Morgan’s Raiders’ Last Day in Indiana

Part of a series.

The raiders rode swiftly through Indiana. With little warning of Morgan’s arrival because of his

Wayside marker in New Alsace, Indiana

unpredictable movements, local residents had limited time to prepare. After a short rest near Sunmansville, Indiana, the raiders moved slightly northeast, towards the community of New Alsace.

Today, New Alsace is a tiny community, easy to miss while driving through. However, in July 1863, it was a bustling town with a population of nearly 600 people with many trade shops, hotels, and, perhaps most impressively, 16 taverns. The small community sat on one of the only main routes between southern Indiana and Cincinnati, Ohio.

The raiders were well on their way when the citizens of New Alsace got word of their impending arrival. With just enough time, some of the residents hid their horses in a nearby wooded area. Upon arriving, the raiders entered a tavern owned by Elizabeth Vogelgesang. Elizabeth, a widow, had taken in her niece, Philomena, after the young girl’s parents had died in Kentucky. The two women quickly began to prepare breakfast for the raiders. Philomena stated later that she found the well-mannered men who embodied the ideals of southern politeness impressive. Among the raiders was Philomena’s own brother, though neither had seen each other in the years since their parents passing, and thus did not recognize each other. It would not be till after the end of the war, when her brother began searching for his siblings that they would realize that the young girl serving him pancakes on the morning of July 13 was his sister.

St. Paul Catholic Church in New Alsace, Indiana. Located about 150 yards from where the Yeager Grocery store once sat

Contrasting with the respect given to Ms. Vogelgesang and Philomena, a different story unfolded at the Yaeger grocery store, just across the street. The raiders found Eva Yaeger, a widow as well, alone in the shop. Her husband passed earlier that spring, shortly after hearing the news that their 20-year-old son Henry had perished near Vicksburg while serving in the 83rd Indiana Volunteers. The raiders had no sympathy for Mrs. Yaeger who, in a state of grief, did not try to hide her anger and bitterness towards the Confederate men. They broke open barrels of whiskey, vinegar, and molasses, letting the contents spill out onto the shop floor. An officer finally put a stop to the unruly behavior and ordered the men to leave the shop.

Nearly as quickly as they arrived in the small town, the raiders left, riding east toward Ohio, passing through other small communities such as Dover, Logan, and Bright.

In the larger picture, Indiana remained rather untouched by the flames of war. Though many may argue that Morgan and his men brought the “hard hand” of war to the residents of Southern Indiana, acts of destruction were limited and only along the raiders’ route. Much of the destruction—like burning bridges and other infrastructure—attempted to slow the Union military’s response or temporarily wreck the state’s transportation system. At times, Morgan lost control of his men in Indiana, and they did ransack some communities, taking more than was needed or essential. Morgan’s goal with the raid was not to cause destruction in the northern states. Rather, he hoped to divert the attention of the Army of the Ohio and prevent it from sending reinforcements into Middle and Eastern Tennessee.

Map showing New Alsace, Dover, Logan, Bright, and West Harrison, Indiana

Historian Scott Roller writes, “With respect to the personal safety of the inhabitants of the state, Morgan’s men were  compassionate compared to the destruction the Union forces inflicted upon the south.” In some instances, Union soldiers noted that the raid in Indiana was no worse than what they had done. Benjamin Mabrey, near Winchester, Tennessee, wrote to his wife Lou on July 20, 1863, saying in regard to Morgan’s actions that they were “no werse than we serve the sitayns hears… we take everything they have we dont leave the first thing for them to live on thare is lots of them now starving for want of soup to eat.”

Nevertheless, for five days the raiders zigzagged their way across the Hoosier state. Finally reaching the Ohio state line about 11 in the morning on July 13, 1863, Morgan’s columns crossed the Whitewater River, burning the solid oak bridge as the last man set foot in Ohio. Their time in Indiana was over. However, the raid certainly was not, and they would spend the next 13 days in southern Ohio.

3 Responses to Morgan’s Raiders’ Last Day in Indiana

  1. This is probably one of the most historically written articles I’ve read in a long time. Most contributors have a hard time discerning the difference between personal and factual information. If only people would do the research before they write we would all be able to understand who, what, when, why, and where.

    1. Thank you very much for your comment! I am glad you enjoyed the article! Stay tuned as there will be more coming shortly about Morgan and his men as they make their way through Ohio.

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