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~ Military Biography ~

Dubuque 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.



      Elizabeth and William H. H. Allen had nine children including George, Arnold, Margaret, Cynthia, Mary, William (Billy) and three who have not been identified. After her husband’s death on June 28, 1853, in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania, Elizabeth moved her family to Iowa and made a home for them in Dubuque County.

      Her eldest son, George, was born on September 2, 1836, and, said Margaret and Cynthia, “mainly supported the family.” George died on March 10, 1862, and was buried in the Peosta Union Cemetery. Arnold was now the eldest. He took his responsibilities seriously and “tilled a small portion of the farm of one J. D. Graffort and worked out thereby supporting his said mother & family.” Despite his efforts, income was limited and, to provide better financial support, Arnold enlisted in the Union army. He was eighteen years old.

      Arnold was 5' 7¼” tall, a young man with blue eyes, light-colored hair and a fair complexion. He enlisted at Epworth on August 3, 1862, as a private and was mustered into Company C on August 20th at Dubuque’s Camp Franklin. The regiment, ten companies with a total of 985 men, was mustered into service at Dubuque on September 9, 1862, as the 21st Regiment of Iowa’s volunteer infantry. Arnold made arrangements with the Dubuque branch of the State Bank for allotments from his $13.00 monthly pay to go to his mother. Like others, he received a $25.00 advance on the $100.00 enlistment bounty and a $2.00 premium. He gave $21.50 to his mother and kept the $5.50 balance.

      On September 16th, those well enough to travel started down the Mississippi on board the Henry Clay and two barges tied alongside. Their early service was in Missouri and, on the bimonthly muster rolls, Arnold was marked “present” at Salem on October 31, 1862, at Houston on December 31, 1862, and at Iron Mountain on February 28, 1862. He wrote numerous letters to his mother and others in the family and, on March 5th, wrote to his mother. The weather was “tolerable cold,” he said. A “verry high wind” was blowing and one of their friends had died from pneumonia but, he assured her, “I am well at present and hoping these few lines may find you all well.

      The men received their first pay on February 16, 1863, while they were in Eminence, Missouri. Another private who enlisted and served at the same time as Arnold, said he received $47.60; other privates presumably received similar amounts. On March 24th, the State Bank mailed a check for $39.23 as the first allotment from Arnold’s pay. The money went to a friend, Levi Sparks, who gave it to Elizabeth. That, however, would be the last of her allotment payments. The government paid banks in federal currency (“greenbacks”), but state banks disbursed the funds in their own discounted currency and kept the difference. As a result, Arnold and most others elected to no longer have funds sent through the local banks. Peter Lorimier, father of the regiment’s William Lorimier, went farther.  When the bank refused to pay him in the greenbacks it received, he filed suit. He prevailed, the bank threatened to appeal, and the allotment system in Iowa gradually broke down.  On April 30, 1863, they crossed to Bruinsburg, Mississippi, a small landing on the east bank of the Mississippi River, and began a movement inland at the start of General Grant’s Vicksburg campaign. The 21st Iowa had the honor of being the point regiment at the head of the 30,000 man army and drew first fire from Confederate pickets about midnight. On May 1st, Arnold participated with his regiment in the Battle of Port Gibson during which it suffered few casualties.

      On May 7th, from their camp near Rocky Springs, he again wrote to his mother. “I am well,” he said. They were “driveing the Southerners like Sheep” and “drove them 30 miles.” He expected to drive them into Vicksburg and “then keep them there and starve them out.” Unlike most, Arnold was already expecting a siege. He had sent $20.00 to Elizabeth through an express company and asked if the money had been received.

      Arnold was present at the May 16th Battle of Champion’s Hill when the regiment was held in reserve by General McClernand, participated in the May 17th assault at the Big Black River and participated in the assault of May 22d at Vicksburg. So far during the campaign, regimental casualties were 31 killed in action, 34  with wounds that proved fatal, 102 with non-fatal wounds and eight captured, four of whom were ambulance drivers. On July 2, 1863, William Logsdon was granted a thirty-day sick furlough and agreed to deliver another $30.00 to Elizabeth. Arnold remained with the regiment, Vicksburg surrendered on July 4th and Arnold participated in the expedition to and siege of Jackson that followed immediately after the surrender. On July 28th, he was back in Vicksburg when he wrote to his mother. He was glad hear that she and others in the family were well, but the money he sent with William Logsdon had not been delivered. William had written to let Arnold know that “he had been sick and had run out of money and had to open my letter and take the money out and spend it.” Arnold was confident it would be repaid, but the best he could do for now was send $20.00 on his next payday. This time, for better safety, it would be sent through John Bell & Co., wholesale dealers in dry goods and notions at 445 Main Street in Dubuque.

      On August 23rd, from Carrollton, Louisiana, Arnold wrote to Margaret. “I am well,” he said, and he hoped she also was well. Prices in nearby New Orleans were high, but the soldiers were having good times and could go into the city “when ever they please and have a spree.” Ever mindful of his mother, he said he was going to try to get a furlough to try to make “what arangements I can make for mother another year and where she will go and how she will make a living.” He thought the money he was able to send would be adequate if his mother had a “handy place to live where she can have water at the door and be handy to church and everything handy and then her and billy might get along well enough.” In closing he added, “give my best wishes to all the good looking girls up there.

      On November 23, 1863, after several months of service west of the river, the able-bodied men of the regiment left New Orleans on transports that took them down the Mississippi and west across the Gulf of Mexico to the coast of Texas where they arrived a few days later. On January 16, 1864, from Indianola, Arnold wrote to his mother, assured her he was well, and hoped his letter would “find you all well with plenty to eat and good clothes and no hard work to do.” He had earlier sent her another $45.00 and asked if it had been received. 

      On March 26th, from Matagorda Island, he wrote to fourteen-year-old Billy. The paymaster had arrived, but Arnold was “behind on cloathing” and most of his anticipated pay would have to be used to settle the account. On May 20th, he wrote again to Billy to let him know he had recently sent another $70.00 and that William Logsdon had repaid the $30.00 he had used ten months earlier.

      Despite the large amounts of money that Arnold was sending home, Elizabeth’s circumstances had worsened and an application for Arnold’s discharge was sent to the War Department. An Assistant Adjutant General wrote to Provost Marshal Shubael Adams in Dubuque to try to verify “the circumstances of the family.” Shubael contacted Otis Briggs, one of the founders of Epworth, and Otis said Elizabeth was “a poor widow residing near this place & who without any kind of doubt needs the assistance of her son to obtain a livelihood.” No apparent action was taken on the application, possibly due to bureaucratic delays or possibly because the regiment was about to embark on its final campaign of the war, a campaign to capture the city of Mobile.

      After landing at the entrance to Mobile Bay, they walked and waded and slowly moved north along the east side of the bay encountering only minimal resistance. On March 26, 1865, as they neared Spanish Fort, one of the two main fortifications intended to protect the city from that direction, they encountered the enemy about noon and skirmished most of the day. Company B’s Jim Bethard described the action in letter to his wife in Clayton County. Late in the day, he said, they came upon:


“a line of fier which the rebs had set out and was burning in the dead grass and pine bows making a light by which they could see us as plain as day when all at once they left fly a volley into us not more than five rods distant; we blazed away at the flash of their guns and then dodged behind trees for shelter   the rebs over shot us and killed one man and wounded two or three in the supporting part of the regiment a little ways behind.”


      The war was almost over by then and the man killed was the last member of the regiment to die in action. That man was Arnold Allen.

      With an active campaign in progress, it’s likely that Arnold was hastily buried near where he fell and, if his body was later found, reburied in a national cemetery, most likely Mobile National Cemetery. There is a stone in the cemetery that says “A. Allen” but it does not give the full name and, unlike other stones, it does not identify the soldier’s state or regiment. The national database of soldiers, North and South, lists many men surnamed “Allen” and a first name starting with “A” and cemetery records say the person buried under the name “A. Allen” died on April 9, 1865. The name on the stone could be wrong. The date in cemetery records could be wrong. The deceased in Mobile National Cemetery may or may not be the 21st’s Arnold Allen.

       At fifty-two years of age, Elizabeth was destitute. Her only assets were, said Margaret and Cynthia, “three cows and two mules, an old wagon, all of the value of not more than two hundred dollars.”

      On May 2, 1865, Elizabeth applied for a widow’s pension. To prove she was “wholly, or in part dependent for support” on Arnold, she sent seven of his letters to the pension office, letters that showed “my said son sent home money regularly for my support.” As further proof, she submitted affidavits signed by her daughters, by Levi Sparks and by Elizabeth Wood, an Epworth friend who was well acquainted with Elizabeth’s circumstances, knew of Arnold’s support, and knew of Elizabeth’s need. 

      Arnold’s service was verified and, on November 22, 1865, a certificate was issued entitling Elizabeth to an $8.00 monthly pension retroactive to March 27th, the day after her son’s death. Payments had been increased to $12.00 per month by the time Elizabeth died on May 23, 1897. She was buried in Epworth’s Highview Cemetery where a biblical inscription (Proverbs 3:17) says:         

“Her ways are ways of pleasantness
and all her paths are peace.”




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