Friday, April 11, 2014

The Marriage of John Hunt Morgan and Mattie Ready

Mattie Ready Morgan and John Hunt Morgan
  Confederate General John Hunt Morgan married Mattie Ready on Sunday December 14th 1862. Mattie's father Charles Ready was a former U.S. Congressman and the son of the Charles Ready who was the founder of Readyville The marriage was the result of a a whirlwind romance. During the first occupation by the Union Army of Murfreesboro after the fall of Nashville in February 1862 a Union soldier asked Mattie her name. She had never met Morgan before but she spouted off "It's Mattie Ready now, but by the grace of God one day I hope to call myself the wife of John Morgan". When Morgan heard about Mattie's response he felt that he had to meet her. He got his opportunity after Murfreesboro was captured on July 13, 1862 by Nathan Bedford Forrest. Morgan soon made his camp in Murfreesboro and Mattie's father out for a stroll ran into Morgan and invited him to his home for dinner. Charles sent a slave to tell Mattie that Morgan was coming to dinner. He told the slave to "tell Mattie that Captain Morgan is a widower and a little sad. I want her to sing for him". 

  Morgan had a tragic relationship with his first wife Becky. She delivered a stillborn baby in 1853 and developed a disease called septic thrombophiebitus, popularly known as "milk leg", an infection of a blood clot in the leg. This eventually led to amputation. Morgan and his wife became emotionally distant from each other and Becky finally died on July 21, 1861. Mattie was only 21 and Morgan was 37 but that made no difference. They fell madly in love with each other. The wedding was the social event of the season. It occurred about two weeks before the battle of Stones River when the Army of Tennessee was camped all around Murfreesboro. Many of it's officers and generals were present at the wedding. General Leonidas Polk, an Episcopalian minister before the war, conducted the ceremony with his religious vestments worn over his uniform. The wedding took place at the Ready house that fronted East Main Street near the courthouse where the Bank of America stands today. Some of the Generals attending were Generals Bragg, Cheatham, Hardee, and former Vice President of the United States, John Breckinridge. Jefferson Davis had visited the army during this time but had left earlier in the day and couldn't stay for the wedding. As it turned out Mattie Ready went from young bride to widow in just 630 days. 

  Morgan was a bold and successful Confederate cavalryman who had won many battles. The biggest of which was the battle of Hartsville. Yet his luck began to run out in the summer of 1863 when he led about a thousand men on a raid that took him as far north as Ohio. He won many skirmishes but eventually all of his men were defeated and captured by the Union Army and sent to northern prison camps. Morgan and some of his men were sent to the Ohio State Penitentiary. He had caused much panic in the north and it was the farthest point reached by Confederate forces during the war but it was an ill-advised raid. Morgan escaped on November 27, 1863, the same day that Mattie gave birth to a baby girl who died a few days before Morgan was able to make it home. She made him promise that he would never allow himself to be captured again. This probably led to his death. On September 4, 1864 he was surrounded by the Union Army after being betrayed by the lady of the house that he was staying with in Greenville Tennessee. Instead of surrendering he was shot in the back as he was trying to escape. The following is from an eyewitness account. “His body was thrown over a mule, paraded around town before being dumped in a muddy ditch, ... devoid of almost all clothing ... while his enemies shouted and screamed ‘in savage exultation’” certainly couldn’t have made the burden any easier for Mattie to bear. Others feel that he chose death over surrender and indefinite separation from Mattie. Perhaps the covenant he and Mattie had agreed upon previously entered into his decision to gamble on life, rather than death. This was on Sept. 4, 1864 —— the same day that Atlanta fell" .Mattie was pregnant again, grief-stricken and seven months later she gave birth to another baby girl on April 7, 1865 in Augusta Georgia. Two days before the surrender of Robert E. Lee. She named the baby Johnnie Hunt Morgan after her husband. The baby was a comfort to her and she eventually returned to Murfreesboro. Mattie remarried in 1873 to Judge William H. Williamson of Lebanon, a one-armed Confederate veteran. She was such a staunch rebel that she broke off a romance once between Johnnie and a man who had Union sentiments during the war. Mattie eventually had four children by Judge Williamson but Mattie would die at the age of 47 on November 16, 1887 of tuberculosis. Six months after her mothers death Johnnie married a Presbyterian minister and on June 28, 1888 at age 23 she died of typhoid fever shortly after her honeymoon. As a result John Hunt Morgan left no living heirs.
Mattie Ready

The Wedding

Johnnie Hunt Morgan


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