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    Description

    1865 Diary of Henry B. Morris of the 56th NY Infantry with Related Papers. A small diary, 3" x 4.75", belonging to Private Morris. Morris had been a farmer in southern New York, but left his home to enlist in the Union Army in September 1861. The diary contains short notations of Morris' duty at Morris Island, the surrender of Charleston, Lincoln's assassination, and the fate of freed slaves after the war. Accompanying the diary are a few papers concerning Morris' enlistment with the 56th New York, a partial Confederate $5 bill, a G.A.R. receipt, as well as a few photographs of Morris in the early 1900's.

    In January 18165, the 56th NY was transferred to Morris Island, but an ill Morris was left behind while his unit was out on various expeditions during the spring of 1865. He wrote in the front of his diary, "This year finds me in camp on Morris Island while the remainder of my Regiment is on an Expedition near Popataligo Bridge on the Railroad that runs from Charleston to Savannah - where they have had some very hard fighting and lost about a hundred and fifty men killed and wounded. Thay was fighting under Foster while Sherman marched on Savannah."

    By mid-February though, Morris was back with his Regiment and saw the capture long fought over Charleston. On February 18 he wrote, "Charleston evacuated. Two rams blown up and many other buildings. Our forces take possession of the City." The following day, the 56th NY moved into the city: "The troops from Morris Island commanded by General Gilmore goe [sic] in first the General present thay are made welcome by the ladies and receive a kiss."

    Two months later, Morris notes receiving both the joyous news of the capture of Fort Sumter and surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia and the tragic news of Lincoln's assassination. His entry on April 12 simply reads, "Receive the news of the capture of Richmond." The following day on the 13th he wrote, "General Anderson replaces the olde flag on foart [sic] Sumter it's a great day here." In addition, more good news was pouring in, as on the 14th he wrote, "on guard on the ramparts. Received the news of the surrender of General Lee's Armey [sic]." The Union celebrations were too soon dampened, however, when John Wilkes Booth assassinated Abraham Lincoln. On April 19, Morris' diary reads, "Sad news of President Lincoln's death. The minut gun is fired all day in the Charleston harbor and all flags at half mast."

    Henry Morris stayed with the army a few months longer. One of his entries provides an interesting insight into the anxiety many in the farming community had about the newly freed slaves. Dated May 31, the entry reads, "Remarks. Some talks of going home. Thare is a great many disputes to settle between the Planters and thair Nigros. The Nigers think that the Plantation is thairs and don't want to give their masters posexion [sic] when they return from the Rebel [illegible]. Some nigeros think that because thay are free thay need not work and thay will not unless the Yankees tell them to (work)." Morris eventually mustered out of service and returned home in October 1865.

    Condition: Cover worn with some material missing where diary latched close. Corners are worn and pages are lightly toned throughout. Related papers have flattened folds with light toning.


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