Madison County Families
Kentucky Pioneers and Their Descendants
This site created by and maintained by Robert J. Parks, 11 Regents Park Lane, Frankfort, KY 40601-3845
© Robert J. Parks 2009-2015
John Hunt Morgan’s Madison Men: Ecstasy & Agony
After the attack on Fort Sumpter in Charleston harbor in April of 1861, both the Union and the Confederacy slowly began war preparations. In 1862, there were some battles in Northern Virginia, and both sides were recruiting troops and moving them into position around the country. In the late winter and summer of 1862, Gen. U.S. Grant was securing western Tennessee and the Mississippi River for the Union. While the South seemed to be winning in Virginia and the North in the west, neither side was scoring overwhelmingly decisive victories. The war was a muddle.
Being a border state, Kentucky had strategic importance. Whoever controlled Kentucky controlled the Ohio River and its potential for moving troops and supplies. Whoever held Kentucky could block the penetration of the other side’s armies deep into its own territory. Early in the war, Kentucky and its citizens seemed to be confused. Many slave owners in the central and western parts of the state wanted to preserve both slavery and the Union. Decisions were difficult. Many agonized.
For a contingent of Madison residents, that changed dramatically in late August of 1862. On the 29th, about four miles south of Richmond, between Duncannon Lane and the Mt. Zion Christian Church, some 10,000 Union and perhaps 5,000 Confederate troops clashed. Despite the disparity in numbers, by the end of the following day, the South had decisively defeated the North, taking some 4,000 Union soldiers prisoner.
Tillman Bird Shearer
Ira W. Scudder
Thomas S. Fowler
Leroy J. Haden
James G. Cosby
Joel T. Embry
This overwhelming victory by Gen. Kirby Smith energized the Southern sympathizers in Madison and surrounding areas. Confusion converted to conviction. On the 31st of August, with some of the wounded still bleeding on the battlefield, leading citizens from the county met in Richmond and decided to offer their assistance to Gen. Smith. They asked David Waller Chenault, 36, a veteran of the Mexican War, and James McCreary, a popular lawyer, to organize a regiment of volunteers. The Confederate Army was glad to get their help.
A mere 10 days later, Col. Chenault enlisted some 800 soldiers from Madison and surrounding counties. They were at first the 7th Kentucky Cavalry, CSA, but later became the 11th. These volunteers included men – mostly young – from nearly all of the families with modest to large farms. Being a cavalry unit, these men also provided their own horses and were compensated separately for them.
Although inexperienced and untrained, Chenault’s regiment executed missions around central Kentucky within days of organizing. These missions included small units gathering intelligence and skirmishing with small bands of armed Union supporters. They were not quite ready for battle at Perryville, Ky., near Danville, on October 8, 1862. Instead, about a week later, Chenault’s regiment rode with Gen. Smith when he moved his Army from Lexington to East Tennessee.
Soon after arriving in East Tennessee, Col. Chenault was ordered to join the forces of Gen. John Hunt Morgan in middle Tennessee at Lebanon, about 25 miles east of Nashville. On Dec. 9 – three months after their organization in Richmond – Chenault’s men played a critical role in a Confederate victory at Hartsville, Tenn., just 10 miles north of Lebanon. Hartsville was the 11th’s only battle involving thousands of soldiers and sophisticated military strategy.
After Hartsville, Col. Chenault’s regiment went on raids into southern and central Kentucky, getting as far north as Bardstown. On these raids, they destroyed bridges, tore up railroad tracks, released prisoners of war and created much havoc.
Here is how historian Anderson Chenault Quisenberry described it:
“On December 22, General Morgan started on what is known as his ‘Christmas Raid’ into Kentucky—the greatest of all his numerous forays into the enemy's country, except the one known as the ‘Ohio Raid.’ Starting from his camp at Alexandria, Tenn., he marched as far as Shepherdsville, Ky., before beginning his retreat, fighting nearly every day. He destroyed the L. & N. Railroad from Munfordsville to within eighteen miles of Louisville, rendering it impassible for at least two months; captured 1,877 prisoners, including 62 commissioned officers; killed and wounded a large number of Union troops, and destroyed more than $2,000,000 worth of United States property. His own loss on the raid was two killed, twenty-four wounded and sixty-four missing. His command was back in Tennessee, in camp at Smithville, on January 5, 1863, having spent just two weeks on the raid. He and his men received a vote of thanks from the Confederate Congress for their brilliant services on this raid.
“The 11th Kentucky Cavalry was conspicuous for the part it took in this raid. It daily did its full share of the hard and bloody work cut out for the whole command by its daring and brilliant leader, General Morgan. On December 29, Colonel Chenault and his regiment were sent in advance to burn the stockade and trestle at Boston, in Nelson County. This work they successfully accomplished, capturing and paroling the garrison at Boston, as well as destroying the bridge and trestle, and that night they rejoined General Morgan at Bardstown.”
After these raids, Chenault was assigned to Albany in Clinton County, Kentucky, to keep the federals north of the Cumberland River and out of Tennessee. For the first few months of 1863, his regiment engaged in several small battles with federal troops advancing toward Tennessee. This assignment ended on June 11 when Morgan ordered Chenault to join him at Alexandria, Tenn., to prepare for a raid into Ohio. While moving north, Morgan and Chenault clashed on July 4 with a Union Army unit at Green River Bridge south of Campbellsville, Ky. Col. Chenault was killed, and James B. McCreary assumed command.
Morgan continued on into Ohio, engaging in numerous fights along the way. On July 17, 1863, attempting to cross the Ohio River between Ohio and West Virginia, Morgan directed his men onto Buffington Island, where most were surrounded and captured by federal troops. A few days later, Morgan himself was captured in Ohio and surrendered the rest of his troops.
Most of the soldiers from Madison County, were imprisoned in Chicago at Camp Douglas, which some call the Andersonville of the North. Sanitary conditions were terrible. Several of the Madison Countians died there, mostly of smallpox but also of typhoid and dysentery. A few escaped. At the end of the war, nearly all survivors took the “Oath of Allegiance” to the United States and returned home in early 1865.
It had been a wild ride for the young soldiers. Eighteen months in prison was a huge comedown from the euphoric Confederate victory at the Battle of Richmond. In between were 18 months of hard rides, tough battles and daring raids under the flamboyant John Hunt Morgan. Riding horseback from Richmond to east Tennessee, from east Tennessee to central Tennessee, making quick strikes into Kentucky, retreating to Tennessee, finally attacking Ohio.
Here’s how Quisenberry describes the final thrust:
“This regiment took full part and share in all the dangers and fatigues of that wonderful foray into an enemy's country, where Morgan's men, encompassed by an ever increasing array of hostile hosts, fighting every foot of the way, riding almost incessantly, and eating and sleeping in the saddle, established the world's high-water mark for distance accomplished in daily march, as well as for soldiery fortitude and endurance.”
Newby soldiers in the 11the Cavalry
National Archives, Washington, D.C.,; Records accessible through Fold3.com.
This site lists many of the enlistees from Madsion County.
The Eleventh Kentucky Cavalry, C. S. A. From the Lexington, Ky. Herald, April 21, 1907, by Anderson Chenault Quisenberry, published in Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume 35. Reverend J. William Jones, Ed.
HISTORY OF MORGAN'S CAVALRY by BASIL W. DUKE, CINCINNATI: MIAMI PRINTING AND PUBLISHING COMPANY, 1867
“Prisoners of War at Camp Douglas” lists 237 members of the 7th Kentucky Cavalry, most of them Madison Countians, imprisoned at Chicago. These National Archive records are available through Ancestry.com.
Compiled Service Records, also at the National Archives, can be accessed through www.fold3.com.