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New York University Press, For editorial assistance, thanks to. Is Herbert Aptheker a Historian? It is glorious why they hope potential to be the shop one. This is CTL authorities powerful as shop one of morgans men memoirs of lieutenant john m porter of the native and terming spring Trautmann , Velu It is a prevalent opinion that his troops were totally undisciplined and unaccustomed to the instruction and restraint which form the soldier.
They were, to be sure, far below the standard of regular troops in these respects, and doubtless they were inferior in many particulars of drill and organization to some carefully-trained bodies of cavalry, Confederate and Federal, which were less constantly and actively engaged in service on the front. But these essential requisites to efficiency were by no means neglected or in a great degree lacking. The utmost care was exercised in the organization of every regiment to place the best men in office—General Morgan frequently interfering, for that purpose, in a manner warranted neither by the regulations nor the acts of congress.
No opportunity was neglected to attain proficiency in the tactics which experience had induced us to adopt, and among officers and men there was a perfect appreciation of the necessity of strict subordination, prompt unquestioning obedience to superiors, and an active, vigilant discharge of all the duties which devolve upon the soldier in the vicinity or presence of the enemy.
I do not hesitate to say that "Morgan's Division," in its best days, would have lost nothing in points of discipline and instruction by comparison with any of the fine cavalry commands, which did constant service, of the Confederate army, and the testimony of more than one inspecting officer can be cited to that effect. More credit, too, has been given General Morgan for qualities and ability which constitute a good spy, or successful partisan to lead a handful of men, than for the very decided military talents which he possessed.
He is most generally thought to have been in truth, the "Guerrilla Chief," which the [Pg 15] Northern press entitled and strove to prove him. It will not be difficult to disabuse the minds of military men or, indeed, intelligent men of any class of this impression. It will be only necessary to review his campaigns and give the reasons which induced his movements, to furnish an authentic and thorough statement of facts, and, as far as practicable, an explanation of attendant circumstances, and it will be seen that he had in an eminent degree many of the highest and most necessary qualities of the General.
An even cursory study of Morgan's record will convince the military reader, that the character he bore with those who served with him was deserved. That while circumspect and neglectful of no precaution to insure success or avert disaster, he was extremely bold in thought and action. That using every means to obtain extensive and accurate information attempting no enterprise of importance without it , and careful in the consideration of every contingency, he was yet marvelously quick to combine and to revolve, and so rapid and sudden in execution, as frequently to confound both friends and enemies.
And above all, once convinced, he never hesitated to act; he would back his judgment against every hazard, and with every resource at his command. Whatever merit be allowed or denied General Morgan, he is beyond all question entitled to the credit of having discovered uses for cavalry, or rather mounted infantry, to which that arm was never applied before. While other cavalry officers were adhering to the traditions of former wars, and the systems of the schools, however inapplicable to the demands of their day and the nature of the struggle, he originated and perfected, not only a system of tactics, a method of fighting and handling men in the presence of the enemy, but also a strategy as effective as it was novel.
Totally ignorant of the art of war as learned from the books and in the academies; an imitator in nothing; self taught in all [Pg 16] that he knew and did, his success was not more marked than his genius.
The creator and organizer of his own little army—with a force which at no time reached four thousand—he killed and wounded nearly as many of the enemy, and captured more than fifteen thousand. The author of the far-reaching "raid," so different from the mere cavalry dash, he accomplished with his handful of men results which would otherwise have required armies and the costly preparations of regular and extensive campaigns.
I shall endeavor to show the intimate connection between his operations and those of the main army in each department where he served, and the strategic importance of even his apparently rashest and most purposeless raids, when considered with reference to their bearing upon the grand campaigns of the West. When the means at his disposal, the difficulties with which he had to contend, and the results he effected are well understood, it will be conceded that his reputation with the Southern soldiery was not undeserved, and that to rank with the best of the many active and excellent cavalry officers of the West, to have had, confessedly, no equal among them except in Forrest, argues him to have possessed no common ability.
The design of this work may in part fail, because of the inability of one so little accustomed to the labors of authorship to present his subject in the manner that it deserves; but the theme is one sure to be interesting and impressive however treated, and materials may, in this way be preserved for abler pens and more extensive works. The apparent egotism in the constant use of the first person will, I trust, be excused by the explanation that I write of matters and events known almost entirely from personal observation, reports of subordinate officers to myself, or personal knowledge of reports made directly to General Morgan, and that, serving for a considerable period as his second in command, it was necessarily my duty to see to the execution of his plans, and I enjoyed a large share of his confidence.
For the spirit in which it is written, I have only to say that I have striven to be candid and accurate; to that sort of impartiality which is acquired at the expense of a total divestiture of natural feeling, I can lay no claim. A Southern man, once a Confederate soldier—always thoroughly Southern in sentiments and feeling, I can, of course, write only a Southern account of what I saw in the late war, and as such what is herein written must be received. His father, Calvin C. Morgan, was a native of Virginia, and a distant relative of Daniel Morgan, the rebel general of revolutionary fame.
In early manhood, Mr. Morgan followed the tide of emigration flowing from Virginia to the West, and commenced life as a merchant in Alabama. In , he married the daughter of John W. Hunt, of Lexington, Kentucky, one of the wealthiest and most successful merchants of the State, and one whose influence did much to develope the prosperity of that portion of it in which he resided.
Morgan is described by all who knew him as a gentleman whom it was impossible to know and not to respect and esteem. His character was at once firm and attractive, but he possessed neither the robust constitution nor the adventurous and impetuous spirit which characterized other members of his family. He was quiet and studious in his habits, and although fond of the society of his friends, he shunned every species of excitement.
When failing health, and, perhaps, a distaste for mercantile pursuits induced him to relinquish them, he removed with his family to Kentucky his son John was then four years old , and purchased a farm near Lexington, upon which he lived until a few years before his death. John H. Morgan was reared in Kentucky, and lived in Lexington from his eighteenth year until the fall of , when he joined the Confederate army. There was nothing in his boyhood, of which any record has been preserved, to indicate the distinction he was to win, and neither friends nor enemies can deduce from anecdotes of his youthful life arguments of any value in support of the views which they respectively entertain of his character.
In this respect, also, he displayed his singular [Pg 19] originality of character, and he is about the only instance in modern times if biographies are to be believed of a distinguished man who had not, as a boy, some presentiment of his future, and did not conduct himself accordingly. When nineteen he enlisted for the "Mexican War" and was elected First Lieutenant of Captain Beard's company, in Colonel Marshall's regiment of cavalry. He served in Mexico for eighteen months, but did not, he used to say, see much of "war" during that time.
He was, however, at the battle of Buena Vista, in which fight Colonel Marshall's regiment was hotly engaged, and his company, which was ably led, suffered severely. Soon after his return home he married Miss Bruce, of Lexington, a sweet and lovely lady, who, almost from the day of her wedding, was a confirmed and patient invalid and sufferer.watch
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Immediately after his marriage, he entered energetically into business—was industrious, enterprising and prosperous, and at the breaking out of the war in , he was conducting in Lexington two successful manufactories. Every speculation and business enterprise in which he engaged succeeded, and he had acquired a very handsome property. This he left, when he went South, to the mercy of his enemies, making no provision whatever for its protection, and apparently caring not at all what became of it.
As he left some debts unsettled, his loyal creditors soon disposed of it with the aid of the catch-rebel attachment law. When quite a young man he had two or three personal difficulties in Lexington, in one of which he was severely wounded. To those who recollect the tone of society in Kentucky at that day, it will be no matter of astonishment to learn that a young man of spirit became engaged in such affairs.
His antagonists, however, became, subsequently, his warm friends. The stigmas upon General Morgan's social standing, so frequent in the Northern press, need not be noticed. Their falsity was always well known in Kentucky and the South. The calumnies, so widely circulated regarding his private life, must be noticed, or the duty of the biographer would be neglected in an important particular. And yet, except to positively deny every thing which touched his integrity as a man and his honor as a gentleman, it would seem that there is nothing for his biographer to do in this respect.
The wealth at the disposal of the Federal Government attracted into its service all the purchasable villainy of the press—North and South. It was not even necessary for the Government to bid for them—they volunteered to perform, gratis, in the hope of future reward. To undertake a refutation of every slander broached by this gang against a man, so constantly a theme for all tongues and pens, as was Morgan, would be an impossible, even if it were a necessary, task.
It is enough to say that he was celebrated, and therefore he was belied. General Morgan was certainly no "saint"—his friends may claim that he had no right to that title and not the slightest pretension to it. While he respected true piety in other men, and, as those who knew him intimately will well remember, evinced on all occasions a profound and unaffected veneration for religion, he did not profess, nor did he regulate his life by religious convictions. Like the great majority of the men of his class—the gentlemen of the South—he lived freely, and the amusements he permitted himself would, doubtless, have shocked a New Englander almost as much as the money he spent in obtaining them.
Even had the manners of the people among whom he lived have made it politic to conceal carefully every departure from straight-laced morality, he, of all men, would have been the least likely to do so, for he scorned hypocrisy as he did every species of meanness. To sum up, General Morgan, with the virtues, had some of the faults of his Southern blood and country, and he sought so little to extenuate the latter himself, that it may be presumed that he cared not the least whether or no they were recorded.
While no censure can, of course, be directed against those who slandered him, as they did others, for hire—and it would [Pg 21] be as absurd in this age and country, to gravely denounce the lie-coiners of the press, as to waste time in impeaching the false witnesses that figure before military commissions—nevertheless, as justice ought to be done to all, it should be remarked that among the respectable people who furtively gave currency to every story to his injury were some who owed their power to harm him to the generosity of his grandfather, who loved to assist all sorts of merit, but was particularly partial to manual skill.
The qualities in General Morgan, which would have attracted most attention in private life, were an exceeding gentleness of disposition and unbounded generosity. His kindness and goodness of heart were proverbial. His manner, even after he had become accustomed to command, was gentle and kind, and no doubt greatly contributed to acquire him the singular popularity which he enjoyed long before he had made his military reputation. The strong will and energy which he always displayed might not have elicited much notice, had not the circumstances in which the war placed him developed and given them scope for exercise.
But his affection for the members of his family and his friends, the generosity which prompted him to consult their wishes at the expense of any sacrifice of his own, his sensitive regard for the feelings of others, even of those in whom he felt least interest, and his rare charity for the failings of the weak, made up a character which, even without an uncommon destiny, would have been illustrious. His benevolence was so well known in Lexington, that to "go to Captain Morgan" was the first thought of every one who wished to inaugurate a charitable enterprise, and his business house was a rendezvous for all the distressed, and a sort of "intelligence office" for the poor seeking employment.
His temper was cheerful and frequently gay; no man more relished pleasantry and mirth in the society of his friends, with whom his manner was free and even at times jovial; but he never himself indulged in personal jests nor familiarities, nor did he [Pg 22] permit them from his most intimate associates; to attempt them with him gave him certain and lasting offense. There was never a more sanguine man; with him to live was to hope and to dare. Yet while rarely feeling despondency and never despair, he did not deceive himself with false or impossible expectations.
He was quick to perceive the real and the practical, and while enterprising in the extreme he was not in the least visionary. His nerve, his powers of discrimination, the readiness with which he could surrender schemes found to be impracticable, if by chance he became involved in them, and his energy and close attention to his affairs, made him very successful in business, and undoubtedly the same qualities, intensified by the demand that war made upon them, contributed greatly to his military success. But it can not be denied that not only the reputation which he won, but the talent which he displayed, astonished none more than his old friends.
He would, I think, have been regarded as a remarkable man under any circumstances, by all who would have intimately known him, but he was born to be great in the career in which he was so successful. It is true that war fully developed many qualities which had been observed in him previously, and surest sign of real capacity he to the last continued to grow with every call that was made upon him.
But he manifested an aptitude for the peculiar service in which he acquired so much distinction, an instinctive appreciation of the requisites for success, and a genius for command, which made themselves immediately recognized, but which no one had expected. Nature had certainly endowed him with some gifts which she very rarely bestows, and which give the soldier who has them vast advantages; a quickness of perception and of thought, amounting almost to intuition, an almost unerring sagacity in foreseeing the operations of an adversary and in calculating the effect of his own movements upon him, wonderful control over men, as individuals and in masses, and moral courage and energy almost preternatural.
He did not seem to reason like other men, at least no one could discover the logical process, if there was one, by which his conclusions were reached. His mind worked most accurately when it worked most rapidly, and sight or sound were scarcely so swift as were its operations in an emergency. This peculiar faculty and habit of thought enabled him to plan with a rapidity almost inconceivable.
Apparently his combinations were instantaneously commenced and perfected, and, if provided with the necessary information, he matured on enterprise almost as soon as he conceived it. His language and manner were often very expressive of this peculiar constitution of mind. In consultation with those whom he admitted to his confidence, he never cared to hear arguments, he would listen only to opinions. In stating his plans, he entered into no explanations, and his expressions of his views and declaration of his purposes sounded like predictions.
At such times his speech would become hurried and vehement, and his manner excited but remarkably impressive. He evidently felt the most thorough and intense conviction himself, and he seldom failed to convince his hearers. Advice volunteered, even by those he most liked and relied on, was never well received, and when he asked counsel of them he required that it should be concise and definite, and resented hesitation or evasion.
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Without being in the ordinary sense of the term an excellent judge of character, he possessed, in a greater degree than any of his military associates, the faculty of judging how various circumstances especially the events and vicissitudes of war would affect other men, and of anticipating in all contingencies their thoughts and action.
He seemed, if I may use such expressions, capable of imagining himself exactly in the situations of other men, of identifying his own mind with theirs, and thinking what they thought. He could certainly, with more accuracy than any one, divine the plans and wishes of an enemy.
This was universally remarked, and he exhibited it, not only in correctly surmising the intentions of his own im [Pg 24] mediate opponents, but also in the opinions which he gave regarding the movements of the grand armies. He sought all the information which could however remotely affect his interests and designs with untiring avidity, and the novel and ingenious expedients he sometimes resorted to in order to obtain it, would perhaps furnish materials for the most interesting chapter of his history. It was a common saying among his men, that "no lawyer can cross-examine like General Morgan," and indeed the skill with which he could elicit intelligence from the evasive or treacherous answers of men unwilling to aid, or seeking to deceive him, was only less astonishing than the confidence with which he would act upon information so acquired.
In army phrase, he was a capital "judge of information," that is, he could almost infallibly detect the true from the false, and determine the precise value of all that he heard. His quickness and accuracy, in this respect, amounted almost to another sense; reports, which to others appeared meager and unsatisfactory, and circumstances devoid of meaning to all but himself, frequently afforded him a significant and lively understanding of the matters which he wished to know. He had another faculty which is very essential to military success, indispensably necessary, at any rate, to a cavalry commander who acts independently and at such distances from any base or support as he almost constantly did.
I believe the English term it, having "a good eye for a country. He neglected nothing that a close study of maps and careful inquiry could furnish of this sort of knowledge, but after a brief investigation or experience, he generally had a better understanding of the subject than either map-makers or natives could give him.
However imperfect might be his acquaintance with a country, it was nearly impossible for a guide to deceive him. What he had once learned in this respect he never forgot. A road once [Pg 25] traveled was always afterward familiar to him, with distances, localities and the adjacent country. Thus, always having in his mind a perfect idea of the region where he principally operated, he could move with as much facility and confidence when there without maps and guides as with them.
His favorite strategy, in his important expeditions or "raids," was to place himself by long and swift marches—moving sometimes for days and nights without a halt except to feed the horses—in the very heart of the territory where were the objects of his enterprise. He relied upon this method to confuse if not to surprise his enemy, and prevent a concentration of his forces. He would then strike right and left. He rarely declined upon such expeditions to fight when advancing, for it was his theory that then, a concentration of superior forces against him was more difficult, and that the vigor of his enemy was to a certain extent paralyzed by the celerity of his own movements and the mystery which involved them.
But after commencing his retreat, he would use every effort and stratagem to avoid battle, fearing that while fighting one enemy others might also overtake him, and believing that at such times the morale of his own troops was somewhat impaired. No leader could make more skillful use of detachments. He would throw them out to great distances, even when surrounded by superior and active forces, and yet in no instance was one of them commanded by a competent officer and who obeyed instructions overwhelmed or cut off. It very rarely happened that they failed to accomplish the purposes for which they were dispatched, or to rejoin the main body in time to assist in decisive action.
He could widely separate and apparently scatter his forces, and yet maintain such a disposition of them as to have all well in hand. When pushing into the enemy's lines he would send these detachments in every direction, until it was impossible to conjecture his real intentions—causing, generally, the shifting of troops from point to point as each was threatened; until the one he wished to attack was weakened, when he would strike at it like lightning.
He was a better strategist than tactician. He excelled in the arts which enable a commander to make successful campaigns and gain advantages without much fighting, rather than in skillful maneuvering on the field. He knew how to thoroughly confuse and deceive an enemy, and induce in him as he desired false confidence or undue caution; how to isolate and persuade or compel him to surrender without giving battle; and he could usually manage, although inferior to the aggregate of the hostile forces around him, to be stronger or as strong at the point and moment of encounter.
The tactics he preferred, when he chose to fight, were attempts at surprise and a concentration of his strength for headlong dashing attacks. To this latter method there were some objections. These attacks were made with a vigor, and inspired in the men a reckless enthusiasm, which generally rendered them successful. But if the enemy was too strong, or holding defensible positions, was resolute and stubborn in resistance, and the first two or three rushes failed to drive him, the attack was apt to fail altogether, and the reaction was correspondent to the energy of the onset.
He did not display so much ability when operating immediately with the army, as when upon detached service. He would not hesitate to remain for days closely confronting the main forces of the enemy, keeping his videttes constantly in sight of his cantonments, observing his every movement, and attacking every detachment and foraging party which he could expect to defeat.
But when a grand advance of the enemy was commenced he preferred making a timely and long retreat, followed by a dash in some quarter where he was not expected, rather than to stubbornly contest their progress. He could actively and efficiently harass a retreating army, multiplying and continuing his assaults until he seemed ubiquitous; but he was not equally efficient in covering a retreat or retarding an advance in force. Upon one or two occasions, [Pg 27] when the emergency was imminent, he performed this sort of service cheerfully and well, but he did not like it, nor was he eminently fitted for it.
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He had little of that peculiar skill with which Forrest would so wonderfully embarrass an enemy's advance, and contesting every inch of his march, and pressing upon him if he hesitated or receded, convert every mistake that he made into a disaster. In attempting a delineation of General Morgan's character, mention ought not to be omitted of certain peculiarities, which to some extent, affected his military and official conduct.
Although by no means a capricious or inconsistent man, for he entertained profound convictions and adhered to opinions with a tenacity that often amounted to prejudice, he frequently acted very much like one. Not even those who knew him best could calculate how unusual occurrences would affect him, or induce him to act.
It frequently happened that men for whose understandings and characters he had little respect, but who were much about his person, obtained a certain sort of influence with him, but they could keep it only by a complete acquiescence in his will when it became aroused. He sometimes permitted and even encouraged suggestions from all around him, listening to the most contradictory opinions with an air of thorough acquiescence in all.
It was impossible, on such occasions, to determine whether this was done to flatter the speakers, to mislead as to his real intentions, or if he was in fact undecided. He generally ended such moments of doubt by his most original and unexpected resolutions, which he would declare exactly as if they were suggestions just made by some one else, almost persuading the parties to whom they were attributed that they had really advanced them.
In his judgment of the men with whom he had to deal, he showed a strange mixture of shrewdness and simplicity. He seldom failed to discern and to take advantage of the ruling characteristics of those who approached him, and he could subsidize the knowledge and talents of other [Pg 28] men with rare skill. He especially excelled in judging men collectively. He knew exactly how to appeal to the feelings of his men, to excite their enthusiasm, and stimulate them to dare any danger and endure any fatigue and hardship.
But he sometimes committed the gravest errors in his estimation of individual character. He more than once imposed implicit confidence in men whom no one else would have trusted, and suffered himself to be deceived by the shallowest imposters. He obtained credit for profound insight into character by his possession of another and very different quality.
The unbounded influence he at once acquired over almost every one who approached him, enabled him to make men do the most uncharacteristic things, and created the impression that he discovered traits of character hidden from others. General Morgan had more of those personal qualities which make a man's friends devoted to him, than any one I have ever known. He was himself very warm and constant in the friendships which he formed. It seemed impossible for him to do enough for those to whom he was attached, or to ever give them up.
His manner when he wished, prepossessed every one in his favor. He was generally more courteous and attentive to his inferiors than to his equals and superiors. This may have proceeded in a great measure from his jealousy of dictation and impatience of restraint, but was the result also of warm and generous feelings. His greatest faults, arose out of his kindness and easiness of disposition, which rendered it impossible for him to say or do unpleasant things, unless when under the influence of strong prejudice or resentment.
This temperament made him a too lax disciplinarian, and caused him to be frequently imposed upon. He was exceedingly and unfeignedly modest. For a long time he sought, in every way, to avoid the applause and ovations which met him every where in the South, and he never learned to keep a bold countenance when receiving them.
It was distressing to see him called on as was of course often the case for a speech—nature certainly never intended that he should win either fame or bread by oratory.
When complimented for any achievement he always gave the credit of it to some favorite officer, or attributed it to the excellence of his troops. Nothing seemed to give him more sincere pleasure than to publicly acknowledge meritorious service in a subaltern officer or private, and he would do it in a manner that made it a life long remembrance with the recipient of the compliment. When displeased, he rarely reprimanded, but expressed his displeasure by satirically complimenting the offender; frequently the only evidence of dissatisfaction which he would show was a peculiar smile, which was exceeding significant, and any thing but agreeable to the individual conscious of having offended him.
His personal appearance and carriage were striking and graceful. His features were eminently handsome and adapted to the most pleasing expressions. His eyes were small, of a grayish blue color, and their glances keen and thoughtful. His figure on foot or on horseback was superb.
He was exactly six feet in hight, and although not at all corpulent, weighed one hundred and eighty-five pounds. His form was perfect and the rarest combination of strength, activity and grace. His constitution seemed impervious to the effects of privation and exposure, and it was scarcely possible to perceive that he suffered from fatigue or lack of sleep. After marching for days and nights without intermission, until the hardiest men in his division were exhausted, I have known him, as soon as a halt was called, and he could safely leave his command, ride fifty miles to see his wife.
Although a most practical man in all of his ideas, he irresistibly reminded one of the heroes of romance. He seemed the Fra-Moreale come to life again, and, doubtless, was as much feared and as bitterly denounced as was that distinguished officer. Men are not often born who can wield such an influence as [Pg 30] he exerted, apparently without an effort—who can so win men's hearts and stir their blood. He will, at least, be remembered until the Western cavalrymen and their children have all died. The bold riders who live in the border-land, whose every acre he made historic, will leave many a story of his audacity and wily skill.
They will name but one man as his equal, "The wizard of the saddle," the man of revolutionary force and fire, strong, sagacious, indomitable Forrest, and the two will go down in tradition together, twin-brothers in arms and in fame. The position assumed by Kentucky, at the inception of the late struggle, and her conduct throughout, excited the surprise, and, in no small degree, incurred for her the dislike of both the contending sections. You are commenting using your Google account.
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