The Great Raid
—July 5, 1863 —
Morgan's third Kentucky raid had not gone well from the beginning. The Battle at Tebbs Bend on July 4 cost him 35 men killed and about 40 wounded. From Tebbs Bend, Morgan pushed north, arriving in Lebanon about 7 o'clock on the morning of July 5, 1863.
Lt. Col. Charles S. Hanson knew Morgan was coming and he made what preparations he could. Knowing Morgan would approach from the south, Hanson deployed most of his 350 men behind a barricade of fences, overturned wagons, and other obstructions. Hanson knew that this skirmish line could only slow the Confederate advance on the city. He planned to make his stand at the L&N Railroad depot and other brick buildings once his skirmish line was pushed back.
Upon reaching Lebanon, Morgan demanded Hanson's surrender. Hanson refused and Morgan attacked with artillery and dismounted cavalry. Morgan's nearly 10 to 1 advantage quickly overwhelmed the Union soldiers, pushing them into town where most sought refuge in the L&N Depot.
The brick depot, a block off of Main Street, provided a strong defensive position. Its location was such that Morgan could not use his artillery effectively against it. When Hanson refused a second demand for surrender, Morgan ordered nearby buildings set on fire. Finally, after nearly seven hours of fighting, with the roof of the depot and
much of the town on fire, Hanson surrendered.
This battle was costly for Morgan. Hanson's small garrison held him up for seven hours, inflecting some 50 casualties, including his brother, Lieut. Thomas Morgan, who was killed. The death of Tom Morgan enraged Morgan and his men. The Confederate soldiers looted stores and burned about 20 buildings. The Union prisoners were then marched some 10 miles at the double-quick to Springfield where they were paroled. Several Union prisoners died on the forced march. Miraculously, Union losses were small. Hanson reported four killed and 16 wounded.
John Hunt Morgan
Lebanon was the second major engagement Morgan fought in July. It would not be the last. This battle cost Morgan his brother, numerous casualties, and a day he could ill afford to lose.
The Battle of Lebanon
the thin Union line fought a holding action, hoping that help would arrive in time. As the overwhelming numbers of the Confederate pressed them they fell back to the L&N Depot to make a final stand.
The placement of the brick depot kept Morgan from using his artillery effectively against it, providing an excellent defensive position. Union soldiers held the building until the burning roof forced them to surrender.
Lt. Col. Charles S. Hanson
Kentucky Infantry (US)
Before Morgan's men surrounded the town and cut the telegraph lines, Hanson alerted Louisville that he was under attack. They advised him to hold and told him that help would be there in a few hours. It did not arrive in time. Hanson's defenders fought well, however; Morgan's command was bloodied in the second fiercest fight of the raid.