New Salem Cemetery, two miles south of Lynnville on Highway T-38, is the final resting place for one of our nation's war heroes. Here, at the extreme south end of Row 4, is a grassy area under towering Spruce trees, is the grave site of Civil War Medal of Honor recipient Edward James Bebb, his wife Mary, and their child Robbie. Two small, gray sandstone markers are simply identified as "Father" and "Mother". A larger, white sandstone marker identifies the grave of Robbie, who passed away on November 1, 1876, at the age of 5 years, 1 month and 22 days. A large, red granite replacement monument with the names of Edward and Mary has been placed on the original gray granite base.
Edward J. Bebb is one of 89 Iowans to have received the Medal of Honor. Forty-one are known to be buried in Iowa, with two of these placed in final resting in Jasper County. The Medal of Honor, often incorrectly referred to as the Congressional Medal of Honor, is our nation's highest award to military servicemen for combat action "above and beyond the call of duty" during wartime. Since adopted by an act of Congress during the Civil War on July 12, 1862, the Medal of Honor has been awarded only 3,412 times. There are fewer than 200 men presently living who are recipients.
Edward J. Bebb was born on April 28, 1839 in Butler County, Ohio. His passing occurred in the "Iowa Soldier's Home" in Marshalltown on July 12, 1916, at the age of 77 years. Nothing is recorded regarding his youth, other than having moved to Iowa in 1851 at the age of 12.
On September 25, 1861, Edward J. Bebb enlisted in the Union Army, Company "D", 4th Regiment of the Iowa Cavalry, at the age of 23. He was honorably discharged after two years of service on December 20, 1863. However, a day later, on December 21st, he re-enlisted as a "Veteran" with his old unit, Company "D", 4th Regiment, Iowa Cavalry. He was "mustered out" with his entire company on August 8, 1865, in Atlanta, Georgia. From enrollment to mustering out, Bebb held the rank of Private. The great Civil War to preserve the Union had just ended slightly over two months previous to Bebb's final honorable discharge.
Edward James Bebb joined the ranks of our nation's most decorated soldiers by receiving his Medal of Honor in field ceremonies on June 17, 1865. Detailed reports of his act of bravery have been lost to time. However, gleaned from War Department record is documentation that, "On April 16, 1865, while serving with the Wilson Cavalry in battle with the Rebels at Columbus, Georgia, Private Bebb advanced towards the enemy without fear for personal safety, and captured the Confederate flag and colors. This act of bravery while under intense fire succeeded in demoralizing the enemy, who then retreated in the face of inevitable defeat."
After his meritorious service with the Union Army, Edward J. Bebb returned to Iowa, and settled into farming in southern Jasper County. On March 8, 1866, he married Mary A. Hungerford at Wapello, Iowa. Six children were borne to this union, namely John C., 1868; Netty B.; 1869; Robbie, 1871; Merty, 1872; Della, 1876; and Gerty, 1882. Bebb became a widower on June 21, 1900, when Mary died of what was reported to be a "paralytic stroke".
As an adult, Edward J. Bebb was 5'10" in height, of sandy complexion with brown hair and brown eyes. His declaration of occupation on War Department Pension forms was that of "farmer". Bebb resided in Iowa from 1851 to 1889, Nebraska from 1889 to 1894, Missouri from 1894 to 1899, and then returned to Jasper County, Iowa from 1899 until his death in 1916.
Two of Bebb's friends, Jeremiah Sherks and John Rafferty, both of New Sharon, Iowa, were comrades in the Union Army, and knew him well. In an affidavit filed with the Records Division in Mahaska County on April 27, 1900, both testified that Edward J. Bebb, ". . . has been a sober and peaceable man, and a man of the best habits". This affidavit was necessary to establish Bebb's credibility in seeking financial compensation from the War Department's Pension Office.
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