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ARTICLES The Battle of Corydon, Indiana

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 Read more about “Louisville and the Civil War: A History & Guide” 

Louisville and the Civil War: A History & Guide.  This book traces the Civil War in Louisville and gives the reader a sense of how the city looked towards the Union and the Confederacy.  This includes discussion of how Louisville turned from a very pro-Union city towards supporting the Confederacy, or at least the Lost Cause.

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Confederate General
John Hunt Morgan

On July 2, 1863 Confederate General John Hunt Morgan and his 2,460 men crossed the Cumberland River near Burkesville, Kentucky.  The purpose of Morgan’s Raid was to bring panic to the North, re-inspire the South, and delay the fall of East Tennessee.  Confederate General Braxton Bragg, who commanded the Confederate Army of Tennessee, ordered Morgan not to cross the Ohio River.  Morgan would soon disobey that order.  As Morgan made his way through Kentucky, he would end up fighting at the Battle of Tebbs Bend, on the Green River in Taylor County, and the Battle of Lebanon, Kentucky.  On July 6 Morgan dispatched Captain Sam Taylor and Company E of the 10th Kentucky Cavalry (C.S.) to Brandenburg, Kentucky, a town overlooking the Ohio River, to secure a means of crossing into Indiana.  Morgan and his men arrived in Bardstown, Kentucky the same day.  The next day elements of Morgan’s command captured the steamship McCombs.  The men then proceeded to run the McComb out into the Ohio river and pretended to be aground, and called on the steamship Alice Dean, as she came up, for assistance.  The Alice Dean stopped to assist, and when she did, Morgan’s men captured the ship.  Morgan began to issue orders for the crossing of the river by these two steamboats.  He placed a 10 pound Parrot rifle on each boat.  Colonel Lewis Jordan of the Harrison Country Militia arrived at the Indiana side of the Ohio river and saw that Morgan was attempting to cross his men by these two boats.  A skirmish broke out between Morgan’s men and the militia.  The Home Guards from Leavenworth, Indiana lost their six pounder field piece, and two men were killed.  Just as the Alice Dean had left the Brandenburg port, the Union gunboat Elk appeared.  Three boat howitzers began to fire on the Alice Dean, but Morgan ordered his chief of artillery Captain Byrnes to fire his 10 pound Parrot rifles and 12 pound mountain howitzers at the gunboat.  After an hour’s duel the Elk turned around and gave up the fight.  By midnight Morgan’s men and horses were on Indiana soil.

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After Morgan had crossed into Indiana, Colonel William J. Irvin of the Indiana Legion, at Mauckport, and provost Marshall Timberlake ordered the men to fall back on the road to Corydon, Indiana.  Colonel Irvin’s men chopped down trees and skirmished with Morgan’s men to slow down the Rebel forces, until Union reinforcements with artillery arrived from New Albany.  About three hundred Home Guards and citizens marched out on the Mauckport road.  The main body of men were under the command of Col. Lewis Jordan.  Jordan set up his defense four miles south of Corydon, at a place called the Glen house.  They remained until 10 o’clock at night and then returned to Corydon, while one hundred of the cavalry and mounted citizens were sent to the roads running south of Corydon as scouts to watch for Morgan’s men.  During the skirmishing John Dunn, of the 5th Kentucky Cavalry, C.S.A., Company D, was killed and two prisoners were captured.  Morgan’s men shot John Glenn through both thighs, and killed Peter Glenn and burned his house.  They also burned Peter Lopp’s Mill on Buck Creek.

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At 11 o’clock on July 9 Morgan approached Corydon.  In front of him was 450 Home Guard under Colonel Lewis Jordan, Provost John Timberlake, and Major Jacob Pfrimmer, who the commander of the 6th Indiana Legion Cavalry.  The Home Guard formed a line of defense on a hill one mile south of town, the extreme right resting on the Amsterdam road and the left near the Laconia road.  The ground on the left of the Mauckport road was heavily wooded, which made a cavalry charge difficult.  Temporary breastworks were erected by the Home Guard.  About an hour later a small company dismounted and attacked, but were repulsed three times by Capt. George W. Lahue’s Spencer Guards, which was an infantry unit from Corydon.  In the fight, one of the Home Guard, Larry Steepleton, was killed and another wounded.  The 2nd Kentucky and 9th Tennessee now arrived on the field and began to flank the right and left of the Home Guards line of defense.  On the Home Guard’s left were men armed with ordinary rifles and muskets.  But on the right of the line were the Ellsworth Rifles, which was a squad of thirty men from Corydon who owned twelve Henry Rifles, and were under the command of Major Thomas McGrain, Jr.  The Henry Rifle was a rifle capable of firing fourteen .44 caliber rimfire rounds.  The Ellsworth Rifles were on the extreme right of the line on the Amsterdam road and watched the Confederates approach.  As soon as Morgan’s men came to within rifle range, the Henry rifles opened with their destructive fire.  Morgan’s men were forced to dismount.  Soon the battle raged along the entire right wing, McGrain’s thirty men managed to hold off Morgan’s men for twenty minutes, but by this time the 2nd Kentucky and 9th Tennessee began to flank both wings at the same time.  Captain Byrnes also unlimbered his 10 pound Parrott rifles cannons and began to fire into the Home Guard ranks.  The Home Guard began to fall back.  In the meantime Morgan had flanked the town and taken possession of the Plank Road one mile east of town, where the Home Guard was retreating.

The Home Guard were by this point completely overwhelmed and surrounded.  The men began to fall back to Corydon and the Home Guard cavalry and mounted infantry had escaped.  The Rebels now took the battlefield and moved forward, and placed Byrnes battery on the hill south of the town and began to shell the town.  One of these shells landed near Cedar Glade.  Col. Lewis Jordan now realized that continuing the fight was hopeless.  Jordan decided to surrender.

After the Home Guard surrendered, Morgan’s men immediately took possession of the town.  According to the Corydon Democrat Morgan lost eight men killed and thirty three wounded.  Among the Confederate dead were Private Greene Bottomer, Private John Dunn, and Private Albert Womack.  Among the Confederate wounded were 2nd Lieutenant Spencer R. Thorpe, 2nd Kentucky Cavalry.  During the battle, William Heth, Nathan McKinzie, and Larry Steepleton of the Home Guard, were killed, and among the wounded were Jacob Ferree and Caleb Thomas.  Morgan’s men went about looting the town.  While Morgan’s men were amusing themselves, General Morgan ate lunch at the Kitner Hotel, in downtown Corydon, Indiana.  The Battle of Corydon and the Battle of Gettysburg were the only two battles recognized by the Federal government as being fought on Northern soil.

By night fall Morgan and his men were heading for Salem, Indiana.  By July 13, Morgan entered Ohio at Harrison and began to move toward the Ohio River.  Union cavalry under General Edward Hobson were hot on his trail.  On July 19, Hobson caught up with Morgan and defeated his men at Buffington Island.  Morgan led only seven hundred men of his original 2,400 away from Buffington Island, and failed in trying to cross the Ohio River.  On July 26 Hobson persued Morgan’s remaining men and finally forced Morgan to surrender at New Lisbon, Ohio.  Morgan had made the longest raid of the war, which was seven hundred miles.  Morgan was sent to the Ohio State Penitentiary, but would later escape.

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