As a teenaged daughter of Charles Ready, a U.S. Congressman from Tennessee, Martha Ready was caught up in the festivities of pre-war Washington, D.C. Affectionately known as Mattie, she had many suitors including Illinois Representative Samuel Scott Marshall. Marshall was 36 years old, successful, and certainly considered a "good catch," but when he proposed, Mattie, who knew she wasn't in love with him, gently told him "not now." Four years later, the Readys had returned to their home in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and Mattie realized that she had made the right decision; Judge Marshall was loyal to the Union and the Readys were stauch Confederates.

In February of 1862, John Hunt Morgan established his headquarters at Murfreesboro and became acquainted with the Ready family. Morgan, in fact, was quite taken with Mattie, and after a brief courtship, they became engaged in March, 1862. They were married the following December, after which Morgan immediately left on his Christmas Raid. It was an action that would culminate with the destruction of the L&N 's Muldraugh trestles.

In the summer of 1863, Morgan's pursuit of danger would lead him on his Great Raid into Indiana and Ohio, and ultimately into the awaiting arms of the Union army as he was captured and imprisoned. Back in Tennessee, Mattie, who was pregnant, anxiously awaited his every letter. Morgan managed to escape on November 27, 1863, the same day Mattie gave birth to a little girl. The baby struggled to live, and died as Morgan finally made his way to freedom.

When Morgan and Mattie were reunited, he promised her he would never again be taken prisoner. True to his word, Morgan grew more cautious in his exploits and struggled to put together another army of men to replace those who were still held in the prison in Ohio.

By the late summer of 1864, Mattie was pregnant again, and Morgan was still trying to whip his men into shape, with varying degrees of success. Several of them had been involved in the robbery of a civilian bank in Mt. Sterling, Kentucky. The resulting condemnation from both sides, north and south, caused tension between Morgan and Mattie, who was extremely uncomfortable with anything resembling scandalous behavior. September found Morgan trying to clear himself of any wrongdoing. But before he could defend himself in an official capacity, he was surprised by a Union raiding party in the streets of downtown Greeneville, Tennessee. Remembering his promise to Mattie, he tried vainly to escape and was shot in the back, dying several minutes later.

Soon after that, Mattie gave birth to a healthy baby girl in Augusta, Georgia, and named her Johnnie after her father. After grieving for years, Mattie eventually married Judge William Henry Williamson of Lebanon, Tennessee. Together, they raised Johnnie and had two sons and two daughters of their own.

Mattie fell seriously ill in 1887, and died a few months later at the age of 46. Johnnie married Rev. Joseph Caldwell, a Presbyterian minister the following year. A few months later, however, she contracted typhoid fever and died at the age of 23, leaving no direct descendants of John Hunt Morgan.

Both Mattie and Johnnie are buried in the Williamson family plot in the old city cemetery in Lebanon, Tennessee.

To hear the song, click here.

© 2019 Electric Quilt Music. All rights reserved.