08 March 2011 by Published in: General musings 2 comments

Sometimes, I get to see and touch some really cool stuff. One of my favorite photographs of me shows me holding John Buford’s Henry rifle. I look terrified but thrilled, probably for the reason that I was terrified and thrilled at the same time.

Today was another one of those days when I got to see and hold something incredibly neat that very few people ever get to see, let alone to touch.

The Ohio Historical Society owns a 4.5 acre parcel in the middle of the Buffington Island battlefield. Funds were set aside to construct an interpretive kiosk on that parcel, which, in addition to a number of other new interpretive markers from the Morgan’s Trail group, will enable visitors to understand what happened there without needing a battlefield guide for the first time. Because I am the chairman of the history committee of the Buffington Island Battlefield Preservation Foundation, the folks at OHS who have been working on this project have been kind enough to include me in the process. Edd Sharp, the president of the Foundation, has also been involved in this process. Today, we had a meeting at OHS to discuss the illustrations that will be included in the interpretive kiosk.

The meeting was productive and successful, and at the end of the meeting, Edd and I got a treat. John Hunt Morgan and all of his officers were imprisoned in the Ohio Penitentiary here in Columbus. Morgan and a few of his officers eventually escaped, and the rest were exchanged. In September 1863, one of the prison guards brought a small notebook into the prison and got every one of Morgan’s officers to autograph it for him, including Morgan himself, two of his brothers, and his brother-in-law and second-in-command, Basil W. Duke. Each officer signed his name, wrote his rank, his unit, and his home town. Some dated the page. It’s really a remarkable artifact, and it’s not the least bit surprising to hear that OHS keeps it in its vault, under lock and key, and with extremely limited access.

Today, for the second time in two weeks, I not only got to look at the entire notebook, but I also got to hold it too. I don’t believe it’s ever been out on display, and I’m quite certain that only a very, very small handful of people have ever seen it since it went into the OHS collection. The staff got it out and allowed me to look at it at the last meeting two weeks ago, but Edd missed the meeting due to illness. He was there today, so today was his turn, and we both got to hold it and look at it in detail.

I wanted to take a photo of Morgan’s signature and post it here, but the staff would not allow me to do so, which I do understand. The signature says, “Jno. H. Morgan, Brig. Gen. C.S.A. Lexington, Ky.” Morgan had neat, tight handwriting. One of the things that I have always enjoyed about handling Civil War documents is to appreciate the beautiful penmanship that even men had in those days, and the signatures in the notebook are no exception.

Scans of Morgan’s, Duke’s, and a few of his other officers will be included on one of the interpretive panels in the new kiosk on the battlefield, so if you ever visit the Buffington Island battlefield and see the likenesses of those signatures, you will know where they came from.

OHS also has the key to Morgan’s prison cell, as well as the Henry rifle of Major Daniel McCook, the patriarch of the Fighting McCooks, who was killed by the first volley at Buffington Island. The photo of Major McCook that will appear in the kiosk shows him holding the so-called “McCook Rifle”, and that same weapon can be seen in the museum at OHS.

One of the fringe benefits of the work I do is getting to see stuff like what I saw today, and I never take that for granted. I’m just sorry that I can’t put up a photo of the notebook or of Morgan’s signature here.

Scridb filter


  1. Thu 10th Mar 2011 at 8:02 pm

    That is cool.

    Is there any chance they can somehow have a reproduced copy for display in the future? It would be a shame if so few people got to see something so neat, thought I fully understand them not putting the original on display.

  2. Thu 07th Apr 2011 at 2:45 pm

    Why do we feel we are “going out on a limb” to say the Civil War was about slavery?

    Why does Professor Bright — or anyone — have to tip toe through a verbal mine field of political correctness to even say it “nicely”

    I remember 40 years ago in college, believing all my professors told me. No one was really “at fault”. The Civil War was a tragedy, almost a misunderstanding. Good men on both sides, gosh darn it!

    Then google came along. They put Southern ( and Northern) newspapers online from1790 on –they put Southern books on line. They put Southern speeches and documents and sermons online. They put Southern documents on line.

    Reading Southern newspapers from 1858-1860 was like walking into Mars. WOW — no one told me THIS stuff! NO ONE. Not my history professors, not my text books, not my encyclopedias. Where on EARTH did all this stuff come from?

    Bragging about chasing down ordinary citizens, years before the war, for just saying they were against slavery. Bragging about slave dogs and their training to attack blacks, to terrorize them to keep them in place.

    But much more — Southern Ultimatums –who ever HEARD of those? Five Ultimatums issued by Southern leaders — as reported by Southern newspapers at the time. Richmond newspapers called the Ultimatums “THE TRUE ISSUE”.

    What? The true issue was WHAT? According to Southern newspapers — the spread of slavery was the true issue. They weren’t admitting it, they were BRAGGING about it.

    All five Southern Ultimatums were about the same thing — the spread of slavery. Essentially, have war, or allow slavery to be spread.

    And more baffling — this was AFTER secession. The South had already seceded (most of it) but had not yet attacked. But there would be an attack – if LIncoln did not obey these Ultimatums. And there was an attack.

    New York papers reported the Southern Ultimatums too — FAVORABLY! Their editors suggest Lincoln obey the ultimatums, to avoid war.

    Funny how no known text book, to this day, can find room to even mention the Southern Ultimatums, as reported in headlines in Southern newspapers at the time.

    But our text books can take up a page describing the belts and canteens the soldiers used. Very strange!

    Problem was — the Ultimatums were a “bridge too far”. The South made Lincoln an offer he could not ACCEPT.

    In the Ultimatums, the demand was that Kansas (the territories) must “accept and respect slavery” and that Congress MUST FORCE them too. The US congress must force the people in Kansas to accept and respect slavery.

    How on earth was Lincoln supposed to force the people in Kansas to accept and respect slavery. It’s absurd on it’s face. It’s like as if Hitler had demanded that England invade Poland for the amusement of Germany. Yes, it’s that preposterous.

    Where was THIS in my history books? This was the Southern headlines, describing their own Southern leaders actions.

    Toombs screaming “EXPAND OR PERISH” — he was talking about slavery. Expand it or perish. Where was that in my history books? If it was there, I missed it. The governor of Florida in his own official Declaration of Causes wrote “just stopping the spread of slavery is like burning us to death slowly” Where was that?

    Jeff Davis — writing years later — said “the intolerable grievance” that caused secession was someone in the North (he meant Lincoln) speaking badly about DRED SCOTT decision. That decision by Southern jurist that said blacks were “so inferior” that no white man could reasonably believe they had ANY rights given by God, and that furthermore — no state or Congress could grant them any rights!

    Where was Davis own “intolerable grievance” theory reflected in our history books? And for that matter — while we learned a lot about where Dred Scott the person travelled — no one said ONE WORD about the astonishing “inferiority” of the black race, as pronounced by Southern jurists.

    Where were all kinds of things? I found this and much much more in SOUTHERN newspapers! Southern books at the time, Southern speeches. Davis’s books are online on Google books.

    Don’t bother with “historians” making this clear. If they tell us at all, they tell us in code. I have seen, in half dozen text books, Davis quote of “We just want to be left alone”. Never once have I seen any mention of the Southern Ultimatums to spread slavery, or face war.

    Somehow vast amounts of really amazing things rested in Southern newspapers and books, never to journey forward, never to reach your history books,

    I am as much surprised by the “historians” and “history professors” who let this, and much much more, rest like corpse in the grave of unreported newspapers and books, as I am surprised by the material itself. Did I miss it? Did I miss a day of history class, when all this was covered?

    Did I accidentally turn two pages in my text books, at once, and this stuff was on the page I missed? Where was all this?.

    I suggest if we can’t teach the “gritty truth” of what led up to the Civil War — let’s not teach it at all.

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