The Civil War was a time of uncertainty, especially for those living in the recently established Confederate States of America. Happiness was a brief interlude from the reality of the horrors and deprivations inflicted upon a people trying to protect their homeland. For some it was a bittersweet time of both joy and sorrow. Such is the story of Martha Ready of Murfreesboro, Tennessee and John Hunt Morgan of Lexington, Kentucky.
Martha Ready Morgan was born near Murfreesboro, Tennessee on June 21, 1840. She was the sixth of eight children, and the second of four girls, born to Colonel Charles Ready, Jr. and Martha Strong Ready. Affectionately known as “Mattie”, she was described as being a “very attractive young woman of medium height, with a shapely figure, a fair, creamy complexion, large blue eyes, and dark hair.”1 She attended the very prestigious Soule College in Murfreesboro and the Nashville Female Academy during the 1850’s where it was noted that young ladies could receive "traditional Southern education for women in cultural studies and social graces.”2
Col. Ready was a very successful Murfreesboro attorney, twice mayor of the city in 1832 and then again in 1849-1853, and a very
1Robert 0. Neff & Edith E. Pollitz, THE BRIDE AND THE BANDIT, p. 70
2Neff & Pollitz, p. 62
1 influential member of the Whig party. He served Tennessee as a United States representative before the Civil War and a judge afterwards. While in Washington with her family, Mattie was known to be a favorite among society. She was “the first girl in Washington to wear a curl on her forehead, which was soon imitated by a hundred others,”3 and was described as being one of the “prettiest daughters of Old South society and a fashion trend—setter at eighteen.”4 She had many suitors, both in Washington and at home. Thirty-six year old Illinois Representative Samuel Scott Marshall was among the most persistent in Washington and wanted to marry her. Although considered a very good choice, she declined the offer simply because she did not love him, and three years later, this same man would come calling at her door in Murfreesboro as an officer of an invading army.
The Ready family was among the earliest and most prominent Rutherford County families. They were well educated, had extensive land holdings, owned many slaves, and in every way were representative of the aristocratic antebellum society of the South. The 1840’s and 1850’s were prosperous times for the people of Rutherford County and would reach a peak in economic, educational, and social areas not to be experienced again until after the turn of the century. The Ready’s were known to be strong supporters of the Confederacy, and offered both support and hospitality to the officers encamped in the area, including the dashing cavalryman from Kentucky, Captain John Hunt Morgan, who arrived in Murfreesboro in late February of 1862.
4Neff& Pollitz, pp. 70-71
John Hunt Morgan was born in Huntsville, Alabama on June 1, 1825. The first of ten children of Henrietta Hunt and Calvin Morgan, John was named for his millionaire maternal grandfather, John Wesley Hunt of Lexington, Kentucky.5 Although Calvin Morgan tried various ways to become a successful businessman and provide adequately for his family, failing business ventures finally forced him to relocate the family to Lexington when John was six, thus becoming dependent upon the Hunt’s for their livelihood and affluent lifestyle.
John Morgan had inherited by birth the status of aristocracy. Very handsome, he was six feet tall with a strong and attractive athletic body and exhibited excellent horsemanship. As a young man, he was very bashful and did not feel comfortable speaking before a group. His college career at Translyvania University proved quite disappointing and he was suspended for dueling in 1844. John entered the military in 1846, after two frustrating years of trying to “find himself”, and was elected second lieutenant of Company K of the Kentucky Volunteers in the war against Mexico. He was then promptly promoted to first lieutenant of Kentucky’s Mounted Volunteers 1st Regiment. He distinguished himself as a hero in the battle at Buena Vista, and although his enlistment was up, the war over, he wanted desperately to continue his military career. He had gained self confidence through his experiences of war, and enjoyed being welcomed home as the conquering hero. More importantly, he had distinguished himself as a Morgan of Honor! He had acquired one year of military experience, although discipline was lax and contempt for authority prevalent. This would shape his future military actions.
5James A. Ramage, REBEL RAIDER, p. 12
3 Morgan settled down in Lexington and entered into business with his friend, Sanders Bruce. The Bruce family lived across the street from Hopemont, Morgan’s ancestral home, and were considered an established manufacturing family, wealthy, successful, and respected. Perhaps it was only natural that John Morgan should then marry Sanders’ sister, Rebecca Bruce. He was twenty—three and she was eighteen years old, on their wedding day, November 21, 1848.6 In 1853, after five years of marriage, she gave birth to their first and only child, a son, who was stillborn. From that point on, for the duration of her life, Becky would remain a victim of poor health, despite trips to various doctors and places in a fruitless attempt to find a cure for her afflictions. Becky, suffering from both the pain and humiliation of not fulfilling her role as wife and mother, turned to her mother for emotional support and to religion for comfort. After existing several years as an invalid, confined to bed for many months, she finally died on July 21, 186l.~ During this time, Morgan’s behavior was typical of so many Southern gentlemen of his time ~- with Becky and his relatives, he was always respectful, yet Morgan never denied himself any of the worldly pleasures. He was known as a favorite among women, as well as a gambler and libertine. Morgan’s brother-in-law and best friend, Basil Duke, expounded the Southern code of ethics when he pointed out that Morgan never attempted to be secretive or hypocritical about his diversions, and he never did anything “which touched his integrity as a man and his honor as a gentleman.”8 Duke later wrote: “Like the great
6Ramage, p. 30
7Ramage, p. 40
8Ramage, p. 38
majority of the men of his class -- the gentlemen of the South -- he lived freely, and the amusements he permitted himself would, doubtless, have shocked a New Englander almost as much as the money he spent in obtaining them. ... General Morgan, with the virtues, had some of the faults of his Southern blood and country.”9
Meanwhile, John’s business ventures, many of which were dependent upon the institution of slavery, flourished. By the late 1850’s, the Southern system of honor was wholly identifiable in the character of John Morgan, and he had established his identity and respectability as Captain of the Lexington Rifles, and entered into the romantic social life of antebellum Lexington. When all of this was threatened, John was more than ready to go to war!
Kentucky found herself a state divided, unable to choose between North and South, and therefore took the position of peace and neutrality. Morgan, however, aligned himself with other Southern sympathizers in the state and the Lexington Rifles were among the first volunteer companies to join the State Guard, a newly created pro—Southern state militia organization, in 1860. In September of 1861, the Lexington Rifles left to join Confederate forces and shortly thereafter Morgan began his own type of warfare against the enemy that had driven him from his home. He entered into it with both intensity and enjoyment, which is apparent from his raids along the Green River. After General Albert Sidney Johnston’s defensive line in Kentucky collapsed early in 1862, Morgan’s command became part of the thin screen thrown out to protect Johnston’s army from Union divisions under General
9Ramage, p. 36
5 Buell in Nashville, Tennessee. On February 27, 1862 Morgan moved his headquarters to near Murfreesboro.’°
Shortly thereafter, Colonel Ready was visiting the army camp and met Captain Morgan and invited him to dinner. He sent a slave home with word that “the famous Captain Morgan was coming. Tell Mattie that Captain Morgan is a widower and a little sad. I want her to sing for him.”11 In a diary entry of March 3, 1862, sister Alice describes a visit by Captain Morgan to the Ready home the previous evening: “... Morgan is an extremely modest man, but very pleasant and agreeable, though one to see him would scarcely imagine him to be the daring reckless man he is. An immense crowd collected at the front door to see him, and two or three actually came in and stood before the parlor door”12
Although his stay in Murfreesboro was brief, the thirty—six year old Captain Morgan made quite an impression on twenty-one year old Mattie. Following an expedition to Gallatin, Morgan returned to Murfreesboro to find a Union cavalry regiment conducting a reconnaissance outside the town. He sent Mattie a note asking whether the town was clear of Federals. She hurriedly penned a reply: “They are eight miles from here. Come in haste, ,,13 and handed it to a courier who returned to Morgan, ten miles to the north. A few hours later, in the early morning, Morgan appeared. He and Mattie talked until daylight and family tradition holds that they became engaged on that March nineteenth.14 At dawn John bade good-bye to Mattie by forming the
10Ramage, p. 56
11Ramage, p. 58
12Katharine M. Jones, HEORINES OF DIXIE: SPRING OF HIGH HOPES, p.92
13Ramage, p. 63
14Neff~ Robert 0., Interview with Mrs. Samuel Gilreath.
6 soldiers on the square and leading in the singing of “Cheer, Boys, Cheer.
Mattie was known for her spirit. One day, in the late spring of 1862 while Murfreesboro was under Federal occupation, she overheard some Union soldiers making ugly and unkind remarks about Morgan. She stepped in and gave the Yankees a royal scolding. When one of the soldiers asked her name she replied, “It’s Hattie Ready now! But by the grace of God, one day I hope to call myself the wife of John Morgan!”6
After a brief courtship, John Morgan presented Hattie with one of the most unusual wedding presents in history. Following a battle with Union forces in Hartsville, Tennessee on December 7, 1862 more than 1,800 Federal soldiers were captured. That army of discomfited “boys in blue” came to be known as “Gen. Morgan’s wedding present to his bride. ,,17
The wedding of Hattie Ready and John Hunt Morgan was held at the Ready home near the Court House on the square in Murfreesboro on Sunday evening, December 14, 1862. The Ready House was described as having been built in the 1850’s, and being a two—storied wooden structure facing East Main Street along the whole block where Bank of America is currently located. The house actually occupied the second lot along East Main Street; the first lot was an ornamental garden with twin magnolia trees right across from the Court House. Inside the house was a large hall with flanking parlors. One of these parlors served as the
15Ramage, p. 63
16Neff& Pollitz, p. 173
17Ramage, p. 134
7 scene of the wedding.’8 According to family records Hattie wrote in later years, “Mama and Papa’s room was downstairs and the children’s upstairs.”19 Windows from the upstairs rooms opened onto Main Street. Colonel Ready’s law office was in the east room on the ground floor. This grand home was the scene of much gaiety and hospitality -- and headquarters for both armies during the war.
The wedding was one of the great social occasions of the Confederacy. Groomsmeri were Hattie’s brother, Horace Ready, an officer on General William J. Hardee’s staff, and Col. George St. Leger Grenfell, an English soldier of fortune. General Leonidis Polk, Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Louisiana, nephew of former United States President James K. Polk and commander of a corps of Bragg’s army encamped around Murfreesboro, performed the ceremony. Hattie, although raised in the Presbyterian church, had become an Episcopalian just prior to her marriage, as that was the faith of the Morgan family. Generals Bragg, Hardee, Cheatham, and Breckinridge, including the headquarters staff, were all in attendance. President Jefferson Davis, in Murfreesboro the day before the wedding when he had promoted Morgan to brigadier general,2° was not.
In an August 31, 1912 issue, General Basil Duke of Louisville recalled to a News—Banner reporter his memories of that great celebration. “. . .All the officers of high rank who could reach Murfreesboro had assembled for the wedding -- General Bragg among them. Distinguished civilians were present in great numbers. The house was
18Mabel Pittard, HISTORY OF RUTHERFORD COUNTY, p.72
19Neff, Robert 0., Interview with Mrs. Charles Gilreath.
20Ramage, p. 134
8 packed with people to its full capacity . . . and decorated with holly and winter berries--the lights from lamps and candles flashed on the uniforms and the trappings of the officers, and were reflected in the bright eyes of the pretty Tennessee girls who had gathered. . . . The raven-haired, black-mustached Morgan, in his general’s uniform, looking like a hero of chivalry, the bride, a girl of rare beauty, tall, dark-haired, and blue eyes, with a creamy complexion and perfect features, and standing before them, to perform the ceremony, in his full military uniform, Bishop Polk, himself a general of the Confederate Army, and Bishop of the Episcopal Church. . . .Miss Ready’s bridal dress was one of her best ante-bellum frocks, for it was not possible at that time to purchase material for a trousseau. ... General Duke was certain that the bride could not have worn anything more becoming. He remembers that she wore a bridal veil. ... General Morgan’s attendants were as dashing a set of young soldiers as any bride could wish at her wedding.
• . . Two or three regimental bands had been provided for the occasion. They were stationed in the house and on the porch, and there was plenty of music. Outside in the streets thousands of soldiers were assembled, who by the lighted bonfires, celebrated the wedding proper style, cheering Morgan and his bride.”21
After the wedding there was a great supper served in the Ready mansion where the wedding party and invited guests feasted ... turkeys, hams, chickens, ducks, game, and all the delicacies and good dishes a Southern kitchen could produce were on the board, while Colonel Ready’s cellar still had a sufficient stock of wine to provide for the many
21Basil Duke, Interview with News-Banner reporter.
9 toasts proposed to the happy couple. After the wedding supper, the bands were called in and the gallant soldiers and Tennessee belles danced to their heart’s content. Family legend holds that the General and his bride spent their first night of married life together at “The Corners,” which was the home of Hattie’s grandparents, Charles Ready, Sr., in Readyville. The next evening, Monday, December 15, 1862, the day after their wedding, a grand ball was held at the Court House in honor of John and Hattie. The ball was sponsored by the First Louisiana and the Sixth Kentucky Regiments. Candles illuminated the large hallways of the three year old Court House and behind each candle a bayonet reflected the light on the festive scene. A pyramidal chandelier of bayonets and candles hung from the ceiling and trees of greenery and jars of flowers decorated the dance hall.
Unfortunately, the good times would not last for long.
Mattie loved her husband deeply, and despite the hardships of war, tried to be with him whenever and wherever she could. One week after the wedding, General Morgan rode off on the Christmas Raid into Kentucky in search of much needed horses and supplies. Hattie accompanied him as far as she could -- to Alexandria, Tennessee and together they watched the grand parade of Morgan’s troops, which had never looked better. Everyone admired the handsome couple and their obvious affection for one another. The next day, December 22, 1862 the newlyweds were separated when Morgan and his men rode north into Kentucky and Hattie returned to Murfreesboro.
The second day of the raid on December 23, 1862, John wrote Hattie that he hoped it would be finished within six days,
10 “and then my precious one I shall try and get back to you as fast as possible and then my pretty one nothing shall induce me to again leave you this winter. How anxiously I am looking forward to the moment when I shall again clasp you to a heart that beats for you alone. Do not forget me my own Darling and you may rest assured that my whole thoughts are of you. Farewell my pretty wife, my command is leaving I must be off.”22.
JOHN MORGAN WAS IN LOVE!
The raid was a great success, and John and Hattie hoped that it would help to dispel speculations that marriage came first, career second. Colonel Grenfell had participated in the wedding but said later that he had attempted to prevent it, as he felt that marriage would cause John to become cautious and less enterprising. And Mattie’s family had instructed her, “You must remember your promises, not to restrain the General in his career of glory, but encourage him to go forward.”23 She promised, but she did not know what a profound influence she would have on his life and career. He was her hero; her knight in shinning armor. Following the raid he wrote, “The greatest pleasure my expedition has afforded is the knowledge that our great success will gratify and delight you.”24 After the war Basil Duke stated that Mattie “certainly deserved to exercise over him the great influence she was thought to have possessed.”25 There were hints that Mattie slowed Morgan down, took away his strength and courage, and sent
22Ramage, p. 146.
23Neff& Pollitz, p. 199
24Ramage, p. 146
25Neff & Pollitz, p. 198
his career on a downward spiral. The wedding came at the peak of his career, one day after his promotion to brigadier general. But instead of encouraging him to settle down to regular cavalry service, the relationship with Hattie seems to have added to the psychological pressure to continue independent raids, even to the point of recklessness and insubordination.
Hattie returned home to Murfreesboro just in time for the Battle of Stones River on December 31, 1862—January 2, 1863. The Ready family, like the rest of the townspeople, were spared none of the horrors as a major battle raged around them.
Two weeks later, following the Battle of Stones River and Bragg’s retreat from Middle Tennessee, Hattie, accompanied by her lovely sister Alice, was forced to take flight from home. The Ready house was used by Union General Rosecrans for his headquarters in Murfreesboro, and her parents remained there only a short while longer before “refugeeing” south to a safer environment. Charles Ready, Jr., as well as his son-in-law, Dr. William C. Cheatham of Nashville who was married to Hattie’s eldest sister, Mary Emma, had both been arrested previously by the Federals for their participation in the Rebel resistance.
Under escort by members of General Hardee’s staff, Hattie and Alice reached the army at Winchester, Tennessee. Three weeks after the wedding, on January 6, 1863, Hattie wrote from newly established headquarters in Winchester:
Come to me my own Darling quickly. I was wretched but now I am almost happy and will be quite when my precious husband is again with me. I can bear anything Darling when you are with me,
and so long as I have your love——but when separated from you and I
12 know that you are surrounded by so many dangers and hardships as you have been on your last expedition I become a weak nervous child. Have I not lived a great deal, love, in the last three weeks? When I look back now at the time, it seems three years. But in each hour I have passed through, there has always been one dear face ever before me. ... I have so much to tell you, and so very much to hear from you. Although I have heard nothing from you since you left Glasgow, I knew you had accomplished what you had in view--but oh I was so anxious for your safety. I had some dark days, dearest, and when the battle was raging around me in such fury, and everybody from the commander-in-chief to the privates were praying for Morgan to come, I thanked God in the anguish of my heart that it was not for me to say where you should be. There was one continual inquiry at the front door -- ‘When will Genl. Morgan be here?’... Geni. Bragg established his head Quarters at this place. We reached here today ... and although an entire stranger to the people I am with, they received me, as the saying is, with open arms, because I am your Wife. We are comfortably, but very plainly accommodated. Alice is with me. Papa & Mama remained at home with Ella. I almost dread to hear from them. I am so impatient for tomorrow to come. When the Courier arrived Cols. (unknown) & Johnston of Genl. Bragg’s staff were calling upon us. Came with an invitation from the Geni. for us to join his Hd. Qts. b4t Gen. Hardee had a prior claim. I sent the papers giving an account of your expedition, or part of it, to Gen. B. Everybody is anxious to hear from you, and to see you,
but none a thousandth part as much as your little wife. I am at
13 Mrs. McGee’s, just in the suburbs of the town, so you will know exactly where to find me. I love to write to you, Dearest, and your sweet letters always make me happy. It grieved me that I could send you no word of love from my pen while in Kty. Both—because it would have been a relief to pour out my heart to you, and then, Darling, I feared you would forget me. You left me so soon. ... Good night, my Hero. My dreams are of you. Your affectionate, Mattie. ~~26
One of General Morgan’s first priorities was to bring Mattie to his new headquarters in McMinnville. He wrote, “am determined to have you near me. Cannot bear the thought of your being away from home and my not being with you.”27 Once she came, Mattie declared: “My life is all a joyous dream now, from which I fear to awaken, and awake I must when my Hero is called to leave me again. My husband wants me to remain with him, and of course I much prefer it. They say we are a love sick couple.”28 This devotion to each other was reflected in John Morgan’s military leadership. After long and strenuous marches, when even the strongest men were exhausted, he would ride another fifty miles to be with her. Mattie diverted his attention, and he lost his single—minded devotion to the Cause. One night, anticipating attack from the enemy, he wrote, “Aitho I fully expected to be attacked today, still my thoughts were of you and not of war.”29 Twenty-five miles from the hardships at the front of battle, John and Mattie extended their
26Jones, pp. 212-213
27Ramage, p. 148
14 honeymoon into the spring. Nearly every afternoon they made an elegant appearance, riding horseback into the country—-she in a beautiful black riding habit, hat, and veil, he in a blue roundabout jacket with brass buttons, blue pants tucked into shiny cavalry boots with spurs, and black felt hat fastened up at the side. A correspondent for the Richmond Enquirer observed that Mattie’s “full-blown figure was certainly apropos to the sterling manhood of Morgan. She loves him very ardently, and I doubt not that the affair was entirely one of the affections. They take long strolls every afternoon, and the evidences of attachment ... are delicate and dignified upon both sides.”3°
Mattie’s influence extended even further. For the first time in his life, John Morgan became interested in religion. Mattie had given him a prayer book for a wedding present and from a camp away from her one night he wrote: “The dear prayer book that you gave me ‘my dear precious One’ is before me & I shall read Evening Prayer, 21st day. So my Angel you see what a good influence you exert upon me and I am so much happier.”31 His mother was also quite pleased to learn that “because of Mattie’s example and advice he had become a ‘much better man’”.32 He was adamant that his newly found faith sprang from his love for Mattie and was subordinate to that love. He further wrote: “I shall read your letter again before I close my eyes. What great pleasure it affords me to read your dear sweet words of Love. I know
30Rainage, p. 149
15 every word you utter comes from your dear good Heart. Have more confidence in that than I have in the Book now before me.”33
With Middle Tennessee under Federal occupation, and Hattie choosing to remain with John behind Confederate lines, arrangements for Hattie’s escape in case of enemy attack were always first and foremost in his mind. John provided an ambulance and wagon and kept her informed on the most feasible escape route. She kept her bags packed for immediate evacuation. On April 19, 1663, Colonel Robert Minty who commanded the 1st Brigade of Michigan cavalry, burst through picket lines and into Morgan’s headquarters at McMinnville. Two officers were seriously wounded while creating a diversion to give Morgan time to put Hattie in the ambulance and send her racing out of town. John and his headquarters escort escaped on horseback across the fields. Hattie was captured but immediately released.
This was a foretaste of what was to become habitual for Hattie ——flights before the enemy, lonely vigils, brief intervals wit.h her husband. In the summer of 1863, during the Confederacy’s “farthest north” raid, General Morgan was captured and imprisoned in Columbus, Ohio. He wrote to her two or three times a week in terms of cheer and confidence, but his concern for her steadily increased. During this time the “happy” days were over for Hattie. She and Alice became war-time refugees -- in Knoxville, in Augusta, Georgia, in Knoxville again, and finally in Danville, Virginia. Hattie wanted to be as near Richmond as possible in order to do everything she could to speed up the parole of her beloved husband. When they heard that their brother
33Ramage, p. 149
16 Horace was wounded at Chickamauga, Alice hurried off to take care of him. Alone and desperately anxious, Hattie grew seriously ill. Her baby daughter was born prematurely and lived only a short time.34
General Morgan made his miraculous escape from the Ohio prison on November 27, 1863 (the day his daughter was born) and managed to reach Hattie in time for Christmas. It was later felt that John’s overwhelming desire to be with her inspired this reckless plan. After the couple was reunited, they were more devoted than ever. And more determined than ever to be together. They even made a covenant, which was most likely a verbal commitment or promise to each other, to this effect. Hattie accompanied him to Richmond in early January of 1864 for a nearly three month ovation in the capitol. They were wined, dined, and extensively made over. He was celebrated as the South’s great hero; Hattie enjoyed it all and continued to gain strength.
At the end of March 1864, General Morgan was given command of the Confederacy’s Southwestern Virginia Department (which included part of east Tennessee) and they moved to the headquarters in Abingdon, Virginia. This was Morgan’s first and only departmental command and one of the most undesirable in the entire army. The next few months brought a different picture into focus. At this time in his career, Morgan was a very disenchanted man. There were clouds of suspicion and disgrace from previous unauthorized military actions hovering around him and a court of inquiry threatening to ruin his career. His intense love for Hattie was the only bright spot in his life during this dark time. On his way back to Abingdon from what would be the last Kentucky Raid, he
34Ramage, p. 197
17 wrote: “How very anxious I am to see you & to hold you in my arms. Do not think I shall permit myself to be separated from you again.”35 His appearance indicated that he was a tired, sick man who had aged considerably, and Basil Duke, who had just been released from the Ohio prison, was appalled at the change in Morgan. The new command was a mixed group, with many untrustworthy elements among them, while most of his former command was still in prison in Ohio. During the summer while operating in Greenville, Tennessee he revoked the parole of a Union officer whom a townswoman by the name of Lucy Williams had “befriended” and it was always believed by Morgan’s family and friends that it was she who sought revenge.36
On August 28/29, 1864, General Morgan and his men once again rode off from Abingdon, Virginia to Greenville, Tennessee. Even though Tennessee was a Confederate state, it was widely divided, and this part of east Tennessee was very pro—Union. Though strongly advised to the contrary on separating himself from his men, Morgan selected the largest and most comfortable house in the area for his headquarters, that of Mrs. Catherine Williams, a friend of Mattie’s family. That day, September 3, 1864 he sent Mattie the last telegraph she would ever get from him: “Arrived here to day. Find that Enemy have not been this side of Bull Gap & none there. ‘Mizpah’”37 (Mizpah was the location in ancient Israel where Jacob and Labana erected an altar as a sign of the covenant between them. John used it to renew his covenant with Hattie never to surrender.)
35Ramage, p. 226
36Neff& Pollitz, p. 287
37Ramage, p. 232
18 Mrs. Williams had three sons, two of whom fought for the Confederacy and one for the Union. The Union soldier-son was married to Lucy, a woman of questionable character. Although there was no evidence to actually prove Lucy’s betrayal as to informing the Federals of Morgan’s whereabouts, it was generally accepted that this was indeed the case. She herself never denied the accusations and Joe Williams began divorce proceedings almost immediately. He later visited the Ready family in Murfreesboro.
Four days after leaving Hattie in Abingdon, a Union cavalry force, commanded by Military Governor of Tennessee Andrew Johnson’s adjutant general, Alvan C. Gillem, surprised the Confederates and John Hunt Morgan was shot and killed by Union private, Andrew J. Campbell, Company G, 13th Tennessee Cavalry.38 (It was believed that Johnson, himself a native of Greenville, felt it his duty to promote the Union cause in the area and was particularly offended by Morgan being recognized as a hero by Southern sympathizers.) Ironically, this same Andrew J. Campbell, a native of Ireland and then Helena, Arkansas, had previously fought for the South and was a member of the 2nd Arkansas Infantry, General Patrick Cleburne’s command. Even more ironic, he was encamped just north of Murfreesboro at the time of Hattie and John’s wedding, although there is no record of his having ever met Morgan and was most certainly not a part of the same social circle. He deserted the Southern cause and then enlisted in the Union Army and that’s how he came to be in Greenville on that fateful morning.
38Ramage, p. 237
19 Morgan was the only headquarters officer killed, and many believe that he was murdered after surrender and his body desecrated. The facts from eyewitness accounts that “his body was thrown over a mule, paraded around town before being dumped in a muddy ditch, ... devoid of almost all clothing ... while his enemies shouted and screamed ‘in savage exultation’”39 certainly couldn’t have made the burden any easier for Mattie to bear. Others feel that he chose death over surrender and indefinite separation from Hattie. Perhaps the covenant he and Mattie had agreed upon previously entered into his decision to gamble on life, rather than death. This was on September 4, 1864 —— the same day that Atlanta fell. Thus ended one of the greatest love stories of the War Between the States. Their marriage had lasted a total of 630 days.
Hattie learned of her husband’s death and claimed his body under a flag of truce. Grief stricken and pregnant, the twenty four year old widow returned to Augusta, Georgia to stay with relatives. Seven months after the death of General John Hunt Morgan, Hattie gave birth to their daughter, and named her Johnnie. (Johnnie Hunt Morgan was born on April 7, 1865, just two days before General Lee’s surrender.) The child was a great comfort to Hattie in her grief. In a letter to her mother—in—law written a few months later Hattie wrote: “She has indeed proved a blessing to me direct from God, and the only happiness I look forward to in the future is that of rearing her. She is said to be a perfect little Morgan in appearance.”40 During the summer of 1865, Hattie and little Johnnie returned to her parents’ home in Murfreesboro,
39Neff & Pollitz, p. 296
40Neff & Pollitz, p. 314
20 where she devoted most of her time and energy to raising her young child and representing her late husband as the widow of a Lost Cause hero. Her involvement in the Ladies Aid Society, which would eventually evolve into the United Daughters of the Confederacy, brought both honor and
remembrance to those living and dead who had fought for the South. In 1984 a UDC Chapter in Murfreesboro was organized and named in her honor. But in 1865, the picture must have been a very bleak one indeed for a young widow with a small baby. Her home, her family, and the Southern way of life she had previously known were gone forever. The period following the war years was a difficult time for everyone, and the Ready family was no exception. In 1870, in order to help alleviate the shortage of family funds, the “New Ready House” opened as a boarding house, with Mattie’s brother, Ex-Colone1 Horace Ready, as its proprietor, “keeping a ledger of those who came to dinner and to spend the night.”41 This was after the “Great Fire” in Murfreesboro in 1868, when perhaps the old house was either burned or badly damaged.
Hattie remarried on January 30, 1873 after about eight years of widowhood. Her second husband was Judge William H. Williamson of Lebanon, a one-armed Confederate veteran, and they were the parents of five children.42 Johnnie was known as a loving older sister. She grew up to become an attractive and accomplished young woman. After her graduation with distinction from Patapsco, Maryland, which was the same prestigious school her Aunt Alice had attended, she was described accordingly: “In appearance, she is very much like her father, has a
41Neff& Pollitz, p. 342
42Neff& Pollitz, p. 345
21 gifted mind, particularly in elocution, and in her manner has that peculiar magnetism that so characterized her father and gave him influence over men.”43
Hattie remained true to her Southern philosophy, unable to let go
of the past, even to the point of breaking off a romance between Johnnie and a young man of a pro-Union background. In the early 1880’s, Mattie was described in “Prominent Tennesseans” as “noted for her fine address, intellectual vigor and cultivation, her strength of character and devotion to her children. Handsome in person, and clothed with the graces of the highest order of womanhood, she is naturally of great influence in the community.”44 Martha Ready Morgan Williamson died on November 16, 1887 at the age of 47, most likely of tuberculosis. Her love for Morgan was apparent even after death. On her tombstone is the following inscription, “Our Mother - First the wife of Gen’l John H. Morgan - And then of Judge Wm. H. Williamson.”
Six months after her mother’s death, Johnnie married the Rev. Joseph W. Caidwell, a Presbyterian minister from Selma, Alabama. On June 28, 1888, at age twenty—three, shortly after her honeymoon, Johnnie died of typhoid fever, thereby leaving no direct descendants of John Hunt and Martha Ready Morgan. There are however, several descendants still living today both in Lebanon and Nashville who are direct descendants of Hattie and Judge Williamson. Hattie and Johnnie, along with Judge Williamson and some of the other children, are buried in Lebanon’s Cedar Grove Cemetery. Aunt Alice Ready Martin and her family
43Neff & Pollitz, p. 360
44Neff& Pollitz, p. 344
22 are buried nearby, and keeping watch over all of them are men from the 2nd Kentucky who were with John Morgan and killed in Lebanon in May of
1862, the year that it all began.
Article from the FREE PRESS, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Sunday,
February 28, 1988.
Arnette, C.B. From Mink Slide to Main Street, Williams Printing
Company, Nashville, TN, 1991.
Jones, Katharine M., Ed. Heroines of Dixie: Spring of High Hopes, Bobbs—Merrill, 1955.
Memoirs of General Basil W. Duke, interview with “NEWS-BANNER” reporter, Louisville, Kentucky, August 31, 1912.
Neff, Robert 0. Unpublished manuscript based on interview and information obtained from Mrs. Samuel B. Gilreath of Lebanon,Tennessee in 1985. Mrs. Gilreath is the granddaughter of Hattie and Judge Williamson.
Neff, Robert 0. & Edith E. Pollitz. The Bride and the Bandit. Private publication by Evansville Bindery, 1998.
Pittard, Mabel. History of Rutherford County, Memphis State University Press, 1984.
Ramage, James A. Rebel Raider: The Life of General John Hunt Morgan, The University Press of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, 1986.