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Andrew W. Drips


Posted By: S. Ferrall - IAGenWeb volunteer
Date: 5/3/2012 at 03:19:43

A Brief History of the Life and Military Services of Captain Andrew William Drips.

Complied for the Jackson County Historical Society by J. W Ellis Curator

In preparing a sketch of the life of Captain Drips, a pioneer of Iowa and a hero of two wars, we had material for much more space than we would be justified in claiming in our little booklet that our limited means permits us to publish. We are indebted to Mrs. M. A. Knight*, wife of A. W. Drips, for an account of the antecedents and early history of the Captain and are particularly indebted to Harvey Reid and his wonderful military scrap book from which we have been permitted to copy from letters written by members of Captain Drips company, showing their estimate of their gallant captain. The letters referred to were written to be read at a public meeting in Maquoketa. March 7th, 1887, wherein the exercises were commemorative of the 25th anniversary of the battle of Pea Ridge, where Drips was killed. The principal feature of the exercises was the presentation of the swords of Captains Drips and Kelsey to the Grand Army Post in Maquoketa.

Andrew William Drips was born in Laughlinstown, Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania. March 4th, 1826. His father was William Drips, a Pennsylvanian of Irish descent. His mother was Martha Clark, a Pennsylvanian of Scotch descent. They resided in Westmoreland county until 1850, when they came west and settled in Garnavillo township, Clayton county, Iowa. The father died at National, in an adjoining township, on the 18th of March, 1881, in the 92nd year of his age. He was a pensioner of the war of 1812 in which he did a gallant and meritorious service. The mother, Martha, died April 12th, 1874, in the 82nd year of her age. She was intelligent and learned, a lady of culture and refinement, a great reader, readily grasping the most difficult problems, hence a partner with that force and character which served her advantageously in shaping the lives and character of those committed to her care. Both were active and earnest Christians, the mother devoutly so in the administration of all the duties of life.

The children of William and Martha Drips were five sons and six daughters, all of whom lived to manhood and womanhood, save one, James, who died in early youth. Robert C. died in Garnavillo, Iowa, in 1856, at the age of 34 years. The surviving sons, Thomas, Andrew, Joseph and John, (the latter an adopted son), were in the Union army. (Corporal John F. was a member of Co. A 9th Iowa, and died in hospital at Memphis, Tenn., in the fall of 1862; Thomas was captain of Co. E, 27th Iowa, and died at Clayton, Iowa, from disease contracted in the service soon after the close of the war; Joseph H. survives, residing at Malone, Iowa, though nearly blind from his severe service as a member of the 6th Iowa Cavalry.

Andrew, the subject of this sketch, was educated and trained under the guidance of his mother in the common schools in Westmoreland county, Pa. At the age of sixteen he became apprenticed to O. A. Traugh, publisher of the Hollidaysburg (Blair Co., Pa.) 'Standard', to learn the art of printing, and with whom he remained until the breaking out of the war between the United States and Mexico, when he joined Capt. Dana's company, but on the arrival at Pittsburg, on accountt of ill health was rejected. Nothing daunting, however, he joined Capt. John W. Greary's Company B, 2nd Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, from Cambria county, in which he was accepted and mustered into the service. He served with honor and distinction to the close of the war. Was wounded in the thigh, receiving a flesh wound, in the charge upon the castle in the battle of Chepultepec, Sept. 12th, 1847, and laid in the hospital about six months.

With the close of hostilities he returned to Hollidaysburg, Pa., having been mustered out of the service at Pittsburg in the fall of 1848, and again entered the printing office where his apprenticeship began. Here he remained until the winter of 1851, when he obtained a situation with the State Printer at Harrisburg. He had learned phonography during his apprenticeship, and during the session of the Pennsylvania legislature he reported the proceedings of the lower house for the daily press, taking it down in shorthand and copying during the evening. In this art he was an expert and the year of his stay in Harrisburg furnished him ample opportunity to improve upon his knowledge in the use of phonographic characters and signs.

He was easy in military tactics and long before the Mexican war organized and commanded the Hollidaysburg Cadets, a company of young men about his own age. We believe that E. W. H. Jacobs, now residing at McGregor, and brother of the captain's wife, was one of the cadets. From 1849 to 1852 Capt. Drips commanded the Hollisdaysburg Guards, a company that enjoyed a high distinction in those days of general training.

March 21st, 1850, Mr. Drips was united in marriage to Miss Margaret Ann Jacobs, at Hollidaysburg, Penn. Her parents were Alexander Jacobs and Dorcus Van Devander. The father died Oct. 21st, 1852, the mother preceeding him to the grave March 12th, 1841. The father was of English descent, a pensioner of the war of 1812. The mother was of Holland descent, a lady of rare attainments, a mind rich in knowledge, a soul imbued with devotions to every Christian principle.

Andrew and Margaret came west in April, 1852, and settled in Garnavillo township, where Mr. Drips was employed as a copyist in the county recorder's office, the county seat of Clayton county being then at Garnavillo. Jan. 28th, 1853, N. S. Granger established the Clayton County Herald, and Mr. Drips was employed as its publisher, in which capacity he served until Aug. 18th, 1854, when he succeeded to the proprietorship of the paper, and continued to publish the Herald until in 1856 when the county seat was removed to Guttenberg, and he packed his bit of printing and followed. Here he remained tor two years in the publication of the Herald, when better opportunities presented themselves, and he sold out to McBride & Co., and took up his residence at Maquoketa, in Jackson county, where he obtained an interest in the Maquoketa Excelsior. With this paper he remained until the date of his enlistment into the service of the United States, in answer to the call for 300,000. He was also postmaster at Maquoketa, and upon his entering the military service of the government, he was succeeded by his wife who conducted the office until October, 1864.

Naturally, one of his temperamentówith an intense admiration for the principles on which the government was founded, and who, from early boyhood, had been schooled to the enjoyment ot a perfect freedom and the advancement of the human race, entertaining the most pronounced opinions upon the slavery question, then agitating the country, and the primary cause of the rebellion's inaugurated by the seceding states south of the Mason and Dixon lineówould be about the first to respond to his country's call. He was true to the instincts of true patriotism, and upon the call of the President immediately took steps for the organization of a company in which he was quite successful, but having failed to secure enlistments into the company to the full maximum number it was not until August 20th, 1861, that his company was accepted. In the choice of officers he was elected captain, and when on a later day he reported at the rendezvous at Dubuque, his company was assigned as A Company of the 9th Iowa Volunteers.
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William Trout pays the following tribute to his old commander, in a letter written in 1887 to be read at a meeting held in Maquoketa on the 25th anniversary of the battle ot Pea Ridge:
It was at Pea Ridge our loved Captain Drips gave up his life. It was a sad time and as I think it all over it makes me feel sad. But such was the fate of many a brave man. Of Captain Drips I would say farther, he was always with us, never shirking a duty, ever kind and tender, and above all just in dealing with all. I remember when we were camped at Pacific, Missouri, his treatment of disloyal Missourians. He had a piercing eye which could look a rebel through and through. I have heard him talk to them in such a way they would crouch at his feet and beg for mercy. He always gave them one chance for their lives, but when brought before him the second time would send them toówell, I do not know where, I did not go with them. I might speak of several such instances but forbear; the past is in the past, and many of the rebels South are under the sod, their souls in heaven I hope (with the exception of a dozen or so.)

Had Capt. Drips lived he would have been Colonel of the Regiment, as he had so endeared himself to the hearts of us all, that no honor was too great to be conferred upon him. Of Lieut. Kelsey I can speak in the highest terms of praise. He was always daring, brave and a good disciplinarian, not as cautious and as calculating as was Capt. Drips perhaps, but always ready, always to the front in time of danger. He was a man of refined, cleanly habits, and at first thought by some to be putting on style, being neat and careful in his appearance. He compelled those under him to observe the same rules, which caused no little inconvenience, but as we learned to know him we respected him more; he set a good example and was liked by all.
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The following is taken from a letter written by George Trout of Wamego, Kansas, in 1887:
My recollections of Capt. Drips was that he was a strict disciplinarian, always in earnest, but kind to those who did their duty. Personally I never had any trouble with either of them. Capt. Kelsey I think was more of a military man. While he demanded strict discipline, he was quite jovial and on that account was perhaps more popular with the boys, but both were good men and had the respect not only of Co. A, but the officers and men of the whole regiment knew them, and regarded both of them as above the average commissioned officer.

The march from Rolla, Missouri, to Pea Ridge, was a tedious one. It was in the spring time when rain and mud were plentiful There is no mud on earth so sticky as Missouri mud. The streams were so swollen that in some cases we had to make bridges of army wagons for the infantry, which was done by loading the wagons with rock and placing them near enough so that the soldiers could pass from one to the other. In many cases the horses had to swim and the artillery went clear out of sight. It was soon after one of these scenes that one of our company deserted, I think the only one during the waróJosiah Brown. I hardly blame the fellow for the boys were always picking on him, and I think that was more the cause of his deserting than the hardships of soldiering. He, at least, has my forgiveness. Quite a number of our fellows deserved to be bucked and gagged for their meanness to others. They would get some rig or joke up on some one and keep it up until the fellow would be tempted to do something desperate.

About the first of March, 1862, we came near the vicinity of Pea Ridge, Arkansas, and on account of the many and good natural positions, I suppose the enemy chose this place for their battle ground. Their troops were all made up from this portion of the country, and they must have known all about the ground. They drew us on and considerable beyond the battle ground, then by a quick and stealthy movement got in our rear, cutting us off from any retreat in that direction. In fact, they had us cornered for a fight and fight we had to. On the 7th of March everything was in readiness and we went for each other. As far as I know we were the attacking party in every instance and rather got the worst of it. Our brigade took a position a little east of the old Elkhorn tavern. I shall never forget what a feeing came over me when the firing began. I remember we had some trouble getting into position, when we finally got into line of battle we were right in front of a massed battery. The ground was covered with small gravel. The rebels depressed their guns, and the grape and cannister would strike the ground before reaching us, and sweep up gravel which as often struck our boys as the shot. It was there where Bancroft was killed. I think a grape shot killed him. Quite a number of our fellows got hurt while in that position. The groaning of the wounded frightened me more than the excitement of battle.

Our position being such that the rebels had to cross fire on us, and immediately in front of their battery, we were ordered to move a short distance to the left, which brought us immediately in front of their line of battle. The whole regiment began firing and the battle raged all along the line. We were almost within stone throw of each other, and we stood there loading firing as fast as we could. I thint it was while in this position that Capt. Drips received his death wound. I remember seeing him sword in one hand and pistol in the other urging the men to stand firm and do their duty. After I had fired about 15 rounds I received a buckshot through the right hand, they fired ball and buck. The large ball struck my cartridge box on the end, flattening somewhat three mlnnie balls in the lower tier. I was just in the act of taking out a cartridge, and of course it paralyzed my hand so I could not load any more. I began to look around to see if I could get back with out getting struck. I started and had gone only a few steps when I met a fellow of our regiment with a ball in his foot. Of course it was a painful wound and he begged me to help him off. I took his musket and with my own about my neck, slung them on my shoulder by the straps, then asked him to put his arms about my neck and with my wounded hand supported him the best I could, and we started for the rear. I have often wondered how we escaped, the air seemed full of whistling bullets. When we got near the Elkhorn, the rebels were just appropriating for their own use a portion of our best batteries. I think it was Hayden's. They got three of the guns and turned them on us. We came very near being killed by some of our cannon in the hands of the enemy. We finally got out ot range and back to timber, where the surgeons were taking care of the wounded. And what an awful time it was. Amputations were taking place, probing for balls, and temporary binding up of all kinds of wounds to stop the blood. Men came or were brought in ambulances shot in all parts of the body, frequently a portion of them would be dead when they arrived having died on the way. Such a scene I never witnessed in my life. I nearly forgot that I was wounded myself. My hand began to swell and I really did not know how bad I was hurt. I made several attempts to have a surgeon examine it but they seemed so busy that it was some time before I got one to look at it. He took a probe, run it clear through the wound, and with an oath informed me that I was not injured much, but made more fuss than some of the fellows that had an arm or leg off. I took care of my wound after that without the counsel of an army surgeon.

It was beginning to get dusk and I wandered about to see where I could put in the night at best advantage. I noticed an old house near by and thought perhaps I could crawl in there. The first thing that attracted my attention was an officer lying on the porch and a surgeon stooping over him probing a wound received a little to the side of the sword buckle, and immediately below the belt. To my horror and surprise I discovered it was my captain. I stood transfixed a few moments and the agony and suffering were too much for me and I turned away. That was the last I ever saw of Capt. Drips, I do not even know what became of the body. I was present when the dead of our Company were buried. There was a long trench made near where I was wounded and where I suppose Capt. Drips fell, but I do not remember of seeing him among the number.

The next morning I took the captain's pony and rode to the front to see the fight. I got a good position in the main road and in line of the artillery. Sigel was getting in position to shell the rebels. The infantry took position immediately behind the artillery. The guns were elevated high enough so the infantry could move in front and across an open field. On an opposite side were posted the rebels. The terrific effect of our shot and shell partially demoralized them. Then came the time for the infantry men to move, away across the field our infantry went with a shout that could be heard above the thundering of some sixty cannon, belching forth at the same time. The rebels could not stand the storm and away they went which ended the battle of Pea Ridge.

I was informed that quite a number of our company were wounded and began at once to hunt them up. My chum and messmate, Charlie Young, was the first I discovered. He had been shot through both legs and was in the act of crawling away, when some brave rebel emptied a load of buckshot into his pistol pocket, a part of the contents he carries to this day. He had been with the rebels all night lying with dead and wounded all night on the floor of the Elkhorn tavern. He was very glad to see me and I was very glad to see him. I tried to have him ride my horse but on account of his wounds he could not. I soon found others of the company and it did seem as if every one was hurt somewhere. It was indeed a sorry sight.

There are some of Company A in your midst who could give you a more interesting account of the whole affair. This communication is already too long and in a few words will say when and where I last saw Capt. Kelsey. Of course you all know Capt. Kelsey received a very bad wound in the same battle and went home. He came to us at Vicksburg and led our company in that terrible charge on the 22nd of May. I remember him with uplifted sword as he called us to follow him. It took but a few minutes to get to the breastworks. Only a few of us got onto the works. They poured a most murderous volley into us just as we reached the slope of the works, killing one hundred and eleven of our regiment, then numbering not more than three hundred and fifty men in line, a great many more were wounded. That was the last I saw of Capt. Kelsey and I was told afterwards that he received a ball in the same old wound that had not healed up, and I remember he was limping at the time. He died blessing the rebels and did not seem to fear death.
-- -- --

The following is clipped from an article read by Sergeant F. J. De Grush at a public meeting held in Maquoketa, March 7th, 1887, at which the swords of Captains Drips and Kelsey were presented to the Grand Army Post of Maquoketa, which was named for Captain A. W. Drips:
Capt. A. W. Drips was the life of his regiment. His experience in the Mexican War, his patriotism, his desire to do his whole duty, and his bravery made him a leader in the councils of staff and line. I remember two instances which euolgize the wearer of that sword equal to hours of praise or pages of paper. At Lebanon, Mo. while in camp for the night and some danger existing of a sudden attack, Capt. Drips called on Col. Vandeverand though up all night the night before and tired from the hard day's march his salutation was "Colonel, anything I can do?" Twenty miles west of Wilson's Creek, Mo., while chasing old Pap Prince was the first time Company A was ever drawn up in line of battle. Capt. Drips remarks to us that morning came from the bottom of his noble heart: "Boys, the General commanding has assigned to this company a post of honor. We are the advance of the whole army and much depends on us. If we waver and run there is great danger of its demoraliizng the whole command. Be cautious, be cool, but shrink no duty and hold our position at any and all cost."

The last time I saw that sword was on the 22nd of May, at Vicksburg during that terrible charge, where the 9th had 112 killed and wounded. Capt. Kelsey was acting as major and his position was with the colors, in the center of the regiment. He fell about the same time as color bearer, Otis Crawford, who it will be remembered by the boys, tore the flag from its staff and secreted it in his bosom, thinking the rebels would not find it on his dead body. Adjutant Granger told me where the Captain lay and taking a stretcher and three men we went over the field and found him. That belt was around the same leg that was wounded at Pea Ridge, the fatal ball having gone through the old wound at right angles, and the condition of the bone showed me that Capt. Kelsey's time was short. The cowardly Rebs fired at us as we were coming down the hill with the stretcher and shot one of the boys who was assisting me. At the foot of the hill when out of danger, I bade the good man good-bye and turned my attention to others of the wounded. Next sunrise brought the news from the hospital that our gallant captain was mustered out.
-- -- --

The McMeans family will never forget Vicksburg. Andrew was shot and instantly killed and ten minutes after Wilbur was wounded, and we thought mortally. When the sad news came home funeral services were held at Andrew, and while the afflicted parents were returning from church a bolt of lightning killed the father. While preparing for this occasion I have been shown an extract of one of John F. Drips letters to the captain's wife, written at Polk plantation near Helena, Ark., in which he says: "We still read the company paper weekly. We have commenced in it a history of Company A, including a biography of Captain Drips. It is the calculation, if enough of us live to carry it out, to have the history published in fine book form, and out of the remains of the sale remove the remains of the Captain and boys at Pea Bidge, to Iowa and erect a monument. Whether we will live to carry it out or not is more than we can tell. I will enclose some verses Sergeant DeGrush wrote for the Greyhound, a couple of weeks since.
Noble hearted John! Death has called home most of the contributors of that Greyhound, and you among the rest lie in the Hospital graveyard at Memphis, Tenn. If the audience will pardon me I will read the verses sent to Mrs. Drips, as some of the boys present tonight may like to hear them.

On Rocky cliffs, in rebel land,
Where naught but forests grow,
There came a fierce and warlike band,
With cautious tread and slow.

With savage eye and darkened brow
Proclaiming well their hate;
They aimed the deadly cannons prow,
Nor thought to end its mate.

But see! There comes a chosen few
In Union's proud array,
Whose trust in God full well they knew,
Would help them win the day.

The carnage opens and the hail
Falls thick and fast around;
And o'er their heads the bomb shells sail,
On bursting shake the ground.

Among the foremost in the light
Was he who led our clan;
Who called us on to show our might,
Nor flinch a single man.

The first he to raise his voice
Against the Southern mob;
Who seemed to show it as their choice
To murder and to rob.

But ah! A deadly musket ball
Must pierce his manly breast,
And with a kind farewell to all
He sought the soldier's rest.

Tell wife I bless her as I die,
Was last our Captain said;
And soon his noble form did lie
Inanimate and dead.

And now when matial notes do start
Our blood to finger tips,
We don't forget 'twas sad to part
With the hero Captain Drips.

----- -----
~Annals of Jackson County, Iowa; The Jackson County Historical Society 1906: "Life and Military Services of Captain A.W. Drips, by James W. Ellis, pgs 18-27

~Note: *Andrew W. Drips was married to Martha Ann Jacobs in Hollidaysburg, Blair co. PA in 1850. Although this bio does not explain, I am 'assuming' (hopefully correctly) that his widow Martha Ann was re-married to a Knight.


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