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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.



      Samuel Chapman was born on November 6, 1836, near Quincy, Illinois. Four years later, Elizabeth Ann Smith was born on Christmas Day, 1840, in Medina County, Ohio. In 1858 they were both in Iowa where, on March 18th, twenty-one-year-old Samuel and seventeen-year-old Elizabeth were married at her home in Dubuque by Rev. Stout, a Methodist minister. Shortly after their marriage, Sam began what would be a long career in railroading when he was employed as a freight brakeman on the Illinois Central Railroad.

      On December 26, 1858, their first child was born, a child that would die as an infant, but another child, Francis “Frank” M. Chapman, was born on November 5, 1859. By then Iowa’s economy had improved from the “panic of '57" and Sam was promoted to freight conductor. He was serving as a passenger conductor by the time General Beauregard’s cannon fired on Fort Sumter in 1861.

      In the North, it was widely thought that the fracas in the South would soon end and Iowa, like most states, was ill-prepared for war - “there was no money in the State treasury and no way of raising money in an emergency.” Only a few years earlier, the Assembly viewed military preparedness as a joke and its Committee on Military Affairs, with mock solemnity, had presented a report on the merits of "big guns, little guns and pop guns" and recommended "the arms of the girls of Iowa, as the most affectionate weapons to protect the peace of the State.” Although he doubted Iowa could muster and arm an entire regiment, Governor Kirkwood issued a Proclamation on April 17, 1861, calling for volunteers to serve in the state’s newly organized 1st Infantry.

      Another son, William, was born on January 8, 1862, as the war continued to escalate. More Iowa regiments, both infantry and cavalry, were formed and, on July 9th the Governor received a telegram asking him to raise five additional regiments as part of President Lincoln’s call for another 300,000 volunteers. If not raised by August 15th, a draft was probable. It was in response to this call that twenty-five-year-old Sam Chapman, a father with a young wife and  two-year-old and seven-month-old sons, enlisted on August 22nd in Company A of the state’s 21st Infantry. On September 9th, ten companies with a total of 985 men were mustered in as a regiment with McGregor’s Sam Merrill as Colonel. Training at Dubuque’s Camp Franklin started incrementally as each of the companies was mustered until, on a rainy September 16th, from the levee at the foot of Jones Street, they crowded on board the four-year-old sidewheel steamer Henry Clay and two barges tied alongside and started south.

      After one night at Rock Island, they continued their journey, debarked at Montrose due to low water, traveled by rail to Keokuk, boarded the Hawkeye State, reached St. Louis on the 20th, boarded rail cars usually reserved for freight and livestock on the 21st and traveled through the night to Rolla where they would spend the next month and Sam Chapman was detailed as a teamster. From Rolla they walked south to Salem and Houston and then west to the small town of Hartville. While there they were dependent on supplies brought from the railhead in Rolla. The large army wagons typically “carried 4,500 pounds of freight at two and a half miles per hour when conditions were favorable,” but winter weather and bad roads made the trip a slow one for the teamsters and guards who accompanied them. On the night of November 24th, not far from Hartville, they camped along Beaver Creek and most were just finishing dinner when they were attacked by an overwhelming force on horseback. Three men were killed outright and a fourth suffered wounds that would soon cause his death. A few escaped to warn their comrades in Hartville, but Sam and the others were captured, stripped and paroled. Their captors took all the weapons and supplies they could carry, burned the rest and rode away to the south.

      After his exchange in January, Sam was again detailed as a teamster and continued in that capacity through the balance of their service in Missouri (Houston, West Plains, Ironton, Iron Mountain, Ste. Genevieve) until, on April 10, 1863, at Milliken’s Bend where General Grant was organizing a large army to capture Vicksburg, Sam was detailed to the ambulance corps. He continued with the corps throughout the campaign but on October 3, 1863, became sick in Louisiana and was left behind while his regiment moved on. He was granted a furlough to help him recover, returned to Iowa by way of Cairo and Dunleith, and rejoined the regiment on April 26, 1864, at New Orleans. He was then marked “present” on bimonthly company muster rolls on April 30th at Matagorda Island, Texas, and June 30th at Terrebonne Station, Louisiana, but on July 8th was granted a furlough of sixty days. He started his return from Dubuque on August 31st, reached Cairo the next day, was held while waiting for transportation, left on September 3rd, reached Vicksburg on the 6th, was again held while waiting for transportation, left on September 11th and two days later reached the regiment at St. Charles, Arkansas. His lieutenant, Allan Adams, believed what Sam said and thought there should be no penalty, but Lieutenant Colonel Van Anda recommended a “loss of five days pay and allowances.” His recommendation was approved and Sam returned to duty on September 15th. During the balance of his service he remained present except during the Mobile Campaign in the spring of 1865 when he was detailed as a 13th Corps teamster. He was mustered out with the regiment on July 15th at Baton Rouge, started north the next day and was discharged at Clinton on the 24th.

      Sam rejoined the Illinois Central Railroad and was running a passenger train when a fourth child, Harry, was born dead on February 17, 1870. The family moved to Marshalltown about 1878 while Sam continued to work with railroads including the Iowa Central and the Chicago & Northwestern and from time-to-time stayed at “division points” including Albia, Ottumwa, Mason City and Albert Lea.

      While many, if not most, men returned from the war with disabilities and soon applied for pensions, Sam maintained his health well and it was not until the spring of 1898 at age sixty-one that he applied and said he had a “general breaking down of the physical forces. Disease of stomach and bowells, Kidneys and rheumatism and heart trouble.” His medical issues were attested to by friends who also said he had no vicious habits and was moral and temperate. His doctor said that during the winter of 1897-1898 Sam “was laid up in bed most of the time with heart trouble” and “I am certain he is unfit to do any work and do not believe he will be for time to come.” A year after he applied, a certificate was issued entitling Sam to a pension of $12.00 monthly, payable quarterly. Eight years later this was increased to $15.00.

       On March 18, 1908, while living at 106 West Church Street, Marshalltown, Sam and Elizabeth celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary but, still dedicated to his railroad work, Sam didn’t leave his train, “the Peoria passenger,” until 9:00 that morning. He retired in the spring and entered the town’s Iowa Soldiers Home in April. His pension was increased to $20.00 in 1911 and $30.00 in 1912. Sam died in the Home’s hospital of valvular heart disease on March 15, 1917. “Another veteran passenger conductor of the old Iowa Central railway died today, in the person of Samuel B. ‘Beam’ Chapman,’” said the Evening Times-Republican. He was survived by his wife and both sons - William in Marshalltown and Frank then in Peoria, Illinois, who was also “an old-time conductor.” Burial was in the Home’s cemetery northwest of town.

      With Sam dropped from the rolls, seventy-six-year-old Elizabeth acted quickly to apply for a widow’s pension. To prove her marriage she secured a copy of their marriage record and only six days after her husband’s death signed an application. Witnesses who knew them gave affidavits testifying that Sam and Elizabeth had never been married previously and had lived continuously as husband and wife. The pension agent in Marshalltown interceded on her behalf and a Congressman inquired about the status of the application. Elizabeth wrote in June (“I am out of money”), August (“am not well enough to earn money”), September (“I am a poor widow and without any money”) and November (“Will you please send me my money that is coming to me”). Unfortunately, she provided insufficient information for the pension office to identify her so, twice, they sent forms asking her to identify her husband and his regiment. On January 22, 1918, a certificate was issued entitling her to $20.00 monthly retroactive to the day her application had been received. Elizabeth died on November 27, 1922, and, like Sam, was buried in the Home’s Cemetery.


~ Compiled & submitted by Carl Ingwalson <cingwalson@cfilaw.com>

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