Quincy News

New grave marker for Civil War general to be dedicated Monday

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Nov. 8, 2019 12:10 am Updated: Nov. 8, 2019 12:20 am

QUINCY -- A 7-foot-high stone obelisk in Quincy's Woodland Cemetery marks the grave of James D. Morgan, a Civil War brigadier general who earned the affection of his troops for his toughness on the battlefield and his down-to-Earth humility.

While the stone marker continues to stand tall and proud, the wording on the monument has faded over time.

"The printing is very, very faint," explained Beth Young, a member of the Tri-State Civil War Round Table and the Historical Society of Quincy and Adams County.

Those two history-minded organizations have teamed up with Harrison Monuments to create an additional black-granite marker that will be placed near Morgan's grave to provide some long-lasting insights about the achievements of this military leader and prominent Quincy businessman.

The new marker will be dedicated at 2 p.m. Monday in conjunction with the national observance of Veterans Day. The public is invited.

The dedication program will feature some comments about Veterans Day by Roy Webb, a retired Army National Guard brigadier general who now serves as superintendent of the Quincy School District. Then Tim Jacobs, commander of the Tri-State Civil War Round Table, will talk about Morgan's life and the imprint he left on the Quincy community.

After that, the new marker will be unveiled; an American Legion Post 37 honor guard will offer a rifle salute; and Young -- an American Legion bugler -- will play taps.

This marks the fourth time in the past four years that the Civil War Round Table and the Historical Society have worked jointly with Harrison Monuments to create or update Woodland grave markers to help preserve the memory of notable Quincyans from the Civil War era.

Morgan was a pioneer Quincy businessman who went on to achieve fame for his military leadership in both the Mexican-American War and the Civil War.

According to Young and Jacobs, Morgan was 24 when he came to Quincy in 1834 from Boston and began operating a cooper shop, making barrels. He went on to help organize the "Quincy Grays," a local militia group.

When the Mexican-American War broke out in 1846, Morgan enlisted in the 1st Illinois Infantry and became a major, participating in several notable battles.

After the Civil War began in 1861, Morgan enlisted in the 10th Illinois Infantry. Because of his military and leadership experience, he quickly rose to the rank of general.

Then in July 1862 he was promoted to brigadier general.

His commission to that rank was signed by President Abraham Lincoln -- a document displayed inside the Historical Society's Lincoln Gallery in Quincy.

Morgan participated in a number of significant Civil War battles, including the conquest of Atlanta and the Savannah campaign, which was also known as Gen. William T. Sherman's "march to the sea."

The new marker to be unveiled Monday says Morgan was appointed major general "for valiantly leading a division at Bentonville," the site of a major battle in North Carolina.

Civil War author Shelby Foote described Morgan at Bentonville as "a workhorse type who had risen by hard fighting."

Jacobs said Morgan was "revered" by his men.

"He was the common soldier's general," Jacobs said. "There were stories in the Kentucky papers that said he would often be seen out with his men if they were building fortifications or were out on burial details."

In 1863, while in Nashville, a group of non-commissioned officers and privates from the 60th Regiment of the Illinois Volunteer Infantry gave Morgan a garnet-encrusted ceremonial sword as a token of their esteem. This sword was later donated to the Historical Society by Morgan's family and may be brought out to Woodland Cemetery to be used in Monday's marker-dedication ceremony.

After the Civil War came to an end in 1865, Morgan returned to Quincy. He spent the remainder of his life as a prominent businessman with many civic involvements. He died in 1896 at age 86.

Herald-Whig news archives show that a fire engine from Quincy's No. 2 station was named in Morgan's honor sometime after he returned home from the war.

When the great Chicago fire broke out on Oct. 9, 1871, an appeal was made to other Illinois cities for equipment and men. Quincy loaded the "General James D. Morgan" pumper onto a railroad flat car and dispatched it to Chicago with a hand-picked crew. It was put into use immediately at the lakeshore to help extinguish the disastrous fire.

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