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The Stand of the 171st Ohio Infantry at Cynthiana

In the late spring of 1864, John Hunt Morgan and his division of Confederate cavalry were once again in northern Kentucky. Harrassing the citizens and slowing the Unio war effort, Morgan's men were becoming more than a hassle. If they crossed the Ohio River, their terror campaign could hurt Lincoln's reelection hopes. For a month, Morgan had craftilly outmanovuered Burbridge's brigade of mounted infantry, and was now approaching the Ohio. On June 1st, the 171st Ohio, a 100 day militia unit was called into Kentucky. The regiment left by train on the 4th from Johnson's Island, and was supposed to relieve the Union garrison at Covington, KY. At the same time, Morgan was approaching the sleepy town of Cynthania, on the banks of the South Fork of the Licking River.On June 11, at dawn, Morgan attacked the grrison of Cynthiana, the 168th Ohio and some home guards. Within an hour, the cavalrymen had overwhelmed the Ohians and were moving north. While the battle raged in town, a mile and a half north, the 171st Ohio debarked from their trains. Within 10 minutes of the fall of Cynthiana, a brigade of rebel cavalry attacked the green Ohio troops. The Ohians repulsed the attacks of the Confederates, but unfourtanately, rebels were moving oin their right flank. The regiment was obliged to fall back to a wooded hill. Here, they put up a defense on their front and right flanks, repulsing every rebel attack. As early morning bacame late morning, Morgan swung troops around the 171st's rear, and the commander of the regiment, Maj. Fowler, posted a strong skirmish line in the regiment's rear. For the next two hours, the 171st repulsed attacks coming from every direction. Morgan twice sent flags of truce, but his demands of surrender were not given heed. FInally, at 11:30, 5 and half hours after the fighting began on their front, the 171st ran out of ammunition and surrendered. The formalities of the surrender delayed Morgan's movment for an additional 5 hours. The 450 men of the 171st had stopped the advance of 5,000 cavalry men for 10 and a half hours. During the fight, the regiment suffered almost 100 casualties, about 20% of the present force. The Confederates had sufferered about 250 casualties. The next morning, due to the stand of the 171st, Burbridge caught up to Morgan and soundly defeated him. So beaten was Morgan that he was forced to parole all of his captives.