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Lexington Rifles

"Our Laws, The Commands of Our Captain"

1857 - 1861

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Choose from the following hyperlinks to view the illustrated unit history.

1857-61     1862     1863     1864     1865     1866-Present


lexington rifles

Fayette County Volunteer Militia
1857 - 1861

Four years before war came to America in 1861, a 32year-old textile manufacturer founded a militia company of  infantry in his hometown of Lexington, Kentucky.  His name was John Hunt Morgan, a former Lieutenant of the 1st Kentucky Cavalry during America's war with Mexico.  The militia company, of which he became Captain, was comprised of about 60 young men whose ranks were filled with prominent citizens and businessmen.  They wore green frock coats and gold-braided trousers with white cross-belts.  Their blue, plumed hats, called shakos, bore brass insignia of a federal eagle over the letters "L R".  Drilling twice weekly at their armory, which was located at the corner of Main and Upper Streets, they called themselves the "Lexington Rifles".  At the entrance to the armory was a framed sign with large lettering that proclaimed their motto to all who entered:

                        “Our Laws, the Commands of Our Captain”

CAPT Morgan, who had a reputation as a disciplinarian, would freely assess fines for violations of regulations, including once fining himself 25 cents for tardiness.  This discipline proved itself in the Company's  magnificent display of drill order, which endeared them to spectators, and helped to make them the darlings of Lexington society.  Of this militia company, "The Lexington Observer & Reporter" wrote:  

"We are certain that a finer body of men never shouldered a musket — 
a beautiful uniform, well drilled, and being composed of young and handsome gentlemen." 

On August 30, 1859, six weeks before John Brown attacked the Federal Arsenal at Harper's Ferry in Virginia; Beriah Magoffin was inaugurated as the Governor of Kentucky with attendant martial spectacle.   Drawn in an open carriage by four white horses, Governor Magoffin was escorted into the capitol city of Frankfort by several militia companies of cavalry; an artillery unit drawing four brass cannons; and the Lexington Rifles, led by CAPT John Hunt Morgan and 1ST LT Thomas B. Monroe, Jr.

CPT John Hunt Morgan 
Lexington Rifles 


 LT Thomas Bell Monroe, Jr.
Lexington Rifles
The son of Thomas B. Monroe, Sr., a former Kentucky Secretary of State from 1823 - 1824 during the administration Governor Adair, Thomas B. Monroe, Jr. served as Mayor of the City of Lexington and, at the age of 26, was appointed as the youngest Secretary of State for the Commonwealth of Kentucky.  He served in that capacity  from August 30, 1859 - October 1, 1861 during the administration of Governor Magoffin.   A newspaper editor of the "Kentucky Statesman" and an attorney, Monroe was commissioned as Major of the 4th Kentucky Infantry on October 5, 1861.  He was killed at the age of 28 on April 6, 1862 at an engagement near Burnsville, Mississippi during the Battle of Shiloh.   Buried on the field of battle by Union soldiers, he was re-interred after the war in the Frankfort Cemetery next to his brother, Captain Ben Monroe. 


Lexington Rifles
Organized:  1857
CPT John Hunt Morgan

1LT Thomas B. Monroe
Until appointed Lt-Col, 1st Inf Regt., K.S.G. - 1/1/61

1LT R. W. Nolley
Succeeded Lt Monroe, January 2, 1861

2LT Charles F. Calvert

3LT William McCracken


Lexington Rifles, c. 1860
Note: "Lex. Rifles" stenciling on the crate in the lower right of the photo.



kentucky state guard

March 1860 - September 1861

Following John Brown’s raid on the Federal Arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, Americans across the South began to address the dangers to society that were presented by the threat of attack.  In order to defend against similar incursions by rebellious groups such as Brown’s, the Commonwealth of Kentucky organized a State Guard on March 5, 1860 that was to be comprised of local militia units.  To head the new Kentucky State Guard, Governor Beriah Magoffin appointed Simon Bolivar Buckner, a graduate of West Point,  as Inspector General with the rank of Major-General.  Buckner held this position from May 5, 1860 until July 23, 1861, when he resigned his commission to join the Confederate Army with the rank of Brigadier-General.  

MAJ-GEN Simon Bolivar Buckner
Inspector General, Kentucky State Guard

Simon B. Buckner rose to the rank of Lieutenant-General in the C.S. Army during the war.  In 1861, he commanded the Central Army of Kentucky.  In 1862, he commanded Fort Donelson and a Division at the Battle of Perryville.  In 1863, he commanded the District of the Gulf (Dept No. 2) and an Army Corps at the Battle of Chickamauga.  In 1864, he commanded the Dept. of East Tennessee and an Army Corps in the Trans-Mississippi Dept before becoming Chief of Staff for GEN Edmund Kirby Smith.  He served as the 30th governor of Kentucky from 1887 - 1891, and was an unsuccessful candidate for U.S. Vice-President in 1896.  In 1914, he died at his home in Munfordville.  His son, Simon B. Buckner, Jr. became a Lieutenant-General in the U.S. Army and was the highest-ranking American to be killed in action during World War II at Okinawa in 1945. 

In counties across the Commonwealth, the Kentucky State Guard grew to 132 separate militia companies.  With 60 men ready for duty, the Lexington Rifles were one such company and it was commissioned into the State Guard by Governor Magoffin on May 9, 1860.  On the same day, he also commissioned the Lexington Chasseurs, a rival militia company that was commanded by CAPT Sanders D. Bruce, the brother of John Hunt Morgan's first wife, Rebecca Bruce Morgan.  During the war, Bruce commanded the 20th Kentucky (U.S.) Infantry and the 22nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Divison of the Army of the Ohio.  

CAPT Sanders Dewees Bruce
Lexington Chasseurs

Sanders D. Bruce later enlisted in the Union Army and became Colonel of the 20th Kentucky (U.S.) Infantry Regiment.  Afterward, he commanded the 22nd Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division in the Army of the Ohio, and built fortifications at the mouth of the Cumberland River.  He led the Brigade with distinction at the Battle of Shiloh in April 1862, where he was injured by a falling horse.  Bruce, a direct descendant of Robert Bruce, King of Scotland, had been recommended for promotion to Brigadier-General by both Generals Grant and Sherman, but he resigned in 1864 due to heart disease.  An accomplished author on horse breeding, Bruce died in 1902 at the age of 77 in New York City, where he had moved after the war.  .

1st Infantry Regiment
Organized:  November 6, 1860
COL Roger W. Hanson
LT-COL Thomas B. Monroe

lexington battalion
Organized:  June 15, 1860
MAJ A. Buford

Lexington Rifles
Commissioned:  May 9, 1860
CAPT John H. Morgan
Lexington Chasseurs
Commissioned:  May 9, 1860
CAPT Sanders D. Bruce
  South Elkhorn Cavalry
Commissioned:  May 4, 1861
H. W. Worley
Old Lexington Infantry
Commissioned:  Sept 7, 1860
Ashland Rifles
Commissioned:  May 11, 1861 
R. J. Breckinridge
Lexington Cavalry 
Commissioned:  May 18, 1861
R. S. Bullock

The organization of the State Guard continued as it grew.  A month after being commissioned, the Lexington Rifles was organized with other companies in Fayette County to form the Lexington Battalion on 15 June 1860, commanded by MAJ A. Buford.  Five months after that, Buford's Lexington Battalion was combined with the Kentucky River Battalion to create the First Infantry Regiment on 6 November 1860, commanded by COL Roger Weightman Hanson. LT Thomas B. Monroe of the Lexington Rifles was appointed as Lieutenant-Colonel to serve as second-in-command, and the Lexington Rifles were granted the honor of becoming Company A of the new regiment, a distinction they would repeat throughout the years of wartime re-organization thereafter.  

COL Roger Weightman Hanson
1st Infantry Regiment, Kentucky State Guard
Roger W. Hanson, nicknamed "Old Flintlock", rose to the rank of Brigadier-General in the C.S. Army during the war.  In 1862, he commanded the 5th Kentucky Infantry.  In 1863, he was mortally wounded at the Battle of Murfreesboro while in command of the 4th Brigade in Breckinridge's Division of Hardee's Corps, Army of Tennessee.  He died at the age of 35 with the words, "I die in a just cause, having done my duty."  MAJ-GEN Breckinridge remarked of Hanson in his official report: "Endeared to his friends by his private virtues and to his command by the vigilance with which he guarded its interest and honor, he was, by the universal testimony of his military associates, one of the finest officers that adorned the service of the Confederate States."


Organized:  March 5, 1860
MAJ-GEN Simon B. Buckner

1st brigade
BRIG-GEN S. L. Crittenden

1st infantry reg't
COL Roger W. Hanson
Killed at the Battle of Murfreesboro, TN - 1863

2nd Infantry Reg't
COL Thomas H. Hunt
Uncle of John Hunt Morgan

3rd Infantry Reg't  
COL Thomas L. Crittenden
U.S. Major-General - 1863

4th Infantry Reg't  
COL Lloyd Tilghman
Killed at the Battle of Champion Hill, MS - 1863


secession crisis

April - September 1861

"...That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness."

..  excerpt from "The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America"
Action of Second Continental Congress
  July 4, 1776

While the flames of secession grew around her in 1860 and 1861, Kentucky remained neutral with a desire to preserve the peace.  When the tyrant Lincoln rejected a conciliation effort by the Confederate government in April 1861, the first shots for Southern Independence were fired.  The artillery duel that took place at Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina propelled events quickly on a national scale, with the likelihood of further  hostilities growing daily.  Even so, Kentucky clung to her neutrality in the coming conflict between North and South.  

The illusion of neutrality belied the hundreds of young Kentuckians who were traveling across state borders to volunteer for Confederate service in Virginia and Tennessee.  To counter this, Federal authorities established recruiting centers within Kentucky’s borders, thereby violating the state’s neutrality.  The split of allegiances in the Commonwealth tore apart the ranks of the Kentucky State Guard, effectively causing the disintegration of the 1st Infantry Regiment.  

Elements of the regiment that had Union sympathies reorganized from April - June 1861 primarily as the 1st and 2nd Kentucky Infantry Regiments.  These regiments were mustered into Federal service on June 4 and 13 at Camp Clay, Ohio.  Elements of the regiment that had Secession sympathies, minus the Lexington Rifles, reorganized in July 1861 as the 1st Kentucky Brigade (to be known in post-war years as The Orphan Brigade).  They were mustered into Confederate service at Camp Boone, Tennessee.

 CAPT John Hunt Morgan    

By September 1861, with the strategic Battles of Manassas and Wilson’s Creek having been fought, both Confederate and Federal forces moved into Kentucky to outmaneuver each other.  U.S. BRIG-GEN Ulysses Grant moved from Missouri to occupy Paducah, while C.S. MAJ-GEN Leonidas Polk countered with a move from Tennessee to Columbus.  

Meanwhile, GEN Albert Sidney Johnston, the overall Confederate commander in the West, ordered BRIG-GEN Buckner, the former commander of the Kentucky State Guard, to march a division of Kentuckians to Bowling Green.  There, the headquarters for the Central Army of Kentucky was established and a proceedings begun to form a new state government.  With these actions, it was obvious that Kentucky had now become a potential battleground.


            GEN Albert Sidney Johnston                          MAJ-GEN Leonidas "Bishop" Polk        



exodus to camp charity

Bloomfield, Kentucky
September 20, 1861

With tensions mounting within the state, Governor Magoffin had issued orders to disarm those State Guard militia units that were sympathetic to the Confederacy.  The Lexington Rifles were among those units to receive orders from the pro-Union state government to return their rifles to the State Guard Armory in Frankfort.  However, in a clever act of deception, CAPT Morgan sent the shipping crates to the state capitol weighted down with stones, instead.  With their rifles safely concealed, the Lexington Rifles then took an oath: 

"To Stand By Our Arms Till Death!"

When the crates were later opened in Frankfort and Morgan's ruse was discovered, Federal forces moved into Lexington with orders to arrest him and the Lexington Rifles.  Morgan then informed the Company that the time had come for them to leave the city and join the Confederate Army.   Late on September 20, 1861, with their rifles hidden in hay wagons and with a few members remaining behind in their armory building to fool Federal sentries with the sounds of normal activities, the Lexington Rifles secreted themselves out of the city.  They were led by CAPT Morgan on a 150-mile journey to Bowling Green, where BRIG-GEN Buckner’s Army of Kentucky was headquartered.  

Halfway into their westward journey, the Lexington Rifles arrived in the vicinity of Bardstown, where they  established a camp near Bloomfield.  They called it Camp Charity because of the friendly citizens who refused payment for the supplies which they brought contributed.  Here, each man readied himself for the task ahead, believing that he was a defender of his home and charged with the sacred duty to oppose any foe.  

 . Roadside Historical Marker
Camp Charity 
  Bloomfield, Kentucky

By September 26, the Lexington Rifles were joined by other new recruits, bringing their numbers to about 200.  Together, they left Camp Charity and marched south toward the Confederate defensive line along the Green River.  With four years training experience at drill and tactics, their knowledge lent professionalism to their march.  It was during this march that the Lexington Rifles exchanged their first shots of the war with Unionist Home Guardsmen, who were easily scattered.



induction into confederate service

Woodsonville, Kentucky
October 27
, 1861

When the Lexington Rifles arrived at Munfordville on September 30, they were joined by CAPT Morgan’s brother-in-law, Basil W. Duke, who arrived from Missouri.  There, the unit served as advance pickets for COL Roger Hanson’s infantry force along the Green River.  After a few days, they moved a mile south to Woodsonville on the opposite bank of the river, where a training camp  had been established.  During this period of training, and prior to their official induction into Confederate service, the Lexington Rifles became known to the other companies at the camp as "Morgan’s Company".  

  1LT Basil W. Duke                                            

With 80 enlisted men and 4 officers reporting for duty, Morgan's Company was mustered  into the cavalry service of the Confederate States on October 27, 1861.  The induction took place on the steps of the Green River Baptist Church in Woodsonville, where the oath of enlistment was administered by MAJ William Preston Johnston of the 2nd Kentucky Infantry.  Elections for officers of the Company were held soon thereafter, with John Morgan being chosen as its Captain.  Basil Duke, James West, and Van Buren Sellers were elected to serve as Lieutenants. 

MAJ Wm. Preston Johnston  
2nd Kentucky Infantry
William Preston Johnston rose to the rank of Colonel in the C.S. Army during the war.  He was the son of GEN Albert Sidney Johnston, commander of the Western Department (No. 2), and was a nephew of GEN William Preston.  He served on the staff of President Davis from April 1862 until May 1865, when he escorted the Confederate Cabinet from Richmond to Georgia and was captured with the President on May 10, 1865.   

In 1862, the Green River Baptist Church was desecrated and burned to the ground by Lincoln's hirelings during the Battle of Munfordville.  All that remains are the foundation and church steps that are adjacent to the cemetery and the remains of Fort Craig in Woodsonville. 


2.)  James West, 2nd Lieutenant of Morgan's Cavalry Company, was killed in action at the Battle of Shiloh, 1862. 

. 2LT James West
Co A, Morgan's Cavalry Company


  Roadside Historical Marker and the ruins of the Green River Baptist Church  
Induction Site 
 Woodsonville (Hart County), Kentucky



morgan’s cavalry squadron

Bowling Green, Kentucky
November 1861

In the days following the October 27th induction of Morgan's Company into Confederate service, other under-strength companies that were present at Woodsonville petitioned to join Morgan's command.  Horses were acquired from the artillery, and on November 4th the entire force was ordered by BRIG-GEN Simon B. Buckner to proceed to Bowling Green where the Confederate Army of Kentucky was headquartered.  

Upon their arrival on November 5th, the force was consolidated into a cavalry squadron, with Morgan's Company (the former Lexington Rifles) being designated as Company A.  The men of the other under-strength companies were combined to become Company B and Company C of the new Squadron.  Company B was assigned to CAPT Thomas Allen of Shelbyville, who remained in command until the following June when the Squadron became the nucleus for formation of a regiment.  CAPT James Bowles of Louisville, who had commanded the pre-war "Kentucky Rangers" militia in the State Guard.  

Morgan's Cavalry Squadron
Organized: November 5, 1861
CAPT John Hunt Morgan

Company A
CAPT John H. Morgan

Company B
CAPT Thomas Allen

Company C
CAPT James Bowles


Thomas Allen was appointed Regimental Surgeon when the 2nd Kentucky Cavalry was formed in 1862.  His brother, John Allen, replaced him at that time as Captain in command of Company B.   

James Bowles rose to the rank of Colonel in the C.S. Army during the war.  In 1864, he was a Lieutenant-Colonel and second-in-command to Colonel Duke of the 2nd Kentucky Cavalry.  Upon the death of John Hunt Morgan in September 1864, Bowles was promoted to full Colonel in command of the regiment when Duke was promoted to Brigadier-General in charge of a Brigade.


Bell's tavern

Glasgow Junction
November 1861

After formation of the Squadron at Bowling Green, Morgan was given orders to embark on patrols throughout the Green River area.  To accomplish this, Morgan proceeded to Glasgow Junction (present-day Park City) in Barren County, where he established his Squadron Headquarters at the unfinished construction site of a stagecoach stop known as Bell's Tavern.  From this location, Morgan conducted mounted patrols, operating along a 30-mile line from Munfordville east to Greensburg, and conducting raids against the Louisville & Nashville Railroad.  

Note:  The original tavern building, which was at the fork of three roads   the Glasgow Road, the Bardstown Road, and the Louisville & Nashville Pike    had been destroyed by fire in 1858.  When a spur from the L&N RR was opened to Glasgow in 1859, the hamlet of Three Forks became known as Glasgow Junction.  The construction of a larger stone structure, that was meant to replace the original Bell's Tavern, was left unfinished due to the war.



Bell's Tavern
Glasgow Junction  (Three Forks) 
 Park City, Kentucky



morgan's raiders

Expedition to Bacon Creek Station
December 5, 1861

In early December, Federal forces began to move south along the Louisville and Nashville Railroad.  As the Federals consolidated their strength in the area, Morgan’s Squadron moved out from Bell's Tavern on December 4 with 105 men.  Their intent was to attack the enemy supply line the next day by destroying the railroad bridge at Bacon Creek Station (present-day Bonnieville), 7 miles north of Munfordville.  Although the destruction of the bridge on December 5 was a minor affair, news of the attack reached newspaper correspondents in the North.  This resulted in the first notoriety for the Squadron in the national press, which thereafter referred to them as "Morgan’s Raiders".


Roadside Historical Marker and the Bacon Creek Bridge on the L&N R.R.
Bacon Creek Station   Bonnieville, Kentucky


Choose from the following hyperlinks to view the illustrated unit history.

1857-61     1862     1863     1864     1865     1866-Present