By Trish Turner
As Gerry Fischer and I neared the end of our road trip we drove into Lebanon Junction in Bullitt County. Lebanon Junction was a strategic section of the Louisville and Nashville (L & N) Railroad. In 1863, when General John Hunt Morgan’s cavalry clashed with Union troops in the area, he burned the railroad depot and several homes and businesses nearby. It was at this depot in 1865, not long before his capture, that Billy Magruder and a few other guerrillas burned a couple of rail cars, killed four Union soldiers, and tried to destroy the telegraph office. The Union soldiers were waiting at the station for a train to Louisville. When they saw Magruder and his guerrillas coming they ran into a nearby field to hide. Magruder brought them back to the station and shot them there.
The depot in Lebanon Junction is long gone. The passenger line has been shut down since the late 1950’s. The tracks are strictly used for freight trains, and are owned by CSX. The once thriving railroad town is now best known for its exit off I-65 where you can stop for gas and get some snacks. As I took pictures looking down the track I could see in my mind’s eye a steam train chugging into the station and could hear its piercing whistle. I don’t know about you, but the sound of an old train whistle gives me goose bumps.
Back to Lebanon Junction and its significance to Confederate Guerilla Billy Magruder. No one knows the exact date of birth for Henry Clay “Billy” Magruder. Most sources list his birth date as 1843, and that seems to jive with the census reports I found. Billy’s mother was Amy Magruder, the fourth child and third daughter of Ezekiel and Louise Nancy Miller Magruder of Lebanon Junction. Amy had Billy out of wedlock with Dennis Masden. She later married a relative of Dennis, John Shelton Masden, in 1847 when Billy was about age 4. According to the 1850 census Billy was listed as Henry Magruder, age 7, in the household of his grandfather Ezekiel and his wife Nancy Magruder and their four children who were still living at home in Bullitt County, Kentucky. Listed next door was Billy’s uncle William M. and his wife Elizabeth Samuels Magruder and their three children. Billy’s mother Amy and her husband John and their two children (twin boys, age 5) were also listed in the Bullitt County census, but they were 40 pages away from the listing of the Magruders, so they must not have lived close by. In the 1860 census Nancy Magruder had passed away and Ezekiel was listed in Bullitt County with Wm. Lawson, age 15 and N. Lawson, age 13 in his household. That would be William and Nancy Lawson, Ezekiel’s daughter Elizabeth’s children. They were probably spending the summer with their grandfather(they were from Louisville) at the time of the census, which was August 15, 1860. Amy Masden and her family were listed close by, as well as William M. and Elizabeth Magruder and their children. But where was Billy? He showed up in the 1860 census in Woodville, Ballard County, Kentucky in the household of his uncle Archibald and his wife Catherine Magruder; and he was listed as Henry C. Magruder, age 17. Also listed in their household were John Westfall, age 14, and Treice (her real name was Theresia, but was nicknamed Treasy) Lawson, who was Henry’s cousin, the daughter of Elizabeth Magruder Lawson. Westfall also could be related, or was just a neighbor who went down to southern Kentucky with the Magruders. Archibald and Catherine never had any children of their own, so I am sure they appreciated the young laborers on their farm who were either relatives or friends.
When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Billy Magruder was most likely 18, although in his memoir, Three Years in the Saddle, The Life and Confession of Henry C. Magruder, The Original Sue Munday, The Scourge of Kentucky, he says he was 19. This book was dictated to a a Presbyterian minister Jeremiah Talbot, who was Billy Magruder’s spiritual advisor in Louisville after his capture in Meade County. The book was published by Cyrus J. Wilson, the man who had who captured Magruder. In this book Magruder detailed the highlights of his life between 1861 and 1865. Some of what he related is known to be factual, but also some events were likely to have been embellished. It is a known fact that Henry C. “Billy” Magruder enlisted and trained at Camp Charity in 1861 under Major Jack Allen. When he went to Bowling Green he was selected to be a guard for General Simon Bolivar Buckner. Guards were chosen from each Kentucky county and Magruder was the representative of Bullitt County.
Some sources say that Billy Magruder was with General Buckner at the Battle of Fort Donelson near the border of Kentucky and Tennessee in February 1862. When General Buckner surrendered, Magruder was one of many men who were taken prisoner; but he later escaped. However, in his memoirs Billy said that the Buckner Guards were left at Bowling Green. It was in Bowling Green that General Albert Sidney Johnston observed Magruder’s amazing feat of being able to pick up dollars from the ground at full gallop and chose him to be one of his personal body guards. General Johnston was mortally wounded in southwestern Tennessee during the Battle of Shiloh in April 1862. Following Johnston’s death, Magruder joined the 2nd Kentucky Cavalry under General John Hunt Morgan.
While serving as one of “Morgan’s Men,” Magruder participated in Morgan’s Raid in July 1863 that went through Kentucky, into Indiana and ultimately up to northeastern Ohio, near the Pennsylvania border. The purpose of the raid had been to draw Union troops away from the battlefields of Chattanooga and Gettysburg, as a diversionary tactic. Eventually the Union forces pushed Morgan and his men further north into enemy territory and they fought one last battle at Buffington Island in Meigs County, Ohio. Many of Morgan’s top men, including his brother-in-law Basil Duke, who was his second in command, were captured during the battle and were imprisoned at the Ohio Penitentiary. Morgan and his men were now scattered and making their way back to Tennessee as best they could. They had several skirmishes with Union troops and Morgan was finally captured at Salineville, Ohio. He was brought to the Ohio Penitentiary to be with Duke and his other officers. Morgan, Duke, Thomas Hines, and a few other officers were able to escape and made their way back to Tennessee. The enlisted men who were captured were held in various prison camps such as Camp Chase in Columbus, Ohio, Camp Morton in Indianapolis, Indiana, and Camp Douglas in Chicago, Illinois. Many others of “Morgan’s Men” evaded capture and fled back towards Tennessee. It is estimated that about 700 of “Morgan’s Men” made it back into Kentucky. Some men stayed there, while others made their way back to Tennessee.
Several of “Morgan’s Men” who made it back to Kentucky stayed there, and taking advantage of the Partisan Ranger Act that had been passed on April 21, 1861 by the Confederate Congress, formed guerrilla bands. The Partisan Ranger Act was intended as a stimulus for recruitment of irregulars for service into the Confederate Army during the Civil War. The law was repealed in 1864 after pressure from General Robert E. Lee and other Confederate regulars who opposed the use of irregular warfare out of fear that the lack of discipline among rival guerrilla groups could spiral out of control.
Some of those who were “Morgan’s Men” and became guerrillas in Kentucky after Morgan’s Raid and defeat in 1863 included Billy Magruder, Jerome Clarke (aka Sue Mundy), Sam “One Arm” Berry, Bill Marion (aka Stanley Young), David “Black Dave” Martin, and Isaiah “Big Zay” Coalter. Under General Morgan they had learned cavalry tactics that would benefit them as guerrillas.
Billy Magruder, Sue Mundy, Henry Medkiff and several other guerrillas were in the Meade County vicinity in March of 1865. Magruder had been seriously injured when he was shot through his lung during a skirmish in Hancock County. Magruder was taken to the Cox family’s home near the Meade/Breckenridge County line to recuperate from his wounds. The area was crawling with Union soldiers who were searching for them. On March 12, 1865, Major Cyrus Wilson and his men surrounded the tobacco barn at the Cox residence where Magruder, Mundy, and Medkiff were hiding. The men surrendered to Wilson and were taken to Louisville. Sue Mundy (Jerome Clarke) was tried and hanged a couple of days after his capture. Magruder was allowed to heal from his wounds, but was hanged on October 20, 1865.
Gerry and I visited the Lebanon Junction Cemetery and found the grave marker for J.S. (John Shelton) Masden who was Billy Magruder’s step-father. He was born December 25, 1821 and died August 31, 1897. Amy Masden, Billy’s mother, was also buried there and her name was on the other side of the marker for her husband. She was born April 21, 1821 and died June 15, 1911. We were in a hurry to visit one more site before the end of our road trip and it was getting late, so we rushed on.
Our last stop was the Ezekiel Magruder Cemetery in Bullitt County. We pulled off the road and walked a ways up a washed out red clay road until we turned onto a barely visible road in the woods. This road took us to a bluff overlooking the highway below. There we came upon an unkempt family cemetery that holds the graves of Ezekiel and Nancy Miller Magruder and many of their descendants. Those buried there include Henry C. “Billy” Magruder, his uncle William M. and aunt Elizabeth Samuels Magruder (whom Billy lived with until he was about 17), his grandfather Ezekiel and grandmother Nancy Miller Magruder, his uncle Archibald Magruder & his wife Catherine (whom Billy lived with in 1860), and others. There are probably more Magruder relatives buried there than are recorded. So many of the stones are scattered and some are barely readable, so it is hard to tell.
For a long time historians were unsure of where Billy Magruder was buried. At first they thought he was buried in the Magruder Cemetery in Bernheim Forest, where his great-grandfather Archibald Magruder once had lived. However, that cemetery is pretty visible and the story was told that Billy’s family had him buried on a hilltop in an isolated place. The Ezekiel Magruder Cemetery is on a hilltop on the edge of the Bernheim Forest and it is very isolated. As recorded in the Spring 2005 issue of The Lost Cause, The Journal of the Kentucky Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Nancy Hitt, Betty Darnell and Steve Masden located Billy’s grave in the Ezekiel Magruder Cemetery. Next to his Uncle William M. Magruder’s marker was a large flat stone that simply said Magruder. It is strongly believed that this is Billy’s grave. Nancy Hitt arranged to have a VA marker installed there and it was dedicated on August 12, 2000.
There was a certain sadness about the Magruder cemetery up on the hilltop because it was so overgrown and possibly at one time vandalized since many headstones were knocked down. Gerry talked to me later about it and he realized that I felt the same sadness that he did. Those folk were once amongst the living, going about their daily business as we are doing today. No one deserves to be have their final resting place neglected and forgotten.