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The Longest Raid of the Civil War: Little-Known & Untold Stories of Morgan's Raid into Kentucky, Indiana & Ohio Hardcover – June, 2001
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Anyone from Kentucky or Ohio or Indiana will have an especial enjoyment of the story of Rebel John Morgan's raid on "The North" simply because the raid took place in those states. Horwitz includes many simple local maps so the reader can follow the raid and story and a fine "overall" map is provided inside the front and back covers for reference.
The real achievment of the book, though, is that it is told via actual documents, letters, newspaper accounts, family records and keepsakes, old photos and oft-told tales (the last being identified as such). In so doing, Horwitz gives the reader a captivating window into the times and the personalities of both the people AND the events. In that it is a history not only of a Civil War event, but also of a region at a point in such a different time - yet a time not so long ago - it does, in fact, fit the old cliche of "making you feel as if you are there".
Yet it isn't so much about glorious charges, cannon blasts, and huge casualty numbers. It's about terrified little towns peopled with folks that you will probably recognize from your town today. It's about Northern women and their character, and about young Southern boys/men and their character. It's about untrained militiamen facing more than they were prepared for. It's about dog-tired and famished Rebel soldiers far behind "enemy" lines yet actually trying not to harm anyone. It's about a leader who refuses personal safety until he can accomplish the safety of his men. It's about a little boy who outwits a famous General and a farmwife who makes 2000 soldiers back down. It is about a time and people living Valor and Desperation and Spirit and presented with poignant candor, and sometimes Humor. It's about perhaps the last appearance of Chivalry in any war and ignores the Avarice of Government in favor of exhibiting the Virtue of individuals.... individuals in real life.
After reading thousands and thousands of pages about the Civil War, I can say "The Longest Raid" is among the very most "readable" and uniquely charming Civil War tales to be found.
The strengths of the book are the coverage of the entire raid and its recreation of the sense of excitement, danger, and spectacle created by the presence of Confederate cavalry in the small towns in southern Indiana and Ohio. It has several limitations, however. From a readability point of view, since the raiders used the same mode of operation all along the route, i.e., stealing (horses, money, food), burning (bridges, mills), and impressment of "guides", the text is quite repetitious.
For a military history of this raid, this book is not the place to look. Coverage of the tactical details of the combat engagements that occurred is well below the level of detail currently common in Civil War studies. Also, little attention is paid to the response and movements of the Federal forces that were chasing and trying to stop Morgan. The Federal forces in Ohio had the railroads and river transport available; were they used? Maps showing the relative positions of Morgan's force relative to the Federal units involved in running him to ground over the course of the raid would be of interest.
There is also a question of perspective. The author seems to have unquestioningly accepted the "folk history" idea that Morgan was an `Errol Flynn as Robin Hood' type of leader, because he looked and acted the part of the dashing gentleman cavalier. The Morgan revealed by the stories that make up the book may have been polite to the ladies, but the extent of theft and wanton destruction belies a noble reputation. In addition, as a military commander, Morgan appears to have been incompetent. He was insubordinate, disobeying Bragg's orders for the raid, did not attack or destroy anything of military significance, and his force was evidently easily routed by Federal cavalry in two engagements.