Morrison family ties

17 January 2007

R.H. Morrison
Rev. Robert Hall Morrison, DD (from Davidson College portrait)

The Reverend Doctor Morrison (1798-1889) was father-in-law to three Confederate general officers: D.H. Hill (m. Isabella S. Morrison 1848), Rufus C. Barringer (m. Eugenia 1854; she d. 1858, typhoid), and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson (m. Mary Anna 1857).

I know of no other patriarch of that distinction.

Hard core students of the American Civil War already know that D.H. Hill and “Stonewall” Jackson were brothers-in-law, though not always happily so. Most will probably not have seen how wide that family net spreads.

The other three of Reverend Morrison’s six daughters also married war-serving Confederates: Harriet Abigail to James Irwin, purchasing agent for the Confederacy, Susan Washington to Major Alphonso Calhoun Avery (family) of the 6th North Carolina, and Laura to Colonel John Edmunds Brown of the 42nd Regiment North Carolina State Troops.

Anna Morrison Jackson

Three of his four sons, too, were in Confederate States service. Oldest son William W. had worked for his mother’s brother, William Alexander Graham in the US Department of the Navy and was a Major by War’s end, but died in 1865. Joseph Graham Morrison served on the great Stonewall’s staff and witnessed first hand his mortal wounding at Chancellorsville, Virginia in May 1863. Robert H., Jr. was aide-de-camp to Generals Barringer and D.H. Hill, and was a physician after the War. The youngest, Alfred James, too young to fight, was later a lawyer and Presbyterian minister in his own right, but died early—at 26 years of age.

Papa Morrison had been born and raised in North Carolina in middle class surroundings. He was always a good student and graduated in 1818 from the University of North Carolina, third in his class. Number one that year was future US President James K. Polk.

Feeling a strong pull to evangelize, Morrison studied under local ministers, then traveled north for a year of work in theology at the College of New Jersey (later Princeton) 1820-21. Returning to North Carolina he embarked on a career as Presbyterian minister. In 1824 he married Mary Graham, daughter of Revolutionary War Major and later Militia General Joseph Graham. He married well. The General had been successful in the iron business and had large holdings of land and slaves.

In 1835 Rev. Morrison began raising $30,000 to build a school to help fill the gap he saw in trained Presbyterian ministers. In 1837, on land donated by his wife’s uncle William Lee Davidson, he launched and was first President of Davidson College. In 1839, however, he became seriously ill with bronchitis, to the point that he sought help from Dr. George McClellan in Philadelphia. You probably know Dr. McClellan’s son.

No treatment helped, however, so in 1840 Morrison resigned his post at Davidson for reasons of health, and retired to his plantation “Cottage Home” in Lincoln County, North Carolina: a legacy of the Graham family wealth. He preached near there, notably at the Machpelah Presbyterian Church until his death nearly 50 years later.

J.G. Morrison
Joseph Graham Morrison

Third son Joseph Graham Morrison is actually the reason for this now out of control post. He’s the Antietam connection: at the time of the battle he was aide-de-camp to General Jackson.

Born in 1842, he was named for his maternal grandfather and destined to inherit the family manse Cottage Home as oldest surviving son. As the Civil War began Joseph was a student at the Virginia Military Institute (Class of 1865), but he left school and was commissioned Lieutenant and ADC on Jackson’s staff in June 1862.

Cedar Mountain in August …

was his first experience on the battlefield. His bearing was fearless and chivalric. He was riding one of the General’s horses, which, shot in the jaw, was rearing and plunging, sprinkling both his rider and himself with blood. It was suggested to the General that he had better call that youth in or his career would be a short one, but he replied that his example would not be lost upon the troops and he would learn more discretion after a battle or two. He would not permit him to be recalled. Morrison escaped that day but after the General’s death he was badly wounded twice and came out of the army with the loss of a foot. (H.K. Douglas)

After Chancellorsville, in July 1863, rather than transfer to General Ewell with the rest of Jackson’s staff, he joined General Ramseur. In September 1863 he transferred to the 57th North Carolina Infantry as Adjutant. By 1865 he was Captain of Company F, and lost a foot shortly after at Petersburg, while away from his regiment visiting General Hoke.

Also suffering from tuberculosis, Joseph spent the four years following the War in California recuperating. In 1869 he came home to North Carolina where he was a planter and ran the Mariposa Cotton Mills. He returned to claim the family home on his father’s death in 1889, and himself passed at Charlotte on 11 April 1906.

He is buried with his father and Grandfather Graham at Machpelah Cemetery.

Bonus Mystery

The VMI archives have a fine photograph identified as “Dr. Samuel B. Morrison, CSA, who attended Stonewall Jackson after his wounding in May 1863. He was the brother of Mrs. Jackson (Mary Anna Morrison)”. I found no reference to a missing son named Samuel, though I did see that Robert Hall Morrison Jr had a career as a physician post War. I dug a little and did find a roster mention of a Samuel B. Morrison, Surgeon of the 3rd Maine Infantry.

The picture looks like a man in Confederate uniform. So, who is he?



See also Sarah Marie Eye’s lovely 2003 master’s thesis from Virginia Tech on the contradictions apparent in the life of R.H. Morrison, especially in his views on slavery and secession. Also source of some of the fine-grain detail mentioned above.

Rev. R.H. Morrison’s papers are in the Southern Historical Collection of the Library of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the online finding aid includes additional biographical and cultural background on the family.

The photos of Joseph Graham Morrison and Mary Anna Morrison Jackson are from a Jackson exhibit at the archives of the Virginia Military Institute (VMI).

Special thanks to Bill Torrens, who popped J.G. Morrison up onto my radar, and provided the anecdote and service data I used here. His sources were Douglas’ I Rode with Stonewall, Jones’ Campbell Brown’s Civil War, and Krick’s Staff Officers In Gray. Bill has spent years writing biographical sketches for nearly all Confederate officers, and posts samples on the History Forums board as “Collett Leventhorpe”.


added 2 Feb 2007

On his North Carolina and the Civil War blog Michael C. Hardy has written a nice post about Mary Anna Morrison, on the occasion of the 183rd anniversary of her first husband’s birth.

56 Responses to “Morrison family ties”

  1. Patricia williams says:

    I am still searching for the parents of Lewis Morrison who was raised in chickasaw co.,Ms,USA by the John Winter family. One known family member Jeva Winter attest to the fact that Lewis was raised as a brother to him. No school records or census records record Lewis in their household. Help me if you are able. Thanks,

  2. James Calvin Morrison says:

    I’m named after my great-grandfather.. Born & raised in Cali.. My dad is Robert Dale Morrison of Wasco, CA… Would love to help add the CA branch of the Morrison Tree..

  3. Tara says:

    Thank you all for the fantastic information. I am not related to the Morrisons but I portray Mary Anna Morrison Jackson at various civil war events and much of the preceding information has been very helpful. I am always hunting further information on Anna’s life & family before, during and after the war. if anyone has any suggestions for continued research on Anna that you feel might be helpful, please drop me a line. Thanks again!

  4. Anita Rutledge Moody says:

    Thank you for your information. I am related to the Morrison clan. My maternal Grandmother was Ima Carrie Leola Morrison. I am a first cousin five times removed to Robert Hall Morrison.
    Robert H Morrison- Son of William Morrison
    William Morrison – Brother of John Morrison
    John Morrison – Father of Silas Hall Morrison
    Silas Hall Morrison – Father James Silas Hall Morrison
    James Silas Hall Morrison – Father of Joel Lacurgus Morrison
    Joel(Joe)L. Morrison – Father of Ima Carrie Leola Morrison Barton
    Ima C. L. Morrison Barton – Mother of Billie Ruth Barton Rutledge
    Billie Ruth Barton Rutledge – Mother of Anita Rutledge Moody (me)
    If you recognize any of these names and would like any information I have I would be glad to share.
    My husband descends from Templetons that were married into the Morrison family. I have not found a connection to my branch of Morrisons but if anyone has any information that might help I would love to hear from you. Thanks Anita Moody –

  5. Jerry Johnson says:

    I am the manager of the Goodwill store in Mt. Airy NC. We received as part of a donation a piece of an envelope addressed to JG Morrison, Harrisson (sic) Creek,NC. Also a handwritten poem dated 16 Oct. 1866. Reuben Everette. Also a book:Bullion’s Greek Reader 1856 with the initials “JG M’s Book” written in ink on the front cover.

  6. Norma says:

    Looking for information on African American Morrison family from Augusta, Georgia. Great Grandmother born a Morrison in later 1800’s.

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