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This biography is from HEROES OF ALBANY, by Rufus W. Clark, D. D.

Col. Lewis Owen Morris

Col. Morris was born in Albany, N. Y., August 14, 1824. Having descended from one of our oldest and most respectable families, he inherited not only the gentle qualities of his ancestors, but also the spirit of heroic self-sacrifice and noble patriotism for which, in the early history of our country, they were distinguished.

The first member of this family, Lewis Moreis, came to this country in the year 1672. He was a native of Monmouthshire, in Wales, and commanded a troop of horse in the Parliament against Charles I. Emigrating to the West Indies, he purchased a beautiful estate at the Barbadoes, and became a member of the Council. In the year 1654 an expedition was fitted out against the Spanish Possessions in these islands, and Cromwell sent to him a commission of Colonel. But when the British fleet arrived the year following, Mr. Morris prized his services so highly that he demanded a present of one hundred thousand weight of sugar to pay his debts before he would accompany the fleet. Accepting finally the commission, he was present at the reduction of Jamaica.

He came to New York in 1672, and settled at Broncksland, Westchester county; and soon after his arrival he obtained a patent for his plantation. From 1683 to 1686 he was a member of Gov. Dougan's Council, and ended his days in 1691, at his plantation "over against Harlem," since known as the "manor of Morrisania."

Lewis Morris, the great grandfather of the subject of this sketch, was one of the noble men who signed the Declaration of American Independence, and who pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor in defence of their countiy. His grandfather, Capt. Staats Morris, eldest son of Lewis Morris, served with distinguished valor under Gen. Wayne towards the close of the Revolutionary War. A short time previous to this he had been united in marriage to a daughter of Gov. Van Braam, of Holland, Governer General of the Dutch Possessions in India. This gentleman came to New York during the Revolution, and making this country his temporary residence, he became the personal friend and associate of the Morrises and other distinguished men of the Revolution.

The father of Col. Morris was Major Lewis Nelson Morris, a graduate of our Military Academy at West Point. It is recorded of him, that he was "a splendid man, a true soldier, an ardent patriot, and an elegant gentleman." He took an active part in the Black Hawk and Florida Wars, and for his gallantly was highly commended in official reports. He married a granddaughter of Dr. Elias Willard, Surgeon in the Army of the Revolution, whose wife was the daughter of Col. John Livingston. John was the brother of Col. James Livingston, who commanded on the Hudson river below West Point at the time of Arnold's treason, and by whose vigilance and skill, Andre was captured.

On the 21st of June, 1846, while in command of the Third Regiment United States Infantry, and leading his men to the assault at Monterey, Mexico, Major Morris fell—having been shot through the heart by a bullet from the enemy. For bravery in the actions at Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma he received the brevet of Major. So highly was he esteemed in Albany that the citizens ordered for him an elegant sword. But he did not live to receive it, and it was presented to his son in his stead. His remains were sent for, and buried with imposing military honors. A suitable monument was erected to his memory, by the citizens of Albany, in their Rural Cemetery.

Col. Lewis Owen Morris, the subject of this sketch, spent his early boyhood with his parents at Rock Island, on the Mississippi, where the "noise of hostile arms" reached his ears, during the Black Hawk war. He returned to Albany to enter upon his studies at the Academy. Ever intent upon following the profession of his father, he devoted much time to those branches of study, which would best fit him to enter the military school at West Point.

In 1846, upon hearing the sad tidings of his father's death at Monterey, he determined to apply for a commission, without delay, and join the army in the field. Through the efficient aid of Hon. John C. Spencer and Gov. Marcy, Secretary of War, both personal friends of his lamented father, he received, in the spring of 1847, a commission of Second Lieutenant in the First Artillery. With this regiment, he served until 1854. After remaining just long enough on Governor's Island, New York Harbor, to get his men in readiness, although then a mere lad, he was ordered to carry a detachment of troops, by sea, to Mexico. After being a few days out, the transport was wrecked on the Florida coast. The coolness and ability manifested by our young officer, on this trying occasion, were truly remarkable. On the night of the wreck, while the crew and others were running to and fro in consternation and uttering cries of distress, he passed the hours of anticipated death on deck, with his men mustered, and and going throuoh the regular drill in order to keep them calm and in discipline, prepared to avail themselves of any help that Providence might see fit to send them. Daylight brought the needed relief, and in as regular order as when embarking, the men were transferred from the shattered vessel to the boats, and every one was safely landed in Abaco, one of the Bahama Islands. Thence they were carried to Charleston to await transportation to their destined port. This delay prevented Lieut. Morris from reaching his regiment until they had arrived at Vera Cruz, on their way out of Mexico. But, while there, he was placed in charge of the Mexican prisoners at the castle of San Juan D'Ulloa. Here his duties were arduous and trying, and he suffered from a severe attack of yellow fever. During his convalescence, his devotion, to both officers and men, who were sick and dying of that terrible scourge, was remarked by all, and long remembered by many. On his return to the United States, at the close of the Mexican war, a brevet was tendered him by the Secretary of War. But with that keen sense of honor, which was so peculiarly characteristic of him, he declined the honor, saying: "I have not won it on the field, and I cannot wear it."

From that time he was almost constantly in active service, either hunting the Indians through the everglades of Florida, or on the Texan frontier.

At the beginning of the rebellion, in 1861, Col. Morris was in Texas, in command of Fort Brown. At that crisis the officers and soldiers were rapidly yielding to the pressure around them, and joining the Southern Confederacy. But to the everlasting honor of the Colonel, we rejoice to say that he stood firm for the United States. He was resolved to perish rather than yield one iota to the infamous foes of his country; and out of all the United States forces then in Texas his company was the only one that refused to surrender themselves, or to turn over the property of the Government to the rebels.

Col. Morris was afterwards ordered to North Carolina, where he took an active part at Roanoke and Newbern, under Gen. Burnside, and afterwards he was with the forces of Maj. Gen. R. G. Foster. Being held in high estimation by those in authority, he was designated to direct operations against Fort Macon, N. C, which he captured and afterwards commanded. It was a place of great strength, and its reduction considered justly one the most brilliant achievements of the war.

Gen. Foster, in a letter to the Secretary of War, writes: "I can bear testimony to the services of Capt. Morris, First Artillery, who was, at the time of the siege of Fort Macon, in command of the Thirty-pound Parrot Siege Battery. This battery being manned "by his company, made such effective shooting on the first day of the siege, as to disable the defence of the fort to such a degfree as to oblige its commander to surrender, without waiting for the bombardment of the second day. I earnestly hope that some token of appreciation of Capt. M.'s services may be given to his name."

Coming north in the summer of 1862, he was tendered the Colonelcy of the One Hundred and Thirteenth N. Y. Regiment, which he accepted. In the short space of four weeks the regiment was organized, equipped and on its way to the seat of war. This regiment was the first from this State to arrive in Washington at a moment, when the city was menaced by a rebel foe. Col. M. was highly commended for his promptness by the War Department. As an expression of their appreciation of the valuable service he rendered the country by the timely arrival of his regiment, it was converted into a regiment of heavy artillery (Seventh New-York Heavy Artillery), and stationed at Fort Keno, on the defences north of Washington. Shortly after, other regiments were added to Col. M.'s command, forming a brigade.

He remained at Fort Reno some months. Strong in will, yet gentle and winning in his manners, he secured at once the respect and love of those under his command. He was most assiduous in the discipline of his men and unwearied in his efforts to make them good soldiers. Fort Reno, the head-quarters of Col. M., was always the post to which those were directed who came to witness the skill, discipline and efficiency of the Army of Washington. Hearing that the officers of his brigade were preparing an application for his promotion, he modestly requested that it should not be done, being always unwilling to receive any honor of that kind, not won on the field.

Frequent raids by the rebel cavalry, and alarms of the approach of Lee's army in force, gave him the opportunity to test his men. He felt confident of them, and although so strict a disciplinarian, he was idolized by them. He longed to lead them to the "front," and made frequent applications for orders, which at length arrived on May 10th, 1864. Two days after, Col. M. joined the Army of the Potomac at Spottsylvania. In that and the subsequent engagements he participated, winning for himself the commendation of all. Gen. Meade, in general orders, called the men of the Seventh "veterans." Col. Morris was always so cool in the hour of danger, and self-possessed when the storm of battle raged the fiercest, that his example inspired the courageous, encouraged the timid, and rebuked the cowardly.

One of the officers of his staff, writing to his family, says: "I wish to relate an incident which will illustrate our beloved Colonel's noble heroism and devotion to duty. We were charging a rebel redoubt, and as the line advanced, the Colonel at their head, the men fell very fast. Col. M. noticing that as one fell, two or three of his comrades would fall out to assist the wounded man to the rear, he turned to the ranks, sternly forbidding the practice, saying: 'Should I fall, let no one stop to assist me. Press forward! drive the enemy from their position, then take time to care for me.'"

It was Col. Morris and his men of the Seventh who, at the battle of Cold Harbor, June 3d, won the key of the rebel position, captured several pieces of artillery, and took several hundred prisoners. Major General Hancock, commanding Second Army Corps, to which Col. Morris' Brigade was attached, thus writes of him after the action at Cold Harbor :

"I knew Col. Morris well, have known him for many years, and served with him in Florida and was much attached to him, which gives me a better opportimity of judging of his merits than I would otherwise have had. He was brave, faithful in the discharge of his duty, and at the action at Cold Harbor he won renown. He had entered the enemy's works under a heavy fire, and captured several pieces of the enemy's artillery and many prisoners. The day previous, upon the wounding of Col. Burke, commanding a brigade in Gen. Barlow's Division, Col. Morris assumed command, which he held at the time of his death."

Col. Morris' military ability was highly valued by all, and his advice was frequently sought equally by his superiors in rank and his subordinates. Gen. Barlow thus writes of him in a private letter:

"It gives me pleasure to speak of Colonel M. as a most gallant and meritorious officer, discharging his duty with fidelity and success. In the action at Cold Harbor he behaved with distinguished bravery. With the Seventh Artillery he entered the enemy's works, captured several pieces of artillery and several hundred prisoners, and was himself training some of the enemy's guns upon their own men, when we were compelled to evacuate the place.

"On June 3d, I had requested him to go with me to the advanced works for the purpose of fixing upon the ground for some new trenches, &c. While thus engaged, he fell at my side mortally wounded by a ball from one of the enemy's sharpshooters." The death of this noble patriot cast a deep gloom over the whole army. It was related by one present, that when the sad news reached the men of his own regiment many of them threw themselves upon the ground and wept like children. And that band of brave men, who the day before were ready to do and dare anything when led by their heroic commander, were, in a moment, cast down and entirely unnerved. One thus explains the feeling that prevailed:

"Our whole brigade was like a lifeless body from which the soul had just departed."

Thus passed away from earth Lewis Owen Morris, the worthy son of a worthy and noble ancestry. As a soldier, he was the bravest of the brave. As a patriot, his love of his country was as pure as the light—no spot ever dimmed its lustre. As a friend, his warm and generous heart attached to him every one with whom he had any intercourse. As a husband and father, he was all tenderness and affection. He leaves a stricken widow and two dear children to mourn his absence from the family circle. Were it proper to intrude upon the privacy of domestic relations, we might fill pages with a record of his kind deeds. But there is one heart that fully knows his value; and knows, too, how much earthly happiness, and how many fond hopes were extinguished, when his manly form fell upon the bloody field to rise no more.

Of the last hours and Christian hopes of our departed hero, we have an account in the following kind and consoling letter addressed to Mrs. Morris by the Rev. Dr. Brown, pastor of the Presbyterian church at Georgetown, D. C, the church which Col. Morris attended while at Washington.

Georgetown, D. C, June 8, 1864.
Mrs. Catharine W. Morris:

My dear Friend—It was my privilege, during the eighteen months past, to be intimately acquainted with Col. Lewis O. Morris. The result was, that I learned to love him as a brother, and I think he loved me. The fact that I was a minister of the Gospel was no barrier to the freedom of his visits to me, both in my family and at my study. On my ministry, on the Sabbath, morning and evening and during the week, he was a constant attendant. On the subject of personal religion we conversed freely in private. I think I can say, then, with some confidence, that I knew him. And from his own lips I have had the declaration, months since, and with deep emotion: "There is nothing I wish so much as to be a Christian." So matters stood when I went down to the Army of the Potomac, nearly four weeks since, as a member of the Christian Commission. Two days after. Col. Morris and his command were ordered to the front. I saw him at Spottsylvania Court House when he joined the army; and as, by the singularly kind providence of God, we were thrown into the same corps, division and brigade, I either saw him or had news of him every day, until the last.

From the first he was in the front of the continuous fighting going on, and won for himself and his men the commendation of all. Gen. Meade called them "veterans" in general orders. They were said to "light like tigers." I do not like the expression, but so soldiers speak. It was Col. Morris and his men of the Seventh, who, at the battle of Cold Harbor, on Friday morning, June 3d, won the key of the rebel position, captured several pieces of artillery, and took four hundred prisoners. But, not being supported, they were compelled to abandon all but the prisoners. I know this to be so, for I was at the time close at hand, and heard the story from many of the actors and wtnesses. This was Friday.

Saturday morning, early. Gen. Barlow called on Col. Morris to make with him an examination of the position; he was then commanding the brigade. Our breastworks and the enemy's were but fifty yards apart. No one dared show himself on either side. The sharpshooters fired quickly at sight of a cap or a hand. The two started, Gen. Barlow leading, hiding behind the breastworks, and dodging from rifle pit to rifle pit. In passing from one pit to another, Col. Morris for a moment was exposed, and received his wound. The ball struck him in the left shoulder, ranging downward across the body, touching the spine in its progress, and entering the right lung. I think (but do not know) that he fell insensible. Dr. Pomfret and I soon heard of his wound, and ordered him brought to where we were—we could not go to him. He was brought in about ten o'clock, insensible, moaning and uttering incoherent sentences. Stimulants were administered, and the surgeons in attendance examined his wound. In about an hour consciousness came to him. He knew us both. But his sysstem did not rally. His body, below the wound, was paralyzed. He had no pain, but suffered much from nervous distress and difficulty in breathing. He began praying for mercy. I pointed him to Jesus Christ, and said, " Colonel, put your trust in him." "I do, I do," he replied, "He is my only hope and trust." "Do you trust in him as your Saviour?" I asked. "Yes, I do." I wished to be sure that this was so, and, though I was weeping so I could scarcely speak, and his arm was on my neck, I reminded him of former conversations on the subject, and of what I had then said to him about saving faith in Jesus Christ, and asked him if he understood. He answered: "I understand. Jesus Christ is my only hope and trust. I do trust in him. I am going home to eternal rest with my Saviour." Such declarations as these were repeated again and again, mingled with messages of love to the dear ones who were absent, and requests to meet him in heaven. He was fully conscious of his condition, and ready, even anxious, to depart. At one o'clock his spirit departed, and, as I can not doubt, passed into the glory of the saints in light. When we undressed him we found his Testament in his pocket, and showing marks of use.

I hope that what I have written may, my dear friend, give you some satisfaction. I feel his loss deeply. He was as a brother to me. I loved him, and I think he loved me. I need not assure you then of my sympathy in your second great sorrow. But your hope is in the same Saviour in whom he trusted. May that Saviour mercifully, graciously and most abundantly sustain you. With profound respect and esteem, my dear friend,


The "Albany Evening Journul " gives the following tribute to the character of our departed hero, and also the account of his funeral:

"Col. Morris was no ordinary man. His mind, naturally vigorous, was strengthened by hard study, and enriched by liberal culture. Strong in will, yet winning in manners, he at once commanded the respect and affection of those under his command. Although a strict disciplinarian, he was idolized by his men. Cool in the hour of danger, self-possessed when the storm of battle raged fiercest, he inspired by his example, encouraged the timid and rebuked the coward. He was a stranger to fear, and died gloriously in the field and in the face of the rebel foe. He was an ardent patriot, loved the old flag more than he did life, and went into the war for its defence with his whole heart. In the bright roll of martyr-heroes which history will exhibit to the admiration of coming ages, few names will shine out with a serener splendor than that of Col. Lewis O. Morris.

"June 11. Funeral of Col. Morris. The remains of this gallant young oflicer were conveyed from the residence of his brother-in-law. Dr. Vanderpoel, to the North Dutch church, where the funeral exercises took place. They were conducted by the pastor, the Rev. Rufus W. Clark, and were solemn and impressive. Among those in attendance at the church were a few members of the Seventh Artillery, who were wounded in the recent campaign in Virginia, and who can now walk by the aid of crutches. At the conclusion of the services in the church, the remains were brought out and received with military honors by the Twenty-fifth Regiment, under command of Col. Church. The remains of Col. Morris were then conveyed to the cemetery. The funeral escort consisted of the Twenty-fifth Regiment, preceded by Schreiber's band. Then followed the funereal car, drawn by six gray horses, plumed. The coflin was covered by the flag for which he lost his life, and adorned with white roses. The bearers were Generals Rathbone and Vanderpoel, and Colonels Baker, Ainsworth, Young and Harcourt, flanked by a detachment of the Twenty-fifth Regiment, and followed by the horse of the deceased, led by his groom. The mourners were followed by officers and soldiers of the army, who came hither to pay the last tribute of respect to the brave and lamented dead. The committee of arrangements and the mayor and common council followed in carriages. The streets through which the funeral cortege passed were crowded with spectators, and grief was depicted in almost every countenance."

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