Morgan's Raid is one of the legendary exploits of the Civil War. Riding nearly 1,000 miles through Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio in the course of three weeks, Brigadier-General John Hunt Morgan and his 2,500 men achieved the northernmost penetration of any Confederate force in the Civil War, while creating havoc behind enemy lines and leading nearly 10,000 Union troops, including the 45th OVI, on a long, frustrating chase.
Morgan's luck did not hold, however. On July 19, Federal forces ran him to ground at Buffington Island in Meigs County, Ohio, where he had planned to ford the Ohio River to safety. In course of the short, but decisive Battle of Buffington Island, 700 of Morgan's men were captured, fifty-seven were killed and sixty-three were wounded. Morgan himself escaped and rode on for another week, until his capture on July 26 at West Point in Columbiana County, Ohio. Nonetheless, Morgan achieved his objective of creating a diversion to slow the Federal advance, led by General Rosecrans, against General Bragg in Eastern Tennessee.
Writing about the raid after the war, Morgan's second-in-command, Basil Duke, claimed: "I think that military
men who review all the facts, will pronounce that this expedition delayed for weeks the fall of East Tennessee and prevented the timely reinforcement of Rosecrans by troops that otherwise would have participated in the battle of Chickamauga."
Duke could have been referring the 45th, which did not fight in that costly Confederate victory in September. The regiment, however, was among the first of the Union forces to engage Morgan following the start of the raid on July 2, 1863. After Morgan and his raiders crossed the Cumberland River near the Tennessee and Kentucky border and headed north, Federal forces twelve miles away under General Henry Judah and Brigadier-General Edward Hobson moved to intercept.
Morgan's forces, however, quickly broke through 300 Federal cavalrymen near Burkesville and by July 3 were in Columbia, a town nearly twenty miles north.
Brigadier-General John Hunt Morgan
On the outskirts, they encountered 150 men of Colonel Frank Wolford's 1st Kentucky Cavalry and elements from 2nd and 45th OVI under the command of Captain Jesse Carter. In a brief firefight, Carter fell mortally wounded and, under the command of another captain from Wolford's regiment, Brent Fishback, the Federal forces retreated into the town, fighting the advancing Confederates house to house. After one hour, Morgan was in command of Columbia, with Wolford's outnumbered forces
retreating toward nearby Jimtown. The raiders took six prisoners, while killing two of Wolford's men and wounding three. Two of their own men were killed and two were wounded in the struggle. In his diary, 45th OVI private David Humphrey Blair noted the men of the 45th "were near surrounded" and that a "Captain was captured by a patrol" and two men from the regiment were both "wounded in their necks."
This quick breakout from Columbia put Morgan a day ahead of Federal forces. During the ensuing chase, the 45th rode as mounted infantry under the command of Colonel Wolford, together with the 1st Kentucky Cavalry, 2nd East Tennessee Mounted Infantry, 2nd Ohio Cavalry and 7th Ohio Mounted Infantry. Wolford in turn reported to General Hobson, who joined the colonel and his troops on July 6 at Lebanon, Tennessee.There Hobson assembled the 2,500-man force that was to pursue Morgan over the next three weeks.
Morgan crossed the Ohio River into Indiana at Brandenburg, Kentucky on July 8, using two commandeered steam boats. Instead of heading toward Brandenburg, Hobson opted to go Rock Haven, where he hoped to find a gunboat and use it to stop Morgan's crossing.When he arrived, however, the gunboat was still twenty miles away. Rather than move against the enemy with his exhausted troops, he decided to rest the night, with the 45th camping one mile beyond Garnettsville. In his diary, 45th OVI private Charles Durling noted that "lots of citizen prisoners were taken" by Morgan in the town.
By the time Hobson's forces arrived at Brandenburg, on the morning of July 9, Morgan had already ferried his troops across the river, leaving behind a burning steam packet. The 45th arrived at 11 a.m. with the Confederates, noted Durling, "only ten minutes ahead of our advance guard." The 45th completed its own crossing shortly after nightfall. Meanwhile, after a battle with the local militia, Morgan captured the Indiana town of Corydon.