Mansfield, Robert C. 1845 - 1864
Posted By: Joy Moore (email)
Date: 1/10/2018 at 11:24:08
Submitted by Carl Ingwalson
ROBERT C. MANSFIELD
Jacob B. Mansfield and Phebe S. Biggerstaff were married at her father’s home in Alexander Township, Athens County, Ohio. John, the first of their eleven children, was born in 1828. Their eleventh child, Louisa, was born on May 29, 1854. Her father had died four days earlier in Henry County although his burial has not been found. Robert, born in 1844 or 1845, was their middle child
The Civil War, as it is known in the North, began with the firing of Confederate guns on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861. Initially, it was thought that the war would be of short duration and the North sought volunteers for only ninety-day service but, instead, the war continued and hundreds of thousands of men were needed for three-year service. The 21st regiment of Iowa’s volunteer infantry was raised primarily in the state’s northeastern counties. It was mustered into service at Dubuque’s Camp Franklin on September 9, 1862, with a total of 985 men (officers and enlisted) and left for war on the 16th.
As the months passed many died from wounds received in battle, many more died from disease (primarily chronic diarrhea and typhoid fever), some were discharged, some were transferred and some deserted. When it was recognized that the war was going to continue, efforts were made to enlist new recruits to fill the ranks. Fifteen were enrolled in December 1863 and eleven in January 1864 raising the depleted ranks to a total of 652 although many were not able for duty and the recruits would not reach the regiment for several weeks. Another fifty-one were enrolled in February and one of those was nineteen year-old Robert Mansfield.
Robert enlisted at Decorah on February 1st and was mustered in at Dubuque on March 2, 1864, where he was one of many assigned to Company I. Robert was listed as a 5' 6" farmer with grey eyes, black hair and a medium complexion. From Dubuque they went downstream to the army depot at Davenport where Robert received $60.00 of his enlistment bounty and $13.00 as one month’s advance pay as a Private.
With their regiment then in Texas, the recruits had a long way to go, but Robert arrived and joined his Company I comrades at Matagorda Island on April 11, 1864. For the next two months there was little to do and, in the words of their Colonel, Sam Merrill, they were nothing more than “guardians of the sacred drifting sands of Texas.” Merrill resigned soon thereafter due to serious wounds received a year earlier while leading an assault in Mississippi.
On June 11th, the regiment’s “right wing” started to leave and four days later the “left wing” boarded transports and followed them. The regiment was reunited and made camp on Clay Square in New Orleans where they were “finely fixed” and glad to be back where they hoped to see more active service. Later that month they traveled by rail from Algiers to Terrebonne Station in southwest Louisiana but, after brief service, they were back in Algiers. They left Algiers on board the Laurel Hill on July 26th, were transported upstream and the next day debarked at Morganza where they would stay for more than a month. On Sunday, August 28th, while most sweltered in 98º heat, Robert Mansfield died. On a final statement signed by Captain David Greaves, Robert’s death was attributed to an “inflammation of the bowels.”
Matthew King’s diary noted there had been “services as usual by Chaplain Hill and the ordinance of baptism administered by Hill, Major William D. Crooke and several others belonging to various Companies. Robert Mansfield of Company I died of chronic diarrhea. It rained and blew very hard in the evening.” Company B’s Jim Bethard didn’t know Robert but, in a letter to his wife the next day, said “I hear the muffled drums beating I must go and attend the funeral just returned from the funeral the corps was a new recruit of Co. I. I did not learn his name he died in the hospital yesterday." Most soldiers, like Robert, were buried locally and reinterred in a national cemetery after the war. It’s not known where Robert is buried, but another soldier who died at Morganza two weeks before Robert is known to be interred thirty miles south at Port Hudson National Cemetery.
On November 6, 1869, Phebe Mansfield, a resident of Freeport, Iowa, said she was fifty-six years old when she signed (by mark) a Mother’s Declaration for Army Pension. The Adjutant General’s Office confirmed Robert’s service and the Surgeon General’s office confirmed his death but, to prove her claim, Phebe would have to convince the pension office that she was, at least partially, dependent on Robert for her support. William Biggerstaff attested to the marriage of Phebe and Jacob, Hannah Birdsell said she was present when Jacob died, and Phebe confirmed that she had not remarried. Sylvester and Sarah Warn said they had known Phebe and her family for twelve years and said her property consisted of one cow and about $30.00. Sarah also testified that, before enlisting, Robert had worked and given “most of his wages to his mother” and that Robert bought “out of his own money potatoes flour butter” for the family and that, after enlistment, he had sent money home, one time $10.00, another time $5.00. John Birdsell had employed Robert in 1859 and also knew he used most of his wages to support his mother. On May 30, 1870, Sarah Warn signed another affidavit, this one saying she was present when Jacob died in Ohio and had attended the funeral, but that was the last document in Phebe’s pension file provided by the National Archives.
There is no indication that Phebe was granted a pension, no evidence that she remarried and no evidence that she had died but her claim was stamped “ABANDONED” and her file closed. Phebe is buried in Freeport Cemetery, Winneshiek County, where her stone says she was born in 1810 (which does not correlate with the age she gave when she applied for a pension) and died in 1863 (which is clearly erroneous).
Transcriber’s Note: Find a Grave indicates he was born in 1845 but does not know where he is buried.
Winneshiek Biographies maintained by Bruce Kuennen.
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