Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Suffering for the Cause

While at Bacon's Castle this past weekend we picked up several brochures they had displayed that highlighted other local historic sites. After driving on to Isle of Wight County and having lunch in the great "Main Street" town of Smithfield, we drove a few more miles to see St. Luke's Church (above). St. Luke's is the oldest church in Virginia. Services began here according to some sources as early 1632.

Taking a leisurely stroll through the cemetery that surrounds the old brick church, I spotted a "Southern Cross" beside one of the graves. Curiosity got the better of me so I walked over to see who was buried there. When I read the name "Emmett M. Morrison," and that he was colonel of the 15th Virginia Infantry Regiment, it didn't help ring any bells in my memory. While there though, I thought I would go ahead a snap a shot his headstone just in case I decided to look him up and to help me remember his name.  

Well, what I found in Morrison's service records, and with some online research, provided yet another example of the extent some Confederate soldiers went to in attempt to realize their new nation.

Morrison's grave being located in Isle of Wight is no surprise. He was born there, grew up there, and after the war, he worked and died there.

The 1850 census shows Morrison as a nine year old in his father, Edwin's, household. Edwin Morrison was a hotel keeper and along with his family of six, there were ten other individuals living in what I assume was their hotel. Interestingly, one of the occupants was an eighty year old free black woman named  Sabina West. Edwin owned eleven slaves.

I was unable to locate Edwin Morrison in the 1860 census, but he does show up in that year's slave schedules as the owner of fifteen slaves. By that time his son Emmett was attending Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia.

When Virginia seceded in April of 1861, Edwin was among a number of the cadets sent to Richmond to train the Confederate recruits arriving from across the South. It didn't take long for young Emmett to land in a permanent regiment. With his military skills and knowledge on full display he was elected as the captain of Company C of the 15th Virginia Infantry. He was promoted to major on August 19, 1862, and lieutenant colonel on April 22, 1864, but with the rank dating back to January 24, 1863.

Between young Morrison's promotions from major to lieutenant colonel, the 15th Virginia fought at the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862. During the engagement Morrison took a severe slug wound to his right shoulder. After being attended to at a field hospital he was captured and sent to Fort Henry and then Fort Delaware before he was finally exchanged.  

Morrison fought on the Bermuda Hundred line in Pickett's division in the fall and winter of 1864. He reported sick and was admitted to a hospital in Petersburg in January 1865, but soon returned to duty. After resuming his duties, Morrison was captured at Sailor's Creek on April 6, and was sent to Old Capitol Prison and then to Johnson's Island prison. He was released in the summer of 1865 after taking the oath of allegiance.

After the war Morrison returned to his native Isle of Wight County. He married Sarah Wilson in 1872, and became a teacher at Smithfield Academy (which still stands). He later held positions as a surveyor, superintendent of schools, and postmaster. He lived to the old age of ninety, dying in 1932.

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