A Brief History of the Second Kentucky Cavalry,CSA
When John Hunt Morgan first acquired the skills of Champ Ferguson & his
Mountain Guerillas as Scouts in Sparta, Tenn. ~ (June of 1862), Morgan's command
consisted of the newly formed 2nd Kentucky Cavalry Regiment. In honor of these
gallant Rebel Raiders that from time-to-time Ferguson's Independent Company
would be closely associated with, we present the following tribute....
A Brief HistoryÖ..
The 2nd Kentucky Cavalry regiment was formed by John Hunt Morgan from the remnants of his cavalry squadron ("the Lexington Rifles")soon after the battle of Shiloh in early 1862. A native of Alabama, but raised in Kentucky, Morgan was a tall, glamorously attired cavalry officer with an affection for French-styled whiskers and good horse flesh.
The 2nd Kentuckyís ranks included not only farmers, planters, and the First Families of Kentucky, but also a colorful cast of characters ~ including a fiery British soldier-of-
fortune (Lt.Col. George St. Leger Grenfell) who declared that "if England is not a war, then I will go find one"; a wily Canadian-born telegraph operator (Pvt. George -"Lightning" Ellsworth) who could, after moments of listening in, mimic any operators style and thus mislead pursuing forces; to a band of Kentucky outlaws led by a notorious bushwacker (Capt. Champ Ferguson) who joined Morgan as a scout after first promising not to kill any Yankees taken by the 2nd Kentucky as prisoners.
Also reported amongst the 2nd Kentuckyís ranks were Black Mississippi Confederates, whom were recruited by John Hunt Morgan, as he felt they were "loyal & fierce fighters".
The 2nd Kentucky was noted for being as good of fighters dismounted as they were on horseback. Even after expansion of Morganís cavalry command, the 2nd Kentucky, with its skill at house to house fighting, discipline under fire, and in maintaining rearguard actions, would always be affectionately regarded by John Hunt Morgan as his "Regulars".
In 1862-63, Morgan conducted a series of bold, and sometimes reckless, cavalry raids through Tennessee and Kentucky; then unnerved & frightened Northerners with a final, daring raid across Indiana and Ohio. Morgan moved rapidly on his famous rides;
cutting general supply lines, tearing up railroads and bridges, destroying large quantities of enemy supplies, and rounding up thousands of Federal prisoners. He monitored pursuing enemy forces by tapping telegraph lines, avoiding unnecessary combat, and dispersing his command to elude capture.
His famous Ohio Raid of July 1863 was the longest Confederate cavalry raid of the war,
Covering more than 1100 miles in about three and a half weeks; however, he and most of his troopers were surrounded and captured. Morgan was imprisoned in the Ohio -State Penitentiary, but he and some accomplices tunneled out and escaped back to Dixie. It was during this period that a detachment of the 2nd Kentucky, attached to General Ė Nathan Bedford Forrest, fired the opening & closing shots of the battle of Chickamauga.
Morgan was a superb cavalry officer and an expert leader. His raids had mixed results,
but they undeniably disrupted Federal operations in Kentucky and Tennessee, and provided a much-needed boost to Southern morale in the Western Theater.
John Hunt Morgan was killed by hostile fire in a minor action in 1864. In preparation for an attack on Federal forces at Knoxville, Tenn.; Morgan halted his command overnight in nearby Greenville, where, on September 4, 1864, he was surprised and murdered by vengeful enemy cavalry after surrendering.
Morganís brother-in-law & second in command, Basil W. Duke, assumed leadership of the remnants of "Morganís Men", and as the war came to a close, he took his command (including the 2nd Kentucky, redesignated as the 2nd Kentucky Special Cavalry Battalion) to link up with Gen. Robert E. Lee. Enroute, and upon hearing of Leeís surrender, Dukeís command instead went to Charlotte, North Carolina; joining Gen. Joseph E. Johnstonís army. While Johnston negotiated surrender with Gen. Sherman, Dukeís command elected to join President Jefferson Davis, thus making up the bulk of Davisí,(and the Confederate Treasuries gold), mounted escort. As Federal forces were closing in, Davis dismissed his escort and continued on with a small bodyguard detachment. Upon Davisí capture, it was discovered that 11 of the 12 troopers in his bodyguard were of the 2nd Kentucky.
Basil Duke and his cavalry command entered Woodstock, Georgia, on May 8, 1865. Before surrendering to a larger force of Federal cavalry, these Confederate cavaliers gathered into ranks for one last formation of "Morganís Raiders".
Footnote: During its four years of service, the 2nd Kentucky Cavalry, of which General John Hunt Morgan was the first Colonel, lost sixty-three commissioned officers killed and wounded; Company A of that regiment, of which Morgan was the first Captain, losing during the war seventy-five men killed. It had on its muster roll, from first to last, nearly two hundred-and-fifty men.
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