August 12

This Day in History

Civil War

Aug 12, 1862:

John Hunt Morgan captures a Federal garrison at Gallatin

Confederate cavalry leader General John Hunt Morgan captures a small Federal garrison in Gallatin, Tennessee, just north of Nashville. The incident was part of a larger operation against the army of Union General Don Carlos Buell, which was threatening Chattanooga by late summer. Morgan sought to cut Buell's supply lines with his bold strike.

Morgan, an Alabama native raised in Kentucky, attended Transylvania University before being expelled for boisterous behavior. He fought in the Mexican War (1846-48) with Zachary Taylor, then became a successful hemp manufacturer before the Civil War. When Kentucky remained with the Union, Morgan moved south and joined the Confederate army. After fighting at Shiloh, Tennessee, in April 1862, Morgan commanded a regiment in Joseph Wheeler's cavalry. Known as the "Thunderbolt of the South," Morgan's outfit was famous for stealth attacks. In 1862 and 1863, he led a series of major raids into Union-held territory.

Morgan supported attempts to disrupt Buell's campaign in Tennessee, and Gallatin was a vital supply point for the Union between Louisville and Nashville. Morgan's men burned the depot, captured the Union force protecting it, and destroyed an 800-foot railroad tunnel north of town by setting fire to a train loaded with hay and pushing it into the tunnel. The timber supports ignited and burned until the tunnel collapsed.

Afterwards, Morgan moved north to support General Edmund Kirby Smith's invasion of Kentucky.

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