The Civil War is filled with tales of adventure, and perhaps one of the more interesting is the escape by Confederate General John Hunt Morgan from an Ohio prison on November 27, 1863. After his surrender following his Great Raid through Indiana and Ohio in June-July 1863, go here to read about it, Morgan and his officers were sent to the Ohio state penitentiary due to overcrowding in prisoner of war camps in Ohio.
At the prison the Confederates were housed in the newly constructed East Hall with a partition being constructed to separate the prisoners of war from the criminals. Eventually 68 Confederates would be housed there. The Confederates were not required to wear prison uniforms and allowed to receive packages. Morgan was determined to escape from the outset of his captivity. When he heard that his pregnant wife was ill he redoubled his efforts to find some way out.
Opportunity dawned with a decision on November 3 that the Federal government would assume responsibility for the Confederates. No longer would their cells be cleaned, and inspected, by a prison guard each day. The Confederates learned from a prisoner about a ventilation chamber under the ground floor cells.
A few days digging got them through the cell floor into the air chamber. They then began to tunnel through a wall of the chamber and up to the prison yard. A smuggled newspaper gave them the schedule for the Little Miami Railroad that ran by the prison.
Shortly after midnight on a rainy November 28, 1863, Morgan and six of his officers made their break, going into the air chamber, through the tunnel, out into the prison yard and then scaling the wall. The escape of Morgan and his men was not discovered until just before dawn. Two of the escapees were recaptured on December 2.
Morgan and three of the other Confederates went to a train station and took a train to Cincinnati. Making their way to the Ohio, Morgan and one of his men paid a boy to row them across in his boat to Kentucky. A native of the blue grass state, Morgan breathed easier although he was still in Union territory. Within a few weeks he was back behind his Confederate lines, now a hero to all Confederates, along with the four other men who succeeded in escaping.
He was reunited with his beloved wife shortly before Christmas 1863. The marriage of Mattie Morgan, a great beauty, and General John Hunt Morgan was one of the great love stories of the Civil War. They had 630 days of marriage before his death in battle in 1864. Mattie gave birth to Morgan on November 27, 1863, the same day of John Hunt Morgan’s escape. Tragically baby Morgan died the next day. At the time of his death Mattie was pregnant again. She gave birth seven months after his death to another daughter, Jonnie Hunt Morgan. She would live until 1888 and was regarded as very like her father in daring and kindness. Mattie would remarry in 1873 to a Judge and have five more children. Jonnie was regarded by them as a beloved big sister. Jonnie died soon after her marriage to Rev. J. W. Caldwell of typhoid fever, that great killer of the nineteenth century.