Walter Goodale Morrill

Walter Goodale Morrill
Walter G. Morrill
Born (1840-11-13)November 13, 1840
Williamsburg, Maine, U.S.
Died March 3, 1935(1935-03-03) (aged 94)
Pittsfield, Maine, U.S.
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Union Army
Years of service 1861–1865
Rank Lieutenant Colonel
Unit 6th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment
20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment
Battles/wars American Civil War
  Second Battle of Rappahannock Station
  Little Round Top at the Battle of Gettysburg
Awards Medal of Honor

Walter Goodale Morrill (November 13, 1840 – March 3, 1935) was a Union Army officer in the American Civil War and a recipient of the U.S. military's highest decoration, the Medal of Honor, for his actions at the Second Battle of Rappahannock Station in November 1963. Also, Morrill's earlier actions in July 1963 at Gettysburg are considered essential for the famous Union victory on Little Round Top.

Morrill was raised in Williamsburg, Maine. In 1861 the age of 20, he enlisted as a sergeant in Company A, 6th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment. A year later he was commissioned as an officer in Company B, 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment. He was promoted several times, ultimately to lieutenant colonel. He mustered out on June 4, 1865.[1] His Medal of Honor citation states:

At Rappahannock Station, Va., November 7, 1863, this officer, then captain in the Twentieth Maine Volunteers, and on duty with skirmishers in advance of the Fifth corps, learning that an assault was to be made on the enemy's fortifications by troops of the Sixth corps, those present called for volunteers from his own command to unite with the storming party. With those volunteers, some fifty in number, he joined the Sixth Maine regiment and charged it. The enemy's works were carried with bayonet, four guns, eight battle-flags, and 1,300 men were captured, and Captain Morrill was specially mentioned in the official reports of the Corps and Division commanders."

- Medal of Honor Citation[2]

Of his action at Little Round Top, Captain Howard L. Prince[3], former 20th Maine quartermaster-sergeant, considered Captain Morrill the coolest man in the regiment — a man who had no superior on the skirmish line. Morrill led his unit at the decisive point of the bayonet charge without orders. His contingent created the impression of two regiments rushing through the woods, though it consisted only of 44 Company B soldiers and 14 U.S. Sharpshooters. It was Morrill's group of Union soldiers that Confederate Captain William C. Oates believed caused panic in his Confederate soldiers. Without Morrill’s up-front leadership, Joshua Chamberlain’s famous bayonet attack, often credited for saving Little Round Top and Gettysburg from defeat, probably would have been spoiled and pushed back by Oates men.[4]

Of Little Round Top, Captain Oats said,

His [Col. Chamberlain's] skill and persistency and the great bravery of his men saved Little Round Top and the Army of the Potomac from defeat.

[If one more Confederate regiment had stormed the far left of the Army of the Potomac with the 15th Alabama,] "...we would have completely turned the flank and have won Little Round Top, which would have forced Meade's whole left wing to retire." Oats concluded that "great events sometimes turn on comparatively small affairs."[5]

References

  1. Historical Data Systems, American Civil War Soldiers (Electronic database at http://www.ancestry.com).
  2. Maine Cavalry (1897). The Maine bugle, Volumes 4-5. Main association.
  3. http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/hlprince.htm
  4. https://www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/defense-little-round-top
  5. Oates, William C. The War Between the Union and the Confederacy and Its Lost Opportunities. Dayton, OH: Morningside Bookshop, 1974. OCLC 1199018. First published 1905 by Neale Publishing Co. pp. 216, 219.


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