Henry Villiers Morris

Henry Villiers Morris was born on April 7, 1819, in New Glasgow, Virginia, to Henry Villiers Morris and Ann Jenifer Nixon. His father was an English immigrant who worked as a school teacher and owned at least two slaves. The family lived in Lynchburg, Virginia, for several years before the elder Henry’s death around 1827. Although Ann had been “born and educated in affluence,” her husband’s death left her in “abject poverty,” struggling to support her five young children. Her friends raised money to send the family to Port Tobacco, Maryland, where Ann hoped to collect a claim against her late father’s estate. She also tried to establish a school in Port Tobacco, but after these plans failed, the family “depended entirely” upon charity. According to one observer, they sometimes went days “entirely without subsistence.”

Ann died on February 7, 1829, and local officials spent the following month searching for “distant relations and friends” who could adopt the “portionless and unprotected” children. They eventually found Alden Partridge, a wealthy Vermont educator, who agreed to serve as benefactor for Henry and his sister Eliza. At the time, 10-year-old Henry was a “beautiful amiable and interesting boy” who could “spell & write a little.” Partridge relocated the children to New England and arranged for Henry to receive “an elementary Education, and also [the] habits of industry, Economics and Morality.” In September 1831, Henry enrolled at the American Literary, Scientific, and Military Academy (the forerunner of Norwich University), where Partridge served as president.

Morris remained there until September 1836, when he became a drawing instructor at the University of Virginia. He confessed that he “[did] not like charlottesvill [sic],” and that he found the heat too “oppresive and fiersome.” Although he had more than a dozen students, his “small remuneration of $165” failed to meet his expenses, and he repeatedly asked Partridge for more money. Nonetheless, he planned to stay at UVA for several years, hoping to secure a job as university librarian. That plan, however, was ultimately unsuccessful, and Morris left UVA in 1837 to become an assistant engineer for a series of internal improvement projects in Illinois. He received an honorary Master of Civil Engineering degree from Norwich University in 1838, and two years later, he returned to Norwich to become an engineering professor.

Morris left Norwich in 1843 and worked as a teacher in Pennsylvania for several years. By 1850, he had become the assistant superintendent for Philadelphia’s House of Refuge, an institution that sought to rehabilitate delinquent children. He spent the next few years conducting surveys for railroads in Maryland and Ohio before settling in Cincinnati around 1855. He married Emily Jane Eggert there on December 9, 1857. The couple had six children together: two sons who died in infancy (one of whom was named Milford and was born around 1859) and four other children: Harvey (or Henry) H., born February 2, 1860; Nellie (Ella) Maria, born June 10, 1862; Emily Duffield, born July 17, 1864; and Charles Alden, born October 14, 1871.

In June 1861, Morris moved to Wisconsin to work as an engineer for northern extension of the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad. He resigned later that summer, and in October 1861, he became a military instructor at Camp Douglas in Chicago, Illinois, where he helped train six Union regiments. Then, on May 28, 1862, Morris was commissioned as an adjutant in the 20th Wisconsin Infantry. The regiment left Wisconsin that August to join the Army of the Frontier, and the men spent the rest of 1862 stationed in Arkansas and Missouri. They took part in the Battle of Prairie Grove, and Lieutenant Colonel Henry Bertram cited Morris’s “Gallant behavior” and “cool and prompt” actions during the battle.

Morris resigned from the regiment on February 26, 1863. By October 1864, however, he was serving as acting assistant adjutant-general at Camp Douglas, which the Union army had transformed into a prisoner-of-war camp. In late 1864, he received a commission as a 1st lieutenant in the 8th Regiment of the Veteran Reserve Corps. He resigned from the service on August 4, 1865, and returned to Wisconsin.

Morris moved to Missouri around 1868, and he worked as a civil engineer in the state for the next few decades. He also joined the Ransom Post, No. 131, of the Grand Army of the Republic, a fraternal veterans’ organization. Both he and his wife received pensions from the government. He died of gastroenteritis on May 17, 1898, in St. Louis, Missouri, and was buried at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. Later that year, on November 17, 1898, his body was reinterred in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Image: Henry V. Morris (William A. Ellis, Norwich University: Her History, Her Graduates, Her Roll of Honor (Concord, NH: Rumford Press, 1898), 236).


Henry V. Morris to His Sister, September 21, 1836

Biography of Henry V. Morris, 1898

Name:Morris, Henry Villiers
Alternative names:
  • Morris, Henry Villiars (alternative name)
  • Soldier
  • UVA (Union)
20th Regiment Wisconsin Volunteer InfantryF&S
8th Regiment Veteran Reserve CorpsF&S
Branch of service:Army
Muster Out1863-02-26Resigned
Muster Out1865-08-04Resigned
Residence at UVA:Charlottesville, VA
UVA Begin Year:1836
UVA End Year:1837
Residence at enlistment:
Rank In:
Rank Out:First Lieutenant
Highest rank achieved:Brevet Major
Person 1Person 2NumberRelation Type
Morris, Henry VilliersMorris, Henry Villiers708203application-invalid
Morris, Henry Villiersnoneapplication-minor
Morris, Henry VilliersMorris, Emily Jane676973application-widow
Morris, Henry Villiersnoneapplication-widow
Morris, Henry VilliersMorris, Henry Villiers626644certificate-invalid
Morris, Henry VilliersMorris, Emily Jane471483certificate-widow
Birth date:1819-04-07
Birth date certainty:Certain
Birth place:New Glasgow, VA
Death date:1898-05-17
Death place:St. Louis, MO
Causes of death:disease: gastroenteritis
Occupations:Engineer, Teacher, Drawing Instructor
Person 1Relation TypePerson 2
Morris, Henry Villiersparent ofMorris, Harvey H.
Morris, Henry Villiersparent ofMorris, Nellie Maria
Morris, Henry Villiersparent ofMorris, Emily Duffield
Morris, Henry Villiersparent ofMorris, Charles Alden
Morris, Henry Villiersparent ofMorris, Milford
Morris, Emily Janewife ofMorris, Henry Villiers

Pension Files for Henry V. Morris, RG 15, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C. (hereafter NARA);  Henry V. Morris to S.F. Chalfin, December 31, 1864, Letters Received by Commission Branch, RG 94, NARA; 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, and 1890 U.S. Federal Censuses; “Henry V. Morris,” May 17, 1898, Missouri Death Records, accessed through Ancestry.com; Henry Brauner to Alden Partridge, 24 February 1829, Norwich University Archives & Special Collections, available from https://archives.norwich.edu/digital/collection/p16663coll4/id/15959; Alden Partridge to Henry Brauner, 8 March 1829, Norwich University Archives & Special Collections, available from https://archives.norwich.edu/digital/collection/p16663coll4/id/16168; Henry Brauner to Alden Partridge, 14 July 1831, Norwich University Archives & Special Collections, available from https://archives.norwich.edu/digital/collection/p16663coll4/id/17535; Henry V. Morris to Eliza Morris, 21 September 1836, Norwich University Archives & Special Collections, available from https://archives.norwich.edu/digital/collection/p16663coll4/id/19019; Henry V. Morris to Alden Partridge, 3 December 1836, Norwich University Archives & Special Collections, available from https://archives.norwich.edu/digital/collection/p16663coll4/id/19052; Henry V. Morris to Alden Partridge, 14 February 1837, Norwich University Archives & Special Collections, available from https://archives.norwich.edu/digital/collection/p16663coll4/id/19105; The Janesville Weekly Gazette, 6 June 1862; A Catalogue of the Officers and Students of Norwich University, for the Academic Year 1837-8 (n.p., 1838); A Catalogue of the Officers and Cadets of Norwich University, for the Academic Years 1838-39; 39-40; 40-41 (Hanover: E. A. Allen, 1841); Report of Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Bertram, 9 December 1862, in The Rebellion Record: A Diary of American Events, Vol. 6, ed. Frank Moore (New York: G.P. Putnam, 1864), 68; William A. Ellis, Norwich University: Her History, Her Graduates, Her Roll of Honor (Concord, NH: Rumford Press, 1898); M. Briggs to Henry V. Morris, 23 October 1864, in The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series II, Vol. VII (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1899), 1025; George Clinton Tanner, William Tanner of North Kingstown, Rhode Island, and His Descendants (Faribult, MN: George Clinton Tanner, 1905); “Findings of Court of Claims in Case of Emma J. Morris, Widow,” United States Congressional Serial Set, 62nd Congress, 2nd Session, Senate Document No. 455 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1912).