The Hardest Part of the Battle is the Getting into It

Sergeant Major Andrew Porter Morrison

Preface: This article originally appeared in 1999, and is credited to Dr. James Owston and Chris Rasmussen.

As he surveyed the carnage wrought by three days of battle, Sergeant Major Andrew (Andy) Morrison of the 9th Pennsylvania Reserves confessed on July 4, 1863: “I saw quite enough of the horrible.”

Twenty-six years later, Morrison and his companions returned to Gettysburg for the dedication of the ninth’s monument on September 11, 1889. Andrew, along with former Company A messmate, Eliakim (Ell) Torrance and Robert Taggart of Company C, addressed the crowd during the ceremony. At the gathering, Morrison served as the ninth’s historian recounting the incidents of the march north from Virginia to South Central Pennsylvania during that hazy June of long ago. After reflecting on the events of the summer of 1863, Andrew spoke of the harsh toll that time and the war had taken on the ranks of the eager but naive young men of the 9th who had left Pittsburgh during the summer of 1861, many never to return.

Ninth Pennsylvania Reserves Monument at Gettysburg. Photo by Leon Read

Andrew Porter Morrison was born November 2, 1829 on the Morrison family farm located in what was then known as Leechburg, Allegheny County. He was the fourth of six children born to Scotch-Irish immigrant John Morrison and his wife, the former Margaret Porter. In spring 1837, the family farm was sold and the Morrisons resettled in Monongahela, Washington County. Just months after the move, the forty-eight year old John Morrison passed away on October 16, 1837, leaving Andrew fatherless at the age of seven.

or the Morrisons, John’s death was the second tragedy to befall the family in the space of two weeks: James, the youngest member of the family, had died only ten days earlier. Despite, or perhaps because of these events, the Morrison family continued a close relationship throughout their remaining years.

Like his two brothers, Andrew attended Washington College in Washington PA. Following his graduation in 1849, he and his elder brother, Joseph S. Morrison, read law with Judge William McKennan. Beginning in 1852, this relationship continued until 1854 when the Morrison brothers established a law partnership in Pittsburgh. Like many of his fellow Western Pennsylvanians, Andrew got caught up in the war excitement following the Confederate bombardment of Fort Sumter; he quit his practice and enlisted as a private in the Pittsburgh Rifles. According to Torrance, the Rifles “were picked men, and it required as much influence to get into the ranks of that company as it did to hold a commission in many other organizations.” When the Rifles were chosen as one the “lucky six” companies to represent Allegheny County in the next call for troops, Morrison and his companions were mustered in on May 1, 1861.

As a lawyer, the dark complexioned Morrison was one of the more professionally advanced men in a company with an unusually high proportion of successful young men. Standing at five feet, eight inches, he was of average height.1 Company records describe him as having had no visible scars, with black eyes and hair. At the age of thirty-one, he was one of the elder recruits, as the Rifles contained only nine men over the age 30 – seven of those being enlisted men. On June 26, the Pittsburgh Rifles became Company A of the 9th Pennsylvania Reserve Volunteer Corps when that regiment was organized at Camp Wright by General George A. McCall. Andrew’s talents did not go unnoticed during the period following the regiment’s organization. When changes in Army regulations mandated eight corporals for infantry companies, Andrew became Company A’s eighth corporal On July 27. On the following day, he was mustered into federal service at Camp Jackson in Washington, DC.

Corporal Andrew P. Morrison, circa 1861-1862.

As a member of the 9th Reserves, Andrew participated at the Battle of Dranesville in 1861 and received commendation from his superiors for his actions. With the exception of Fredericksburg, he partook in all of the 1862 campaigns of the 9th. Following the Seven Days battles, he was promoted to Sergeant Major of the 9th at Harrisons’Landing on July 5, 1862. During the Maryland Campaign he was wounded in the groin at the battle of South Mountain on September 14, 1862. Along with other wounded from the 9th, he was taken to the Capitol Building in Washington. The Pittsburgh Daily Gazette of September 22, 1862 reported that, “Andrew Morrison, so well known in Pittsburgh, is also in the Hall of Representatives. He was from Sunday’s fight, as you know. His wound in the groin is painful. He is however doing well, and is very cheerful.”

Recovering from his injury, Andrew rejoined the 9th in 1863. The unit, then a part of the 22nd Corps of the Department of Washington, were serving in the defense of the nation’s capitol. (Following the Battle of Fredericksburg, the Reserves had been sent to Washington DC in order to rest and recruit.) When the Army of Northern Virginia moved north in June 1863, the first and third brigades of the Reserves were returned to the Army of the Potomac as part of the 5th Corps on June 24.

Crossing the Monocacy on June 28th, Andy and the 9th learned that the former commander of the Reserves, George G. Meade had replaced Joseph Hooker as commander of the Army. While many longed for the return of McClellan, Andrew and the Reserves had confidence in their new commander, and felt a pride that one of their own was now in charge. Arriving on the field at Gettysburg late in afternoon of July 2nd (just in time to ensure the futility of any further Confederate assaults against the Federal left), Andrew and the 9th spent July 3rd behind a stonewall between the Round Tops awaiting an attack that never came. While sickened by the human debris of yet another bloody field, Andrew still felt satisfaction in the accomplishments of the Army, recording in his diary ” . . . the great victory was won — the Army of the Patomac [sic] had — well it always did do its duty.”

When the Army passed within sight of South Mountain during Meade’s post-Gettysburg pursuit of Lee, Andrew’s mind drifted back to the previous summer’s events on that field. He wrote wistfully of a desire “. . . to have visited quietly the spot where I and so many of my friends were wounded.”

Gettysburg was the last battle for Andrew and would prove to be the last major campaign for the regiment. Many times the 9th were called to prepare for conflict which never came to fruition; Morrison astutely observed “the hardest part of the battle was the getting into it.” In a final show of his commander’s faith in Morrison’s ability, he was promoted to First Lieutenant of Company F on April 4, 1864. He was, however, never commissioned nor mustered at that rank. Their term of service having expired, Andrew, along with the rest of the regiment, was pulled out of the Wilderness on May 4, 1864 and sent home.

Upon his arrival back in Western Pennsylvania, Andrew resumed his prewar profession: the practice of law in Pittsburgh in conjunction his brother Joseph. This professional relationship continued until Joseph’s death in 1886. In September 1866, Andrew wed Rebecca S.H. Davis of Allegheny. After marriage, Andrew and Rebecca resided in Allegheny and were members of the North Presbyterian Church. Like all of Andrew’s siblings, the couple was childless. Upon Rebecca’s death in September 1877, Andrew returned to the Morrison family home at Monongahela City.

The Major, as Andrew was known, was active after the war in both veterans’organizations and the Presbyterian Church. He was a member of GAR Duquesne Post #259, and served as installing officer for the Starkweather Post #60 in Monongahela City. In Monongahela City, Andrew was a member the First Presbyterian Church, and upon his unanimous election as ruling elder by its membership, was ordained March 31, 1889.

During that same year, declining health and a diagnosed heart condition forced Andrew to withdraw from his law practice. He refused to accept any new clients while attempting to clear his docket of existing casework. On November 4, 1890, he was discovered lying unconscious on the floor before the fireplace in his Pittsburgh law office at 155 Fourth Street. Recovering consciousness, he was placed on a cot to await the arrival of his physician.

With death approaching, Andrew’s thoughts turned not to distant days of battle, but rather to his family and friends, telling fellow attorney C.E. McIlvain to “Tell Eliza and William, . . . that I am thinking of them now.” When the doctor arrived, Morrison aware of the gravity of his condition, announced, “This is the end, doctor, of which you spoke; I am dying now.” At 12:40 p.m., he died; his last words being, “My sister Eliza.”2

In announcing his death, the Monongahela Republican observed: “A. P. Morrison was a man of the highest type; the moral atmosphere which surrounded him was pure, the example which he set was helpful. He was an elder in the Presbyterian church, upright, honorable, courteous. His instincts were all gentle, his manner urbane, his friendship true as gold; his career was that of honorable manhood, respected citizenship, unquestioned morality and professional integrity.”

Chief Regimental Historian of the 9th Reserves at PRVCHS | + posts

Long time Civil War Enthusiast since early childhood. As a former resident of nearby Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I became interested in the 9th Pennsylvania Reserves and since then, have become engaged in researching the regiment and the men who served in it. I currently reside in Northern Virginia and work in Washington D.C.

James Owston
+ posts
  1. Information on height is available for 122 of the 130 men who were in Federal Service as members of the Rifles. Based on these figures, the average Company A soldier’s height was 5 feet, 8.06 inches.
  2. The William referred to by Morrison is likely Eliza’s husband William J. Alexander. At the time of Andrew’s death Eliza was Morrison’s only surviving sibling.