By Randy McNutt
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Confederate Gen. John Hunt Morgan's cavalry terrified Ohioans across more than 400 miles until he was captured about 25 miles south of Youngstown in July 1863.
But the Thunderbolt of the Confederacy's role in Buckeye State history may fade from public memory unless volunteers can raise $12,000 to establish the John Hunt Morgan Heritage Trail.
They say they've already raised $33,000 of the necessary $45,000 in local matching funds, but with the bad economy and the holidays coming, the process has slowed and they aren't optimistic about their chances.
Although not known for Civil War battlefields, Ohio is an important place, historically and geographically, for Morgan's Raid. It started July 2, 1863, when Gen. Morgan crossed the Cumberland River near the Kentucky-Tennessee border and headed north into history.
Map of Morgan's Raid |
The Tristate will be filled with stories of Gen. John Hunt Morgan next year, Ohio's bicentennial and the 140th anniversary of the raid.|
Lester Horwitz will publish an audio version of his book, The Longest Raid, with 150 voice parts. In addition, the Loveland Historical Museum will feature a Morgan's Raid exhibit from May to September.
"The museum will invite the descendants of Morgan's troops,'' Mr. Horwitz said. "But this time they'll come as friendly folks. We're ready for them."
Morgan's Trail donations may be made payable to the Ohio Civil War Trail Commission, P.O. Box 2024, Fairborn OH 45324. Mr. Horwitz may be reached at www.LongestRaid.com. In Indiana, the Morgan Trail guidebook may be purchased for $14 postage-paid from Historic Hoosier Hills, P.O. Box 407, Versailles, IN 47042.
The nonprofit Ohio Civil War Trail Commission, operated by volunteers, wants to erect 70 National Park-style interpretative and 200 directional signs on the Morgan Trail and make educational materials, including guidebooks, maps and tour brochures, available to travelers.
Unfortunately, a $180,000 federal matching grant to mark the trail in Ohio will expire May 1, and "donations are falling short of the target," said Karen Diehl of Camp Dennison, a volunteer with the Trail Commission who is trying to raise money for the project.
Kentucky and Indiana established their versions of the Morgan Trail this year, but they must connect to the Ohio section if the tour is to be complete.
Ohio was a crucial destination for Morgan's troops. Their attack - Gen. Morgan commanded 1,995 cavalrymen who rode about 1,100 miles - was intended to shake up the North and divert the Union army's attention.
"Morgan came close to causing a significant disruption of the Camp Dennison (military) training camp," she said. "Morgan's troops attempted to burn the railroad bridge less than a mile from my house. Had they succeeded, it would have caused major problems in bringing fresh recruits and supplies to the camp.
During the raid, Confederate telegrapher Lightning Ellsworth sent deceiving messages from train depots, including Glendale's.
When Union troops moved out to protect Hamilton and Cincinnati, Morgan's men rode across northern Hamilton County and into rural Ohio with little resistance.
A lure for heritage tourism
Raiders first entered Ohio at Harrison on July 13, 1863. They represented the largest enemy force on Ohio soil since the War of 1812 and the last military enemy to operate in Ohio. Their raid produced Ohio's only Civil War clash, the Battle of Buffington Island in Meigs County.
David Mowery, a Loveland resident and Hamilton County's coordinator for the Trail Commission, said only two military skirmishes occurred in Hamilton County during the Civil War, and both were a result of Morgan's Raid. He said interpretative markers would be posted at sites in seven local townships and at the historic John C. Hunt House in Montgomery.
Mr. Mowery believes the trail would help further heritage tourism locally, even though Ohio is not a major Civil War state. On average, he said, heritage tourists - those who are generally older and travel to see history and culture - spend $200 more per trip than all American travelers.
If enough donations can be raised, the trail will be dedicated July 13, 2004, to commemorate the raid.
"Sites from Morgan's Raid are all around us," Mr. Mowery said. "People pass them every day on their way to work and don't even know it. Near Northgate Mall in Colerain Township, Morgan's two groups came together again. He went within a block of my house, near where Hopewell Road crosses the Little Miami."
Mr. Mowery also wants to place signs at sites such as Cedar Grove Cemetery and the Harrison Avenue Bridge in Colerain Township; Trinity Methodist Church and 18-Mile House and Inn in Harrison; Glendale Heritage Preservation Museum (the depot) and Village Square in Glendale; and the Abraham Crist House in Blue Ash.
He said the trail would start in Harrison and continue through New Haven, New Baltimore, Bevis, Sharonville, Greenhills, Glendale, Evendale, Deer Park and Camp Dennison in Hamilton County. From there, the trail would enter Clermont County and communities such as Batavia and Williamsburg, and, eventually, go into Ohio's northeast.
Civil War heritage tourism is a $2 billion industry in battlefield-rich Virginia and a lucrative travel business in Kentucky, Tennessee and other states. Mr. Mowery said the trail would attract tourists and be the largest Civil War marking in Hamilton County.
"Across the state, the trail will traverse some of the most economically depressed counties, and the tourism traffic generated by the tour can only help these areas," said Ms. Diehl, a member of the Symmes Township Historical Society. "I'm one of those folks who always stops to read historical markers by the side of the road. The knowledge I've picked up along the way is always interesting, and helps me appreciate the richness of the sites. I like that this project is a permanent tribute to history, not just a one-time event that could be soon forgotten."
"A real gentleman'
Historical tribute - and potential tourism dollars - motivated Kentucky officials to open the John Hunt Morgan Heritage Trail System at Campbellsville in August. The route goes through Scottsville, Bowling Green, Elizabethtown, Bardstown and other cities.
Meanwhile in Indiana, the John Hunt Morgan Heritage Trail is nearly ready. The 185-mile driving tour runs from Mauckport, where the raid began on the Ohio River, to West Harrison, near the Ohio border.
Barbara Jachimiak, a grants writer for the Historic Hoosier Hills resource conservation group, said people are excited that the trail will open after seven years of effort. She said a guidebook is being sold, and all of the Morgan's Raid signs should be erected by the end of the year.
In fact, a few are already posted. Original plans called for 28 interpretive signs to be erected at 25 locations in Harrison, Washington, Scott, Jennings, Jefferson, Ripley and Dearborn counties.
Volunteers who've worked on the project see the trail "not only as a heritage tourism attraction, but as a significant part of Indiana history," said Gary Conant, coordinator of Historic Hoosier Hills.
Probably because of Gen. Morgan's dashing and daring tactics, Mr. Mowery said, the raid fascinates people who otherwise might not be interested in military history.
"Morgan was a real gentleman," said Lester Horwitz, author of The Longest Raid of the Civil War and a board member of the Buffington Island Battlefield preservation group.
"He told his men not to abuse the women and children and leave the houses alone unless somebody shoots first," Mr. Horwitz said. "His main purpose was to be a diversionary tactic, to draw the Union army's attention and help Confederate troops withdraw in Tennessee. The mission was accomplished.
"But Morgan went against orders and crossed the Ohio. The reason was that earlier, a Union cavalry officer had gone behind Confederate lines in a raid. Morgan said he would show them.
"It was his ego that drove him to cross the river to show he was as good or better. Morgan rode more than 1,000 miles to prove it."
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