William Hopkins Morris

William Hopkins Morris, born April 22, 1827, in New York City, was the son of George Pope Morris, who wrote "Woodman, Spare that Tree" and other popular songs of the day. Young Morris was educated in the public schools and in 1846 entered West Point from which he was graduated five years later. After some garrison and recruiting duty, he resigned in 1854 to assist his father (a noted editor and poet as well as songwriter) with the Home Journal, a periodical owned by the elder Morris. William possessed not only a talent for invention but also a flair for the "soft sell": he secured a patent on his brainchild, a repeating carbine, in 1859 and publicized it in 'later years through treatises on the subject aimed at the military.

In August, 1861, he was appointed assistant adjutant general of volunteers with rank of captain and served on the staff of his Hudson River neighbor, General John J. Peck, during the first winter of the war. Subsequent to the Peninsular campaign he was commissioned colonel of the 135th New York Infantry—a regiment which was quickly converted into the 6th New York Heavy Artillery and installed in the Washington defenses in deference to the War Department thinking at the time.

On March 16, 1863, he was appointed a brigadier general of volunteers to rank from the preceding November 29 and was stationed with his brigade on Maryland Heights. In the Gettysburg campaign he was attached to the command of General W. H. French, which constituted the III Corps in the Bristoe and Mine Run campaigns. At the beginning of U. S. Grant's Richmond offensive, Morris' brigade was transferred to Ricketts' division of the VI Corps. He fought most capably at the Wilderness and was brevetted major general at the end of the war for his conduct, but he was wounded on May 9, 1864, at Spotsylvania and saw no further field service. In the postwar years General Morris resided on his estate, Briarcliff (named after one of his father's poems), in Putnam County, New York; was active in the National Guard, of which he became a brigadier and brevet major general; took part in local politics; and, as noted above, was something of a military essayist. He died August 26, 1900, while vacationing at Long Branch, New Jersey, and was buried at Cold Spring, New York.

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Reference: Generals in Blue. Lives of the Union Commanders by Ezra J. Warner. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge.