American History Stories—Volume IV - Mara L. Pratt

The Guerillas

Out in Kentucky were bands of horsemen called "guerillas." One of their chiefs, John Morgan, had made his name a terror to loyal people.

During this year of the war, he planned a raid into neighboring States, which was worse than any he had ever before attempted. Crossing the Cumberland river with his two thousand men, he marched to a little encampment of two hundred Union soldiers.

"Surrender!" cried Morgan, riding up to the camp.

"If it were not the Fourth of July," said an officer, coolly, "we might think about it; but Union men never surrender on their nation's birthday." And turning to his men, he ordered an attack on Morgan's men. So fierce and quick was the attack that, in spite of their numbers, Morgan thought best to ride away as fast as he could ride.

Morgan then went on to a little fort commanded by Col. Hanson. Here, too, Morgan was met with a volley from the little band within. In this, Morgan's brother was killed. Then Morgan, wild with fury, set fire to the little fort, and Hanson was forced to surrender.

On went Morgan from town to town, and from village to village, stealing, burning, destroying the crops, tearing up railroads and cutting telegraph wires, wherever he went.

But this could not go on forever. When he had gone up in this way to Ohio, the people began to think it was time that something should be done. Troops were raised and sent against him, and when he was all ready to cross over into Virginia to join Lee's army, he found himself hemmed in by Union soldiers. He was made to give up his arms and be led away a prisoner.

He and his men were taken to a prison, and there, as Morgan himself said afterwards, they were shaved and washed and scrubbed, and put into their cells by a "nigger."

There was another guerilla raid after Morgan's capture. This one was led by a ruffian named Quantrell. He went over into Kansas and fell upon the town of Lawrence, the favorite town of "free state" people, since the days of John Brown.

It was a pretty little village, with its churches and school-houses; lying there so peaceful and quiet on this Sabbath morning!

Into this town rode the ruffian band, Quantrell at its head. This was a most brutal and cowardly attack. Worse than Morgan's even; for his had been upon soldiers usually. This was upon a quiet little village of unarmed men and women. The ruffians burned the houses, robbed the stores, killed men, women and children. It was a disgraceful affair, a cowardly, mean attack upon defenceless people. I am glad, however, that this was not done by any order from the Confederate officers or the Confederate government. It is supposed to have been done by this rough band of men, merely for the sake of plunder, and for their own amusement, if doing such things can be amusement.