Part of a Series on Morgan’s Raid
Less than 30 miles southeast of Bardstown, Kentucky (discussed in part 3 of this series) lies Lebanon, Kentucky. While Morgan’s advance guard had trapped a small contingent of Union soldiers in Bardstown, the bulk of the raiders were in Lebanon on July 5, 1863.
In Lebanon, the Union’s 20th Kentucky Infantry confronted the Confederate Raiders. The 20th Kentucky Infantry consisted of 380 men under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Charles S. Hanson, brother to Confederate General Roger W. Hanson—one of many instances that showcases how the idea of “brother against brother” rang true during the American Civil War. Prior to the impending conflict in Lebanon, the 20th Kentucky had seen fighting at the Battles of Shiloh, Perryville, and Corinth. They were seasoned veterans.
When the Federals and the Raiders collided in the small Kentucky town, the Confederates almost immediately sent a flag of truce, asking for the unconditional surrender of Charles Hanson and his men. Hanson received orders that he and his men needed to hold out as long as possible to allow reinforcements time to arrive. Thus, Hanson refused to surrender.
On a hill overlooking the Federal garrison, the Rebels positioned their two Parrott rifles. They intended to fire on the Yankee forces without having to rush their stronghold. The opening phases of battle languished. The Confederates kept up a barrage of artillery fire, but the Union did not budge, returning fire just as steadily as it came. Finally, word came that the 8th and 9th Michigan Cavalry and the 11th Michigan Battery were approaching to bring reinforcements to Colonel Hanson and his tired troops.
General John Morgan, upon hearing of the approaching Federals, ordered an immediate assault on the Union garrison. Additionally, he sent Colonel Adam “Stovepipe” Johnson and his brigade to intercept the encroaching Michiganders.
General Morgan’s 19-year-old brother, First Lieutenant Thomas H. Morgan, charged with the Rebels attacking the Federal stronghold in Lebanon. Young, enthusiastic, and eager, the young lieutenant led the charge against the Yankee position, cheering on the other men in the company.
A Union sharpshooter took aim and pulled the trigger, striking Tom in the chest. One of his other brothers, Captain Calvin Cogswell Morgan, caught Tom as fell to the ground. In his brother’s arms, Tom uttered his last words: “Brother Cally, they have killed me.”
Confederate Colonel Alston would later write that the events of July 5, 1863, were “a crushing blow to General Morgan, as his affection for his brother exceeded the love of Jonathan to David.”
Despite the devastating loss, the Confederates were victorious.
The Confederates closed in on the Union troops in Lebanon leaving Union Colonel Hanson no other option but to surrender. Upon his capture, many Confederates in the ranks demanded his along with the other Yankee’s executions as retribution for young Thomas’s death. Charlton Morgan, another Morgan sibling on the raid, upon finding Hanson grabbed him up by his beard, yelling, “I’ll blow your brains out.” Hanson, well known to all the Morgan brothers, had grown up nearby in their home state of Kentucky. General Morgan was the oldest of 10 siblings, in total 4 of his younger brothers would join him on the raid.
Fortunately for Hanson, General John Morgan had been nearby, watching the events unfold. Despite being grief stricken, the general ran into the middle of the captured Union train depot and stood between Hanson and his own men. Defiantly, Morgan told the surrounding Rebels that he would “shoot the first one who molests a prisoner.”
Perhaps believing that a more fitting punishment for Hanson would be to live with the guilt of Tom’s death, he turned to the Union officer, saying, “When you get home, if it is any gratification to you, tell mother you killed brother Tom.” Though initially buried in Lebanon, Thomas Morgan would be re-interred in Lexington, Kentucky, after the war.
The Confederates were not the only ones eager to see Hanson punished. Angered by the Union loss, Union General Ambrose B. Burnside would order his arrest. Though less than a week later, Burnside recanted the arrest order, once realizing Morgan and his men were moving further north at an alarming pace.
In the aftermath of events at Lebanon, the Confederates had lost nine men and 25 wounded. The Union losses totaled similarly with six killed and 16 wounded.
Morgan and the raiders quickly took possession of the ammunition, rifles, and medical supplies the Union had stockpiled for their forces in Lebanon. Confederate Colonel Alston, stayed behind to oversee the parole of the captured Union troops. (His fate is discussed in part 3 of this series). Alston and the small contingent of men under his command marched the captured Union soldiers the 6 miles to Springfield, Kentucky for processing the oath of parole. While on the forced march, heavy rains fell, and it is recorded that at least two additional Union soldiers perished.
The rest of the raiders were well on their way north by July 7, 1863. For Morgan, his orders directed him to raid into Kentucky, but not to cross the Ohio River. While Morgan had agreed to these terms in June when first given permission to conduct his raid, the thought of leading his Rebel Raiders deep into Northern Territory seemed too much to resist. Thus, Morgan kept pressing north, gathering his troops that had spread throughout the area in the Bluegrass State.
The only remaining question was where to go next. The raiders could try to make an offensive against Louisville and the Union stationed there or cross the Ohio River further west.
To be continued…