this spot, and it fell to the lot of Giles Richards' son George - at whose farm I spent my vacation - to turn them from their purpose.  George Richards was a mere youth then - not much over sixteen.  His cousin Giles, a member of the Sixth O.V.I., was at home on sick leave at that time.  The country round about was much excited just then over the story that Morgan's band of marauders was nearing town.  In the Richards stable was a spirited little animal that had been caught on the field of battle near where the Confederate Gen. Zollicoffer was killed.  Will Gano captured him and sent him North after christening him after the dead rebel.  These young fellows took it into their heads one day that they would go upon a scouting expedition and see if they could find some trace of the wily Morgan.  So they hitched "Zollicoffer" to a buggy and started out.  Away up the pike they drove past Colerain, through Venice and some distance beyond that place.  On they were going when they discovered three men in gray in a barnyard.  They carried muskets, and in a moment their weapons were cocked.

"Halt!" cried one of them.
The boys haled.
"Where are you going?" demanded one of the Johnny Rebs.
"Oh, we are out driving to see if we can find any of Morgan's raiders," responded George Richards, with all the candor of youth.
"Keep right on," ordered the fellow, grimly, "you'll find 'em!"

The three Rebs fell in behind and the boys drove on.  Giles knew they were in a scrape but George didn't realize the danger.  Sure enough, they had not ridden very far before they ran into a body of at least a hundred of the Johnnies.

"Nice horse thar," remarked a big rawboned Kentuckian, as he thumped little "Zollicoffer" in the ribs.  "Git out here and help unhitch."

George got out and the Kentuckian rode away on Zollicoffer's back.  Even then he did not appreciate that they were in a bad scrape, but he hunted up the officer in command and said: "Captain, we're in a pretty tough fix.  We're pretty far from home to be without any horse.  Haven't you got an old cripple you don't want that you can let us have?"

The audacity of the request startled the Reb, and for a moment he stared at his questioner closely.  He saw nothing but innocence there, and with a queer sort of smile he said to one of his men: "Get this boy a horse!"
Then turning to George he told him: "Now you turn right around and go back for if you meet the rest of they army they'll take this away from you.  By the way any home guards up your way?"
"Yes, indeed!" responded young Richards, "two companies at Venice."

It was a fib, for there wasn't a home guard in the town but the lie served its purpose.  Morgan's raiders gave Venice a wide berth.  They turned down toward New Baltimore, burnt the bridge there that night and then passed back to the Colerain pike, crossing at Franklin Wells a couple of miles south of this place.  As for young Richards, it was a cripple the Rebs gave him.  It took three hours prodding with a hickory hoop-pole to get home again.  On the way the met several drunken Johnnies, and George, filled with the enthusiasm of youth, wanted to take a few prisoners, but his cousin told him to "say nothing and saw wood."  He didn't want his head blown off.  they finally ran across one raider who had succumbed to water or something else.  He was asleep on the road with two hams by his side.  The boys "sneaked" the hams, and later on they were devoured with eclat at a Union Sanitary Commission picnic at Colerain.  Every farmer they met they told of the coming of the raiders.  A few laughed at them and declared they had heard the yarn often enough.  The majority, however gathered their horses together and drove them into the weeds that grew as high as a house in the Miami bottom.

Venice owes George Richards a debt of gratitude to this day.

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