Surprise at Hartsville

Surprise at Hartsville (HM1AOY)

Location: Hartsville, TN 37074 Trousdale County
Country: United States of America

N 36° 23.733', W 86° 9.917'

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" whose fault"

On the morning of December 7, 1862, the Confederates attacked the Union garrison camped on a bluff overlooking the Cumberland River two miles south of here. Under cover of darkness and falling snow, Morgan and 1,300 men had crossed the icy Cumberland River the night before. In what has been called "the most successful cavalry raid of the Civil War," Morgan captured almost 1,800 soldiers, two cannons, and wagons full of much-needed supplies after a brief two-hour long battle.

Union Col. Absalom B. Moore's troops guarded the nearby ford and the road to Lebanon. They consisted of three infantry regiments—-all new recruits—-a squadron of cavalry, and a section of artillery. The assault was executed and completed so quickly that two other Federal brigades that were encamped nine miles away at Castalian Springs were unable to come to their comrades' aid in time.

The defeat and capture of an entire Federal brigade at Hartsville by C.S. Gen. John Hunt Morgan's forces caused shock, disbelief, and consternation in the Union army. President Abraham Lincoln demanded an explanation from the commander of the Army of the Cumberland, Gen. William S. Rosecrans. After an investigation, Rosecrans cited Moore for negligence but suggested to his superiors that the quality and quantity of Confederate cavalry determined the outcome of the battle. Moore was reassigned and eventually resigned. Despite Lincoln's dismay, the Battle of Hartsville did not prove to be strategically significant and was quickly forgotten after the Battle of Stones River three weeks later.

(Side bar) Following the defeat of Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg's invasion of Kentucky (Aug-Oct 1862), in which Col. John Hunt Morgan's cavalry played an active role, the Confederates retreated to Tennessee. Bragg ordered Morgan to raid and harass rail lines and Federal troops in both states. In December 1862, Morgan attacked the Union garrison at Hartsville, then escaped before Federal force nine miles west at Castalian Springs could come to the garrison's aid.

"The President directs that you immediately report why an isolated brigade was at Hartsville, and by whose command; and also by whose fault it was surprised and captured."

-Henry W. Halleck, General-in-Chief, U.S. Army

(Inscription under the photo in the center left)
Col. John Hunt Morgan
-Courtesy Library of Congress.

(Inscription under the photo in the upper center)
Morgan's Raiders, Harper's New Monthly Magazine (Aug. 1865)
Series This marker is part of the Tennessee: Tennessee Civil War Trails series
Placed ByCivil War Trails
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Thursday, October 16th, 2014 at 2:09pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)16S E 574854 N 4028145
Decimal Degrees36.39555000, -86.16528333
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 36° 23.733', W 86° 9.917'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds36° 23' 43.98" N, 86° 9' 55.02" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)615
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 105 White Oak St, Hartsville TN 37074, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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