Assisting in John Hunt Morgan’s Escape

Submitted 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

seven 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,

his 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.”  Shortly 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.