Civil War enthusiasts planning
trail to mark John Hunt Morgans Raid
through southeastern Indiana
HANOVER, Ind. A love for the history of the Civil
War has inspired a Hanover resident to pursue publicizing Confederate
Gen. John Hunt Morgans famous 1863 raid through southeastern Indiana.
Richard Skidmore founded and now chairs the John Hunt Morgan Heritage
Trail Project Committee. The objective of the project, as
Skidmore calls the group, is to identify, interpret and promote
the trail of Gen. Morgan and his 2,000 horsemen. The group first met
in 1996 and hopes to complete the project by spring 2001.
There are five goals for the project: develop a free brochure
for the public providing the information necessary to follow Morgans
trail; make a detailed 53-page bound guidebook for individuals interested
in more historical detail; place 28 large roadside signs, complete with
images and narratives, at 25 meaningful locations along the 185-mile
trail; develop a free educational brochure for local fourth-graders
along the trail; create an audiotape or compact disc with a you
are there style of presentation complete with first-person accounts
originally reported by Morgan raid witnesses.
A fee will be charged for the guidebook and the audio narrative. All
proceeds will be used to maintain the interpretive signs and re-supply
Modern highways now cover the majority of Morgans route. However,
there are several stretches of narrow, winding tree-lined country roads
resembling the way the trail looked in 1863.
Some of the houses of that period still remain along the route as well.
Mar-kers may eventually be added along the route to identify them, Skidmore
said. A portion of the trail runs through the U.S. Armys Jefferson
Proving Ground, four miles north of the Madison city limits.
Ken Knouf, the JPG site manager, said, The trail looks much as
it did in 1863. However it is doubtful it will ever be open to the general
public. Much of the area is within an old impact field full of depleted
uranium and ordnance contamination.
He said the Army used a large portion of the same road. However in the
winter, you can really see where the trail of Morgans soldiers
veered off that road and crossed Big Creek.
Small escorted tours in vans have been allowed to view the trail at
JPG. Local historians and preservationists hope a future JPG Heritage
Museum being planned by the JPG Heritage Partnership group will help
educate the public about the raid. A videotape could be played at the
museum showing the trail across the proving grounds, Knouf said.
Knouf believes the John Hunt Morgan Trail project would not be where
it is today if it was not for one person. This project is due
to the perseverance of Dick Skidmore.
Skidmore retired to the Hanover area six years ago following a management
career with IBM. While living on the East Coast, he began his fascination
with the Civil War.
According to Basil Duke, Morgans chief chronicler and defender
in print, it was intended to throw off the summer timetables of two
Union armies the Army of the Cumberland and the Army of the Ohio
that were bent on the capture of eastern Tennessee cities Chattanooga
and Knoxville, respectively.
If that was the goal, it was successful, to a degree. The capture of
those cities was unquestionably delayed by a month or more, but they
were both captured in due time Knoxville on Sept 2 and Chattanooga
on Sept. 9.
Like elsewhere in the Confederacy, the frustrate-and-delay tactics that
worked pretty well during the first half of the war proved less successful
as the war entered its third and fourth years. The overwhelming power
of the armies of the North could be held back for a time, but not forever.
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