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John Tyler Morgan letter

Identifier: W-0131

Scope and Contents

This three-page, undated letter, written by Senator John Tyler Morgan to Alabama governor Joseph F. Johnston, discusses the political appointment of Major Barnard Goldsmith West to the staff of General Wheeler. Morgan commends West for his service "in times of civil strife in Alabama," and describes the process of transferring Major West from the Alabama state troop division stationed in Birmingham to General Wheeler's staff.

Although little information is available about West, it is possible that he served on General Joseph Wheeler's staff during the Spanish-American War and that this letter references his appointment to the staff. In a report from Santiago on July 7, 1898, General Wheeler commended members of his staff, writing that "Major West, my quartermaster, deserves special commendation for his energy and good conduct during the campaign."

Source: W. C. Dodson, Campaigns of Wheeler and his Calvary (Atlanta: Hudgins Publishing Company, 1899), 23.


  • 1896 - 1900


Conditions Governing Access


Biographical / Historical

John Tyler Morgan was born on June 20, 1824, in Tennessee. His family moved to Calhoun County, Alabama, in 1833. With little formal education at the age of twenty Morgan successfully passed the bar exam and opened a law practice in Talladega. He married Cornelia Willis in 1846, and the couple had one son. After moving to Selma, Alabama, in 1855, Morgan became an active political leader in the state, quickly gaining an appointment to the staff of William Lowndes Yancy. During the Civil War, Morgan was an outspoken supporter of the Confederate cause, who enlisted in the Confederate Army as a private and rose through the ranks to serve as brigader general. After the war, Morgan led the political push to reelect white Democrats and end Republican political control of the state. Morgan was appointed to a Senate seat in 1876, and after efforts to block his appointment, he took his seat in 1877. Morgan would occupy the Senate seat for the next thirty years, championing American expansion in Cuba and Hawaii and the construction of the Panama Canal. Morgan died in June 1907.

A banker, lawyer, and politician, Joseph F. Johnston was born on March 23, 1843, in North Carolina. In 1860, Johnston and his family moved to Talladega, Alabama. In 1861, the 18-year-old Johnston enlisted as a private in the Confederate Army. During his military service, he would rise to the rank of captain. After the war, Johnston moved to Selma, where he practiced law. In 1884, Johnston moved to Birmingham, Alabama, where he served first as the president of the Alabama National Bank and then became president of Sloss Iron and Steel. To answer the political challenge presented by the state's Jeffersonian Democrats, who proposed Populist reforms, Johnston ran for governor in 1896, proposing reforms that would benefit farmers. Johnston was elected and served two terms as governor, holding the office from 1896-1900, a time when the state faced significant political upheaval and the state's Constitution was rewritten. Johnston died on August 8, 1913.

Source: Encyclopedia of Alabama


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Language of Materials



An undated letter from Senator John Tyler Morgan to Alabama governor Joseph F. Johnston regarding the transfer of Major Barnard Goldsmith West from the Birmingham state troops to the staff of General Wheeler.

Physical Location

The A. S. Williams III Americana Collection, Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library, The University of Alabama


Gift of A. S. Williams III, 2010


Title on box: A. S. Williams III Americana Collection - Small Collections

Processed by

Haley Aaron, 2013



Guide to the John Tyler Morgan letter
January 2014
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Repository Details

Part of the The University of Alabama Libraries Special Collections Repository

Box 870266
Tuscaloosa AL 35487-0266