On September 20, 1861 John Hunt Morgan left Lexington, Kentucky with two wagons full of arms he had taken from the Lexington Armory. Eight days later he and his men, the Lexington Rifles arrived in Bowling Green and began his service in the Confederate Army.
Morgan and his men were organized into an independent company. Morgan was elected captain and his brother-in-law, Basil Duke, first lieutenant. Morgan's company was ordered to Camp Burnham, one mile south of Bowling Green where two more companies were added and Morgan's Squadron was formed.
Initially, the men in Morgan's command were undisciplined and knew little about being soldiers. According to Howard Swiggett, author of Rebel Raider: the Life of John Hunt Morgan, "The camp at Bowling Green was a mad drunken hole, full of wild outfits... impatient of drill or control." This state of affairs was short lived, however.
After a skirmish with well-trained Union infantry, in which Morgan's Company fared badly, Morgan and Duke decided that their men must be rigorously drilled. For several weeks Morgan's small command was trained in both cavalry and infantry tactics, first at Camp Burnham and later at Camp Allen, near Woodburn.
The documents regarding Morgan's time in Bowling Green are as varied as their authors. No one knows for sure if Morgan or his men camped at Lost River Cave. However, in February 1863 a small detachment of Morgan's men commanded by Capt. Thomas Hinds, 9th Kentucky Cavalry, burned the depot and several freight cars at South Union. Hinds' men escaped Federal pursuers and, according to local tradition, they hid at Lost River. We do know that both sides used Lost River Cave or Cave Mill, as it was called during the Civil War. Its location on Lousiville-Nashville Turnpike and an abundant water supply made Lost River Cave the perfect camping ground.
(Photo Captions, from upper left to lower right):
Wood huts, such as these in Virginia, served as living quarters in both Union and Confederate camps. Morgan's men probably built similar huts at the camps near Bowling Green. Note the barrel chimneys on some of the cabins.
John Hunt Morgan as a young businessman about 1850.
The men who gathered at the camps in and around Bowling Green became the home of Morgan's cavalry.
Capt. Thomas Hinds.