Private Adophus Morse

MORSE, ADOLPHUS.-Age, 18 years. Enlisted at Homer, to serve three years, and mustered in as private, Co. F, October 21, 1861; died, September 24, 1864, at Fort Jefferson, Florida.

Morse is mentioned in Uberto Burnham's letter about the Execution of Winslow Allen. Fort Jefferson, now part of the Dry Tortugas National Park, was begun in 1846 but remained unfinished at the time of the Civil War. It was used as a prison during and after the war, and is best known for being where some of the Lincoln Conspirators, notably Dr. Mudd, were held.

From the Regimental History, page 274:  "It should have been mentioned that Adolphus Morse, of Company F, was tried for desertion, and sentenced to be shot on the twenty-seventh of November; but through the exertion of Hon. R.H. Duell, and the writer [A. P. Smith], his sentence was suspended by President Lincoln on the twenty-fifth, and afterwards commuted to imprisonment at hard labor, in Fort Jefferson, Florida, where he subsequently died."

The following affidavits were given by Smith, Duell and others in the effort to have Morse's sentence commuted. 
Our thanks to Robert Morss of the Morse Society for providing the link to these affidavits 
from the Library of Commerce's American Memory Project - the affidavits are in the Lincoln Papers database

Affidavit by Daniel B. Morse
(Adolphus Morse's brother)

State of New York
Cortland County

On this 23d day of November 1863, before the undersigned a Justice of the Peace duly authorized by law to administer oaths within aforesaid county, personally appeared Daniel B. Morse of Homer in said county, aged 24 years, who being duly sworn says: That he was late a private in Co. H, 157th Reg. N.Y. Vols., and was honorably discharged near Alexandria Va. Dec. 28th 1862 for disability incurred in the service in the line of his duty. That he is the brother of Adolphus Morse private in Co. F, 76th N.Y. Vols. That the letter attached to the affidavit annexed of Daniel Morse was received on Saturday evening Nov. 21st 1863. That deponent was present when said Adolphus enlisted into said 76th Regiment under Joseph Galt. That it was then expressly promised by said Galt that if said Adolphus did not get a non-commissioned office said enlistment should be void and his name stricken from the rolls of said company. That said agreement & promise was used & made both to said Adolphus to induce him to enlist & his & deponent's father to induce him to give his consent & he enlisted on that condition.

Deponent further says he lives near his father & saw said Adolphus after he came home from the 76th Reg. That he worked openly at home about six months without any effort at concealment, and deponent heard said Adolphus assert & claim on different occasions that he had a right to come home from said regiment because they had not done by him as they agreed & that he would have staid with said regiment if they had done by him as they agreed to at the time of his enlistment.

Deponent further says his said brother was not far from 18 years of age when he enlisted in the 76th Reg. and could neither read nor write, and deponent verily believes that the desertion of said Adolphus was in consequence of his misapprehension of his rights growing out of the agreement made with him at the time of his enlistment as aforesaid & his general ignorance of his rights & duties, and not of any desire to avoid the service of his country.

Deponent further says he has lost one brother in the service in the 12th Reg. N.Y. Vols., and his own health has been seriously impaired in the service & he prays the clemency of the President to save his family the disgrace of having one of its members shot for deserting the flag of his country.

Subscribed and sworn this 23d day of November 1863 before me
Justice M. Pierce, Justice of the Peace

Daniel B. Morse

Affidavit of Daniel Morse
(Adolphus Morse's father)

State of New York
Cortland County

On this 23d day of November 1863 before the undersigned a Justice of the Peace duly authorized by law to administer oaths within aforesaid County personally appeared Daniel Morse of Homer in said County aged 58 years who being duly sworn doth depose and say:

That he is the father of Adolphus Morse a private of Company F 76th Regiment N.Y. Vols. That on Saturday Evening Nov. 21st he received the annexed letter from the said Regiment.

Deponent further says that hsi said son Adolphus first enlisted in the 12th Reg. NY Vols and remained in said Regiment nearly three months when he was honorably discharged for disability, having had a fever, the measles & deponent believes the chronic diarrhea. That when he thus enlisted he was not over 17 years of age. That when the 76th Reg. N.Y. Vols was raised, said Adolphus enlisted therein, with the express understanding with the recruiting officer who obtained his signature, viz. Joseph Glat, that if said Adolphus would so enlist he should have a non-commissioned office. That said Galt so informed deponent when he came for the signature of deponent to the consent for said enlistment, and as an inducement to deponent to give said consent & said Galt thus declared, and said Adolphus enlisted on that condition, that if he did not get such office, said Adolphus should be discharged and his name stricken from the rolls. That deponent supposed and it was thus talked with said Adolphus, that said Glat being the recruiting officer had that power & that he would do as he declared & the enlistment aforesaid would be void & of no effect if said Adolphus did not get said office.

That when said Adolphus came home he stated to deponent that he had a right to com as they had not given him the office as they had promised. That he remained at home, openly at work not attempting to conceal himself, for upwards of six months, all the time believing as deponent believes that he had a right to come away, because the officer had not performed his part of the contract. That deponent permitted him to remain with that understanding.

Deponent further says that when said Adolphus enlisted he could neither read nor write & deponent believes that if his sentence could be commuted, the lesson said Adolphus has already had would be a wholesome restraint upon him & he would make a faithful soldier.

Deponent further says he has lost one son* in the service of the United States against this wicked rebellion, and had another son** ruined in health therein & thus honorably discharged from the service & he prays that the interposition of Execution Clemency to save the disgrace of having a son shot for desertion. He can afford his sons for the bullets of the rebels not those of his Country.

Deponent cannot believe that the facts appeared before the court martial as if they had his son would never have received the sentence of death.

Subscribed & sworn before me this 23d day of November 1863
Justin M. Piper, Justice of the Peace

Daniel Morse

* - The East Homer Cemetery Civil War memorial stone shows a "D. Morse, 12th Regt. NYV, died June 24, 1861, aged 20 years." This might be a David Morse, by personal communication from Robert Morss of the Morse Society. Some references list a "Daniel Morse" as having been in the 12th NY, but given that Adolphus' brother Daniel served in the 157th, and was alive in 1863, that would seem unlikely.  

** - Daniel B. Morse, who gave the affidavit above. 

Affidavit of various Homer Citizens

State of New York
Cortland County

Be it known that on this 23 day of November 1863, before the undersigned a Justice of the Peace duly authorized to administer oaths in aforesaid County, personally appeared Charles M Clark, Geo J.J. Barber; Dan'l E (obscured) Ross John Fowler, Joseph Jones, William Andrews, Jedidiah Barber, J. M. Glenny; I. D. Chollar, L. Furguson; George M. Bradford, Oliver Glover, A. S. Merrill, H. Galbraith, Homer L. Hitchcock, E. Burnham, A.W. Clark, Philo Jones, E.H. Patterson, A. Jones, I.W. Brown, W. R. Smith, W. H. Cobb, O. S. Storrs,

Residents of said County, who, being duly sworn each for himself says that he is acquainted with Adolphus Morse a private in Co. F. 76th Reg. N.Y. Vols. And was thus acquainted with him previous to his enlistment as aforesaid. That he lived in Homer where deponents reside, at the time of his enlistment, that he was thus not far from 18 years of age as deponents believe from his appearance and their acquaintance with him. That his character was good. That deponents are credibly informed and believe that when he enlisted said Aldolphus Morse could not write his name, and they understand and believe that his desertion for which deponents are informed he is under sentence of death, took place under a misapprehension of his rights and duties, owing in great part to his youth and general want of understanding.

Deponents further say that they are acquainted with Daniel Morse the father of said Adolphus. That he is a farmer in said town of Homer & has been for about forty years last past. That he is a respectable citizen and loyal to the government of the United States, that he has had one son die in the service of the United States during the present rebellion, and another who belonged to the 157th N. Y. Vols who became disabled by disease in such service and was honorably discharged.

Subscribed & Sworn before me this 23d day of November 1863
Justin M. Price, Justice of the Peace

Uni. H. Patterson
Newell Jones
Isaac W. Brown
Wm R. Smith
O. S. Storrs
A. M. Gray
S. Voight
Almay Stebbins
C. M. Slocomb
Larnico Vandalyson
Wm Blaney
A Gignar
J B Wilber

Charles M Clark, Depty lesll Clms R... (unreadable)
Geo J.J. Barber, Post Master
William Anacris(?), Commisner of the Board of Enlistment, 29 sect(?) New York
Jedididiah Barber
J M Glenny
Thomas D. Chollar
S Ferguson
Geo. N. Bradford
J. M Pierce
Alvin Glover
Austustus S Merrill
George Ross
John Lowley
Humphrey Galbreth
Elispher Burnham
A. W. Clark
Joseph Young
Phila Jones

Affidavit of Colonel Nelson W. Green

State of New York
Cortland County

On this 23d day of November 1863, before the undersigned a County Clerk duly authorized by law to administer oaths within & for said County personally appeared Nelson W. Green a resident of Cortlandville in said County, who being duly sworn doth depose and say. The he was Colonel of the 76th Reg. NY Vols at the time hereinafter mentioned. That he was acquainted with Adolphus Morse a private in Company F in said Regiment. That deponent saw his discharge from the 12th Reg. N.Y. Vols. And in consideration of this fact that he had been in the service and was supposed to be somewhat acquainted with the drilling of men, said Adolphus was promised a sergeancy if he would enlist in the said 76th Regiment. That deponent consent to his being made a sergeant. That said Adolphus Morse was a faithful boy while deponent was with said regiment.

N. W. Green

Subscribed & Sworn this 23d day of November, 1863
D. C. McGraw, Clerk


Affidavit of Sarah Green

State of New York
County of Cortland

On this 23d day of November 1863 before the undersigned Clerk of Cortland County duly authorized to administer oaths personally appeared Sarah Green a resident fo Truxton in said County who being duly sworn doth depose and say that she is 53 years of age, that she has always known Adolphus Morse a private in the 76th Reg. N.Y. Vols from his infancy. That he was always a boy of good character and his family are all respectable people. That his father is a very old resident of the town of Homer. That Adolphus' mother's health is poor.

Deponent further says that after said Adolphus returned from said 76th Regiment he came to the house of deponent and made a visit. That while there he stated several times that he should not have left said 76th Regiment if they had done by him as they agreed. That they had promised him an office & and inasmuch as they had not given him one they could not hold him.

Deponent further says that she has seen the parents of said Adolphus since they received the notice of his sentence & that she verily believes that if said sentence is carried into effect it will hasten the death of his said mother.

Deponent believes said Adolphus left said Regiment from a misapprehension of his rights & duties and not from a determination to avoid the service.

Sarah Green

Subscribed & Sworn to this 23d day of November 1863 before me
D. C. McGraw, Clerk.

Letter to the Friends of Adolphus Morse

Camp near Rapahanas Station Va
November 16th 63

To the friends of Adolphus Morse

You have doubtless heard before this Mr. Morse was sentenced to be shot for the crime of desertion but it will (unreadable) be a consolation to you to know that an effort has been made for his pardon but not knowing whether it will be granted or not he requested that some one of his friends comes to see him as soon as possible. The sentence was to be executed the 27th of this month.

From Adolphus Morse
By Daniel W. Grey(?)

Office U.S. Military Telegraphy
War Department

The following Telegram received at Washington 10:30 A M. Nov 25 1863
From Hdqs AP
Dated, Nov. 25 1863

The President

Your dispatch of today in relation to private Adolphus Morse 76 NY is received. The record will be forwarded by mail tomorrow.

Geo G Meade, MG

Letter from Duell and A.P. Smith to Abraham Lincoln

Washington DC
Nov 24th 1863

His Excellency Abraham Lincoln

Adolphus Morse a private in Co. F. 76th Reg. N.Y. Vols (now with said Regiment near Rappahanoc Station Va.) has been tried, convicted and sentenced to be shot on Friday Nov. 27th for desertion.

The papers herewith submitted show that when he enlisted in said Reg. he was scarcely 18 years of age and could neither read nor write. That he was enlisted on the express agreement that if he was not made a sergeant or other non commissioned officer he was not to be held but his name was to be stricken from the rolls and his enlistment to be void. That he staid a short time with the Regiment and deserted He returned home and worked openly with no effort at concealment for six months, asserting his right to do so, because the recruiting officer had failed to perform his part of the contract. That his father and family are respectable, loyal people, having lost one son in the service and always sustained a good character, and that in the opinion of numerous of the first citizens of his town. He deserted because of a misapprehension of his rights and duties, he being young and ignorant.

He would Respectfully request that he may receive a pardon at your hands or a commutation of his sentence.

We have the honor to be Your Excellency's obt servants.

R.H. Duell
M.C. 21st Dist. NY
A. P. Smith
Late Dist. Atty. Cortland Co. NY

I've been in communication with a genealogist at the Morse Society and she says that the 1850 census lists a large Morse family in Homer with nine children: "According to the 1850 census (Homer, Cortland County, NY dwelling 683, family 746), Hiram W. was 5 and Rodolphus/Adolphus was 7. So looks like Hiram may have lied about his age."

At this point we have as many as FIVE brothers from this family in the army:

Three for sure: Adolphus (76th), Hiram (76th), and Daniel B. (157th)

The shadowy "D. Morse" of the 12th NY, about whom Daniel B. Morse (157th) says: "he has lost one brother in the service in the 12th Reg. N.Y. Vols." Morse Society researchers say this "D. Morse" should be "David," but says "Daniel."

And finally, the fifth brother: Lewis M. Morse of the 76th. He enlisted in 1861 at 28 years of age in Homer. The Morse Society genealogist notes: "Lewis married a Charlotte Pender by about 1855 and lived in Homer, Cortland County, NY until he died after 1900. I have traced Lewis through the 1860, 1870, 1880, and 1900 censuses. He and Charlotte had seven children that I can name."

I'm researching the case in preparation for an article to be submitted to the Morse Society newsletter.

Best regards,
Robert Morss

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- Last Updated October 23, 2005