John Hunt Morgan was a Kentucky plantation owner and Mexican War veteran who became one the South's most celebrated cavalry officers of the Civil War. Morgan began the conflict as captain of a militia company he helped organize but was soon promoted to colonel of the 2nd Kentucky Cavalry. Under Morgan, the 2nd Kentucky fought in the Battle of Shiloh and then undertook a series of highly successful raids into eastern Kentucky designed to destabilize Federal control of that region.
As a reward for these successes, Morgan was promoted to brigadier general in December 1862. In the summer of 1863, against the express orders of his superior, Morgan attempted another diversionary foray, this time deep into Northern territory in Ohio and southern Indiana. It ended in disaster as Morgan and 700 members of his cavalry brigade were captured attempting to re-cross the Ohio River. In November, Morgan and several other officers escaped from prison and made their way back to Kentucky where Morgan was assigned command of the Trans-Allegheny Department. On September 4, 1864, after surrendering to a Union cavalry detachment near Greeneville, Tennessee, Morgan was murdered, perhaps in part to prevent him from escaping a second time.