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Howdy!: The Letters of John R. Morris

Recently I was approving some transcriptions done by our virtual Library volunteers on the Making History: Transcribe website and came across a collection of letters written by the Morris family of Louisa County, Virginia. This one letter caught my attention because it was written in July 1863 and I’ve always found the Battle of Gettysburg to be fascinating. The author, John R. Morris (1835-1905), served with the 57th Virginia Infantry Regiment which was a part of General Lewis A. Armistead’s Brigade and participated in Pickett’s Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Morris wrote to his father Richard A. Morris (1805-1881) on 10 July 1863 recounting the news that several Colonels were killed during the battle, stating, “Pickets Division got cut all to peases [pieces]. Our regiment went in with 500 and 20 men and come out with 200 and 70 men. Tha [there] was half of our company kill [killed] and wounded and missing.”  Morris also writes about family members that were in battle noting that “John W. Morris has not bin [been] seean [seen] sence [since] the fight.”

While I find it interesting to read a letter written by someone who participated in Pickett’s Charge, what I also found so endearing about this letter, and over fifty others written, were the simple things that Morris wrote in his letters. Almost every other sentence starts with a sweet, “Dear farther” [father] and is always signed “to my affectionate farther [father].” Morris also includes a few pleas in each letter to be sure to tell everyone “howdy.” To me it’s the personal loving touches of these letters that I find so timeless and charming. If you are interested in reading the Morris family letters they are all available online through the James I. Robertson Jr. Civil War Sesquicentennial Legacy Collection. The transcription of this letter can be found on Making History: Transcribe‘s website.

-Renee Savits, State Records Archivist

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  1. Steve Jackson said:
    13 August 2015 at 9:19 am

    The links to James Robertson’s collection and Making History don’t seem to work. It may be my browser.

    • Claire said:
      13 August 2015 at 9:38 am

      Should be fixed now!

  2. Rosanna Bencoach said:
    17 August 2015 at 12:38 am

    Thank you for posting this. Horace and Lucy mentioned in the letter may be in my family. John Morris asks his sister Frances to get word to Lucy that Horace is alright. Horace Mangrove Giannini was in Company H 57th VA Infantry, under the Captain Magruder who John Morris reports was killed at Gettysburg. (A “John B. Magruder” who survived the war is identified by footnote in the linked transcript, but I think you want this one… http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A2001.05.0285%3Achapter%3D1.32 ). A John Morris and several other Morris men were in the same unit (source http://files.usgwarchives.net/va/albemarle/military/civilwar/albecw.txt). Horace’s wife was Lucy Jane Starke. They lived in eastern Albemarle and her family was from Fluvanna. Lucy also had a brother named Horace, whose unit was also at Gettysburg and under Pickett (Company B, Virginia 56th Infantry), but brother Horace died during the war and I don’t yet know if he was still with the unit at that time.

    • Vince said:
      17 August 2015 at 9:11 am

      Ms. Bencoach,

      Thank you for your message. You may be interested to know that the Giannini surname also featured in a Summer 2009 article in the Library’s publication, Broadside. You can read that article here: http://www.lva.virginia.gov/news/broadside/2009-Summer.pdf

      • Rosanna Bencoach said:
        17 August 2015 at 10:34 am

        Yep. I had a little something to do with that. :-) Thanks for posting that link for others to find.