A bio of Brig.-General Basil W. Duke


Further Reading:

Basil Duke

The Civil War Reminiscences of General Basil W. Duke, C.S.A by Basil Wilson Duke

Best known for his service with Morgan in Kentucky, Basil Duke was a lawyer in St. Louis before the war and was one of the founding members of the secessionist organization, the Minute Men.


Basil W. DukeBrigadier-General Basil Duke, colonel of the Second Kentucky cavalry in John H. Morgan's lifetime, and successor to that officer upon his death, appears first upon the scene of action in the great civil war as a captain in Missouri and commissioned by the governor of that State to go to Montgomery, Ala., and obtain arms from the Confederate government for the Missouri militia.

In July, 1861, Duke became lieutenant-colonel of the Second Kentucky cavalry, and in December of the same year was commissioned colonel of that regiment. His military movements were intimately connected with those of John H. Morgan, the senior colonel and afterward brigadier-general of the famous body of cavalry whose daring and marvelously successful exploits attracted to its ranks many adventurous youths of the best families among the Kentuckians who sympathized with the Southern cause.

During 1862, when Bragg was getting ready for his march into Kentucky, the cavalry of Morgan was busy in Tennessee dispersing and capturing detached Federal garrisons. On the 28th of August, when Bragg crossed the Tennessee at Chattanooga and pushed northward, Kirby Smith, who was already in Kentucky, ordered Morgan to join him at Lexington in the blue grass region.

Morgan entered that State, and with part of his command marched to the assistance of Marshall in the mountains of eastern Kentucky, while Duke with the balance of the command was to march toward the Ohio river. In obeying these orders, Colonel Duke defeated two small steamers and captured the town of Augusta, taking between 300 and 400 prisoners.Basil W. Duke

On the retreat from Kentucky, Morgan's command again moved into the rear of Buell,  capturing hundreds of prisoners and some richly-laden wagon trains. Morgan's loss during the whole campaign in killed and wounded was not more than one hundred. He had entered Kentucky 900 strong. His command when he returned to Tennessee numbered nearly 2,000. Over 1,200 prisoners had been taken by the cavalry.

Just before the battle of Murfreesboro Duke assisted in the defeat of a Federal brigade at Hartsville, Tenn., in which the Union loss was 2,096 and the Confederate 139 in all. The Union commander, Colonel Moore, was one of the 1,834 prisoners taken on this occasion.

When Bragg was preparing to fall back from Tullahoma in the summer of 1863, Morgan made his celebrated raid into Ohio. In this expedition Colonel Duke was his righthand man. But Morgan and Duke with sixty-eight other officers were captured. Morgan made his escape from the Ohio penitentiary where they were confined, and Duke was afterward exchanged.

In southwest Virginia these officers assisted in defeating Averell's attempt upon the salt works, and then by a raid into Kentucky delayed for several months another intended Federal attack. This compensated in some measure the disastrous losses of this last raid into Kentucky.

When Morgan was killed on the 4th of September, 1864, Colonel Duke succeeded to the command of the brigade, being commissioned brigadier-general on the 15th of September. In April, 1865, after hearing of the surrender of Lee, General Duke hastened with his command to join Gen. Joe Johnston in North Carolina. These soldiers formed, after the capitulation of Johnston's army, Mr. Davis' escort to Georgia.

After the cessation of hostilities General Duke went back to Kentucky and made his home in Louisville, where he still resides (1898), enjoying the esteem of his neighbors, who with the true Kentucky spirit admire a brave man, whether they were with him or on the other side in the four years' war.

Confederate Military History, vol. XI, p. 234


2001 D. H. Rule

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