in John Hunt Morgan’s Escape
By: Uley Washburn, Jr.
After reaching the
“high point” of the War in the
West (Gettysburg in the East, and
Corydon in the West being the only official battles fought on Northern soil),
Morgan’s command was doomed to defeat. Ridden
into the ground by Hobson’s cavalry, Morgan and just over 200 of his men
surrendered near the Pennsylvania border in Ohio.
While the troopers of Morgan’s command were taken to various prison
camps, Gen. Morgan and his officers were taken to Cincinnati, Ohio’s City
Jail. From there, they were
transferred July 30, 1863, to the Ohio State Penitentiary at Columbus, Ohio.
Less than four months later, Morgan, Hines, and five other officers were
free again. Beginning November 4, 1863, the men spent the next twenty nights
digging. Once through the cell
floors, they were able to enter a passage which led them to within twenty feet
of the outside wall of their prison. The
final four nights were spent chipping through four feet of granite making up the
outer wall. On the night of
November 27, 1863, the
men made their break.
Scattering to avoid being captured “en masse”, Morgan and Hines
bought tickets at the Little Miami Railroad station in Columbus, and boarded a
train to Cincinnati. Gen. Morgan
even sat beside a Union officer and made small talk during the trip, without the
man suspecting anything. Morgan and
Hines jumped from the train at the outskirts of Cincinnati, knowing word of the
escape must surely be widespread. They were able to bribe a black man into rowing them over the
Ohio in a small skiff. From that
point, they worked steadily south, holding up in wooded areas and homes of
sympathizers. Upon reaching Owen
County, the men were escorted to a ferry, (probably at Harper’s Ferry) and
crossed into Henry County.
After crossing the
Kentucky River from Owen County, Morgan and Hines were left without a guide,
having turned back due to lack of knowledge of Henry County roads or people.
Traveling through the dark, winter night, they eventually grew tired and
cold about 2 A.M. December 1st. Morgan
and Hines stopped at what is now known as the “Old Pollard Inn”, just north
of Highway 22 on Highway 421 outside New Castle.
Even though they weren’t sure of where his sympathies lay, the tired
men knocked on the door at Mr. Pollard’s.
The master of the house was quickly aroused, whereupon Hines explained
their desire to be put up for the night. Mr.
Pollard readily let them in, and showed them to the main room of the house.
As soon as the lamp on the table there was turned up, Morgan and Hines
were sure they were safe. On the
table lay a newspaper of Confederate sympathy with the bold headlines
proclaiming (incorrectly) that General Morgan, Hines, and seven others had
escaped from an Ohio prison.
Their conversation at this point is best put in Captain Hines’ own
words: “Glancing at the paper, I looked up and remarked, "I see that
General Morgan, Hines, and other officers have escaped from the penitent- iary."
He responded "Yes; and you are Captain Hines, are you not?' I replied
" Yes; and what’s your name? " " Pollard, he answered. "
"Allow me, then, to introduce General Morgan." I found that I had not
made a mistake.”
thereafter, Morgan and Hines were resting comfortably in total safety.
Morgan and Hines arose late the next day.
After a hearty breakfast, plans to move further on were discussed.
The house sat just feet from the main highway, and leaving at such an odd
time of the morning was sure to draw the unwanted attention of the black
workers. Having discussed all the
factors, it was decided to remain until after lunch.
Mr. Pollard furnished Morgan and Hines with cattle whips, as it had been
decided they would travel onward under the guise of cattle buyers.
Shortly after lunch, the “cattle buyers” set out for the next planned
stop on their journey.
The next house they visited was even more of a risk, as far as detection
went. Sitting on the outskirts of
New Castle itself, the house was the residence of prominent attorney William S.
Pryor. Mr. Pryor was not yet “Judge W. S. Pryor”, as Hines
recalls him in his book; his time as Chief Justice of the State Court of Appeals
was still years in the future. He
was, however, a Confederate sympathizer, having been a member of the bar
alongside Confederate Gen. Humphrey Marshall and possible a relative of Lt. Col.
Moses Tandy Pryor of the 4th Ky. Cavalry (C. S. A.).
Morgan and Hines had a quiet dinner with Pryor; what was discussed over
said dinner, while surely of interest, may never be known.
It may well be due to Mr. Pryor’s reputation in the County, that our
subjects were able to leave the area unquestioned.
After dinner was over, Mr. Pryor had his horse saddled and rode with the
General and his erstwhile companion for some distance, probably near the Shelby
County line. There, with appropriate “Farewells”, Mr. Pryor turned
them over to a trusted guide. The
guide rode with them to the home of a Major Helm, near Shelbyville. There they were joined during the day of December 2, 1863 by
four of Morgan’s men in civilian clothes.
Passing through Taylorsville that night, it would be another twenty-five
days and several adventures later, before the escaped Confederates would reach
the relative safety of the battle lines near Dalton, Georgia.