Morrison, Joseph Wanton

Joseph Wanton Morrison, British Army officer and field commander, military figure in the War of 1812 (b at New York, NY, 4 May 1783; d at sea, 15 Feb 1826). Morrison was born in New York City under the British flag, where his father served as commissary-general of North America. Morrison was commissioned in the army just after his 11th birthday. His active service began four years later, when as a lieutenant, he saw action and was wounded at Egmond-aan-Zee in the Netherlands.

Morrison became a captain in 1800 and was made a major in the 2nd Battalion, 89th Foot in 1805. Morrison then transferred to the 1st West India Regiment, and became lieutenant-colonel in 1809. In 1811, following a brief period of service in Trinidad, Morrison returned to England and was back with the 89th Regiment. Morrison arrived in Halifax with his regiment on 13 October 1812 and in the following spring, proceeded to Québec.

Service in North America

During 1813, Morrison’s battalion was stationed principally at Kingston, Upper Canada, and on 7 November he received command of a “corps of observation,” sent to shadow the movements of Major General James Wilkinson’s army as it moved down the St. Lawrence River to Montréal. Morrison proved adept at this mission and defeated Wilkinson’s rear guard led by Brigadier General John Parker Boyd at Crysler’s Farm on 11 November 1813. Morrison received considerable praise for this action and was awarded an Army Gold Medal.

Morrison remained at Coteau du Lac during the winter months and participated in the raids on the Salmon River in February 1814. He briefly held command at Prescott during April and moved with his battalion to York and then the Niagara Peninsula. During the battle of Lundy’s Lane on 25 July 1814, Morrison led his battalion, which faced the brunt of the American attack, and was severely wounded. That December, he served as a member of the court martial board at Montréal that investigated the conduct of Major General Henry Procter at the Battle of the Thames.

Morrison’s Later Career

Morrison remained in the army after the war, but continued to suffer from his wounds, from which he never fully recovered. He returned to England in 1815 but went on half-pay in 1816, owing to his health. On 12 August 1819, Morrison was advanced to brevet colonel and took command of the 44th Regiment in Ireland. In June 1822, he took his battalion to India. In 1824, he was promoted to brigadier general in command of the south-eastern division of forces in India. During this time, he led a successful campaign against the Burmese at Arakan, during which Morrison took sick with malaria. He then asked to return home to recover, but he died at sea during passage from Burma to England in 1826.

Author: John R. Grodzinski

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