The Call to Arms: Fighting for the Great Raid!
Taylor Bishop is a member of the Tebbs Bend Battlefield Association, served as a member on the American Battlefield Trust's Youth Leadership Team, worked at Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site, and is an active tour guide. We would like to thank him for the following article, and hope to see more collaboration between Tebbs Bend and Buffington Island in the future.
The Great Raid is still considered one of the longest raids in the Civil War; it spanned over 1,000 miles and ran through four states. The famous raid also led to the dissolution of John H. Morgan’s famous cavalry command - not to mention the raid cost the Federal and local state governments hundreds of thousands of dollars in extensive damages. Though these figures are impressive, the importance of the Great Raid in the Civil War has evaporated from the public eye and some Civil War enthusiasts. Despite this, two organizations, with others, are emerging as a beacon of learning about the raid and its gravity in the Civil War — the Buffington Island Battlefield Preservation Foundation and the Tebbs Bend Battlefield Association.
For those unfamiliar with the Battle of Tebbs Bend, the action was fought on July 4, 1863, in Taylor County, Kentucky, in Tebbs Bend, where the Green River meanders its way across central Kentucky. It was one of the first significant actions during the Great Raid. The battle was fought in two different sections. The first and central portion of the fight was fought between 900 of Morgan’s veteran cavalry division against less than 200 inexperienced troops from the 25th Michigan Infantry under the command of Colonel Orlando H. Moore. In this portion of the fight, Morgan’s cavalry launched seven futile assaults against a dug-in foe who had virtually designed the battlefield to play in his favor. As a result, Morgan’s command suffered immense casualties, especially among the officer corps, including Colonel David W. Chenault, Major Thomas Brent, and dozens of experienced lieutenants and captains, which plagued his command for the rest of the raid.
The other section on the battlefield was the brief fighting along the Green River Ford and Green River Bridge which mimicked the main action. It pitted forty men from the 8th Michigan and 79th New York Infantries, under the command of Lieutenant Michael A. Hogan, against roughly 200 Confederate cavalrymen under the control of Roy S. Cluke of the 8th Kentucky Cavalry, C. S. A. of Morgan’s cavalry. The action was brought on by a mistaken belief that the Confederates had won the battle. As a result, Cluke launched a spirited movement toward the Green River Bridge and Ford, where Hogan’s men met him with a vicious volley from along the bluffs that presided over the area. Unlike the main action, however, Cluke withdrew his forces just in time to receive word of the Confederate defeat above.
In total, the Federals suffered roughly 33 casualties compared to the Confederates suffering somewhere between 71 to 250 casualties. The Confederate numbers are disputed today since Morgan could not collect his dead and dying on the field.
Today the battlefield is being remembered and fought for its preservation by Tebbs Bend Battlefield Association. Currently, the association is working tirelessly to help raise funds to preserve the historic Sublett house on the battlefield, which was used as a hospital after the action and played witness to numerous events in the Civil War, like troops moving through during the Vicksburg and Knoxville Campaigns. Nevertheless, it is with great hope that all the sites connected in the Great Raid can soon unite and fight to preserve their hallowed grounds for future generations. Additionally, the TBBA would like to echo praises and congratulations to our battlefield in arms, Buffington Island, and the American Battlefield Trust for their victory in protecting a portion of its battlefield! May this be a sign of coming in the fight to preserve the Great Raid battlefields and commence the race to preserve other ones in the raid.