Delaware County IAGenWeb

Military Biography

United We Stand

Delaware County, Iowa in the Civil War
Delaware county Civil War Soldiers
of the
Twenty-first Regiment Iowa Volunteer Infantry

Historical information, notes & comments, in some cases correcting the record
Soldier biographies written by Carl Ingwalson

Carl will do look-ups in his extensive records of the 21st Iowa and he is always willing to share what he has.

Walter O’Brian was born on February 27, 1820, and Lucinda Grant on March 18, 1829. On September 28, 1845, twenty-five-year-old Walter and sixteen-year-old Lucinda were married by a Justice of the Peace in Elkhart County, Indiana.

Still living in the county, Lucinda gave birth to Charles W. on August 7, 1850, Thomas on October 31, 1852, and twins, Elva and Emily on December 4, 1854. The following year they moved west and settled in Delaware County where a daughter, Sarah E. O’Brian was born on April 14, 1859. While some third parties spelled the surname “O’Brien,” family members consistently signed their name “O’Brian.”
For the next two years Walter and Lucinda made a home for their family while Walter worked as a farmer. Then, in 1861, Confederate guns fired on Fort Sumter and the country was at war. As more and more men died and battles escalated it became obvious that it would not be over quickly. The President called for more volunteers, 300,000 men for three years “or the war.” By letter dated July 7, 1862, Governor Sam Kirkwood assured the President, "the State of Iowa in the future as in the past, will be prompt and ready to do her duty to the country in the time of sore trial. Our harvest is just upon us, and we have now scarcely men enough to save our crops, but if need be our women can help."

The state’s 21st Infantry was raised primarily in the northeastern counties of Clayton, Delaware and Dubuque. No man under the rank of commissioned officer was to be younger than eighteen nor older than forty-five. Walter O’Brian was forty-two when he enlisted in Company K at Delhi on August 14, 1862. He was described in military records as being six feet tall with hazel eyes, light hair and a light complexion. The company was mustered in on August 23rd and, on September 9th, the regiment’s ten companies, with a total of 985 men, were mustered into federal service at Dubuque’s Camp Franklin. A week later, they started down the Mississippi. Lucinda was thirty-three years old when her husband left. Their children ranged from twelve-year-old Charles to Sarah who was only three.

The regiment reached St. Louis on September 20th, was inspected by General Davidson on the 21st and, that same night, left by rail for Rolla. They would spend more than five more months in Missouri with Rolla followed by Salem, Houston and Hartville. On the evening of November 24th a wagon train was attacked. George Chapman (Volga City), Cyrus Henderson (Millville) and Phillip Wood (DeWitt) died from wounds received. On January 11th, 262 members of the regiment were in a battle at Hartville; three were killed and two more had wounds that would soon prove fatal.

On January 27th, they started a long walk to West Plains and then northeast to Thomasville, Ironton, Iron Mountain and, on March 11th, into the old French town of Ste. Genevieve. From there they were transported to Milliken’s Bend where General Grant was organizing a large army to capture Vicksburg. His plan was to move troops south along the west side of the Mississippi, use gunboats to destroy Confederate artillery at Grand Gulf, cross to the east bank, and then move north to Vicksburg.
The movement south was a slow one. When they left “the Bend” on April 12th, the regiment was down to 854 on the muster rolls, but many were no longer well enough for duty. Ed Veatch died from a liver problem, Isaac Buel was discharged, John Dougherty died from pneumonia, Thomas Dodd was discharged and David Shuck died from typhoid fever. By the time they reached John Perkins’ Somerset plantation on the Mississippi River on April 23rd, there were still 847 on the rolls but many, including Walter O’Brian, were sick and left behind as those still able for duty continued south.

Walter and many others remained on the plantation, but eventually a few of the convalescents felt well enough to resume their journey. According to Walter’s Descriptive Book, on April 27th he “started to rejoin his regiment and while on the march he and some of his comrades took shelter in a shed during a storm the [wagon] train passed on he was unable to march” and was left behind. Meanwhile, unable to safely cross at Grand Gulf, Grant’s army crossed to the Bruinsburg landing on the east bank on April 30th and started a march inland. On May 1, 1863, the regiment participated in the Battle of Port Gibson. Confederates withdrew after the battle and those occupying Grand Gulf abandoned the site to avoid being captured. Federal troops quickly occupied the town and General Grant gained access to the river and badly needed supplies arriving by transport.

As most of the regiment continued inland with the rest of the army, some were given the task of helping with supplies being off-loaded at Grand Gulf. By then, still searching for his regiment, Walter O’Bryan had also crossed the Mississippi to Grand Gulf. Alexander Voorhees, a Hopkinton resident and Captain of Company K, said he “saw Walter O’Brian on or about the 9th of May 1863 at Grand Gulf,” but he was still sick “with lung fever.” “I was afterwards officially informed that he started to rejoin the Company on the 10th day of May 1863 and that he never came to the Company and was reported missing. that the country through which the trains passed was infested with armed rebels and that in my opinion he was killed while in the line of duty.” Walter was never heard from or seen again.
Apparently waiting due to uncertainty about Walter’s disappearance, it was more than three years later before Lucinda signed an affidavit on July 21, 1866, saying her husband went missing while “guarding a wagon train.” She claimed the $75.00 balance of his enlistment bounty together with the “pay and allowances” that were still unpaid. Lt. Colonel Van Anda and Captain Voorhees signed supportive affidavits regarding his disappearance. Despite having the affidavits, Lucinda didn’t immediately file them.

On October 11, 1866, she married David Wright. David’s wife had died earlier that year and he was caring for their four children. That December, David, as guardian of Lucinda’s five children, signed an application for “increase of pension,” but no action was taken by the Pension Office.

In 1882, all five children signed their own applications seeking payments that would have been due at $2.00 per month until their sixteenth birthdays. By then all were adults with two in Iowa, two in Nebraska and one in Missouri. It took several years, many affidavits, a review of prisoner of war records, and research by the Pension Office, Adjutant General’s Office and Surgeon General’s Office, but eventually the payments were approved, but only from October 12, 1866 (the day after Lucinda’s remarriage) to the dates of the children’s respective sixteenth birthdays.

On November 29, 1903, Lucinda was living in Storm Lake when she was widowed for a second time. David died in Cherokee, Iowa, and was buried in the Storm Lake Cemetery. On December 22, 1903, Lucinda applied for “restoration” of her pension as Walter’s widow, a pension she had never claimed due to her marriage to David. She supported her claim by filing the three affidavits signed thirty-seven years earlier and by securing additional affidavits from Calvin Harback who had served in the regiment and from friends who knew that she and Walter had married and lived as husband and wife until he went to war. The claim for “restoration” was denied since she had “no title,” but she was admitted under the “general law” to a pension of $8.00 monthly from May 14, 1863, to October 11, 1866.

At the same time, the Commissioner sent her an application so she could apply for the period commencing with David’s death. Her sole assets were three horses, three cows and three pigs and she was now living with a sister in Guthrie County. Lucinda’s claim was approved at $12.00 monthly, an amount she received until her death at age eighty-one from chronic myocarditis and valvular disease on October 5, 1910. She was buried in Storm Lake Cemetery.

A. M. Wright, a son from her second marriage, applied for reimbursement of expenses he incurred incident to her death. Bills for doctors, medication, the undertaker, the digging of a grave, livery, a hearse and other items totaled $93.00. Lucinda was still owed $36.80 on her final widow’s voucher and payment in that amount was made to her son.
~ Compiled & submitted by Carl Ingwalson <>