William H. Morhiser was born on March 28, 1844 the third of seven
children, and only son of Philip and Amelia Morhiser. Phillip was
one of the first settlers of the city of Dubuque, arriving in 1835
from Baltimore. He served several years as town Marshal before
setting up his own detective agency.
William was a student, several weeks shy of his 18th
birthday when he enlisted in the 16th Iowa Volunteer
Infantry on December 8, 1861. He was shown on his enlistment papers
as being a half inch over 5’9” tall with brown hair and hazel eyes.
On March 20th, the regiment left Camp McClellan at
Davenport and was steamed downriver to Benton Barracks in St. Louis.
There it was furnished with arms, ammunition and field equipment and
with limited opportunity for drills or instruction, was sent to the
On April 1, 1862 the 16th was ordered to proceed upriver
to Pittsburg Landing and report to General Grant. They arrived at
Shiloh on the morning of April 6th and the soldiers could
hear the roar of the battle as they were leaving the boat. Many
loaded their guns for the very first time and marched to the front,
passing many wounded and panicked soldiers heading the opposite
The Commander of the 16th Infantry, Colonel Alexander
Chambers wrote later of the regiment’s involvement at the Battle at
“From 9:30 to 10:30 A. M., the time
occupied in reaching the battlefield, we met more men
returning, of all arms, than belonged to the Fifteenth and
Sixteenth Regiments, but I must say, for the credit of the
State of Iowa, not one of her quota did I meet. On crossing an
open field, beyond which was the position of the rebels, two
of my command were wounded. My regiment was formed on the
right of this field in rear of a fence. I ordered the men to
lie down, when the greater part of the enemy's fire passed
harmlessly over us. I had, however, several wounded here.
“From this position the regiment was
ordered forward to the edge of timber, within close range of
the enemy, as many of my men were wounded at the same time by
both ball and buckshot. For nearly or quite an hour the
regiment held its ground against a much larger force of the
enemy, supported by artillery, when it was compelled to give
way before the destructive fire, or be captured. Word came
down the line that a retreat had been ordered. At this our
whole line gave way and became mixed up with other regiments.
My regiment…was posted in rear of a battery during the
remainder of that day and night, during which time those who
had become mixed with other regiments returned and reformed
with those under the Lieutenant Colonel, I having been wounded
in the hip joint, which was very painful and rendered me quite
lame. The next day the regiment held the same position in rear
of the battery during the fight…”
The 16th Iowa also fought in the battles of Corinth and
Iuka. Then near Corinth in late October, Morhiser came down with
“Malarial Typhoid Fever” brought on by what he described as “Unusual
exposure and hard service (with) about twenty (men) being obliged to
do the work of a company (100 men)…only swamp water to drink and no
shelter a good portion of the time.” He was sent to the camp
hospital until the 4th of November when he was moved to
the Tishomingo Hotel in Corinth, MI. that had been converted into a
hospital. By the end of November, Morhiser was finally sent to
Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis where he was discharged for
disability on March 10, 1863. His disability was described as
Endocarditis-an inflammation of the heart.
After all he had endured, most men would have returned to civilian
life confident they had done their duty. However, when William’s
father was appointed Captain of a company in the 8th Iowa
Cavalry in 1863, William went along “as clerk” since he was not
eligible to re-enlist. His actual duties included scouting for the
Regiment and he fought side by side with the rest of the troopers.
During the Atlanta Campaign he was captured on McCook’s raid on July
30, 1864 south of Atlanta and sent to the infamous Andersonville
Prison. He was moved during Sherman’s March to the sea and released
from Florence prison camp in Dec. 1864 and finally went home for
good in Jan. 1865. But five months in Rebel prisons did not help his
heart condition and added “chronic diarrhea” to the list of ailments
he would suffer the rest of his life.
Three years after the war ended, William married Miss Mary Anna
Cheetham on September 10, 1868 in Maquoketa. Two years later, a
daughter, Amy was born on July 4th, 1870. Three other
children born to the Morhisers died as infants.
William spent time in Springfield, Missouri where he studied
photography. He then moved to Wichita Falls, Texas for a few years
until moving back to Dubuque in 1876.
Two years later, he was awarded an “Invalid Pension” at half
disability for his aliments contracted during his war-time service.
The amount awarded was $4 per month.
In 1907 Congress passed legislation authorizing pensions for all
Civil War Veterans Morhiser sent in the paperwork. However when he
responded to a question on the application asking if he had been
employed in the military other than with the 16th
Infantry, he included his service with the 8th Cavalry.
He received a scathing letter from the Bureau of Pensions stating
“The records of the War Dept fail to show your name on the rolls of
Company G, 8th Iowa Cavalry”. He wrote back and explained
that his father was Captain of Company G, 8th Iowa
Cavalry and “…I was with him and Col. J. B. Dorr from Nov. 1863
until taken prisoner at Noonan, Ga. July ’64 but not enlisted and
for which service I never rec’d one cent of pay…” Morhiser explained
that the information “…must have been written by the attorney, and
as usual he has been too smart and mixed things up.” He was finally
awarded a $50 per month pension.
An article written of Morhiser’s photography business in the
late1800’s noted that his studio, located at 567 Main was “…equipped
with the latest and most improved facilities adapted to photography,
and he gives employment to a force of six highly trained artists,
doing a large business, covering the state and all the surrounding
country, a specialty being made of Cabinet Photographs, the
negatives being retouched by the best artists in Chicago, in which
department his work is unsurpassed in excellence. The thoroughness
of Mr. Morhiser’s knowledge of all the details of the business and
the care taken by him to insure the uniform superiority of all the
products of his establishment, have given to this studio a
popularity second to none in the city, and as a consequence his
patronage has steadily grown from year to year from the inception of
By 1900 Morhiser’s daughter, Miss Amy lived with her parents at 1133
Bluff and worked with her father in his photography studio, by then
located at 1073 Main St.
William’s wife, Mary died on Feb 22, 1903 and the following year, he
moved back to Wichita Falls, Texas. He lived there until his death
on January 20, 1926. His remains were brought back to Dubuque, his
funeral was held on January 24th and he was buried in
Linwood Cemetery. Another former Andersonville prisoner, E. H.
Dickinson was buried the same day using the same military escort and
the same honorary pallbearers from the Hyde Clark G.A.R. Post.