On this day in 1863, Confederate cavalry raider John Hunt Morgan and several of his men break out of the Ohio state prison and escape to the South.
Morgan was raised in Kentucky and served in the Mexican War (1846-48) under General Zachary Taylor. A successful hemp manufacturer before the Civil War, Morgan moved to Alabama when Kentucky did not secede with the rest of the South. He became a hero in the South when he made four daring raids on Northern-held territory in 1862 and 1863. Though these raids were of limited strategic value, they boosted Southern morale and kept thousands of Federal troops occupied trying to hunt down Morgan.
On his last raid, however, Morgan's reach exceeded his grasp. He took a large band and headed through Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio. After riding past Cincinnati, Morgan and his men tried to cross the Ohio River back into Kentucky, but they were surprised and routed by a larger Federal force at Buffington Island, Ohio. With his escape blocked, Morgan turned into northeastern Ohio but was finally surrounded by pursuing Yankee cavalry at Salineville on July 26, 1863.
Morgan and several of his top officers were incarcerated in the newly constructed Ohio State Penitentiary at Columbus, while the rest of his men were sent to various Northern prisoner-of-war camps. In November 1863, Morgan and his men burrowed out of the prison by cutting a hole in a prison cell. Below the cell was a crawl space for ventilation through which they tunneled to the outside and journeyed safely to Confederate territory. Morgan returned to his cavalry activities in Tennessee after his escape. However, at Greeneville, Tennessee, in 1864, he was killed by Yankee cavalry.