After pushing through Bardstown, Kentucky the lead elements of Gen. John Hunt Morgans command arrived in Brandenburg. Captains H. Clay Meriwether and Samuel Taylor and their men encamped on farms in and around Brandenburg. They were soon joined by Capt. Thomas Hines, who had led a scouting raid into Indiana. When his party encountered Union soldiers Hines alone had managed to escape by swimming across the Ohio.
The Confederates in Brandenburg placed one cannon on East Hill and a second on West Hill. Shortly after lunchtime on July 7, 1863 the mailboat John T. Combs arrived and docked at the foot of Main Street. The Confederates stormed the boat and captured it without firing a shot. The Confederates then moved the John T. Combs to mid-stream where they hoisted distress flags. The Alice Dean, a luxury boat carrying passengers to Louisville came in sight. The side-wheel packet owned by the Dean Company of Cincinnati, Ohio shifted course and came alongside the John T. Combs to offer assistance. The Confederates boarded the Alice Dean and took control, again without firing a shot. The boats were lashed together and steamed to the Brandenburg dock. All passengers were put ashore with a warning not to raise an alarm. The Confederates treated the passengers of both boats with the utmost respect; even returning $10,000 the passengers of the Alice Dean had placed in the safe in the pursers office.
38b - Crossing the Ohio
The activities of the Confederates in Brandenburg did not go unnoticed. During the night of July 7, 1863 the Indiana Home Guard brought up an old cannon and unlimbered it on the bluff across from Brandenburg. The Confederates began begin boarding the steamboats between 9 and 10 AM. Morgan used both the Alice Dean and the John T. McCombs to ferry his men, horses, and artillery across the river. As the John T. McCombs made its first trip across the Home Guard fired their cannon at the Alice Dean. Their aim was bad and all three shots went wide of their mark. Their first shot, however, tore through the upper rigging of the John T. McCombs wounding W. W. Wilson, quartermaster of Morgans First Brigade.
Morgans Parrott guns quickly answered. Three rounds hit a cabin near the Hoosier cannon. The accurate Confederate artillery fire killed two of the Home Guard and the rest scattered. The crossing was again halted when the Union gunboat Springfield arrived. The Union sailors fired three rounds into town; one into the Meade Hotel, one into the dock, killing two horses, and the third short of the Alice Dean, then in midstream. Again Morgans Parrotts answered. Morgans artillery fought the Springfield for an hour, when the gunboat, its ammunition exhausted, retired upriver toward New Albany.
Morgan watched the entire exchange from the Brandenburg bluffs. He was apprehensive because two of his regiments now on the Indiana side of the river were afoot, their horses still on the Kentucky side. After the Springfield withdrew the horses were ferried across. At about 5 PM the gunboat returned but was again driven off by Morgans Parrotts. The crossing took nearly 17 hours. Once across, Morgan marched toward Corydon, meeting little resistance from the Indiana Home Guard. It would be a different story in Corydon, where the Hoosiers planned a warm reception for the Confederates.
The Brandenburg Crossing
(this information was taken from the account by General Basil Duke, Morgan's brother-in-law, in the book, History of Morgan's Cavalry, and was used as part of the Civil War Discovery Trail. Brochures can be picked up along the way in Meade County.
6 July 1863 General Morgan sends Captains Clay Meriweather and Samuel Taylor, each with 150 men, ahead of the main group. They derail the Nashville train just below Muldraugh Hill, taking Union supplies and burning the railroad trestles. Captain George Ellsworth, General Morgan's personal telegrapher, taps the telegraph lines and sends a message to Northern General Judah in Cincinnati, saying General J.H. Morgan's large army, more than 4000 cavalry and soldiers, is marching on Louisville. The message sends Louisville into a panic, resulting in a military curfew.
7 July 1863 General Morgan, Colonel Basil Duke and a Brigade totaling 2000 men approach Brandenburg, the place chosen to cross the Ohio River into Indiana. The long march from Bardstown and the climb up Muldraugh Hill is exhausting and the men stay a few hours in Garnettsville, bathing and washing their clothes in the cool waters of Otter Creek.
7 July 1863 - in Brandenburg Captains Meriweather, Taylor and their men are encamped on farmers' fields in Brandenburg, and Captain Thomas Hines rejoins the group here, after a scouting raid around Seymour, Indiana, where he encountered heavy opposition; his men captured, he escaped alone, swimming across the Ohio to elude the Corydon Home Guard. The Confederates place two Parrott guns on East Hill and one on West Hill. Shortly after lunch time, the John T. McCombs mailboat arrives and docks at the foot of Main Street. The captains and their men storm the boat and without firing a shot, board the vessel, capturing it and holding it on the bank. Anticipating the next boat, the Confederates order Captain Pepper of the John T. McCombs to send distress signals.
The Alice Dean, a luxury boat carrying passengers bound for Louisville, alters course and comes alongside to offer assistance. The two boats are lashed together with hawsers and travel to Brandenburg dock where they tie up. Not only do the Confederates treat the passengers with respect, but they also open the safe in the purser's office and return the $10,000 placed there for safekeeping to the passengers. The passengers from both boats are let ashore in Brandenburg and warned not to raise an alarm.
8 July 1863 Meanwhile, across the Ohio River, the Indiana Home Guard has worked throughout the night to place an old cannon on a bluff across from Brandenburg. General Morgan's division marches from Garnettsville shortly after midnight, and by 9 or 10 am the next morning, General Morgan and his men march down Main Street to the river and begin boarding. On the first trip of the John T. McCombs the Home Guard fire the cannon - the three shots all going wide of their mark, the Alice Dean. However, the first shot tears through the upper rigging of the John T. McCombs and wounds W.W. Wilson, quartermaster of Morgan's First Brigade. The Confederates open first with their Parrott guns and their answering three shots hit the cabin by the cannon and scatter the Home Guard. Extremely accurate artillery fire from the Confederates kill two of the Home Guard. The crossing takes nearly 17 hours to complete; the Confederate army is ferried across to Indiana, meeting only small further resistance from Indiana's Home Guard on the opposite shore. General Morgan and his staff watch from the porch of Colonel Robert Buckner's home on West Hill. Morgan who served with Colonel Buckner in the Mexican War, is received at the Buckner home and a fine dinner is set in Morgan's honor.
Loading is temporarily halted by the appearance of the Union gunboat, Springfield, and the firing of three cannonballs; one into the Meade Hotel, one into the dock killing two horses and the third short of the Alice Dean in midstream. The answering Parrott guns on East Hill engage the Springfield for an hour but she runs out of ammunition and leaves for New Albany to replenish her supply. The entire exchange is watched by General Morgan and the men from the Brandenburg bluffs. General Morgan was apprehensive because two of his regiments, ferried to the Indiana side of the River, were afoot as their horses were still on the Kentucky side. As soon as the Springfield leaves the horses are ferried across. At about 5 pm, the gunboat returns, but is sent quickly on its way by the Parrott guns.
9 July 1863 The loading and crossing are finally completed. Then flames shoot into the sky as the Alice Dean is set afire. Released, she floats toward the Indiana shore, finally sinking near the Kentucky side. The steamer is burned as it is under hire by the Union Army. Colonial Basil Duke is an old friend of the John T. McCombs' Captain Ballard, who agreed to take his boat upstream to Louisville and not use it to pursue the raiders. An advance guard of the Union Army, led by Union General Edward Hobson, arrives at Brandenburg after the crossing and burning of the Alice Dean. Hobson had inexplicably stopped in Meadville while the crossing was accomplished.
WMTH CORPORATION PO BOX 51153 BOWLING GREEN, KY 42102 PHONE (270) 792-5300 FAX 721-0004