Description[First Virginia Cavalry]. William A. Morgan Confederate Archive consisting of thirty-three letters, one photograph, one essay detailing the action of the First Regiment Virginia Cavalry at the Battle of Gettysburg, one handwritten list of engagements, two booklets, and one Union captain's shoulder bar. The archive spans the years 1861 through 1921, the bulk of which is war dated, 1861-1865.
William Augustine Morgan was born in Mount Vernon, Fairfax County, Virginia in 1831. An imposing figure (he stood at 6' 2"), he lived the life of a farmer at Shepherdstown, Virginia until the outbreak of war. The day following Virginia's vote in favor of secession, William A. Morgan, at the age of 30, enlisted as a private and was mustered into Company "F", First Regiment Virginia Cavalry, Army of Northern Virginia. There he served under such notable field officers as J. E. B. Stuart, Fitzhugh Lee (the nephew of Robert E. Lee), and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson. Shortly before 1st Manassas, he was elected captain of the regiment. In October, 1863, he was promoted to major and was promptly transferred to field and staff. Following the Battle of Chancellorsville, he was given temporary command of the regiment. He was wounded two months later at the Battle of Gettysburg and received a promotion to lieutenant colonel shortly thereafter. He would occasionally serve as the temporary brigade or regimental commander and would receive his promotion to full colonel in December, 1864. He escaped following the surrender of Lee at Appomattox, but the regiment decided to disband rather than surrender and was paroled a few weeks later.
During the course of the war, Morgan was involved in nearly every major engagement in the Eastern Theater, including 1st and 2nd Manassas, Cold Harbor, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Sharpsburg, Gettysburg, Petersburg, and the surrender of General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Court House. In 1865, he returned to civilian life and served as Jefferson County Deputy Sheriff from 1872 until his death in 1899.
The majority of the letters are addressed to Morgan's wife, Anna. In them, he describes the movements of his regiment, camp life, various engagements with "the Yankees," and chasing Custer and his cavalry throughout northern Virginia.
William A. Morgan Autograph Letter Signed. Camp Cooper, November 20, 1861, to his wife regarding matters of business at home. Of the war he writes: "We have had several brushes lately with the yankees. In one expedition we took 5 & their arms. In another a captain & Lieut. 30 privates 20 fine horses, 5 wagons loaded with corn about 30 rifles, pistols & swords &c. besides killing 4 & wounding a good many we had 'no one hurt.'" J. W. Spotts, a member of his company, was wounded in a subsequent skirmish: "...his thumb shot nearly off, his clothes were riddled with bullets." Another encounter had the Confederate cavalry running "...the yankee picket in, killing them (4) before they ran far, when suddenly about 80 made their appearance, & they also ran off, followed by our boys. The yankees deliberately stopped short up turned around & fired into our men & then ran in the thick of the pines. Our men followed them up, dismounting from their horses fought them hand to hand. finally the yankees...surrendered. Our men fought like devils, as they generally do."
William A. Morgan Autograph Letter Signed, n. p., June 13, 1864, to his wife regarding the pursuit of a Federal raiding party: "Since last writing we have been marching and fighting every day going day and night. We have been out after a raiding party for about a week. We have finally headed them off near Gordonsville & yesterday found battle with them & am happy to say that we whipped them badly, capturing about 300 killing & wounding 600 capturing a large train, & recapturing a train that they captured from [General Wade] Hampton, together with a great many men & horses...They out numbered us 2 to one., the fight lasted until near 10 o'clk - at night.. the bursting of the shells was truly grand. fire works on a rather dangerous scale." Morgan laments the loss of General J.E.B. Stuart, who died of wounds received in the Battle of Yellow Tavern, one month previously: "How much we have missed Stuart, you can't imagine."
[Siege of Petersburg]. William A. Morgan Autograph Letter Signed. Camp 1st Va. Cavalry, July 8, 1864, to his wife nearly a month after the beginning of the "siege" on Petersburg, Virginia. "We are now camped near Petersburg, have been here about a week. The day we arrived here we anticipated Wilsons raiding party & had a little fight with him. he however did not relish it much. he only fought an hour, when he ingloriously turned about & retired...Grant is amusing himself by throwing in a few shells daily. they have not done much harm. I have not heard of any of our own being hurt; a few houses have been struck & one or two citizens wounded on all the casualties reported. I hope we will soon get our batteries into position." He follows with a list all plunder captured from Wilson and "...the rogue Custer."
Also of note are three letters from William's younger brother, Daniel H. Morgan, Sixth Regiment Virginia Cavalry, as an inmate in the notorious Union prisoner of war camp, Point Lookout. Also, [Battle of Gettysburg]. William A. Morgan AMS titled "Stuart & Gregg at Gettysburg." Comprising eleven pages, Morgan gives his account of his regiment's actions during the famous battle at the request of John B. Bachelder. Bachelder was a 19th century artist, photographer, and foremost historian of the great battle at the time. Some of the pages are heavily damaged, but the majority is intact and gives a detailed description of the cavalry's role in the engagement.
Copy of a Colonel William A. William A. Morgan Letter recounting his experience at First Manassas from Camp Fairfax Station, July 24, 1861.
William A. Morgan ALS, Camp Hokes Run, June 2, 1861. Early war letter to his wife regarding the chance that he will have to defend Harper's Ferry and a recent "...brush...with the enemy." Mentions Col. J.E.B. Stuart.
William A. Morgan ALS, Camp Vigilance, July 9, 1861. Early war letter regarding happenings in nearby Shepherdstown [modern West Virginia] and their eagerness for a fight. Morgan was elected captain eight days earlier.
[Battle of Wilson's Creek]. William A. Morgan ALS, Camp Onward, August 15, 1861. Two part letter. The first regarding the arrival of his brother, "Danny," who has rejoined Col. Stuart after leaving Gen. Elzey's command, and how his group is on the move. The second regards rumors of the regiment moving to Harper's Ferry. Reports that Beauregard has 120,000 men and is advancing on Alexandria. He also reports that rumors are circulating that there was a battle near Leesburg and the "Yankees" were routed and captured and that "...old Ben McCulloch has completely whipped Gen. Lyons in Missouri [Battle of Wilson's Creek]." He opines that if "...Gen. Johnson would only move out to meet [General Nathaniel P.] Banks & chase him out of Maryland, gibing he state an opportunity to rise, I think this unhappy war would soon be at an end."
William A. Morgan ALS, Camp Onward, August 18, 1861, to his wife. He has been scouting near Alexandria. The men are thinking about winter quarters as "...Cavalry can't do much 'thro the winter." He complains that no one knows anything about their future movements except for "...[President Jefferson] Davis, [Pierre G. T.] Beauregard, and FH [?]"
William A. Morgan ALS, Camp Onward, August 27, 1861, to his wife where he gives a list of "Yankee" items he has captured after a skirmish with Federals near Falls Church, northwest of Alexandria. He reports that his 250 men drove back some 400 Federal troops "...killing 2 and wounding some."
William A. Morgan ALS, Camp Longstreet, October 10, 1861, to his wife. He reports on two casualties near Falls Church and lays the blame at the feet of Gen. Stuart for placing the pickets in so dangerous a position.
Handwritten List of Battles with dates; presumably battles that Morgan had taken part in.
William A. Morgan ALS, Camp Cooper, December 7, 1861, to his wife regarding the state of the camp. He reports that it is very cold and sickness, "camp fever and the yellow jaundice," is circulating through the camp. He reports: "[General George B.] McClellan is steadily preparing for his long delayed advance...he will come like a whirlwind...The fight will be a perfect waterloo affair. McClellan is collecting quantities of artillery & the character of the battle will be cavalry and artillery fight. it will be a bloody battle. I think our whole line will be attacked at the same time...Gen. Beauregard dined with Gen. Stuart today & says that we must have a fight before Monday. If not, he thought of advancing, but I don't think he wants to advance on such impregnable batteries and fortifications as they have for our express benefit." He urges her not to abandon the house just yet as they will lose everything, either from pillaging Yankees or ".the bad people in the neighborhood."
[Battle of Dranesville]. William A. Morgan ALS, Camp Cooper, December 23, 1861, to his wife where he gives a detailed report of the fighting at Dranesville: "We have a bloody little fight at Drainsville [sic] a day or two ago. In scouting we met the Yankees. We had 4 small Regts, 150 cavalry & 4 pieces artillery. The Yanks had 8 Regts infantry, 600 cavalry and 8 pieces artillery. They had the advantage of position and overwhelming numbers. The battle lasted about 3 hours. Stuart, who commanded our forces, pitched in as usual & drove them back." The Federals were reinforced and rallied, driving at the Confederate troops. "After fighting like tigers, Stuart thought best to retire & just as he did so the Yankees were in full retreat. Taking everything in consideration, we claim victory." He reports the casualties on the Confederate side and an estimation of Union casualties. Of Stuart's conduct during the battle, he comments: "Stuart acted as bravely as a man could. Was in the thickest of the fight all the time instructing the men in aiming & encouraging them. Men fell all around him but he escaped unhurt." The battle is regarded today as a Union victory, despite Morgan's claim to the contrary.
William A. Morgan AL, Hattiesburg, January 9, 1862, to his wife regarding the chase of General William W. Averell in "...the Valley." He writes: "...we were ordered to the Valley to meet Averill [sic] who threaghtened [sic] Staunton...He struck for the Va. Tenn R. Road at Salem.We at once put off after him & if it had not been for some orders rcvd from Gen. [Jubal] Early...we would have succeeded in capturing him out at Covington." He follows with a list of the ordinance and men that are captured.
George Jackson ALS, Ironton [Ohio], July 26, 1862, to his sister, Anna Morgan, wife of Col. William A. Morgan. He is writing in response to a letter that Anna has sent to Jackson's wife, Lou. Gives a report of things at home with himself and his family.
William A. Morgan ALS, Warrenton, August 4, 1862, to his wife regarding his recent bout with diarrhea. The bottom portion of the letter is detached and missing.
William A. Morgan ALS, "Culpepper County [Culpeper County, Virginia]," November 12, 1862, to his wife inquiring about her recent sickness. He also reports the latest happenings of his regiment: "We have been very much cut up & reduced reconnaissance by covering the retreat of our division of our army. We have fought for eight successive days, since crossing the Shenandoah having to oppose a larger & well-equipped army of Yankees. We are now in Culpepper [sic] County & have the narrow Hazel river between us and the enemy. We have been here for 4 or 5 days. The Yankees seem to be at a standstill, not caring to cross. If everything comes to pass as our Generals have planned, before long you will hear of a very masterly move & one of the most brilliant victories of the war. McCleland [sic] has a very large and powerful army ready to hurl on us, but they are for the most part raw troops, never having been under fire & of course, are not expected to stand like the veterans of Jackson & Lee." The regiment, attached to the Army of Northern Virginia, was slowly making its way toward Fredericksburg.
List of Battles. A full, handwritten list of "Engagements participated in during the late war by Co F 1st Reg. of Va. Cavalry, 1st Brigade composed of the 1st and 3rd & 4th Regt. & a battery of Stuart's Horse Artillery 1st division Wickham's, Rosser's and Payne's Brigades." Among the 122 engagements listed are such notable battles as 1st Manassas, "Raid around McClellan," Cold Harbor, 2nd Manassas, Sharpsburg, Gettysburg, Petersburg, and "Appomattox Court H. at which point the curtain dropped." On the last page is featured a list of commanders of the regiment.
Fitzhugh Lee TLS as Governor of Virginia, Richmond, September 2, 1886, to Colonel William A. Morgan replying to his letter in which he declines an invitation to Morgan's estate, Morgan's Grove. Lee was the nephew of Robert E. Lee and fortieth Governor of Virginia.
William A. Morgan Post War Cabinet Card. Measuring 4" x 5.5", Morgan is pictured in this albumen print in military uniform, seated while holding his sword in his right hand. His hat rests on a table to his left and boasts and impressive white plume. Mounted to a card to an overall size of 6" x 7.75".
Union Captain Shoulder Bars. Features a white field with gold embroidery.
William A. Morgan AL, Camp Bee, September 5, 1861, to his wife. After describing a portable bed which he has found that once belonged "...to the yankee medical department," he expresses his hopes that "...the time is not far distant when our troops will cross the Potomac & deliver Maryland from the bondage which at present confines her. I think we are marching for Gen. Lee to whip out Rosencrantz [General William Rosecrans] & come down through Maryland. When he does so you will be relieved from your disagreeable neighbors across the River & that country will be ours."
[Point Lookout Prison Camp]. Daniel H. Morgan ALS, Point Lookout, December 10, 1863, to his mother as a prisoner of war in Maryland. He writes that "...the Federal Government still refuses to allow any thing to be sent from Alexandria to any Prisoners here. Lucy tells me in her letter that she still hopes to be able to send me my cloathes [sic] which I am now very much in need of...I trust I shall get some cloathing [sic] soon." He reassures her that he is "...getting along as well as I could expect under the circumstances but a prisoners life is certainly one full of trials." Daniel Morgan, the younger brother of Colonel William A. Morgan, 1st Regiment Virginia Cavalry, was himself a member of the 6th Regiment Virginia Cavalry. He was taken prisoner visiting his mother and family by the infamous Jessie Scouts, who clad themselves in Confederate uniforms, and spent time the next five months as a Confederate prisoner of war. Following his parole, he returned to active duty and was wounded at Five Forks on April 1, 1865. He died of his wounds on April 8 at Appomattox Court House, one day before the surrender of General Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia.
William A. Morgan AL, n. p., April 2, 1864, to his wife. A sentimental letter, Morgan considers his time away from his family: "...it has been now nearly three years since I left home & when I reflect what I have gone through, what work I have done & what dangers...I have passed through, it seems an incredible short space of time, yet it has been three long years of the terrible ordeal that our country is passing through, more terrible than history ever recorded..." He concludes by expressing his shock at the witness of the execution of a young soldier for desertion on his way to meet with General J. E. B. Stuart: "...he was, without any further ceremony, tied up to a stake & shot dead."
Unknown Author AL, n. p., February 14 [n. y.], to "My dear Child."
Anna Morgan Getzendanner. A Young Veteran of the War 1861-1865. The booklet contains the recollections of Anna's brother, Augustine C. "Gus" Morgan, of the war as a young boy. Anna and Augustine were the children of Colonel William A. Morgan, 1st Regiment Virginia Cavalry,
Robert E. Lee: Soldier, Patriot, Educator. Published in 1921 for the Lee Memorial Fund. The booklet consists of a short biography of the famous Southern general with emphasis on his postbellum career. This copy belonged to William J. Getzendanner, grandson of Colonel William A. Morgan, who served under Lee in the Army of Northern Virginia.
Elliot G. Fishburne ALS, Waynesboro [Virginia], August 1, 1881, to Colonel William A. Morgan inviting him to a reunion of Co. E, 1st Regiment Virginia Cavalry. Fishburne was present at Appomattox Court House during Lee's surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia.
[Point Lookout Prison Camp]. Daniel H. Morgan ALS, Prisoners Camp Point Lookout, September 17 , to his sister-in-law, Anna Morgan, thanking her for her recent letter and lamenting the fact that he could not participate "...in the events that followed my capture."
William A. Morgan ALS, n. p., n. d. [circa 1863]. Regarding the state of affairs in the cities of Richmond, Charleston, and the siege around Vicksburg, he says: "...[they] are eager for the coming fray, well prepared and waiting the attack with great confidence...If we whip them at these three fronts, and whip them we must and will...I think the principal fighting will be ours in the war of the 2nd Revolution."
William A. Morgan AL, n. p., March 11, 1864, to his wife regarding the happenings of his area. He makes mention of a fight "...the other day with Custer on his raid. They came near capturing and shooting me...but I got off safely."
William A. Morgan AL, n. p., April 10, 1864, to his wife. He expresses his hope for an ending to hostilities with the return of his commanders: "The physical condition of our people is as good as it possible [sic] can be. the returns of Stuart, Hill, Ewell, & Longstreet, & various others are as hearty and as happy as children at a May day festival. they are certainly in their finest condition for fighting every way that I have ever seen troops. everybody seems to think that this year is the last of the war. from the bottom of my heart I hope that the general expectation may be realized & that this present year will see the termination of hostilities between the two governments."
AL dated January 20, 1865, from an unknown author (presumably William A. Morgan) to an unknown recipient. The author is asking for news of his family back home. He concludes with his report on the capture of a Union officer: "I captured an officer lately, one of Custer's staff, & will have him paroled for the kindness Custer showed to my family in the Summer of 64. I will always return any kindness or favours shown by Federal Officers when in my power."
AL, "Near Gordonsville," March 7, 1865, from an unknown author (probably William A. Morgan) to an unknown recipient. The letter appears to be written after hearing of the death of his mother and the sickness of his wife and children.
Daniel H. Morgan ALS, Camp 6th VA. Cavalry, January 5, 1865, to his mother assuring her that he is well, but lamenting the loss of his friend: "Poor Fontaine was killed at Beverly in the fight when we captured the place. He was shot in the right breast & expired instantly, making thirteen men his company has had killed since last June...I feel his loss very much, and in him our army has lost a gallant soldier."
AL, February 11, 1865, from an unknown author (probably William A. Morgan) to an unknown recipient. The author describes the abundant rations that the soldiers are subsisting on and adds, "I have been existing on this fare for about a month so you see that 'Dixie' is not yet quite 'played out' on the ration question..You all must not think that the Confederacy is on its last legs, she is still bold & defiant."
William A. Morgan AL, Richmond, March 28, 1865, to an unknown recipient. Morgan is wishing the man good health and asking that he look after his family. Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia two weeks later at Appomattox Court House.
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