Historic Markers Across Tennessee

Lebanon - Morgan's Defeat

Marker ID:  
Location: intersection of Cumberland Street and Main St, Lebanon, TN
County: Wilson
Coordinates: N 36° 12.508    W 086° 17.479
  36.20846666    -86.29131666
Waymark: None


Morgan's Defeat

In April 1862, after the Battle of Shiloh, Confederate Col. John Hunt Morgan planned a raid through Tennessee and Kentucky to sever Union supply lines. Morgan let the 2nd Kentucky Cavalry from Corinth, Mississippi, into Tennessee and engaged with several Federal detachments, attracting the attention of Union Gen. Ebenezer Dumont, who quickly assembled a mounted force to intercept them.

After missing their quarry near Shelbyville, Dumont’s advance under Col. Frank L. Wolford finally caught up with Morgan’s rear guard on May 4, but broke off the action after inconclusive skirmishing. Satisfied that the Federals had retreated, Morgan continued to Lebanon, where his men bivouacked around the town square and in the buildings of Cumberland University. A heavy rain fell all night, so the Confederate pickets went inside to dry off near the fire.

The Federals were only four miles away, however, and at dawn the hard-charging troopers of the 1st Kentucky (U.S.) and 7th Pennsylvania Cavalry burst into town an surprised Morgan’s command.

A lone Confederate sentry, Pvt. Pleasant Whitlow, rode just ahead of the attackers and gave only a brief warning before he was shot down. Unable to reach the livery stables and mount, many defenders took cover, and fierce house to house fighting began. The Federals finally drove the overwhelmed Confederates out of town. In the running fight, Morgan and a handful of his men escaped to Carthage on the Rome Turnpike. Amid the confusion, Morgan lost his favorite horse, Black Bess. While Federal casualties were low, about 50 of Morgan’s men were killed, 150 captured, and the remainder scattered throughout the countryside.

Tennessee Civil War Trails.