As WPI reaches its Sesquicentennial, so does the American Civil War. The only civil war endured by the United States of America, it remains the deadliest war in our history and the citizens of Worcester were not immune to its many horrors. In spite of this tumultuous period, there were two WPI men that made major contributions to memorializing those who suffered during the Civil War. One hundred and fifty years after the Surrender at Appomattox, these contributions represent the vital role of memory in the still ongoing reconciliation between North and South. Materials from the Charles Hill Morgan Papers, University Publications, and Special Collections tell us more about these two dedicated engineers, Charles Hill Morgan, Founder and 12th member of the first Board of Trustees, and Harry E. Scott, class of 1899.
Charles Hill Morgan
Charles Hill Morgan moved his family to Philadelphia in 1860 to begin a new enterprise. The family had enjoyed residency in the bustling metropolis less than a year before the onset of the Civil War, beginning at the Battle of Fort Sumter. Due to his occupation as a manufacturer, 31-year-old Morgan was exempt from military service but still wanted to serve in some way. On July 1st of 1862, Charles Hill Morgan joined the New England Soldier’s Relief Association. This membership granted Morgan access to military hospitals where he would visit with the wounded and dying. Morgan purchased a diary to record his work with the Civil War wounded in November of that same year. At the time, Philadelphia was home to the two largest military hospitals in the nation; an estimated 157,000 soldiers would be treated in Philadelphia hospitals before the war’s end.
One such soldier was Worcester native Eugene Lebbeus Fay of the 15th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, which was almost entirely comprised of men from Worcester County. Morgan notes in his diary that 16-year-old Fay, a machinist, took residence in Bed Number 113 and entered the hospital on November 10th. The 15th Massachusetts lost over half of its men at the Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg) and an additional 206 men were wounded. Given Fay’s entry into the hospital in early November, his injuries were likely sustained during the conflict at Sharpsburg. In January of 1863, Fay was discharged from military service due to disability but tragically died a mere three years later of lead poisoning.
Harry E. Scott
Unlike Charles Hill Morgan, Tech man Harry E. Scott, class of 1899, made his contribution to the South: Stone Mountain, DeKalb County, Georgia, to be exact. As Chief Engineer of the Brown Hoisting Machinery Company in Cleveland, Ohio, Scott donated the machinery necessary to complete the Confederate Memorial Carving, an estimated $200,000.
The carving of the design, set within the largest solid body of granite in the world, began in 1916 when Mrs. C. Helen Plane, a charter member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), deeded the north face of the mountain. Plane envisioned a carving depicting Confederate soldiers mobilizing with their leaders. American artist John Gutzon de la Mothe Borglum was commissioned to perform the carving but abandoned the project a short two years later to begin working on Mount Rushmore. Several other sculptors took on the job but also abandoned the project. In 1972, the carving was finally completed by Roy Faulkner, whom later opened a museum about the carving’s history. The finished carving depicts three Confederate leaders of the Civil War, President Jefferson Davis and Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson with their favorite horses, “Blackjack”, “Traveller”, and “Little Sorrel”, respectively.
The 150th commemoration of the Civil War is now drawing to a close. On May 4th, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was laid to rest in Oak Ridge Cemetery, outside of Springfield, Illinois. Later that month, the remaining Confederate forces surrendered and the nation was officially reunited. The great struggle resulted in the deaths of over 620,000 Americans and an additional 50,000 surviving as amputees, marking the Civil War as the watershed moment in the development of prosthetics. The first documented soldier amputee was James H. Hanger, whom invented and received U.S. Patent No. 111,741 for the hinged leg prosthesis. It is clear that engineering was centrally positioned in the war but it was the engineers, like Hanger, Morgan, and Scott, that played an even greater part. Moved by personal experience, hearty spirit, or simply a yearning to serve their country, these men transcended the role of engineer and took on a more significant role, American history-maker.
Historical content shared in this blog post and other resources can be found in Curation, Preservation, and Archives, Gordon Library. For more information, please visit the Fellman Dickens Reading Room on the Ground Level or send an email to email@example.com.