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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.

Edward Burton Snedigar
The second of nine children born to Fielding and Miranda (Hayes) Snedigar,  was born in Wisconsin on October 10, 1844. From there the family moved to Illinois and then Clayton County, Iowa, where Fielding worked as a merchant and was regarded as “one of the strongest Union men in the County” and “a man of the highest integrity.”

On March 9, 1861, Fielding was appointed Postmaster in Elkader (a position he would hold until 1868) and the next month Confederate guns fired on Fort Sumter. On July 9, 1862, Iowa’s Governor Kirkwood received a telegram asking him to raise five three-year regiments in addition to those already in the field. If the state’s quota wasn’t met by August 15th, it "would be made up by draft," but the volunteers came and a draft was not required.

Burt Snedigar enlisted at Elkader on August 9, 1862, as a private. His Master in Roll and Descriptive Book said he was 5' 7 3/4 tall with a light complexion, light hair and dark eyes. The company was ordered into quarters at Dubuque’s Camp Franklin mustered in as a company on August 22nd and, with nine other companies mustered
 in as a company on August 22nd and, with nine other companies, mustered in as regiment on September 9th with a total of 985 men, officers and enlisted. Military training was received, but it was very brief and on September 16th they marched through town and, at the foot of Jones Street, boarded the Henry Clay and two barges tied alongside and started down the Mississippi. Due to low water at Montrose, they had to debark, travel by rail to Keokuk and board the Hawkeye State before continuing to St. Louis.

On January 9, 1863, they were in Houston, Missouri, when word was received that a Confederate column was moving north toward Springfield. A relief force was organized and Burt was one of twenty-five from Company D who volunteered to participate. Two days later they engaged in a day-long battle at Hartville after which both sides withdrew, Confederates to the south and Federals north to Lebanon before returning to Houston. From there on the 27th they started south, on the 30th they reached West Plains, on February 8th they left, and on March 11th they reached Ste. Genevieve, an old French town on the Mississippi. They were then transported downstream to Milliken’s Bend where General Grant was organizing an army to capture Vicksburg. They walked south along the west side of the river until April 30th when they crossed to the Bruinsburg landing on the east bank and started a slow walk inland. Before the campaign ended with the surrender of Vicksburg on July 4th, Burt Snedigar had participated in the May 1st Battle of Port Gibson - “we gave them (the rebels) a good thrashing at Port Gibson, and they’ll remember it too,” he said - been present at Champion’s Hill on May 16th (when the regiment was held out of action by General McClernand), participated in a May 17th assault at the Big Black River, participated in a May 22nd assault at Vicksburg (during which Burt received a slight leg wound that was treated in the field hospital), and participated in the ensuing siege. He was one of only twelve members of Company D who were still able for duty when the siege ended and they pursued Confederate General Joe Johnston east to Jackson where there was a brief siege that ended with the city’s surrender.

The regiment then served in southwestern Louisiana and spent six months along the Gulf Coast of Texas. On May 10th, Burt’s older brother, James Snedigar, was still at home when he enlisted in the 47th Iowa Infantry, a 100-day regiment, and two of their sisters, Martha and Irena, stepped in to help their father at the post office. The 21st Iowa returned to Louisiana in June and was transported up the Mississippi before debarking at New Orleans. They then saw brief service near the Terrebonne rail station west of New Orleans, in Algiers and at Morganza followed by two months along the White River of Arkansas. On December 15, 1864, while the regiment was stationed in Memphis, Confederate General John Bell Hood suffered a defeat at Nashville and started a withdrawal to the south. Union cavalry under Benjamin Grierson was ordered to move east from Memphis to try to intercept Hood and, leaving their tents behind, the 21st Iowa joined Grierson. This was the earliest and coldest winter Tennessee had experienced for years and men struggled through mud and rain, suffered through cold nights and bivouacked in the open. It rained and snowed intermittently throughout the day as they covered fifteen miles and retired for the night at Germantown.

On the second day of its march, the regiment continued another fifteen miles over rough frozen ground covered with snow. They covered seven miles on the third day and camped near Wolf River while Grierson's cavalry continued its search. Then the rains came, the river flooded, pickets waded to their posts and lowlands were inundated. It was thought the infantry would be needed to build bridges so the cavalry could cross the river, but another crossing was found and the regiment was free to return to Memphis. On December 26th, it was raining as they started their return through water, mud and slush. The march was hard but they covered twenty-two miles the first day before arriving at Germantown. On the 27th, they reached White's Station where they camped until continuing to Memphis on the 31st. Burt Snedigar would later say that it was while they were at White’s Station that his eyes became sore and inflamed, a condition diagnosed as acute ophthalmia. He continued with the regiment and was marked “present” on all bimonthly muster rolls until being mustered out as a 3rd Sergeant on July 15, 1865.

After being discharged at Clinton, soldiers returned to their homes with Burt going to Elkader. His vision was often blurred, sometimes with pain, and he could “scarcely see to read or write or do any work” at his profession as a jeweler. “Harvest hands were making $2.50 per day,” but manual labor was difficult since it aggravated his eye problems. In 1864, Burt’s father had formed a partnership with Henry Stearns and Burt now went to work with them as a mercantile clerk. Seeking medical help, he traveled to Danville, New York, for treatment at the “home on the hillside” spa of Dr. James Jackson, a practitioner of alternative medicine, but the relief received was only temporary and, on November 14, 1870, Burt applied for an invalid pension. Their family doctor had served with the 48th Iowa Infantry, but was living in Toledo, Ohio, when he wrote to confirm that Burt had been in good health prior to the war.

It was about this time that Burt met Ellen Mitchell, a resident of Smithfield Township in Fayette County and, by the end of 1871, their relationship had become close. On June 26, 1872, they were married and in 1873 moved to Maynard. A daughter, Mabel Louise, was born in 1874 and a son, Charles, in 1879.

Meanwhile the pension claim lingered. Ellen said “he was singing at the organ and he could not see unless he had a book to himself” and his music teacher noticed he couldn’t see the music “without holding it to his eyes.” During the war he had ordered medications from O. W. Fowler’s in New York, but there was nothing in government records that indicated the vision problems were service-related as the law required. Gilbert Cooley, 2nd Lieutenant of Company D, signed an affidavit confirming that Burt had an inflammatory eye condition “caused by exposure while in the line of duty with the troops in support of General Grierson’s raid” and a regimental surgeon said he had treated Burt for acute ophthalmia while they were at White’s Station. A West Union doctor confirmed the current eye problems as did numerous other witnesses, but the government wasn’t convinced and ordered a special examination. Depositions were taken in Maynard, Fayette, Elkader, Strawberry Point, Dubuque, Brush Creek, Earlville, Edgewood and Volga City, nineteen total. Affidavits were signed, letters were written and Burt was examined by a “skilled oculist” in Davenport who recommended that the claim be allowed.

On April 6, 1886, more than fifteen years after the application was filed, the pension office mailed a certificate entitling Burt to $2.00 monthly, an amount later increased to $6.00. On March 23, 1904, the Oelwein Register reported that, “on the afternoon of March 16, 1904, while at work with his son in the cellar, he dropped dead.” Burt had been active in the I.O.O.F., been Secretary of the school board and served as postmaster for twelve years. A funeral was held at the opera house and Burt was buried in Long Grove Cemetery. His father had died in 1896, but Burt was survived by his mother, wife, both children, two brothers and three sisters.

Ellen assumed the position of postmaster and, on April 1, 1904, applied for a widow’s pension. She secured a certified copy of their marriage record and numerous affidavits testifying to their marriage and that they were still living as husband and wife when Burt died. Her only assets were household goods, Burt’s “Kit of Mechanical Tools” that might sell for $100, and a $400 half interest in real property. On June 6th a certificate was issued entitling Ellen to a monthly pension of $8.00 but she received no payments since, less than a month later, on Saturday, July 2, 1904:  “in an attempt to tilt a gasoline stove while it was lighted, Mrs. E. B. Snedigar set fire to her house and herself. The alarm was given at once and the flames in the house soon extinguished but not before she had been most terribly burned. All that medical skill could do was done for her but to no avail and after terrible suffering she passed away early Sunday morning.”

Ellen, like her husband, was buried in Long Grove Cemetery.

~ Compiled & Contributor: Carl Ingwalson

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