Preserving history and tradition is important in southern Indiana, with its rolling hills and beautiful pastures and forests. This itinerary features the highlights of the John Hunt Morgan Heritage Trail (JHMHT), a self-directed 185 mile tour that includes 24 points of interest following the path of General John Hunt Morgan and his Raiders who invaded the southwest part of the state during the Civil War.
On July 8, 1863, the General and his Raiders, some 2400 men strong, burned steamships they commandeered when crossing the Ohio River from Kentucky into Mauckport, Indiana. As a result Union General Edward Hobson, with a cavalry force of 4000, was stranded on the Kentucky side of the river without the means to pursue Morgan who had just plundered parts of Kentucky.
In these southeastern counties of Indiana, the state’s only Civil War battles were about to take place. Morgan and his Raiders headed towards Corydon (the former state capitol of Indiana, about 15 miles north of Mauckport) and galloped north towards Indianapolis. For the next week, Morgan, known as the “King of Horse Thieves” because of his penchant for stealing others’ horses, plundered Salem, Paris, Osgood and Vernon before being chased out of Indiana by 20,000 volunteer Hoosiers.
The heritage trail traverses covered bridges and passes centuries-old buildings and old courthouses. Some stops are now simply fields; others are buildings and bridges still standing. You’ll need a good map to follow the marked trail whose country roads wind through small towns and villages. If you don’t have time to do the whole trail, be sure not to miss Corydon, a delightful historic town with a village square, shops and restaurants. The drive out of Corydon towards Palmyra (the area where Morgan’s Raiders camped on July 9, 1863) is lined with beautifully restored homes dating to the 1800s.
Don’t miss the Washington County Courthouse in Salem, the hardest hit town during the raids. The Gothic and Classical courthouse, on the National Register of Historic Places, dominates the small downtown lined with 19th and 20th century commercial buildings.
Traveling northeast out of Salem, walk across the refurbished covered bridge in Leota (called Finley’s Crossroads at the time of the raid) which commemorates the Raiders who headed to way Scottsburg from here.
South of Vernon, pause on the banks of the Muscatatuck River, where Morgan asked town officials to surrender. When they said no, he retreated to the south. On the run, with the Union cavalry about four hours behind him, Morgan made his way to Versailles, making time to plunder the town before heading further east, crossing the Ohio River where Morgan was captured.