“I never robbed a widow yet”: Morgans Raiders in Southeastern Indiana

Part of a series.

Heading south to Dupont, Morgan’s raid through southeastern Indiana continued, arriving in the small town around 8 pm on Saturday, July 11, 1863. Once encamped, the rebel soldiers began destroying the Madison and Indianapolis Railroad. They cut the telegraph wire while also burning key structures to the ground, such as the train depot and water tower. In all, the damages inflicted came to just over $15,000 (later reimbursed by the State of Indiana).

Map showing the towns in Southeastern, Indiana along the raiders route

As some raiders rode through town, they spotted a small home with two American flags flying. A few of the men stopped, intending to remove the flags. Miss Sally Trousdale, armed with a broom, confronted the soldiers. General Morgan, witnessing the interaction, stopped as well. He not only ordered his men to leave the flags alone but additionally commanded a guard be placed outside the home to ensure no others would seek to remove the flags or harass the local teacher. Being respectful of women was of utmost importance to Morgan, and he strived to lead his men by example. 

Perhaps, however, he felt less morally obligated when it came to food and dry goods. Robbing the Mayfield Pork House and Dry Goods store of 2,000 hickory cured hams and nearly $3,000 worth of merchandise. It is said that each raider had a ham stuffed into their saddle bag after passing through Dupont. 

As Saturday turned into Sunday, Morgan and his staff entered the home of Thomas Stout. Like many housewives in Dupont, Mrs. Stout and her daughters were awakened and spent the night making food for the raiders. 

By 8:00 am on Sunday, the raiders had nearly all left Dupont, with the rear guard moving out of the area just as Hobson and his men arrived in town. This Union cavalry unit in hot pursuit of the rebels captured three of Morgan’s rear guards who had fallen behind a mere 200 yards. 

For the citizens of Dupont, the arrival of Hobson’s cavalry was a welcomed sight.

Moving eastward, the raiders made their way to Bryantsburg, before turning north into Ripley County. Morgan and his men entered the small town of Versailles around 2:00 pm on July 12, 1863. Versailles, the county seat of Ripley County, received word that the raiders were approaching. This advance notice allowed the town to prepare. William Duley, the county treasurer, rushed to the courthouse and removed much of the money, burying it in the local fields and leaving only $5,000 in the safe hoping that the sum would satisfy the raiders.

Historical Marker near the East entrance of the county courthouse in Versailles, Indiana (Ripley County)

When Col. Richard Morgan entered the courthouse and demanded the money from the safe, Deputy B. F. Spenser handed him the cash. Col. Morgan noticed that there were other purse bags in the safe and inquired about them. Spenser explained that they were purses placed there by the seven local widows for safe keeping. Morgan replied, “Keep them safe. I never robbed a widow yet,” as he walked out of the building. 

The raiders seemed to be picky about what thefts they deemed moral. A Masonic lodge sat just down the road from the courthouse. One of the raiders found the Masonic jewels stored there, which were too much temptation for him. General Morgan, however, upon learning of the theft, commanded that the jewels and silver coins be returned to the lodge at once. Morgan, a Mason himself, demanded that no harm come to any Freemason. The thief and his raiding companions were dealt with harshly. 

One town over—in Osgood—Col. James H. Cravens organized several militias into companies, to try to defend Versailles. Unfortunately, when they heard the horses approaching, they mistakenly thought them to be militia reinforcements. The raiders quickly overran the local men and relieved them of their weapons. After a stern talking to about the dangers of taking up arms against the Confederacy, the men were paroled and told to go home. 

With Hobson still just a few miles behind Morgan’s Raiders, Confederate Col. J. Warren Grigsby with his 6th Kentucky Cavalry were detached to burn the bridges near Versailles. The Rebels were everywhere, as small detachments were ordered in all directions to burn bridges in an attempt to slow the Union pursuers. In Pierceville, the local preacher became a casualty of war when he failed to halt after being ordered by the rebels to do so. Unbeknownst to the rebels at the time, the preacher was hearing impaired and failed to stop as he could not hear the order given. Turning north, General Morgan stopped south of Sunmansville (today known as Sunman) All along the way, the local home guards continued to harass the raiders. Confederate Capt. L. D. Hockersmith said, “They were everywhere… some of them seemed to understand how to shoot and occasionally they did effective work.” 

Wayside marker at the entrance of St. Paul Lutheran Cemetery, 2 miles from Sunman, Indiana

A missed opportunity for the Union also occurred near Sunmansville. Morgan and a bulk of his men encamped and bedded down for the night not 3 miles outside of the small town. Morgan even established his headquarters for the night in a one room schoolhouse. As Morgan slept on the schoolhouse floor, Union General Lew Wallace arrived by rail with several hundred men in Sunmansville. Wallace was unaware of the 2,500 raiders less than three miles away. When the sun rose on Monday, July 13, the rebels already trotted east toward the Ohio border. Still unaware of their lost chance, Wallace and his soldiers climbed aboard railroad cars, heading south toward Lawrenceburg.

The next two days would perhaps be the most dangerous for Morgan and his men as they approached the city of Cincinnati, a major hub for the Union armies.

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