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Fayette County Civil War Soldiers
of the
Twenty-first Regiment Iowa Volunteer Infantry
by Carl Ingwalson
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.
Alonzo and Hannah Brown had five children. Their three sons, and the husbands of their two daughters, all served in Iowa infantry regiments during the Civil War: John Wesley Brown in the 16th Infantry, Alonzo Eugene Brown in the 12th Infantry and Ceylon Lucius Brown in the 8th Infantry while Thomas Leroy Parker (husband of Esther Amanda Brown) and Thomas C. McNary (husband of Exceen Abigail Brown) both served in Company B of the state’s 21st Infantry.

Thomas McNary was born in New York, immigrated to Iowa and, on June 13, 1858, married Exceen in Putnam Township, Fayette County, where Thomas was working as a farmer. A daughter, Phebe E. McNary, was born on March 5, 1860. Confederate guns fired on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, and John, Alonzo and Ceylon enlisted later that year. As the war escalated into a second year, President Lincoln called for 300,000 more volunteers with Iowa to furnish five regiments by August 15, 1862, or face the embarrassment of a draft. In answer to the President’s call, Thomas Parker enlisted on August 1st and Thomas McNary on the 13th. Joining them in Company B was Charles McNary, Thomas’ brother.

Company B was ordered into quarters at Camp Franklin on August 16th and mustered into service on the 18th. When ten companies were of sufficient strength they were mustered in as a regiment on September 9th. Located just south of Eagle Point, a mile or two above Dubuque, the camp’s ten buildings were each twenty by sixty feet and "arranged to accommodate one hundred men each." With so many men in close quarters, illnesses spread quickly and Camp Franklin soon saw a serious outbreak of measles with Thompson Spottswood among the sufferers. Furloughed to his uncle’s house to recuperate, Thompson would be the regiment’s first to die. With an incubation period of eight to twelve days, several of his comrades were diagnosed with measles in the ensuing weeks and at least three of them died.

Crowded on board the side-wheel steamer Henry Clay and two barges tied alongside, those well enough to travel left Dubuque during a drenching rain on September 16th, spent a night on Rock Island, transferred downstream to the Hawkeye State due to low water at Montrose, reached St. Louis on the 20th, left on the 21st and arrived in Rolla, Missouri, on the 22nd. While there, more than 200 were on the sick list with William Barber, James Logsdon, Nelson Reynolds, Jim Bethard and Thomas McNary among those diagnosed with measles. When the regiment left Rolla on October 18th, Thomas was well enough to travel but, on arrival in Salem, was admitted to a hospital building not far from the main hospital. The able-bodied left Salem for Houston on November 2nd, but Thomas had developed a fever and was unable to join them. Helping to care for Thomas and others still in Salem was acting hospital steward Rufus Grosvernor.

On December 11, 1862, Thomas felt well enough to go for an evening walk. He left about 7:00 p.m., but didn’t return. The next morning, the Salem convalescents were ordered to join their comrades in Houston and, said George Crop, “whilst we were getting ready & when just about to start, he returned, looking very wild and talking very incoherently He could give no satisfactory account of his absence but made use of some confused expressions about having lost himself. His appearance seemed to indicate that he had been in the open air all night. The night was cold and he had no blanket or other than the clothes he wore with him - He was very sick during the journey to Houston.” On arrival, Thomas “was in an unconscious state.”

William Crooke, Captain of Company B, would later recall that he and Barna Phelps (a private from Strawberry Point) cared for Thomas who was “very sick with Lung fever.” He “required and did receive great care and constant personal attention” from Barna for many long hours and the air inhaled by Barna “was rendered exceedingly offensive by the disease of said McNary.” Barna stayed with Thomas and was “with said soldier until he died on the 16th Dec. 1862.” (Ten years later, when applying for his own pension, Barna would claim that his personal medical problems were “brought on me by over work and inhaling the breath of said McNary.”)

On the 16th, George Brownell noted in his diary that “Thomas McNary died this morning at one oclock bured at sundown to night I was one of the escorts.” On the 28th, Jim Bethard wrote to his wife in Grand Meadow Township that “we burried another man of our company last week his name was Thomas C Mcnary from strawberry point he had been laid up for a long time with the rheumatism. Jim thought “the principle cause of his death was homesickness,” but the Casualty Sheet attributed Thomas’ death to “congestion of lungs.” He was buried locally, but reinterred after the war in Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, St. Louis.

Thomas’ personal effects (a uniform coat, overcoat, underwear, pair of shoes and shirt) were sent to Exceen who, on July 18, 1863, signed a Widow’s Declaration for Pension. Supporting her application were Charles R. McNary and Rachel F. McNary. They had been present when Thomas and Exceen were married and confirmed that she had not remarried. On December 5th of that same year, Exceen married Joseph W. Baker.

While she was no longer eligible for a widow’s pension, Congress adopted a new act that expanded pension benefits and provided that, if a widow remarried without having received a pension, her pension could go to her children under sixteen years of age. Exceen secured a court order naming her Guardian of the person and estate of Phebe and on January 16, 1867, signed an application for the pension. Supporting her claim were Putnam Township residents Sarah Hurd and Dorothy Warner (whose husband had served with Charles) who said they had been “in attendance upon Mrs. Exceen A. McNary” when Phebe was born. The application was granted and, on May 17, 1867, a certificate was mailed that entitled Exceen to receive $8.00 monthly from January 22, 1867, through March 4, 1876. She later also received a minor’s pension of an additional $2.00 monthly.

Phebe married George Flick in 1879 and Exceen became a grandmother when Phebe gave birth to Leon in 1880, Exceena in 1883 and Byard George Flick in 1885.

Exceen Abigail (Brown) (McNary) Baker died on May 16, 1890, reportedly in Fort Dodge. While her parents and three of her four siblings are buried in Strawberry Point Cemetery, Exceen’s burial has not been found. Phebe died in 1838. She, her husband and all three of their children are buried in Santa Barbara Cemetery, Santa Barbara, California.
~ Compiled & Contributor: Carl Ingwalson
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