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George S. Rice


Posted By: R. Rouse
Date: 7/14/2022 at 21:01:04

Prior to the Civil War, Joel and Sarah Rice moved from Union County, Ohio, to Clayton County, Iowa, with their children: George, James, Caroline ("Cal"), Robert, Marshall and Tero. Also moving were five cousins of the Rice children (Fortner, Darius, John, Sterling and Squire Mather) and their neighbor, James Bethard, who, after moving, married Caroline Rice.

During the election campaign of 1860 many in the South threatened to secede if Lincoln were elected President but the Clayton County Journal said it would never happen: "Indeed! because a majority of the voters of the United States are in favor of a certain man and invest him with the highest office in their gift, the Union is to be dissolved! Ridiculous! Is there a sensible, an unprejudiced man, in the State of Iowa who believes this? Bah! No one anticipates such a result. This cry was invented only to frighten the people into voting for the Democratic candidate." Lincoln was elected and Southern states did secede but the Journal still wasn't worried and said, "if war they want, war they shall have. We hope however our readers will not become too excited over this, because it is not worthwhile. There are men enough in Pennsylvania alone to subdue South Carolina without the aid of Iowa volunteers."

On April 12, 1861, Confederate cannon fired on Fort Sumter in the harbor at Charleston, South Carolina. War followed and George Rice was one who answered the call for volunteers. Born on March 29, 1836, in Franklinton, Ohio, he enlisted at Castalia, Iowa, on September 9, 1861, in what would be Company I of the 9th regiment of Iowa's volunteer infantry with William Vandever, then a member of Congress, as Colonel. Enlisting with him on the 9th were his cousins Squire and Sterling Mather.

The last of the regiment's ten companies was mustered into service on September 24th and two days later they boarded steamboats in Dubuque and left for war. At Benton Barracks in St. Louis, they received their arms and equipment and men were trained in the ways of the military. On bi-monthly Company Muster Rolls, George was marked "present" through the end of the year and on February 28, 1862, was shown as being detached from duty and serving as a nurse. On April 30th he was "sick in hospital" but by June 30th he was "present" and he remained present during the balance of 1862 and the spring of 1863 during which time the regiment fought at Chickasaw Bayou in Mississippi and was engaged in a movement against Arkansas Post.

In the spring of 1863 General Grant organized a large army for the purpose of capturing the Confederate stronghold at Vicksburg. From Milliken's Bend, Louisiana, 30,000 men walked slowly south along muddy roads, across plantations, over bayous and through swamps. The 13th Corps with James Rice, John Mather and Jim Bethard was followed by the 15th Corps with George, Squire and Sterling. Jim Bethard was one of many who became sick during the march and left behind on the Ashwood plantation while others continued south.

On April 30, 1863, the 13th Corps began crossing from Disharoon's Plantation in Louisiana to the Bruinsburg landing in Mississippi while the 15th Corps was continuing its march west of the river. Still recuperating at Ashwood, Jim wrote to Cal and said the 9th Iowa had passed Ashwood on May 5th "and I saw all three of the boys George and Sterling are as rugged as bears." On the 6th, George was detached from regular duty and assigned to a Pioneer Corps, a corps usually composed of soldiers temporarily released from regular duty. Pioneers cleared roads, erected bridges, built breastworks and dug trenches and other structures.

By the middle of June, the 9th and 21st Iowa were on the siege line around the rear of Vicksburg, Jim had rejoined his regiment and men kept their heads down while visiting friends in other regiments. On June 15th Jim told Cal, "George Rice had the diehera so that he could not come with Squire yesterday." On the 19th George's cousin, John Mather, died from chronic diarrhea and congestive chills and two days later Jim again wrote to Cal. "I commenced writing yesterday but George Rice came and stood with us all day so I laid my letter aside until this evening. The boys of the 9th are well with the exception of the diehrears which is a very common complaint here."

George continued his service with the Pioneer Corps throughout the balance of the siege that ended with Vicksburg's surrender on July 4th. His cousin, Squire Mather, had become ill and was granted a furlough to go home to recuperate but on September 26th he died in Lansing. Another of George's cousins, Darius Mather, was serving with the 27th Iowa when he died of erysipelas while being treated in a Vicksburg hospital.

From Matagorda Island on May 1, 1864, Jim again wrote to Cal and said, "I understand that the small pox is in McGregor but I hope it will not get into your family. I can't believe," he said, "that Squier ever had any such disease for I saw him and George both several times last summer."

While Jim was now in Texas, George was still in the Pioneer Corps and present on June 30th at Kennesaw Mountain, Georgia. On September 4th, General Sherman announced the "complete reduction and occupation of Atlanta" and a few days later, George and Squire wrote to Jim from East Point. "They were well and in high spirits rejoicing over the final triumph of their long and wearisome campaign," said Jim. "I suppose George is at home before this time or will be before this reaches you as he told us in his letter to address him hereafter at McGregor Iowa." George was not yet in Iowa but he was discharged from the military on the 24th and on October 30th Jim was able to write, "I am going to hear that George has got home all right I suppose he feels like a man just released from bondage he will probably be a little lonesome for a while but as times are good there he will certainly be able to find employment."

On November 5, 1866, George married twenty-one-year-old Martha Payne in the village of Frankville in Winneshiek County. They had at least three children: Joel, Minnie and Carrie.

On July 28, 1866, Congress adopted a law increasing the $100 bounty originally paid to enlistees to $200. Three months later, still giving his address as Frankville, George signed an application seeking the additional bounty.

George died in Otisville (now Dows), Iowa, on March 1, 1878, and was buried in Mount Hope Cemetery in Morgan Township. Martha remained in the township and on July 3, 1880, married William Corbin but nineteen years later they divorced.

Martha did not remarry but on October 3, 1916, at age seventy-two, applied for a remarried widow's pension pursuant to an act of Congress adopted the previous month. Witnesses to her application were her daughter (Minnie Rice Parkman) and daughter-in-law (Luella Rice) who had married Joel.

As more and more time passed, she signed additional affidavits, submitted a copy of her divorce decree, mailed supportive affidavits signed by George's brother, James and Robert, and had an assistant cashier of the State Bank inquire as to the status of her application. Eventually, she hired attorneys in Washington, D.C., but still the pension office wasn't satisfied. It had records for "George Rice" and for "George S. Rice" and on March 26, 1918, said it wanted to know her husband's height when he enlisted fifty-seven years earlier, his occupation and his residence and whether he had any scars at the time, and it wanted a tracing of his signature.

Nothing more was done and on October 5, 1919, Martha died. She was buried next to George in Mount Hope Cemetery.


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