WOUNDED AT SHILOH IN THE 5th TENNESSEE INFANTRY! POSSIBLE LATER SERVICE UNDER FORREST!

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Item Code: 1139-30

This sixth-plate ruby ambrotype is housed in Holmes, Booth and Hayden thermoplastic case with floral designs. The soldier wears a slouch hat and gray coat more closely following CS 1861 uniform regulations than you usually see. He is identified in period pencil inscription inside the case, and was wounded in action at Shiloh while serving in the 5th Tennessee and may have served later with Forrest.

He wears a slouch hat pushed back slightly so as not to shade his face and holds one arm across his lower chest. His frock coat clearly shows two rows of seven buttons each, the pattern for enlisted men in early CS regulations, but seldom seen in practice. The cuff on his raised arm bears three buttons and seems to be darker than the rest of the coat, but we cannot be sure of that and see no indication of a cuff edge that would show from fabric with a branch of service color being applied, so that might be too much to ask for. He was certainly unusual in getting a uniform that close to regulation. The photographer has tinted the buttons and a brass belt buckle of some sort showing underneath his coat, in both cases obscuring details.

The paper maker’s label inside the case has the period addition in pencil, “L.A. Morphis.” The only candidate is L.A. Morphis of Tennessee, who enrolled for one year’s service at Paris, Henry County on 20 May 1861 in a company commanded by W.E. Travis, which became Company I (and later Co. B) of the 5th Tennessee Infantry. His full name is not given, but seems to have been Leonard Alexander Morphis (1829-1899.) There were several Morphis family members in Henry County and one county history confuses him with W. A. Morphis, apparently a brother, but CS records are clear that it was L.A. who signed up in Travis’s company. Muster rolls are fragmentary, but show him on a sick furlough on August 9, but in the ranks at the Battle of Shiloh, where the regiment fought in Stewart’s brigade on both days of battle. Morphis suffered a gunshot wound and was captured on April 7, 1862, the second day. US prisoner records list him as 30 years old (close enough to his real age) 5’9” with blue eyes, dark hair and light complexion. He was sent to a USA General Hospital in Cincinnati on May 5 (listed as Moffis,) spent some time in Camp Chase, and was then sent to Vicksburg for exchange aboard a U.S. steamer with 1019 other CS prisoners. He was officially exchanged at Aikens Landing on November 11 and does not seem to have returned to the regiment. Records mention his wound as severe, but conflict on whether he was “sent home” or “deserted.” Most likely he was sent home to recover with one bunch of subsequent record keepers only being aware that he was suddenly not accounted for on the muster rolls.

He may, however, have seen subsequent service under Forrest in the Tennessee cavalry. A “Lenard Morphis” enlisted 27 July 1863 in Company B of Newsome’s Regiment of Cavalry. The unusual name makes it an unlikely coincidence. The regiment originally consisted of six companies, but was consolidated and redesignated several times, serving in Bell’s brigade under Forrest, fighting at Brice’s Crossroads, and other engagements, eventually surrendering with the Department in May 1865. Unfortunately, we find no specifics on Morphis’s service in the unit after a record of him present on the November 1863 muster roll.

He survived the war and is recorded on a Henry County legal document of some sort in 1866, but seems to have moved to Texas not long after and then on to Missouri. One genealogical site says he was an actor or artist, but we find him as a farmer, married, with at least four children. He died in Missouri 7 April 1899.

The image has minor spotting on the left, but only a couple of small spots touch the figure. The clarity and detail are very good. Tennessee Confederates are not easy to find, a Shiloh casualty is very scarce, and the likelihood of subsequent service with Forrest makes this especially desirable.

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