Dubuque County IAGenWeb  

What's New


Join Our Team





William H. Morhiser

16th Iowa Volunteer Infantry


Compiled and transcribe and contributed by Ron Seymour


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 front.


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 direction.


The Commander of the 16th Infantry, Colonel Alexander Chambers wrote later of the regiment’s involvement at the Battle at Shiloh:

“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 the business..”


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.


back to Dubuque home