Congressional Medal of Honor recipient John Gordon Morrison (1842-1897)
In 2016 a Troy Military Banner Committee was formed to honor veterans around the City of Troy.
Robarge, Mark. “Group of friends organizing effort to honor Troy’s veterans.” Troy Record. September 2, 2016. http://www.troyrecord.com/article/TR/20160902/NEWS/160909925
The Lansingburgh Historical Society is sponsoring one such banner for John G. Morrison, who lived a good part of his life in Lansingburgh. City Directories locate him at a number of different places in the Burgh over the years, including in 1864: John [4th Ave] near Canal [120th St]; in 1874: Hill [Eighth Ave] near Lansing [112th St]; in 1875: 461 East [Seventh Ave]. In 1943 the USS Morrison was named for him; it was destroyed by a Japanese Mitsubishi A6M “Zeko,” AKA a “Zero” in 1945. A picture of the USS Morrison is hanging in the Lansingburgh Branch Library.
John Gordon Morrison (1842-1897)
Cypress Hills Cemetery, Brooklyn
Civil War Diary of John G. Morrison
“The Mystery of the ‘Looted Civil War Book’ – Solved.” The Jesuit Provenance Project: Uncovering the History Behind Loyola University Chicago’s First Library Catalogue. April 13, 2014.https://jesuitlibrariesprovenanceproject.com/2014/04/13/the-mystery-of-the-looted-civil-war-book-solved/
☞ CHANGES IN THE POLICE.—We regret to learn that John G. Morrison, and Alexander Gillespie, two of the most popular and efficient members of the Capital Police force of this village, have resigned their situations, and intend to engage in the business of brush manufacturing. The gentlemen referred to, sent in their resignations to the Commissioners last Friday. Mr. G. will go to Boston, and he in the employ of Mr. White, a prominent brush manufacturer at that place, (who has also a manufactory at Portland, Maine,) and Mr. Morrison will remain in this village.
The places of the policemen named will probably be supplied by Robert Rae and James Flynn, both returned volunteers from the United States service, and who will, no doubt, exert their best endeavors to fill the places of their predecessors.
Lansingburgh Weekly Chronicle. November 7, 1865: 3 col 1.
☞ LANSINGBURGH—NEW HOSE CARRIAGE—POLICE APPOINTMENT.—A project is on foot to organize a new hose carriage company to be called the “Ed. Tracy hose company.” Mr. Tracy has subscribed liberally. It is in the hands of several young and respectable men of the village, and ought to meet with success.—Mr. Brady, one of the best men on the police force, has been compelled to resign on account of ill-health. Last night the Police Commissioners appointed in his stead John G. Morrison, better known as “Sebastopol,” he having fought [in the Crimean War] in the French army at the taking of the Malakoff tower [September 8, 1855] under the gallant French commander [Pierre] Bosquet, in which he received several flesh wounds. He also fought [in the Second Italian War of Independence] in the battle of Magenta [June 4, 1859], and consequently ought to make a good policeman.
Troy Daily Times. December 8, 1871: 3 col 1.
Ribbon and Knot, Just Authorized, for the Army Only—Bluejackets Forgotten.
Medal-of-honor men who served in the navy in the civil war will not get the official ribbon and knot authorized by the last Administration to be worn with the medal of honor. In January Thomas E. Corcoran, who received his medal from Gideon Welles before the war was over, wrote to the War Department for the ribbon and knot which he understood was to be issued. Secretary Lamont returned the letter with the indorsement, “For the army only.”
This bit of information will amaze the bluejackets who won the medal of honor, and for whom it was originally designed. There seems to be a general agreement among the later recipients of the medal to disregard the fact that others before them got the medal. It is commonly accepted that the medal of honor for the army was first established as a reward for military service by a law approved July 12, 1862. But nearly a year before this the Navy Department had provided for the decoration of its brave men, and there are at least five or six of these men in New York to-day who hold this first of all medals of honor. […]
“I was showing my medal of honor to some of the old boys once,” said John G. Morrison, “when a young fellow who stood near said: “What did you do to get it—hold the captain’s horse?” I looked at him for a minute or two and said: ‘Yes, I guess so—something of the sort.’ You see, people haven’t the slightest conception of what such a thing means. When we old fellows get together we go over our war days, but most of us are getting less and less talkative to folk generally.”
Morrison lives at No. 256 Henry street. He holds a small position at the Barge Office. He has a family to inherit his honors, but he doesn’t seem at all fond of relating his war achievements. His grandfather came from Ireland to America, but his father lived in the old country, and Morrison himself was born there. He was brought to this country when two or three years old. Having served in the navy before the war, the spring of 1861 found Morrison living in Lansingburg, near Troy.
“I enlisted in the Thirtieth New York Volunteers on April 25,” said Morrison. “I served two years in that regiment, and got my discharge. About that time the navy wanted men, and as I had some experience of the kind, I enlisted in the navy, expecting to go out upon the blue again. But I was sent to the yellow, as you might say, for it was to the Mississippi and the Western flotilla. In July, 1862, I was serving on the gunboat Carondelet, which was commanded by Henry Walke, the retired rear admiral who died last year in Brooklyn. I was captain of two guns on the Carondelet, one of them a broadside gun and the other a stern gun.
“On the 15th of July we were in the Yazoo River, and having a hot fight with the rebel ram Arkansas. She was built like the Merrimac, and we were no match for her. We were so close to her that the muzzles of her guns rubbed the paint off the muzzles of ours. We could look straight into her portholes as we fired. One of her shots passed through thirteen beams of our gunboat. After we had swung beyond the Arkansas the stern guns were the only ones we could fight with. One of these had been made useless by a rattled gunner, and had to be thrown overboard. That left only the gun I was working. It was pretty bloody around there. A man stood by my side, with his hand on the small of my back, peering through the port hole. A shot came in and took his head clean off. At one time the commander put his head in the room and said: ‘They are calling to me to surrender.’ ‘Don’t you do it!’ I yelled. ‘Blow her up first.’
“Soon the rattle sounded for boarders. I was captain of the detail, and stood on the plank behind Commander Walke. He had pulled his coat off and had a big East Indian scimeter in his right hand and a navy revolver in his left. I wore a handkerchief around my head and a pair of pants. The commander had a wig on, and as I stood there behind him, what do you suppose I was thinking of? Well, his wig was on hind side fore. I noticed that and nothing else, and I can see it now. We walked the plank and boarded the ram, but couldn’t get into her. Every means of entrance was closed down tight with her iron shutters. So we had to return. As the Carondelet slid by the Arkansas I ran below and fired every gun that was loaded, the stern gun last. Years after I heard from the gunner on the Arkansas, who wanted to meet ‘that naked gunner with the red mustache on the Carondelet that he saw firing the last shot.’
“During the fight a shot from the ram had gone through one of our boilers and the escaping steam scalded many of our men. In one of the other boats on the Western service a negro gunner was sitting on a board over a bucket of water when a shell came through the open port, met an obstruction and stopped near him. He saw that it hadn’t exploded and picked it up and shoved it in the pail and sat down upon it. What do you suppose I have heard men say when they were told of that? Why, that the ‘damned […] didn’t know any better.’
“Well, I came through that fight, and, in fact, the whole war, without a scratch. I was recommended by the old man (as Morrison lovingly called his old commander) for a medal of honor, and I got it in 1865. In the meantime my term expired, and I enlisted in the Twenty-first New York cavalry and served to the end of the war. The old man told me one day that the ram of the Arkansas was in the Brooklyn Navy Yard marked ‘Mississippi.'” […]
A bill has been introduced in Congress to give the navy medal winners the right to wear the ribbon and knot, and also to confer upon officers and enlisted men of the navy the medal for specific deeds of bravery in the War of the Rebellion.
New York Press. April 11, 1897: 16.
The thick mists which hung over the city during the early morning prepared those who had been looking forward to the enjoyment of a day of recreation, for the rain which followed later. The morning trains brought fewer visitors to the city than usual, owing in part to the threatening weather and in part to the many counter attractions, such as excursions and entertainments arranged for at neighboring points. […]
The order of parade was as follows: […]
NINTH DIVISION […] John G. Morrison.
“Memorial Day Observance; More and More Devoted to Sports and Recreation.” The Evening Post [NY]. May 31, 1897: 1 col 3.
John G. Morrison, a veteran of the war, is dead at his home, 256 Henry street, this city. He was born in Ireland 60 years ago and came to this country when he was a boy. He joined the Thirty-second Regiment of New York Volunteers in 1861. He was with McDowel’’s Corps until 1862, when he was transferred to the Mississippi squadron. He was on the gunboat Carondelet with Admiral Walks when she ran the batteries of New Madrid and Island No. 10. He received a medal for his gallantry on this occasion. At the expiration of his term of enlistment he re-enlisted in the Twenty-first New York Cavalry. He served with Sheridan in his Shenandoah campaign, and was with his regiment at Appomattox when Lee surrendered. He was Commander of Adam Goss Post, G. A. R. He had been a watchman at the Barge Office for many years.
“Obituary Notes.” The Sun [NY]. June 12, 1897: 3 col 4.
Craft Will Bear Name “Morrison,” Lansingburgh Resident; Ceremony at Seattle, Wash.
A powerful new destroyer which will bear the name of a Trojan who was both a soldier and a sailor in the Civil War will be launched, appropriately enough, on Independence Day, Sunday, at Seattle, Wash.
The fighting craft will be named “Morrison” in honor of John G. Morrison of Lansingburgh.
Mr. Morrison was cited for bravery while a coxswain on the Union gunboat “Carondelet.” He distinguished himself with confederate boats on the Mississippi River.
The new destroyer will be christened by the late hero’s daughter, Miss Margaret Morrison, of 9 Hasbrouck Place, Rutherford, N. J.
The launching will be at the yards of the Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Co.
Mr. Morrison worked as a young man in the Flynn & McMurray brush factories in Lansingburgh. […]
He was married to Margaret Ann McCabe of Schaghticoke and Lansingburgh at St. Augustine’s Church in 1859. They had five children.
The Morrisons remained in Lansingburgh until 1876 when they moved to New York, where Mr. Morrison became a member of the U. S. Customs staff. He died in 1897.
Mrs. Morrison was a sister of Frank McCabe, who was a chief of police in Lansingburgh before its incorporation with Troy and who will probably be recalled by some of the real old timers.
Times Record. July 1, 1943: 13 col 2.
Troy Resident Survives As Jap Suicide Plane Sinks U.S. Destroyer Morrison
Jap suicide planes sank the destroyer Morrison, whose loss with that of the destroyer Luce, the Navy announced Monday, with heavy loss of life but among those rescued from the shark-infested waters off Okinawa was Fireman 1/c Donald Lajeunesse, 18, of Russell Court, R. D. 2, Troy.
Lajeunesse, son of Mr. and Mrs. Alcide Lajeunesse, comes from the same section of the city as did John [G.] Morrison, of Civil War fame for whom the destroyed was named.
Lajeunesse, who has arrived home with nothing worse than a bad case of “survivor jitters” said that the Morrison went down within two minutes of the time the first suicide plan struck the deck and exploded. Its captain, the gallant “old man” who had remained with his ship, floated off as the Morrison disappeared from sight and “swam like hell” to join his crew.
“Captain Hansen had on his life belt, his binoculars and even a helmet,” Lajeunesse said, “he paddled around in the water for the whole five hours before we were rescued cracking jokes and helping men who began to get discouraged. He said to us, ‘I’ve had my feet wet before but this was the quickest work I’ve ever seen.’ We figured that from the time the destroyer began to sink until it disappeared was only 32 seconds.” […]
Lajeunesse had been on the Morrison in the invasions of Enewietok, Saipan, Guam, Peleliu, Hollandia, the liberation of the Philippines. He helped rescue men from the Princeton when she was lost in Leyte Gulf last fall.
“Since I saw what happened to the Princeton,” he said, “I’d gone over in my mind every day exactly what to do if the Morrison was hit. I just acted subconsciously I guess when it came and saved myself.”
Lajeuesse is a former carrier for The Record Newspapers. He is the nephew of Arthur Wood of Rochester, former member of the editorial staff of The Times Record.
The Morrison was named for John G. Morrison of Lansingburgh who fought as both soldier and sailor in the Civil War. Miss Margaret Morrison of Rutherford, N. J, christened it on July 4, 1943, at Seattle, Wash.
Troy Record. June 6, 1945: 4 cols 5-7.