Thursday, October 22, 2015

How 47th Ohio private's death led to an Australian man's life

Charles Morris of the 47th Ohio was killed at Battle of Atlanta.
(Courtesy of Rob Grant)
Like this blog on Facebook.

On July 22, 1864, Charles Wesley Morris, a 23-year-old private in the 47th Ohio, was killed at the Battle of Atlanta. Sadly, he left behind a young family: a wife named Sarah and a 1-year-old son, Edwin. Had Charles lived, Australian Rob Grant, who was born in New Haven, Conn., and comes from a "long line of Yankee sympathizers," may not be alive today.

Confused? Let me explain.

Grant's maternal great-great grandmother Sarah was married to Morris, a farmer from Camden, Ohio, who, according to a military furlough document, stood 5-7 and had a dark complexion, gray eyes and sandy hair. After he was killed, Sarah re-married in 1866. The post-war union with William Collins Dove, who served as a private in the 8th Indiana, produced five children, one of whom was Grant's great-grandfather.

Born in New Haven, Conn., Rob Grant has lived in 
Australia for nearly 40 years. 

"I  know that if Charles Morris hadn't taken that fatal Rebel minie ball and he had managed to survive the remainder of his three-year enlistment and returned home to his wife and young son," Grant wrote me in an e-mail interview, "I probably wouldn't be here to answer these questions."

Grant's other great-great grandfather served as a private in the 36th Indiana. Francis Seibert survived the Civil War, but suffered nonetheless. He was kicked in the right leg by a mule named "Old Pete," resulting in permanent damage, and at the Battle of Chickamauga on Sept. 19, 1864, one of Seibert's comrades fired a musket so close to his ear that it led to severe deafness and may have contributed to his death.

Although he has never been kicked by a mule, Grant, 66, has led a life of interesting twists and turns. His family left New England when he was young, eventually settling in California. In the mid-1970s, he decided California was too crowded and not far enough west, so he and his wife checked out the "Land of the Kangaroo."

"My wife and I packed up two bicycles and whatever we could carry in our packs and panniers and headed Down Under for what turned out to be a year-long excursion that included Fiji, Australia and New Zealand," he wrote. "We loved Australia, the country and its people, so much so that we really didn't want to return to the USA. As it was, we couldn't stay. In order to legally immigrate, we had to return to our country of origin and apply for immigration at our closest Australian embassy. In our case, at that time, the nearest embassy was in San Francisco.

"We did all the paperwork, had the interview and within a year we were on our way back to 'Oz.' Within two years of my return to Australia, I turned in my Yank passport and became a naturalized citizen of Australia. Two years later, my wife did the same thing. We've now been here for almost 40 years, and we still reckon it's the best decision we've ever made. As we say here in Aussie, 'We wouldn't live any place else for quids.' "

A reader of my blog, Grant recently answered a few questions about his interest in the Civil War, his Civil War ancestors and more:

How did you get interested in your Civil War ancestors?

A military furlough issued in spring 1864 for Charles Morris, 
a private in the 47th Ohio who was killed at the Battle of Atlanta 
on July 22, 1864. (Rob Grant collection)
Grant: I've been interested in the American Civil War since I was a young kid. Every time I made a trip across the continental U.S., I always loved to check out the old monuments, memorials and battlefields. I didn't fully realize I had ancestors involved in the Civil War until after my maternal grandmother's death in 1998.

When my grandmother died, she left me her incredible collection of old photos and memorabilia. Amongst those things I inherited was an old GAR membership medal that belonged to one of my great-great grandfathers and an original military furlough issued in 1864 to a "mystery man" named Charles Wesley Morris.

Searching for Charles Wesley Morris opened up an amazing window for me. Charles Wesley Morris, as it turned out, was my great-great-grandmother's first husband. At 23, Wesley collected a fatal minie ball outside of Atlanta, leaving a young widow and child back in Ohio. In 1866, my maternal great-great grandfather married that widow and brought up the child as his own. William Collins Dove and Sarah Jane Dove (ex-Morris) went on to produce another five children, two of which made it to adulthood and had children of their own. One of these children was my great-grandfather, Ivan Jack Dove. The child of Wesley and Sarah Jane also survived and prospered, producing a line of his own under the Morris family name.

In the process of my research, I found that two of my maternal great-great grandfathers were also Civil War vets. One of these veterans had an incredibly detailed pension file of over 100 pages. I also managed to make close connections with dozens of living cousins I didn't even know existed. One of these cousins is actually the great-great-great-great-grandson of Charles Wesley Morris.

It's been an amazing journey.

Rob Grant's great-great grandfathers served during the Civil War. Left, Francis Seibert, 
shown in an image probably taken in 1865, was a private in the 36th Indiana. William Collins Dove,
 shown in 1917,  was a  private in the 8th Indiana. (Photos courtesy Rob Grant)
What surprised you about your research?

Grant: Everything. I'm continually amazed at how much I now know about those old photographs, notes, letters, medals and carefully folded bits of old, brittle, yellowing paper that my grandmother left me back in 1998. It has brought the faces in those faded photos and the names on those aging documents and letters alive to me. I now know more about my great-great grandfather Francis Seibert's Civil War experiences (Company G, 36th Regiment Indiana Volunteer Infantry) then I do about my own father's military experiences during World War II.

A modern  Ohio veterans medal that Grant had made
to honor Charles Wesley Morris, the first husband of his
 great-great grandmother.  (Photo courtesy Rob Grant)
If you could go back in time, what would you like to ask them?

Grant: I'd ask them, 30 years after it was over, if they thought all that killing and destruction was worth it. Knowing that ultimately (until the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s) it failed to change the attitudes and social structures of the former Confederate states. It  eliminated slavery in name alone. Also I want to know how it affected their personal well-being, health and community life. Given their youth again, would they be just as eager to enlist? Was all that killing and destruction the only way to solve the issues that led to the conflict?

What do you know about your great-great grandmother's husband, who was killed at the Battle of Atlanta?

Grant: I know a hell of a lot, except the exact location of his grave. I have his complete muster rolls and all the pension files relating to his widow and son. I have a book published in 1949 on the Morris family line that contains a CDV portrait of Wesley and at least four detailed pages on his young life cut short. I have an eyewitness account of the incident that cost him his life. I know, within a few 100 meters, the place where his life ended on that hot summer day in Georgia.

Finally, you live in Australia. Tell us about the interest there in the American Civil War.

Grant: There's quite a bit of interest here in the American Civil War. Several of our past political leaders on the state and federal level have professed a keen interest in America's War Between the States. There is at least one home-grown Australian website that deals specifically with ex-soldiers that immigrated here after the war, both Union and Confederate, and where they are buried. One of the larger Australian cities actually has an American Civil War Roundtable group.

No comments:

Post a Comment