During the Civil War, only one battle was fought on Indiana soil: the Battle of Corydon. Although of little importance in the grand scheme of things, the “Battle of Corydon” left a lasting impact on the town and community it affected. The following brief account of the battle has been compiled from official Indiana Legion reports, newspapers, eye-witness accounts, diaries and journals, and various histories of Morgan’s Raid and is a work in progress.
The Battle of Corydon occurred on July 9, 1863, a few miles south of Corydon, Indiana. Some 450 members of the Indiana Legion, made up of Home Guard members and patriotic citizens, attempted to hold off Confederate General John Hunt Morgan and his band of 2,000 cavalrymen from continuing their raid through the North.
On July 7th, Morgan and his band of guerillas arrived in Brandenburg, a small town bordering the Ohio River, directly opposite of Mauckport, Indiana. The rebels had seized two boats, the famed Alice Dean and the John T. McCombs, in order to transport their cavalry across the Ohio River.
Colonel William J. Irvin of the “Harrison County Home Guard” with a group of 100 men positioned a cannon borrowed from the Crawford County Legion near an old farm house at Morvin’s Landing, a few miles east of Mauckport. Two shots were fired, but without much success. Irvin had ordered the men to fire at the boilers of the two boats, but Col. John Timberlake, Provost Marshal, fearing women and children were aboard the boats, countermanded the order and instructed the gunners to fire at Morgan’s troops on the Kentucky shore. It would prove a fatal mistake.
The men on the Indiana shore were quickly silenced by Morgan’s parrot guns and retreated into the woods. Their loss was two men, Jeremiah Nance and Lieutenant James H. Current.
After the rebels had crossed the river, Morgan ordered both the Alice Dean and John T. McCombs to be burned. Basil Duke, Morgan’s second in command as well as his brother-in-law, interceded, on behalf of Captain Ballard of the John T. McCombs and his boat was spared. The Alice Dean, however, did not fare so well and was put to the torch.
All the local people had fled from their homes that night and Morgan’s men made camp for the night.
On the morning of July 9th, Morgan’s men began making their way on the highways leading the county seat, Corydon. All through the night of July 9th, the men and women of Corydon had spent their time building breastworks made of fence rails and logs and gathering all the ammunition they could find. Col. Lewis Jordan, commanding the Indian Legion, sent dispatches to the Legion at New Albany for help. Col. Jordan hoped that reinforcements from New Albany would arrive in time to either defeat or at least turn back Morgan.
At about 11:30 a.m. Morgan’s men began to appear on the roads leading to Corydon. What ensued was a short, but spirited little battle. Without reinforcements from New Albany, and the fact that many of the “Home Guards” had no prior military experience, defeat was inevitable. However, during the hour-long battle, the Indiana Legion was able to kill at least 8 rebels and wound forty more. Morgan’s men, numbering 2,000 were easily able to encircle the Home Guard and flank them on all sides. Morgan ordered his men fire two cannon balls over the town. Although, no damage was done, the “Home Guards” became panic stricken and what ensued was one of the most humorous retreats of the entire raid.
After the battle, Morgan and his raiders took their prisoners into Corydon and paroled them and began an afternoon of eating, looting and plundering. The county treasurer was robbed of $750; two stores were relieved of $600 each, and three local mills had to give up $500 to keep from being burned. Later in the evening, the Raiders left Corydon and moved northward. The main company invaded New Salisbury while other smaller units went to smaller towns to gather fresh horses. The rebels reached Salem, Indiana the next day.
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