Historical Marker #707 in Columbia notes Confederate cavalryman John Hunt Morgan’s visits to the area when his rebel horsemen raided Kentucky during the Civil War.
Morgan’s raids into his native Kentucky brought him though the same towns numerous times. Fond of traveling on familiar roads, the raiders frequently cut through south-central Kentucky.
One of Morgan’s raids into Kentucky - considered by some historians as his most brilliant and called the Christmas Raid - started in northern Tennessee. Morgan’s Raiders hit Glasgow, Kentucky, on December 24, 1862, and then pushed north. By December 28 they were in Elizabethtown. Moving east, the raiders arrived in Bardstown the following day. Swinging south, the rebels passed through Lebanon, Campbellsville, and finally Columbia on New Year’s Day, 1863, on their way out of the commonwealth.
The Christmas Raid proved to be beneficial for the Confederates. Morgan’s men destroyed bridges along the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, which caused supply delays for Union troops near Nashville. The Southern horsemen also captured a number of Union prisoners, weapons, and supplies. Most significant, Morgan’s Christmas Raid diverted Union troops away from Union General William Rosecrans immediately before the Battle of Stones River (Murfreesboro, Tennessee). If Rosecrans had had those troops on hand instead of having them guard against Morgan’s Raiders, Rosecrans possibly could have dealt the Confederates a more severe defeat at Murfreesboro.
Six months later, Morgan again passed through Columbia. This trip, however, was not as successful as the earlier Christmas Raid. On July 3, 1863, Morgan pushed past a small Union force at Columbia before running into a larger contingent at Tebbs Bend on the Green River. Instead of avoiding this obstacle, Morgan attacked Union Colonel Orlando Moore and was soundly repulsed. The defeated raiders continued north and crossed the Ohio River at Brandenburg on July 8. Traveling into Indiana and Ohio, Morgan and a number of his men were eventually captured and imprisoned. Although he escaped from his Ohio incarceration, Morgan did not survive the war. He was killed in Greeneville, Tennessee, on September 4, 1864.