Symposium Spotlight: Jim Morgan

This week the Symposium Spotlight shines on Jim Morgan. Mr. Morgan’s study of the battle of Ball’s Bluff in the fall of 1861 has been widely recognized as the definitive work on the battle and it’s campaign since its release. Jim, our second speaker on Saturday morning at Fifth Annual ECW Symposium, will looking at a political turning point of the war, the creation of the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War. Mr. Morgan has sent along this tantalizing look at his upcoming presentation.

The Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War arose from a series of early-war Union defeats, most specifically as a result of the debacle at Ball’s Bluff.  The committee remained in existence for the entire four years of the war and investigated anything which its members chose to acknowledge.  This meant battles, individuals, business practices, army procurement, and navy construction, among other things.

It conducted its hearings in virtual secrecy and denied the subjects of its investigations even the most basic legal protections like the right to counsel and to cross examine those who made accusations against them.  It accomplished some good in terms of exposing fraudulent contacting but was a highly politicized body which seems to have viewed itself mostly as a mechanism for pressuring President Lincoln to conduct war as its members would have it conducted.

A lifelong Civil War enthusiast, Jim is a native of New Orleans, where his family eventually settled after “Morganza,” the family plantation some 40 miles upriver from Baton Rouge, was destroyed during the Civil War. His Civil War ancestors served in the Pointe Coupee Artillery, the 6th Louisiana Battery, and the 41st Mississippi Infantry.

Jim grew up in Pensacola, Florida, lived for 23 years in Loudoun County, Virginia, not far from the Ball’s Bluff battlefield, and recently moved to Charleston, SC. A former Civil War reenactor, he has done both Union and Confederate artillery and infantry impressions.

Jim Morgan

He is a past president of the Loudoun County Civil War Roundtable and was a co-founder and chairman of the Friends of Ball’s Bluff. He served on the Loudoun County Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee from 2009-15 and on the board of the Mosby Heritage Area Association from 2009-17. During that same period, he was a member of the Thomas Balch History and Genealogy Library advisory board.   

Jim’s tactical study of Ball’s Bluff, A Little Short of Boats: the Battles of Ball’s Bluff and Edwards Ferry, is widely considered to be the definitive work on that fight. He has written on various other Civil War topics for Civil War Times, America’s Civil War, Blue & Gray, and other periodicals. He is a contributing author to The Civil War in Loudoun County: A History of Hard Times and to Turning Points of the Civil War.

Jim retired in 2014 from the State Department where he held a number of positions in Washington and abroad, the last being Acquisitions Librarian for the Office of International Information Programs. He served in the US Marine Corps from 1969-71 and holds master’s degrees in Political Science from the University of West Florida and Library Science from Florida State University.


If you have not purchased your tickets for the Fifth Annual Emerging Civil War Symposium, you can find them, and all information about the symposium, here.

5 Responses to Symposium Spotlight: Jim Morgan

  1. A number of years ago my friends and I arrived at the Ball’s Bluff site just after the last guided tour ended. The kind Mr. Morgan gave us an after-hours tour in spite of our tardiness. We thanked him then and I thank him now.

  2. As a follow-up to the Civil War Round Tables convocation in Centreville in 2016, Mr. Morgan gave a splendid tour of Ball’s Bluff and then sold us the last of his books out of the trunk of his vehicle. I will be looking forward to his thoughts on the JCW.

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