September 4, 1864: Death of General John Hunt Morgan

One of the most colorful cavalry commanders in American history, General John Hunt Morgan had enough exploits during the War for several lifetimes.  Go here and here to read about two of them.  Alas Morgan had only one lifetime, and that ended on September 4, 1864 when he was surprised by a sudden Union cavalry attack on Greeneville, Tennessee outside a house where he was visiting family friends.  Here is a contemporary account:



REV. W.G. BBOWNLOW: The General Commanding directs me to forward to you for publication the inclosed correspondence relative to the killing of the late Gen. JOHN H. MORGAN.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Lieut. and A.A.A.G. on Gen. GILLEM’s Staff.


SIR: It has been stated that Gen. JOHN H. MORGAN, late of the Confederate army, was killed by our forces, in Greenville, Tenn., after he had surrendered, and in direct violation of the rules of war. You will confer a personal favor upon myself, and be doing an act of justice to this command, by stating what you know to be the facts connected with the killing of the General.

I am, Captain, very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,


Lieut. and A.A.A.G., Gen. GILLEM’s Staff.

To J.T. ROGERS, Captain and A.A.A.G., late Gen. MORGAN’s Staff.

HEADQUARTERS FORCES EAST TENNESSEE, Sept. 5. LIEUTENANT: In answer to your communication relative to the surrender and killing of the late Gen. JOHN H. MORGAN, I must say that I was with Gen. MORGAN. When he left Mrs. WILLIAMS’ he handed me one of his pistols, and said that he wished me to aid him in making his escape. I told him it was almost useless as we were entirely surrounded. He replied saying, that we must do it if possible. We were concealed in a clump of bushes, when a soldier road up to the fence, wearing a brown jean jacket; we naturally supposed him to be a Confederate soldier come out of the bushes. Gen. MORGAN stepping at the same time through the fence, the soldier demanded a surrender, much to our surprise. Capt. WILCOX, of the Federal army, with some other soldiers, rode up.

I, with Mr. JOHNSON, hastened towards him, looking back in the direction of Gen. MORGAN. I saw him throwing up his hands, exclaiming, “O, God!” I saw nothing more of him until he was brought to the street dead. I am satisfied that JOHNSON and myself were fired on after we surrendered, but by men so far from us that it must have been impossible to know that we were prisoners. I asked Capt. WILCOX to leave a soldier with me after I had surrendered for my own safety, which he did. We were possibly fired upon almost from every direction, but from such a distance that I am satisfied the men did it innocently. I, however, do not condemn them for firing on me after I surrendered, under the circumstances. If Gen. MORGAN surrendered before being shot I do not know it. I am, Lieutenant, very respectfully, your obedient servant.


Captain and A.A.A., late of General MORGAN’s Staff.

C.C. FRENCH, Lieut. and A.A.G., General GILOMAN’s Staff.

The Union troops at first abused his body before it was grudgingly turned over for burial.  A funeral was held for him in Abingdon, Virginia.  His body was then taken to Richmond where a huge state funeral took place.  Finally, in 1868 his brother Calvin took his body back to their hometown of Lexington, Kentucky where he was laid to rest permanently.

At the time of his death. Morgan’s wife Mattie was pregnant.  She gave birth seven months after his death to a 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.

More to explorer

%d bloggers like this: