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.


      The first of eight children born to Nathan Baldwin Talmadge and Mary Lavina (Pitcher) Talmadge, Edgar was born in Illinois in 1844. From there the family moved to Delhi Township in Delaware County, Iowa, where, in 1854, Nathan was named postmaster at the newly established Green Hill post office, an office that was closed three years later.

      The Civil War started in 1861 and was more than a year old when President Lincoln called for 300,000 three-year men to augment those already in the field. Iowa was given a quota of five regiments and, if not filled by August 15, 1862, the difference would be made up by a draft. It was on the 15th that Edgar was enrolled by Alexander Voorhees in Company K of the 21st Iowa Volunteer Infantry. Five days later, Alexander was commissioned as Captain of the company. Edgar was described as an eighteen-year-old farmer with blue eyes and dark hair. The company was mustered in at Dubuque’s Camp Franklin on August 23rd with a total complement of 92 men, officers and enlisted. When ten companies were of sufficient strength, they were mustered in as a regiment on September 9th and on a rainy 16th they left for war.

      From the levee at the foot of Jones Street they boarded the four-year old sidewheel steamer Henry Clay and started down the Mississippi. They spent the first night on Rock Island, encountered low water at Montrose, debarked, traveled by rail to Keokuk, boarded the Hawkeye State and reached St. Louis on the 20th. The next day they boarded rail cars and traveled through the night to Rolla where they would spend the next month camped southwest of town on the Lebanon Road. On October 31st, they were in Salem when the first bimonthly muster roll was taken and Edgar was marked “present.” He continued with the regiment when it moved to Houston and then Hartville, back to Houston, south to West Plains and northeast through Thomasville, Ironton and Iron Mountain.

      On March 11, 1863, they walked into the old French town of Ste. Genevieve and found a good campground on a ridge north of town. After many long marches, their stay in Ste. Genevieve was a welcome respite and men had a chance to rest before what would be their most difficult campaign of the war, the campaign to capture Vicksburg. They started to leave on the 26th but, with available boats not having enough room for everyone, some left on the Argonaut, some on the Grosbeck and others on the Ocean Wave. By April 8th they were reassembled and inspected at Milliken’s Bend, Louisiana, where General Grant was assembling an army with its three corps led by Generals Sherman, McPherson and McClernand. A grand review of the entire force was held on the 9th and about 9:00 a.m. on a rainy 12th of April, in McClernand’s 13th Corps, the regiment started a slow movement south along the west side of the river, but Edgar Talmadge, too sick to travel, was among those left behind.     

      On April 30th, the regiment crossed to Bruinsburg on the east bank. On May 1st, men able for duty participated in the Battle of Port Gibson. On May 16th they were present but held in reserve during the Battle of Champion’s Hill. On the 17th the 21st and 23d Iowa infantries led a successful assault on Confederates entrenched along the Big Black River. Assaults at Vicksburg on the 19th and 22nd were unsuccessful and Grant resigned himself to a siege. During the next several days the Union Army slowly formed an arc around the rear of Vicksburg and re-established direct access to the Mississippi River both above and below the city.

      So far during the campaign, the regiment had lost sixty-three men who were killed in action or fatally wounded. Dozens more were wounded less severely, although some of the wounds were serious enough to require amputations. The Memphis Bulletin reported that, on May 30th, the hospital ship R. C. Wood left Chickasaw Bayou and on June 1st it reached Memphis with 406 sick or wounded men. Among them were eight members of the 21st Iowa: six who had been wounded at the Big Black, one who was wounded during the assault on May 22nd, and Edgar Talmadge who had apparently been picked up at Milliken’s Bend as the ship made its way north.

      Edgar was admitted to the Overton General Hospital on the northwest corner of Main Street and Poplar Avenue where he received the best medical treatment available. Unfortunately, little could be done and on June 4, 1863, Edgar died from the debilitating effects of chronic diarrhea. Sister Mary Augusta, a nurse in the hospital, wrote to his mother. “A desolate mother’s grief is too sacred for living mortal to intrude,” she said. She assured Mary that, unlike many who died in the war, Edgar had received the care and comfort of nurses and religious counselors. “The surgeon here would have discharged him,” she said, “but knew he would not live to get home. If you write to his captain you can draw your son's pay, besides his bounty, which will assist you very much.  Enclosed is his ring which the . . .  master took from his finger just after he died.” Edgar is buried in the Memphis National Cemetery.

      Edgar’s death was devastating for the family, a financial as well as a personal loss that was especially hard for his mother.  Mary was sick and one of Edgar’s sisters said “that the enlistment of said soldier was in part the cause of her sickness, and that his death was another cause of continuing such sickness and disability.” He had worked before enlisting and given his wages to the family. After enlisting, he had sent money home. As Sister Mary Augusta suggested, they applied for and received the $75.00 balance of Edgar’s enlistment bounty and his accrued back pay, but were unable to work their small farm. While they owned forty acres, only twenty were cultivated. Forty-three-year-old Nathan had been incapacitated for years by a double hernia, one the size of a man’s fist, the other the size of a large orange. Manual labor was virtually impossible. Their oldest son could help, but he was only fourteen. Mary did her best by “knitting for neighbors, spinning, weaving of cloth for others and washing and so forth,” but the income was minimal.

      Finally, on March 22, 1880, Mary applied for a dependent mother’s pension. To prove her claim, Mary would have to convince the pension office she was in financial need and that Edgar had helped support the family. Letters from Edgar had been destroyed “on account of his mothers his having the nervous fever and seeing them made her worse,” but one witness after another, including the well-known Dr. Albert Boomer, signed affidavits attesting to the money Edgar had contributed to the family. Others testified to Nathan’s inability to work and Mary’s attempts to support the family. Three times the county treasurer submitted rolls showing the assessed value of their personal and real property and the minimal amounts of taxes that had been levied. Unable to work their “medium to poor” land, they were “compelled to rent out what cultivated land there was on the forty acres” but the income was negligible. Benjamin Woodard submitted three affidavits, Mary’s sister signed an affidavit and seventy-year-old H. C. Crosier said prior to enlisting Edgar had been “claimants sole support. He worked at home on the small farm and hired out to farmers and brought home wages.” Marion, one of Mary’s daughters, said “neighbors and friends have contributed to their support.” On August 24, 1886, more than six years after the application was filed, a pension was granted. A certificate was issued entitling Mary to $8.00 per month from Edgar’s death twenty-three years earlier to March 19, 1886, and $12.00 monthly thereafter.

      Nathan died on August 10, 1892, and was buried in Delhi’s Evergreen Cemetery. Mary received her pension until dying on August 11, 1909. She, like her husband, is buried in Evergreen Cemetery. 


~ Compiled & submitted by Carl Ingwalson <>