Morgan’s Men Were an Exceptional Group

morgans-raidersGeneral John Hunt Morgan had a magnetism that drew people to him, including many gifted young men from the well-heeled Bluegrass area of Kentucky.

They loved serving under him, especially since he was anything but a strict, by- the- book disciplinarian. Writer James Ramage has said, “”He used what social psychologists today call democratic leadership. He permitted the men to retain their independence in matters that did not concern their official duties, and if a man disappeared from base camp for a couple of days between raids, he asked no questions.”

Morgan himself once said, “I prefer 50 men who gladly obey me, to a division I have to watch and punish.”

For the most part, his men returned the general’s trust with excellent service. After the war, many of them went on to brilliant careers in a variety of fields. Here’s a sampling:

Basil Duke

Basil Duke


Morgan’s brother-in-law and successor, Basil W. Duke, founded the Morgan’s Men Association and presided over it until his death in 1916 at age 78. He also co-founded the Filson Historical Society, a highly respected organization in Louisville.

Duke practiced law, wrote two books about the war, published a magazine called “Southern Bivouac”, served in the state legislature, and became a national political figure as chief lobbyist for the Louisville & Nashville Railroad. (Editor’s note: Morgan’s Men had destroyed L&N bridges and tunnels during the war.) President Theodore Roosevelt appointed him commissioner of the Shiloh battlefield park in 1904 and they became close friends.

The President is said to have quietly visited Duke’s hospital room in his final hours. Duke died in New York City in 1916 while the Morgan’s Men Association was holding its annual reunion in Kentucky. His obituary was prominently featured in the “New York Times” which headlined:

                                                                                                                         GENERAL BASIL WILSON DUKE, MORGAN RAIDER, DIES

Last commander of Civil War cavalry expires in Presbyterian Hospital

                                                                                                                                                    NOTED KENTUCKY LAWYER

Counsel for Louisville & National Railroad for 20 years  dies as Comrades in Army Meet

Thomas Hines

Thomas Hines


Captain Tom Hines may be best remembered by Civil War buffs for orchestrating the 1863 Confederate escape from the maximum-security Ohio Penitentiary. He, General Morgan and five other officers tunneled out of their cellblock and went over the wall. But during the war he made his mark as a scout and spy. He met with Southern sympathizers in the North, mapped Union routes and even plotted an attack on Camp Douglas, the Chicago prison that held thousands of Rebel soldiers, including many of Morgan’s Men.

Though that plot collapsed and the attack never happened, Hines was a spy without parallel.

At the end of the war, with Federal forces wanting to arrest him for treason and perhaps hang him, he fled to Canada and stayed there until 1866 when he was assured he would not be prosecuted. He moved to Memphis, practiced law and edited the “Daily Appeal” newspaper for a time.

Hines returned to his native Kentucky in 1867 and became judge of Warren County. He was elected to the state Court of Appeals (Supreme Court) in 1878 and served as Chief Justice from 1884 to 1886. He was said to be “exceptionally free from all judicial bias.”

He also wrote a series of controversial articles for Basil Duke’s magazine, “Southern Bivouac.” Hines died in 1898 at age 59.

William C. Breckenridge

William C. Breckenridge


William Breckenridge was a member of one of the 19th century’s most important political families. One of his cousins was John C. Breckenridge, who had served as Vice President of the United States and was a Confederate general.

William Breckenridge joined the Confederate army under Morgan as a captain and was promoted to colonel. After the war he practiced law and taught at the University of Kentucky. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1885. He served there until 1894 when a breach-of-promise lawsuit, filed by a former girlfriend, ended his career in elective office. Breckenridge died in 1904 at age 67.


John B. Castleman


John Breckenridge Castleman was a prominent Kentucky businessman during the ante bellum period. In 1861 he recruited several dozen of his friends and neighbors to travel to Tennessee with him and join the forces of John Hunt Morgan. He was promoted to major in 1864. That same year he was arrested in Indiana, convicted of spying and was sentenced to death by hanging.

His execution was stayed by President Lincoln. After the war he was exiled from the U.S. and moved to France where he studied medicine. Castleman was pardoned by President Andrew Johnson in 1866 and returned to America.

He reorganized the Louisville Legion militia and became adjutant general of Kentucky in 1883. That unit served in the Spanish-American war in 1898. After that conflict Castleman was promoted to general and served as military governor of Puerto Rico.

He never sought an elective office but his military and business connections gave him great influence in state and national politics.

In Louisville he was Commissioner of Parks for 25 years and helped to create that city’s Olmsted Park system, which has been one of its great institutions for more than a century.

Castleman died in 1918 at age 76.


James McCreary


James McCreary was a lawyer who joined the Confederate Army as a major. He was with Morgan’s Men on the Great Raid into Indiana and Ohio and was one of those captured following the Battle of Buffington Island.

McCreary was briefly imprisoned by the Federals on Morris Island, SC, but was released and served in the Confederate Army until the end of the war.

He had an impressive post-war political career. In brief: 1871-1875, Kentucky House of Representatives and Speaker of the House; 1875-1878, Kentucky Governor; 1884-1896, U.S. House of Representatives; 1902-1906, U.S. Senate; 1911-1915, Kentucky Governor.

McCreary died in 1918 at age 80.


Adam Stovepipe Johnson

Adam “Stovepipe” Johnson

Adam Johnson got his nickname because he and a skeleton crew of 12 Rebel soldiers used a trick to capture the town of Newburgh, Indiana which was guarded by a much larger Federal force.

In this case, Johnson had his men mount two lengths of stove pipe on a wagon, partially hidden in trees on a hill overlooking the town. From a distance, they looked like cannons.

Convinced they would be shelled by the Confederates, the Union forces surrendered and Adam Johnson would forever be known as Stovepipe.

A native of Kentucky, he spent most of his prewar life in Texas, but returned to the Bluegrass state to serve first under Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, then under Morgan.

But his service was cut short. During a battle, he was accidentally shot in the face by his own men and blinded. Stovepipe was held captive by the U.S. until the end of the war.

Totally blind, he returned to his home in Texas and started several successful businesses, founded the town of Marble Falls and wrote his colorful memoirs.

After Stovepipe died in 1922 at age 86, his funeral was held in the Texas Senate chamber. Stovepipe was laid to rest in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin.

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