Accession Number: HC 7
George U. Morris Collection
Bulk Dates: 1861-1876
.2 linear feet
Online Catalog Record (BANC)
Series I - Correspondence
Series II - Pension Application
Series III - Centennial Diary
Access and Use
Provenance: Molly Levey donated the George U. Morris materials to Berea College on May 27, 1975.
Preferred Citation: The George U. Morris Collection, Berea College Special Collections & Archives, Berea, Ky.
The nineteen letters in this collection, dated from August 8, 1861 to March 7, 1864, provide a first person
account of a naval officer's life aboard a fighting ship of the Union Navy during the Civil War. The letters
were sent by George U. Morris to his fiancÚ, Mary Chase Steele, while Morris participated in blockading the
Confederacy. In addition the collection includes a photo of Morris, copies from the National Archives of Mary
Morris's claim for a naval pension, and a brief diary, probably by Mary Morris, about visiting the Centennial
Fair in Philadelphia in 1876.
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George Upham Morris was born in Massachusetts in 1830. He entered the United
States Navy in 1847 and served throughout the Civil War. As a midshipman he
served on the Albany, the Independence, and the Lexington, and attended the
Naval Academy, graduating in 1852. After detachment from the Academy he served
on the Princeton, the Dolphin, the Decatur, the Cyane and the Cumberland, until
was sunk in
1862 by the C.S.S. Virginia (the ironclad constructed
on the hull of the U.S.S. Merrimack). During the battle with the Virginia,
Morris was acting commander of the Cumberland.
Morris was attached to the East Gulf Blockading Squadron well into1863, then
transferred farther south to the West Gulf Blockading Squadron in October of
that year. He was on the U.S.S. Cumberland when he wrote the first letter in
this collection, in 1861. In two later letters, he recalls the Cumberland's
final battle. After the sinking of the Cumberland, Morris was given command
gunboat U.S.S. Port Royal. In his love letters written on board the Port Royal
his boredom and anxieties as well as dramatic naval action, including capturing
blockade runners, taking refugees aboard, guarding the approaches to the mouth
of the Mississippi and being fired upon by enemy ship and shore batteries.
While with the West Gulf Squadron in Mobile Bay he was ordered to pursue the
Alabama to Cuba, but he never sighted the ship. At one point a storm drove
him out to sea in a small boat with six crewmen and a broken rudder, and his
despaired of finding him.
Morris was later attached to the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron under Rear
Admiral J. A. Dahlgren, and was commanding officer of the U.S.S. Chenango at
Charleston, South Carolina. He was made a Commander in the U.S. Navy on July
Morris's first wife had died on February 18, 1858, without issue. He
married Mary Chase Steele in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on July 7, 1864. About
ten years after the war he was serving as commanding officer at the Navy Yard
in Pensacola, Florida, when the Yard caught fire in very cold weather. He led
the fight to quench the fire, but succumbed afterwards to a respiratory infection
which contributed to his death from consumption (phthisis pulmonalis)
in 1875 at Jordan Alum Springs, VA. His widow, Mary, never remarried and died
25, 1930, leaving no heirs.
1 Manuscript Box
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Letters to George Morris's fiancÚ about life on a ship blockading the Confederacy. They detail movement
of the U.S.S. Port Royal from the Apalachicola Bay to the Florida Keys, Mobile Bay, Havana, and New Orleans.
A photograph of Morris is included.
- 8/8/1861, Cumberland, off Boston: Love letter to Mary Chase Steele.
- Photograph of George U. Morris.
- 5/9/1863, Port Royal, Apalachicola Bay: Chases blockade runner but
fails; reports iron-clad under construction; gunboat Chattahoochie elusive;
- 5/13/1863, Port Royal, St. George's Sound: Waiting for the ironclad;
thrill of danger; war has hardened him; remembers the sinking of the "Cumberland."
- 6/12/1863, Port Royal, St. George's Sound: Gives advice concerning companions;
explosion of the Chattahoochie, killing 18; his 33rd birthday.
- 6/14/1863, Port Royal, St. George's Sound: Waiting for the ironclad;
needs repairs; misquitos, sickness afflicting the crew; complains of boredom;
about the rights of women; confesss his love; sinking of the Cumberland;
loss of letters; scurvy on another ship; rumor of raising the Chattahoochie.
- 6/28/1863, Port Royal, St. George's Sound: Inspection duties; waiting
for the ironclad; worries about composition of his squadron; reports of
deserters; fortification of Apalachicola Bay; worries about the fighting;
confesses flirtations; steamer in sight.
- 8/2/1863, Port Royal, St. George's Sound: Beginning of the end; war
with England?; speculates on foreign wars.
- 8/6-8/21/1863, Port Royal, St. George's Sound: A southern visitor; war
goes badly for the Confederates; conditions in refugee camp; treatment of refugees.
- 8/24/1863, Port Royal, St. George's Sound: Longs to see Mary; rebukes her
chiding; scolds her for making him feel guilty for his loyalty to his cause;
waiting on the ironclad; laments the length of the war.
- 8/30/1863, Port Royal, St. George's Sound: Speaks of his love.
- 9/5-9/9/1863, Port Royal, St. George's Sound: Refugees' condition; appeals
for aid from prisoners' families; Chatahoochie raised but not repaired.
- 9/13/1863, Port Royal, St. George's Sound: Complains of health and boredom.
- 9/16/1863, Port Royal, St. George's Sound: No southern news.
- 9/18/1863, Port Royal, St. George's Sound: Small boat escapes; destroys
some liquor, gives food to citizens.
- 9/29/1863, Port Royal, St. George's Sound: Repairs.
- 9/21/1863, Port Royal, St. George's Sound: Rumors of other blockade runners;
inquiries concerning family.
- 9/24/1863, Port Royal, St. George's Sound: Capture of three sloops.
- 9/28/1863, Port Royal, St. George's Sound: Temporarily aground; boredom
with duties; trying to read through the entire Bible this cruise.
- 9/29/1863, Port Royal, St. George's Sound: Anxieties for his men; longing
to see her; trimmed mustache, will get new photo.
- 10/8/1863, Port Royal, Key West: Sails to Key West.
- 10/15/1863, Port Royal, At sea: Transferred to West Gulf squadron;
false report of the "Alabama" takes him to Cuba
- 10/18/1863, Port Royal, At sea: Travelling to New Orleans; preparation
to face battle and death; confesses his love.
- 10/27/1863, Port Royal, off Mobile Bay: : Repairs; Confederate forces
- 10/28/1863, Port Royal, off Mobile Bay: : Assesses prospects for battle;
longs for company; complains of needed repairs.
- 10/31/1863, Port Royal, off Mobile Bay: : Misses her; dreams of quiet
homelife; talks of pictures.
- 11/2/1863, Port Royal, Mobile Bay: : Boredom with duty; complains
of Dahlgren's promotion; plans for glory; court-martial duty.
- 11/4/1863, Port Royal, Mobile Bay: : Awaiting action; harmlessness
of flirtation; yellow fever in New Orleans.
- 11/6/1863, Port Royal, Mobile Bay: : Gives a dinner to officers of the flagship;
Increased activity between Confederate forts; awaits her letters; weary of
- 11/11/1863, Port Royal, Mobile Bay: : After Morris left the Port Royal
in a small boat to pick up the mail from an incoming ship, a storm broke his
reliance on oars; hand bailing; drifted to sea 20 miles; all survive after
being given up for lost, but one sailor crazed by the experience.
- 12/14/1863, Port Royal St. Charles Hotel, New Orleans: Increased social
- 1/23/1864, Port Royal, Mobile Bay: "A final parting?"; Professes true devotion;
his life not as happy as it seems; marriage will follow; friendliness of southerners.
- 1/29/1864, Port Royal, Mobile Bay: "The enemy may come out" - ends abruptly.
- 2/7/1864, Port Royal, Mobile Bay: Confederates strengthening their
positions; comments on an engagement; gloomy about "getting rich"; approaching
storms; remembers earlier disasters.
- Evening, Port Royal, Mobile Bay: Vessel coming out.
- 2/8/1864, Port Royal, Mobile Bay: Anxious for her and home.
- 2/14/1864, Port Royal, Mobile Bay: A quiet day; boredom; Confederate
- 2/15/1864, Port Royal, Washington: Mother has met Miss Mary, chides George
for flirtations; page enclosed in his next letter to Mary.
- 3/7/1864, Port Royal, Mobile Bay: Tells her what a lecture his mother
has given him for writing lovingly to his cousins.
|Box 1, con't
Copies of documents from the National Archives, apparently submitted by Mrs.
Morris in order to obtain a widow's pension following her husband's death in
1875. They provide information about his marriage, death, and copies of the correspondence
between Morris and the Navy medical officers relating to the circumstances
which led to the deterioration of his health. Mary Chase Steele Morris's pension
record and notice of her death are also included.
Box 1, continued
- Declaration for Widow's Pension in 1877 and again in 1928, with
supporting documents and death notices.
|Box 1, con't
A diary describing a visit to the 1876 United States Centennial celebration
Pennsylvania; probably written by Mrs. Morris.
Box 1, continued
- Diary describing a visit to the 1876 United States Centennial celebration.
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