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Area Civil War enthusiasts planning
trail to mark John Hunt Morgan’s Raid
through southeastern Indiana

By Carri Dirksen

HANOVER, Ind. – A love for the history of the Civil War has inspired a Hanover resident to pursue publicizing Confederate Gen. John Hunt Morgan’s 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 Morgan’s 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 the brochures.
Modern highways now cover the majority of Morgan’s 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. Army’s 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 Morgan’s 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, Morgan’s 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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