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The Battle of Tebb's Bend: 148 years (and one day) ago, today

"Jim" edits Adair Countian P.H. Bridgewater's account of the Battle of Tebb's Bend telling how the famous General John Hunt Morgan's overcoat came into the writer's hands. Click here for Keepsake Printable copy, P.H. Bridgewater's: The Battle of Tebb's Bend

By "Jim"

Adair County News, March 10, 1909 (reprinted from the Louisville Dispatch)


Patrick H. Bridgewater Gives the Dispatch a Graphic Account of that Thrilling Battle.

Famous General Did Not Know the Attack on the Federals Was to Be Made.

History of His Much Vaunted Overcoat, Which is Now Held by the Writer.

Hon. Patrick H. Bridgewater, of near Cane Valley, Adair county, Ky., furnished the Dispatch with the following most interesting history of John Morgan's overcoat, and sketch of the Green River Bridge in the year 1863:

To the Editor of the Dispatch:

About six years ago I had published in the Louisville Courier-Journal a sketch of the battle and overcoat of John Morgan, in which I made some mistakes, not as to the overcoat, but as to the battle, so I herein correct the mistakes and request the Dispatch to republish it in its revised form.

But to return to the overcoat: I have in my possession the overcoat of the Confederate Gen., John H. Morgan. This relic of the war came into my possession in this wise: On the night of July third, 1863, Gen. Morgan and his staff stayed all night at my father's house, in Cane Valley, Adair county, Ky. The next morning being the Fourth of July, some of Morgan's forces attacked the Yankees at Green River Bridge, while the General was still back at my father's. When General Morgan learned of the fight he hastened to the battleground, and in his hurry, he left his overcoat at my father's house, which remained in my father's possession till his death. Since then it has been in the possession of the writer.

A short history of the battle of Green River Bridge may be interesting to some of the readers of the Louisville Dispatch. This bridge is situated over Green river, in Tibe's (sic) bend, in Taylor county, on the Campbellsville and Columbia pike, eight miles from the former and twelve miles from the latter town.

When Gen. Morgan arrived in the vicinity of the bridge he was informed that the bridge was held by the Twenty-fifth Michigan Infantry, commanded by Col. C.D. Moore. Morgan wished to pass on north without hindrance, demanded a surrender of the bridge on the evening of the 3rd of July, 1863, which the General thought was accorded, as his scouts reported the enemy evacuating the bridge on the night of the 3rd.

But the next morning, the Fourth of July, Col. Johnson, of Morgan's command, found the Yankees strongly entrenched in a small opening close to and facing the pike. The Confederates held a short conference as to the best plan of attack. Col. Johnson asked if there was a man in the regiment acquainted with the locality of the bridge. He was informed that Capt. R.A. Webster was well acquainted with the whole country about the bridge. Capt. Webster was hunted up and went to Col. Johnson and drew a diagram in the dust of the road, of the situation of the bridge and the country around the bridge.

It was then decided that Capt. Webster should take a company of the best troopers and go around through Lemon's bend and across the river at Hatcher's warehouse, a point below the bridge which intersected with the pike at or near James Caldwell's farm, and then go back to the bridge and then Morgan was to attack the enemy from both ends of the pike.

However, before Capt. Webster crossed the river with his troopers, Col. Johnson, in his eagerness for the attack, advanced within 400 yards of the enemy's entrenchment and opened fire. After killing some of the Yankees the remainder ran out of their entrenchments and fell back down the pike behind their breastworks, which consisted of large trees cut down for that purpose.

A small portion of Johnson's command dismounted and pursued the enemy within a few yards of their breastworks. Only a few Confederates could get at them. As each side of the pike was so densely covered with underbrush you could scarcely see a man twenty yards standing up.

So the Yankees shot down Morgan's men as fast as they advanced on them. This attack was made without Gen. Morgan's consent or knowledge; it was done while the General was back at my father's house, six miles from the bridge. In the meantime Gen. Morgan arrived on the battleground, and, seeing the situation of the enemy, he was convinced of the hopelessness of further resistance on his part and he felt it his duty to shift from himself the responsibility of any further effusion of blood.

He ordered a flank move, which was done in good order, carrying off all his guns and the wounded, but leaving his dead in the hands of the enemy, who buried them all in one pit by the side of the pike.

The Federals reported many Confederates killed but few Yankees, as was usual in those days.

I assisted in the re-interment of the Confederate dead about seven years after the battle, and we exhumed only twenty-three skulls. Those together with the bones of other brave Confederate boys, now lie on top of the high cliff of Green river, in Taylor county, within a few hundred yards of where they fell, and a handsome marker has been erected over their remains to mark the spot of their last resting place.
They had fought their last battle.
They had slept their last sleep,
No sound could e'er awake them to glory again.*
Patrick H. Bridgewater,
Cane Valley, Adair county, Ky.
July 9th, 1898.
* These are variant lines from the poem, "The Grave of Bonaparte," frequently attributed to H.S. Washburn.

The author of this article, Patrick H. Bridgewater, was born in 1834, the oldest child of John F. & Elizabeth (Groves) Bridgewater, and died in 1912. Gen. Morgan's overcoat passed to Patrick H. Bridgewater's daughter, Annie E., who had married Nathan Champness "Champ" Butler. It then passed to Annie E.'s daughter, Nellie E. Butler, who married Hugh Hutchison; then to Nellie's daughter, Elizabeth Hutchison, who married Ralph Eugene "Pete" Grider; and thence to Elizabeth's daughter. I recall hearing Mrs. Nellie Butler Hutchison speak of the overcoat sometime around 1960. -JIMAdditional note: I meant to send this in time for to post it on the 147th anniversary of the Battle (July 3rd, 1863), but with this d*mn fast time I'm always late, not to mention most generally steered up. -JIM

This story was posted on 2010-07-04 13:19:13
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Tebb's Bend Cemetery

2010-07-04 - Photo by Chris Bennett. Tebb's Bend, Taylor Co., KY
Chris Bennett shot this photo at dusk in the Tebb's Bend Cemetery.

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