Crossing the Ohio River from Kentucky into Mauckport, Ind., on July 8, 1863, General John Hunt Morgan and his Raiders, some 2,400 men strong, burned the steamships they had commandeered.
Stranded on the banks of the Kentucky side of the river without a way to cross, Union General Edward Hobson, with a cavalry force of 4,000, was unable to continue the pursuit of Morgan who had plundered parts of Kentucky.
Morgan and his Raiders headed toward Corydon, the former state capitol of Indiana, about 15 miles north of Mauckport. Here, in these southeastern counties of Indiana, the only battles of the Civil War in the state were about to take place.
Nineteen-year-old Helen Porter Griffin was home for the summer from finishing school when she heard the news that Morgan's Raiders had crossed the border and were heading toward her family's home.
"According to my grandma, they expected the town to be burned down like so many towns in the south were being burned," says Fred Griffin, 92 of Corydon, Helen's grandson, remembering what she told him about the raid. "Many were trying to leave and take things with them. My grandmother and her family put their coins and jewelry, but not their watches, in a cistern."
Preserving history and tradition are important in this corner of Southern Indiana with its rolling hills and beautiful vistas of pastures and forests. Griffin's grandmother, Helen, and his father were born in what is now known as the Governor William Hendricks home, which, still standing, is located in Corydon's downtown.
It is this love of history, shared by many here, that led to the establishment of the John Hunt Morgan Heritage Trail, a self-directed 185-mile driving tour that travels past 24 points of interest following the path of Morgan and his Raiders.
"My grandmother and her mother knew the Raiders were getting close but they chose to stay along with two of her six sisters," he says. "They wanted to cook for the Harrison County Home Guard who were defending the town."
While the women prepared food for the Home Guard, Helen's father went off to fight the Raiders.
The Battle of Corydon lasted less than an hour. The Confederate raiders outflanked the guard and were able to march into town, stealing from the townspeople but leaving most of their homes intact.
"Old man, if you could only see our country, down south, how we have been driven from our homes and our houses burned, you might feel yourself lucky to have fallen into more generous hands than those of the Yankees," Morgan supposedly told one man as he made his way north through Indiana.
"The Home Guard didn't end up eating my grandmother's food, the Raiders did," Griffin said. "Morgan and his Raiders drank from the cistern but they never found the gold coins or the jewelry."
Heading out of Corydon, Morgan and his Raiders galloped north toward Indianapolis. For the next week, Morgan, who was known as the "King of Horse Thieves" because of his penchant for taking other's horses, plundered such towns as Salem, Paris and Vernon.
Morgan's trail meanders across covered bridges, past centuries old buildings and courthouses. Some of the stops are now just fields, others old buildings and bridges still standing after all these years.
For those who don't have time to do the whole trail, a few must stops include Corydon, a delightful historic town with a village square containing the old courthouse (the house where Porter lived is across the street), charming shops and a sophisticated restaurant called Magdalena's.
The drive out of Corydon toward Palmyra, the area where Morgan's Raiders camped on July 9, 1863, is lined with wonderfully restored homes from the 1800s.
Another stopping point is the Washington County Courthouse in Salem, the hardest hit of all the towns during the raid. The courthouse, a combination of Gothic and Classical styles, is immense, dominating the small downtown with its 19th and 20th century commercial buildings that are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Traveling northeast out of Salem, it's worth getting out and walking across the recently built covered bridge in Leota (called Finley's Crossroads at the time of the raid) where a sign commemorates the Raiders who rode through here on their way toward Scottsburg.
Another place to pause is just south of Vernon on the banks of the Muscatatuck River. It is here that Morgan asked the town officials to surrender. They said no and he retreated to the south.
On the run now, with the Union cavalry and Indiana volunteers some 20,000 men strong just hours behind, Morgan headed farther east, crossing the Ohio River where he was captured on the other side.
How to get there ...
Morgan's ride started in Mauckport. To get there take I-65 South, traveling past Columbus to I-64 West near the Indiana and Kentucky border by Louisville. Travel west to the Corydon exit 105. Turn south and travel State 135 South to Mauckport.
For more information ...
Contact the Harrison County Convention and Visitors Bureau: 888-738-2137 for maps (which are free) or www.thisisindiana.com.
Also available, "Morgan's Coming," in both CD ($20) and cassette ($10) form tells the story of Morgan's Raid, using narratives taken from participants' letter and journals.
You'll like ...
Hit the train at LazyK Trailrides and travel by horseback through Wyandotte Cave Woods. (812) 633-4384 or (502) 526-2621. 9761 E Mt. Lebanon Road, Milltown, Ind.
Kids will like ...
As long as you're in Mauckport, stop at Squire Boone Village and Caverns, the old homestead of Daniel's brother and a vast cavern system where more than million gallons of water flow through the cave everyday. (812) 732-2782 or www.squireboonecaverns.com.
And don't miss ...
Not too far west of Corydon, the Overlook Restaurant at 1153 W. Highway 62 in Leavenworth sits perched high above the Ohio River with an astounding view and wonderful down home cooking such as biscuits, mashed potatoes and fried chicken. (812) 739-4264 or www.theoverlook.com. Nearby is the 19th century Leavenworth Inn perched on a bluff overlooking the Ohio River across the street from the Overlook Restaurant in Leavenworth, Ind. 930 West State Road 62. (888) 739-2120 or www.leavenworthinn.com.