Biography of John D. Morris

A Virginian, and son of the distinguished Richard Morris. Col. Morris, after acquiring a finished education, removed to Christian County. After a short stay here, in company with many other young men from the State he emigrated to Texas, then a province of Mexico. He was soon appointed to the responsible post of District Attorney for the more western frontier border of the Rio Grande. He was afterward selected with Van Ess to negotiate a treaty with Gen. Arista, one of Santa Anna’s lieutenants, and on his return found that he had been elected to the Texas Congress. Before the expiration of his term he was selected to fill a vacancy in the Senate, but did not enter upon its duties by reason of his marriage about that time. He had taken an active part in military as well as political affairs in Texas, and participated in the battle of San Jacinto, and the Comanche fight at San Antonio, as well as several others. After his marriage he returned to his farm in Christian County. In 1850 he was elected to the Constitutional Convention from this county with Ninian E. Grey, but aside from this he took no part in politics.

When the war broke out in 1861, he was among the first to respond, and was sent to New Orleans to look after the confiscation of Northern funds deposited in the banks there. The battles of Forts Donelson and Henry interrupted his work, and after a short visit to his family, he re-turned to Florence, Ala., where he overtook the retreating Confederates. Here he attached himself to the First Kentucky Cavalry, commanded by Col. Ben. Hardin Helm, who sent him to Corinth in charge of a detachment of Federal prisoners. Upon his return he found the army had marched for the front; he followed on foot, and arrived in time to take part in the battle of Shiloh. After the battle he rejoined his command, and remained with it until after its disbandment. He then went to Richmond, arriving in time to take part in the seven days’ fight. After this he was assigned to duty on Gen. John S. Williams’ staff, where he continued about fourteen months, and was then placed in command of a battalion of cavalry. In the bloody campaign from the Wilderness to Petersburg, he was with the Twenty-eighth Virginia, and participated in that series of engagements. He then received a mission to Kentucky from the authorities at Richmond. On his way here, he learned at Abingdon of the impending attack on Saltville, by Gen. Burbridge, and at once attached himself to his old command under Gen. Williams. He was assigned by Gen. Williams to the command of a detachment of irregular troops, and with them started to the front. Before reaching the field, however, his ” men in buckram ” had dwindled down in the ratio that Falstaff’s men good and true ” increased. After the battle, Col. Morris, with Maj. Steele and Capt. Bob Breckinridge, pushed on into Kentucky, where he fell into the hands of .the enemy before he had accomplished his mission. He was sent to Lexington and imprisoned, and the indignity of a ball and chain put on him, and besides received the pleasant assurance that he was to be shot as a spy. Some months after being thrown into prison, he had a severe attack of varioloid and was transferred to the pest-house, but finally recovered. When convalescent, he was returned to his old quarters at Lexington, but afterward sent to Fortress Monroe for exchange. On his arrival at Richmond he found his old command had been consolidated and turned over to Col. Winfield, and Col. Morris was then furnished with both a Brigadier-General’s commission and chief of ” Cotton Bureau ” for the trans-Mississippi department. On his way to the new field he received a despatch at Chester, S. C., of the disaster at Richmond, but continued on his way. On reaching the Mississippi he was unable to cross, and the Confederacy having collapsed he surrendered to the nearest authorities. Since the war, Col. Morris has resided in Hopkinsville, where he is engaged in the practice of the law.


Perrin, William Henry, ed., Counties of Christian and Trigg, Kentucky, Historical and Biographical, Chicago : F. A. Battey Publishing Co., 1884.

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