What did the “Thunderbolt of the Confederacy” carry in his pocket?

Morgan's bible measures 3x5 inches, approximately the same size of an index card.

A tiny bible!

This small pocket Bible, signed on the title page by John Hunt Morgan, was carried by him during the Civil War.  It became a part of the Filson’s rare collection in 1955 as a gift from John Wilson Townsend.

Morgan, circa 1862

Born June 1, 1825 in Huntsville, Alabama, John Hunt Morgan was the eldest of Calvin and Henrietta Hunt Morgan’s ten children.  His maternal grandfather, John Wesley Hunt, was an early founder of Lexington, Kentucky, and one of the first millionaires west of the Alleghenies.

The Morgan family moved to Lexington when John was still a child and it was here that he grew to maturity, attended college, joined his grandfather’s prosperous mercantile and hemp manufacturing business and married his first wife, Rebecca Bruce who died in 1861. In December of 1862 he married Martha “Mattie” Ready, the daughter of a U.S. representative from Tennessee.

Morgan joined the Confederate cavalry early in the war and was famous for two raids made into the North, one in July of 1862 and the second more famous raid in July of 1863.  It was during this raid that Morgan and his men crossed the Ohio River into Southern Indiana and went far into the North.  Morgan was subsequently captured and incarcerated in the Ohio Penitentiary until his escape in November of 1863.

Back matter of Morgan bible with inscription.

Title page of bible, inscribed "Jno. H. Morgan"

He fought on until September 14, 1864 when he was killed in Greeneville, Tennessee while trying to escape from Union cavalry.  A week later on September 21, 1864 a note was added to the back of this prayer book.  It reads: This was given me by Mattie some days since. Please take charge of it for me as I fear I may lose it. Unfortunately we are unable to make out the signature of the writer who was obviously given the prayer book by Mrs. Morgan for safekeeping.

Jana Meyer

Leave Comment