General Morgan’s Raid on Indiana

Morgan’s Raid was an invasion into Union territory by a group of Confederate cavalry in the summer of 1863. The raiders were led by the charismatic General John Hunt Morgan. Morgan was known as a cavalier who had been kicked out of college for dueling and who often ignored military orders. The raid lasted 46 days. It began in Tennessee and swept through Kentucky and Indiana, covering about 1,000 miles. Exact reasons for the raid are still debated, but historians agree it was probably to create a diversion and pull Union troops away from other areas. Another goal might have been to rally the support of Southern sympathizers in the North.


Morgan Oil Painting


In 1863, John Morgan and his mounted infantry raided Indiana with the intent to rouse Confederate sympathies that presumably lay hidden in the “Copperhead” mindset, thought to be prevalent in Southern Indiana at the time. A Copperhead was a northerner who harbored secret favor for the Confederacy—their disloyalty was compared to the poisonous snake by the same name, lying in wait, ready to strike out and bite at any moment.

Morgan's route
Morgan's route

Instead of stirring the snakes, Morgan’s raid had the opposite effect of galvanizing Indiana’s loyalty to the Union, spurring military involvement, home-front support, and a unifying shift in attitudes—especially for Southern Indiana. Families there had to make life-altering decisions, and they overwhelmingly rose to the occasion, forming militia, chasing after Morgan, and standing up for the cause of the Union.

This historic moment allowed Hoosiers to literally redefine themselves, individually and as a community. The 1863 Hoosier spirit was one of innovation, tenacity, and patriotism, and yet it was, and remains, adaptable to any challenge. You might say that a Hoosier is definitively undefinable, and certainly inimitable.

General John Morgan
General John Morgan

On July 8, 1863, the sound of shells exploding filled the air, as Confederate General John Hunt Morgan’s troops crossed the Ohio River near the small town of Mauckport, Indiana. Hours later, the second of the only two Civil War Battles to take place on northern soil began at Corydon.

On July 8, 1863, General Morgan and his troops crossed the Ohio River into Indiana.

Alice Dean
Alice Dean

After sending spies into Indiana in June, Morgan began the raid into the state on July 8, 1863, by seizing two steamboats, the J.T. McCombs and the Alice Dean, on the Kentucky bank, and ferrying approximately 2,400 troops across the Ohio River into southern Indiana. Upon hearing news of this raid, Governor Oliver P. Morton called for the people and militia of Indiana to defend their state. Thousands responded.

As word of Morgan’s Raid and early skirmishes spread to Corydon, local citizens, militia and the Indiana Legion hurried to set up fortifications outside the town and awaited the enemy. Around noon on July 9th the first elements of the raiders began their attack. At first the mainly untrained defenders held their own and were able to repel the invaders. But soon more Confederate forces arrived, along with artillery which pinned down the defenders. General Morgan himself soon appeared with his force and the Confederates’ superior number of battle-tested veterans quickly overwhelmed the defenders, who fled. Some retreated into Corydon.

Battle of Coridon historic sign
Battle of Coridon historic sign

After Morgan’s artillery fired two warning shots into the town, Col. Jordon, who commanded the Legion, had a white flag run up to officially surrender the town. Members of the Legion captured by Morgan’s men were stripped of their weapons and ammunition and paroled if they promised not to fight again.

In control of Corydon, Morgan extorted money from local government officials and businessmen and his men set about plundering the town. It was a pattern they would follow at other Hoosier towns like Dupont and Salem. While dining at a local hotel, Morgan received the shattering news of two thundering blows to the Confederacy, the loss at Gettysburg and the fall of Vicksburg. Four Legion members, three civilians and eleven raiders were killed in the “Battle of Corydon.”

The Battles of Corydon and Gettysburg are generally acknowledged as the only two “battles” fought on Northern soil, and took place only days apart.


For five days Indiana militia and Federal troops attempted to capture the invaders. Morgan’s men raided Corydon, Salem, Dupont, Versailles, and other small towns. The raiders left behind a trail of destruction before crossing into Ohio on July 13. They were eventually captured in southern Ohio, and the raid ended on July 26, 1863. Morgan and his men were sent to Northern prisons, but he later escaped and made his way back to the Confederacy.

The Impact of General Morgan's Raid on Indiana

Morgan’s Raid resulted in more than one million dollars in claims and wages in Indiana and Ohio. More than 4,000 horses were stolen and property was burned and looted. However, the raid did not have a major effect on the outcome of the war.

Harper's Morgan's Raid illustration


Cincinnati Pontoon Bridge
Cincinnati Pontoon Bridge

During the Civil War, the US Navy used many different types of vessels to patrol the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, along with other inland rivers. Large naval ships called “ironclads” were built to attack Confederate strongholds and defend Union territory. These heavy ships were armed with 16 heavy cannons and were protected by an armor of very thick iron plating. In order to increase the size of the US Navy on the western rivers of the United States, the government pressed many civilian steamboats into military service. These boats were called “tinclads” because of the thin metal plates that covered them. These lightly armored boats were also armed with cannons, and they patrolled the major inland rivers and provided escort service for supply and troop ships.


Several of these tinclads were part of the 6th Division, Mississippi Squadron. It fought and pursued Confederate General John Hunt Morgan during his raid through Indiana and Ohio. One of these, the USS Springfield attempted to prevent Morgan and his men from crossing into Indiana. On July 19, 1863, this ship, along with six others, traveled up the Ohio River to prevent the Raiders from crossing back into West Virginia.

Webster’s Third International Dictionary (1971) defines Hoosier as “(n.) an awkward, unhandy, or unskilled person, especially an ignorant rustic”; “(capitalized) a nickname for an Indianan”; “(adj.) of or relating to Indiana or its people”; “(slang, v.) to loaf on or botch a job.” A Hoosierism is defined as “a turn of speech typical of or peculiar to natives of a geographic area centered on Indiana.” Dictionary definitions, as we know, can be rather flat, and those above are poor capitulations to the enthusiasm and complexity of the “Hoosier spirit” that defined Indiana’s involvement in the Civil War after Morgan’s Raid.

Morgan general order