SOLDIERS WHO WENT TO THE FRONT
When, a few days later, came the call for volunteers to the army, the people were stirred as never before. In a day several of the young men of Waverly were seeking a way to enter the service. My recollection is that Mayor Wood was the first man to enlist, and he was followed by Gorham Ellsworth, George W. Briggs, Al Lawrence, Al Wemple, Charley Wemple and Samuel Grove, and they were joined by M. F. Gillett, who came on foot from Frederika. They went to Cedar Falls and joined a company that was being raised there, and became members of Co. K, 3rd Iowa Infantry, and were soon sent to Missouri. The first battle any Bremer county soldier was in was at a place in western Missouri called Gulf Mills, or a name like that, but nobody was hurt. Their hext engagement was at Wilson's Creek, and all escaped injury.
About the same time H. F. Beebe set about raising a company, but he failed in getting enough men to secure a captain's commission, but did have a contingent sufficient to secure a first lieutenantcy for himself and a second lieutenantcy for Ashbury Leverich in the same company, by consolidating with Capt. Washburn, of Waterloo, and the company was "G" in the 9th Infantry. Among the men who were in the Bremer county part of the company was a boy by the name of John Karker, who was killed in the battle of Pea Ridge. Johnny was the first man killed who went from the county. I knew him well, as I did his parents. He was Bremer county's first martyr for the cause of freedom. In the same company was Edward Tyrrell, father of Will and Charley, two of Waverly's well-known and good boys. At the charge on the works at Vicksburg, in 1863, Lieutenant Tyrrell fell mortally wounded, and died a few days later. He was the first and only commissioned officer killed in battle from the county, and, as I have often said, Bremer county has not done her duty to him by neglecting to rear a monument on the court house square to his memory. Edward Tyrrell was not an ordinary man in ability, morals, or good citizenship. His name and services deserve to be commemorated in granite in a public place in the county he honored in official, civil and military life. He bequeathed to the county a widow of sterling worth and children who honor his name.
Lieutenants Beebe and Leverich both resigned from the 9th, returned home, and recruited Co. B of the 38th Iowa, and went back into the service, where in time Beebe was promoted to a majorship, and when his regiment was consolidated with the 34th Iowa, in 1864, he retired from the service and came back to Waverly, and after a few years removed to Jasper county, Mo., where he died some years ago. Lieutenant Leverich came home on sick furlough and died at Janesville, I think, before the war closed.
J. O. Hudnot, of Sumner township, became lieutenant colonel of the 38th Iowa, and was the biggest in rank of any officer from the county. He was not well known in the county, especially in the western part of it. He was a civil engineer of ability, and because of that qualification reached the rank he held, but so far as is known, he never made any particular record as a soldier.
At the same time Beebe was recruiting his company for the 38th, H. A. Tinkham was doing the same work, in which he succeeded and became captain of Co. C, 38th Iowa, and thus Bremer county had two companies in that unfortunate regiment, which bears the destinction of losing more men because of sickness than any other regiment from the state; but it had only one man killed in battle, and he was not from Bremer county.
About the same time Richard Currier and H. A. Miles were each engaged in recruiting companies for the service. I enlisted in Currier's company, and when it was organized I was elected first lieutenant and A. J. Allen second lieutenant. When assigned to a regiment, the company became "B" of the 14th, and Capt. Miles' company was "C" of the same regiment. Many of his men were recruited in Butler county, and W. B. Stoughton was his first lieutenant and John Braden the second. Both were from Butler county. Braden was killed in battle.
Currier was a capital drill master and a strict disciplinarian, having belonged to a military company for a number of years in Buffalo, N. Y., before he came to Waverly. It was there he learned the tactics and drill which so well fitted him for making his company proficient. In the state camp he gave us a thorn drilling, and it was of inestimable value to us in our subsequent service, and made the company the best-drilled, all-around one of the regiment.
With all his ability and equipment for a model and rising officer, he lacked the heart and fortitude so necessary to make a good and sturdy soldier. As we approached the danger zone, he became restless and uneasy, and lost all interest in the men and their comfort. After we reached St. Louis, he was absent from the camp a great deal of the time, and when present was crabbed and entirely different from what he had been in the drill camp in the state.
When the order came to embark on a steamboat for Vicksburg, he gave no attention to the preparation, directed me to take charge of the company and be ready to leave camp for the boat when the order came to go. He was absent for two days and nights in the city. When the regiment reached the wharf, and at the last minute before the boat swung out for the down-river trip, he appeared, in an excited condition, called me to him and informed me he had resigned and I should assume command of the company. He did not offer to bid goodby to the boys who were nearby, but turned about in the crowd and disappeared, and that was the last any of us ever saw of our popular, commander.
In the brief time some of the boys caught enough to know what had happened, and in a few minutes the news spread to all of them. The gibes, roasts and taunts they sent after him were fierce and bitter, but he soon got beyond hearing them. The men demanded he should return the handsome sword and sash that had been presented to him by the people of Waverly, in the court house, when the company left the county. But he took both with him to Buffalo, N. Y., for he did not go back to Waverly, nor did he ever show his face in the state afterward. He had ordered a couple of dozen photos of himself in full uniform. They were delayed in delivery, so he did not get them, but they came to the company after he was gone. When it was known what the package contained the men tore it open, and with curses and anathema they wrote all sorts of stuff on the backs of the photos and sent them by mail to Waverly, addressed to him. Whether he ever received any of them, we never knew. If he did, it is safe to say he learned the literary ability of the company as masters of plain speaking.
This desertion of us at the threshold of active service was a crushing disappointment, for we had believed he would be a leader of far more than ordinary ability and would stay with us to the end.
The sudden change threw on me the responsibility of caring for the company. I felt incompetent and unable to meet it successfully, for all I knew about military drill I had learned from Captain Currier in the few months of our stay in the drill camp; and by a close application, in study, to rules, regulations and tactics, I assumed the duties of looking after the comfort and welfare of more than a hundred patriotic boys who left their homes in Bremer county to do their duty as faithful soldiers. They felt keenly their betrayal and desertion, and none of them more than I did. To restore confidence and harmony was no little task. I hoped we would have an officer assigned to command the company, who would have the ability and the personality to lead us wherever we were ordered to go. The Colonel ordered that the men should choose a captain by vote, which was done a little later, when I was absent. They elected me, by unanimous vote, as captain, which settled the matter, and I stayed with them until all were discharged.
At this point I want to say that no better bunch of men were in the service during the Civil War than was Company B, 14th Iowa. They were like a big family of brothers all the way thru, and to this day the survivors are like brothers. To me, the best of all is there never was in the company a single man who was not my friend to the limit. To me they were my brothers and "boys," and to this day I am bound to them by hooks of steel, that can be broken only by remorseless death. At this date fifteen are still living, five of them are in the old county, the balance scattered into four states, but I know where they are, and I keep in touch with them. It is not a boast to say that Company B saw more hard service and lost more men than all the other organizations that went from the, county. In the archives of Robbins' Post, G. A. R., may be seen a rebel flag, captured in battle, brought home as a trophy and placed there as a relic of their services. Go and see it and then attempt to reckon the cost of its capture.
I am the sole and last commissioned officer living who served in the war of the rebellion, from Bremer county. Many other boys from the county did good and heroic service, but in other organizations outside the county. The men in the Third and Ninth regiments from the county went to Blackhawk county and joined companies accredited to that county, so Bremer lost the honors that really belong to her, in that way. Bremer did nobly her part in the war, and sent her full quota on demand. Only a very few men were drafted, and those near the end of the struggle. As I look back, I am amazed, as well as proud, of the heroism of the pioneers, who met the crisis in our country's history so heroically. But the school of hard times in their settlement of the county had taught them the lesson of self-sacrifice and will-power, and they did not hesitate to make the effort to conquer. It was so in peace and in war.
Last updated 4/14/15
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