“Whispers of the Past” from Mattie Ready Morgan

June 29, 2013 in Editorials

The Civil War era, storybook wedding of Martha “Mattie” Ready and John Hunt Morgan took place on a Sunday evening at the Ready family home near the courthouse in Murfreesboro, Tenn., on Dec. 14, 1862. It was said to be the “match of the times – ‘The Belle of Tennessee and the dashing leader whose name rings throughout the civilized world.’” Morgan, promoted to Confederate brigadier general the day before nuptials, was 37 years old and his bride “Mattie” was 21.

Unfortunately, the love story ended tragically. On Sept. 4, 1864, John Hunt Morgan was shot in the back by a Union raiding party on the streets of Greenville, Tenn., and mere moments afterward, he died.

Fast forward to May 2013, almost 150 years later. I receive a phone call from Aimee Lester of Lester Estate Liquidators. As her words poured through the receiver, chills and tingles rushed over my body – she has discovered a Mattie Ready Morgan dress. As avid historians, we both knew this treasure must be shared with those that cherish “Mattie” and her story. It is decided that the dress will be brought “home” to Murfreesboro and displayed in Oaklands Historic House Museum.

No words can describe the feelings evoked when first seeing and touching the dress – the emotions literally caused me to scream. Observing the dress with stains from life and time brought Mattie Ready Morgan into existence – she was real. Mattie was not a fairytale, but someone that lived through times of great happiness and later overwhelming sorrow.

Additionally discovered were envelopes (no letters) addressed long ago to Mattie Ready Morgan – many from the pen of General John Hunt Morgan. It is soul-stirring to realize that these papers were once clutched in the hands of Mattie or the General.

Whispers of the Past: A Museum’s Secrets Explored,” an exhibit presented by Oaklands Historic House Museum of Murfreesboro, Tenn., will feature the dress of Mattie Ready Morgan Williamson, wife of General John Hunt Morgan, as well as other artifacts belonging to several generations of Oaklands families. The exhibit is open from July 11 – August 11, 2013. Admission is $5 per person and open to the public. Call (615) 893-0022 for additional information.

By Margie Weatherford, Chester’s Trunk, Murfreesboro, Tennessee