—July 1-2, 1863 —
John Hunt Morgan's Great Raid into Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio began in Cumberland County, Kentucky. The raid lasted 25 days and covered a thousand miles, making it the longest Confederate raid of the Civil War.
Morgan commanded 2,460 cavalrymen divided into two brigades, the first led by his brother-in-law, Col. Basil W. Duke. Most of Duke's brigade crossed here, on boats constructed on site to speed the crossing. Pvt. John Weathered, 9th Tennessee Cavalry, CSA, reported that about one hundred cavalrymen crossed at a time, placing their saddles and blankets on an old flatboat. Their horses, forced to swim across the river, were claimed on the other side.
The remainder of Morgan's nine regiments and the commissary train crossed the Cumberland River at various fords up and down the river, leading the Union newspapers to report that Morgan had 10,000 men in his force. In spite of these reports, the area was only lightly defended. Commanding Gen. Henry M. Judah thought that Morgan would be unable to cross the rain-swollen river. He ordered Gen. Edward H. Hobson and his troops to stay encamped at Marrowbone just 10 miles away to the west. To the east, Union Col. Frank Wolford's regiments were patrolling many river crossing points; therefore only a few of his men were here.
P.H. Burns, 22nd Indiana Battery,
described the Union opposition to Morgan:
"This was our first experience to face the enemy. A little skirmishing was had in some of the ravines as he came over, but the old fox slipped around us, and then began the race..."
Col. Basil W. Duke
On the morning of July 2, 18 Morgan's men waited on the Courthouse Square in Burkesville for provisions to be brought up. Getting provisions across the river was a lengthy ordeal. Men offloaded and disassembled the wagons, placed both wagons and cargo on makeshift rafts, and ferried them across the river. They then assembled the wagons and reloaded the cargo. The men in Burkesville grew tired of waiting for their rations and rode north toward Columbia, foraging for food at farmhouses along the way.
The Herriford Hotel, shown above in this late 19th century photograph, was build in 1850 and fronted West Main Street on the square in Burkesville.
"the river was out of its banks and running like a mill-race. The first brigade had...only two crazy little flats, that seemed ready to sink under the weight of a single man, and two or three canoes."
Col. Basil Duke
Before the Civil War, Burkesville Ferry was a busy steamship landing. Manufactured products from Nashville made their way up river and timber, poultry, and farm products were floated down river.