It has been gloomy all day. About 11 o’clock Ma thought it was too cold to rain and as it was very necessary that we should got to town we went, but it was very muddy and disagreeable. It rained very hard for about 2 hours and then stopped but it turned to freezing, and as we came home the ground was fast freezing.
We did what shopping we could and then went to Mrs. Crutcher’s. By half-past 2 it quit raining entirely.
Hurrah, Hurrah, Hurrah! I feel like I want to be somewhere that I can scream as loud as I can. I think I will get into the cellar and then no Yankee can hear me. Yes, Hurrah, Hurrah, Hurrah, for John Morgan and six of his men have escaped from prison. They dug through the floor in some way. It would seem that my prayers have been answered and I hope to believe so, but oh, how many more perfect petitions have been given for his escape than mine. Yet I earnestly pray that he may reach his friends in safety.
It has been in the papers that Our Army was dreadfully defeated and driven from “Lookout Mountain” but I never believed it and now the suppressed news is of Bragg’s turning upon the enemy and severely whipping them.
Cora Owens; excerpt from her private journal, November 28, 1863
John Hunt Morgan
General John Hunt Morgan caused plenty of trouble for the Union during 1862 and 1863. Originally from Kentucky, he led daring raids deep into Union-held states, sometimes going as far as Ohio and Indiana. In 1863, he planned and carried out “Morgan’s Raid,” roving far north and hoping to divert troops and attention from the Confederate difficulties at Vicksburg and during the Gettysburg Campaign.
However, by the end of July 1863, Morgan and several hundred of his cavalry were forced to surrender and were then shipped off to the prisoner of war camps. Morgan and his officers were confined in the Ohio Penitentiary and spent the autumn weeks devising escape plans.
On November 27, 1863, John Morgan and six of his comrades slipped through a tunnel that they had dug out of the prison and into the prison yard. Then, they used a rope made from blanket strips tied together to scale the prison wall and make their escape. Boarding a train, they traveled by rail almost to Cincinnati, then leaped off the train and continued by foot into Kentucky where they met Southern sympathizers who helped them complete their getaway. Morgan would plan and lead more raids the following year, but he would die in combat during September 1864.
Battle of Lookout Mountain
In the autumn of 1863, the Chattanooga Campaign unfolded in Tennessee. On November 24 Union troops commanded by General Joseph Hooker fought their way up lookout mountain and pushed Confederates commanded by General Carter L. Stevenson out of their position. The attack opened the opportunity for assaults on Missionary Ridge on the following day.
The steep, high slopes of Lookout Mountain presented many challenges for the soldiers and officers on the battle lines. Confederate defenders were surprised as the quickness and success of the Union attack, previously believing their position was rather secure. The Battle of Lookout Mountain cost the Union about 671 casualties while the Confederates lost 1,251 men.
The Union victories at Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge forced Confederate General Braxton Bragg to retreat, leaving Tennessee in Union hands for the remainder of the war. Union General Ulysses S. Grant had scored another tactical and strategic victory, adding to his successes earlier in the year and bringing him into the spotlight as a serious leader who might be brought east to confront Lee.
Miss Cora Owens was a young teenager when she started her diary in 1863. Her family had already moved several times because of the war – staying briefly in Columbus, Kentucky, and then relocating to Louisville, Kentucky. The Owens Family lived in a Union-held state but had Confederate sympathies which are often revealed in Cora’s writings. Since the Owens Family was well-to-do, Cora attended girls’ schools in the area and later went to school in New York and Maryland after the war.
As a Kentuckian, Cora followed General Morgan’s raids and escape with interest and might have also been concerned about the campaigns in Tennessee since the outcomes would influence if the Confederates would ever seriously try to retake her home state. She seems rather well-informed, and the news of Morgan’s escape apparently traveled quickly since he had broken prison only the day before this journal entry.