Another River Crossing Attempt
—John Hunt Morgan Heritage Trail —
Brigadier General John Hunt Morgan arrived at the Ohio River
crossing at Reedsville late on July 19, 1863, with the 1,100
Confederate raiders remaining after the battle at Buffington
Island. The raiders could plainly see West Virginia — formerly
the friendly territory of Virginia — just across the flooded river
Morgan sent his cavalrymen on a slow, treacherous crossin
Several men drowned as they swam their horses through
the deep, swirling waters.
Morgan himself had reached the middle of the river with his
telegrapher, George "Lightning" Ellsworth, when there was
a resounding boom and a huge splash of water. The dreaded
gunboats had made their way upriver and were shelling the men
as they crossed. Morgan made a quick decision. He ordered
Ellsworth forward and, rearing his horse around, headed back
to the Ohio side of the river.
More than 300 of the men had crossed successfully —
including Colonel Adam Johnson — and found their way
back to Confederate territory. As the gunboats kept firing,
Morgan gathered his remaining 800 raiders and fled north
in search of another ford.
Morgan Turns Inland
Morgan and about 800 raiders rode a mile
north to a ford opposite Lee Creek.
A handful of Confederates successfully
swam the Ohio River before the gunboat
shelled them, killing and
wounding several raiders and scattering
the rest. Undaunted, Morgan led his men
two miles further north to Parker's Hill.
When the Union gunboat followed and
again opened fire, Morgan abandoned
trying to cross the river. The raiders headed
inland, traveling up Indian Run toward
Coolville. With Colonel Adam Johnson's
departure, Morgan named Colonel Leroy
Cluke acting Second Brigade commander.
[Photo caption]: The Confederate cavalrymen who attempted to cross the Ohio River were dangerously exposed. Union Lieutenant Commander Leroy Fitch took advantage of it as he brought his gunboat USS Moose within firing range.
Text: Edd Sharp & David L. Mowery
Illustration: Bev Kirk