One Hundred Thirty-Five years after the tattered remnants of the Lexington Rifles were disbanded in Georgia, the organization was reconstituted in Illinois on a blustery First Day of April 2000.
Determined to honor the proud sacrifices and brave exploits of Morgan’s Men that began in 1861, the Lexington Rifles again took the oath of enlistment for military service to the Confederate States while standing on the steps of the former Green River Baptist Church in Woodsonville, Kentucky, where the original induction ceremony took place on 27 October 1861. The steps and foundations stones are all that remain of the church building after it was desecrated and burned to the ground by King Abraham’s hirelings in 1862. Officiating at the enlistment ceremony was Mr. Tres Seymour, Executive Director of the Hart County Historical Museum and the Battle for the Bridge Historic Preserve in Munfordville, Kentucky.
The original Lexington Rifles was organized as a militia company in 1857 by John Hunt Morgan, a dashing Lexington businessman and Kentucky patriot, who was a veteran of the war with Mexico. Morgan later became one of the most famous cavalry leaders in history, ultimately rising to the rank of Brigadier General in the Confederate Army. During the War for Southern Independence, his daring exploits and fearless leadership prompted fame and fable to crown him as the . . .
“Thunderbolt of the Confederacy”.
With sectional tensions rising in America in 1860, Kentucky organized her militia units into a State Guard to protect the neutrality of the Commonwealth. It was into this vanguard that the Lexington Rifles was commissioned by order of Governor Beriah Magoffin. When war raged in the country a year later, Kentucky’s neutrality came to an end and the State Guard disbanded. As the respective militia units chose their separate national allegiances, John Morgan led his men out of Lexington to join the Confederate Army in serving the cause of States Rights and Constitutional Liberty….
Two other companies joined with the Lexington Rifles to form a cavalry command known as Morgan’s Squadron. Led valiantly by Capt. Morgan and his brother-in-law, Lieut. Basil Wilson Duke, the Squadron quickly gained renown under the sobriquet of “Morgan’s Raiders”. And, after fighting bravely at the Battle of Shiloh, Morgan’s Squadron became the nucleus for organization of the famed 2nd Kentucky Cavalry when that regiment was formed at Chattanooga, Tennessee in June 1862.
Throughout the war, Morgan and his men branded their names into military history by raiding deeply into enemy controlled territory and by ranging across ten states. In July 1863, they took their fight for freedom into the states of Indiana and Ohio, thereby earning themselves the distinction of penetrating to the northern-most geographical point reached by any Confederate force during the war. Two months later, while temporarily under the command of Maj-Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, Morgan’s men were credited with firing the first and last shots at the Battle of Chickamauga. And at the end of the war, they were among those who provided military escort for President Jefferson Davis and his Cabinet through Georgia.
On May 8, 1865, the tattered remnants of Duke’s Cavalry Brigade, the antecedent of the Lexington Rifles, were mustered for the last time in Woodstock, Georgia and disbanded in a last order given by the Secretary of War, Maj-Gen. John C. Breckinridge. This act brought to truth the statement previously made in South Carolina by one of Morgan’s men when he replied to a lady who protested that the men from Kentucky were appropriating her provisions. He said to her,
“M’am, you people in South Carolina may have started this war,
but we Kentuckians have contracted to close it out.”