Most of the men did not immediately join the United States Army but first signed up with local groups. Typical of these was George Madden who in his diary1account of May 18, 1861, talks about "joining a horse company of forty men at Hawleyville for home protection.." It is obvious from the entries that he was well aware of the major events taking place on the war front and yet his diary also reflects that his life was not especially touched by it. Most entries concern the weather, crops, visiting neighbors, and only a few about the war -
June 26, 1862 - More cooler. Digging around trees, etc Lizzie (his wife) and Mrs. Stillians went visiting to aunt Hannah Pricketts. They are working on my pants for uniform. Old Mrs. Rawlings is making my coat, Mrs. Stillians my cap and Lizzie my pants.
July 8, 1862 - Considerable excitement this morning at Hawleyville in consequence of a report that a body of 4 or 500 secessionists were at Maryville, Mo., arresting union men. Most of our company and other companies have started down to fight them. Commence harvesting by reaping machine.
July 13, 1862 - Finished McFarland's wheat about noon Bound up some wheat for Frost that he had cut down with a mowing scythe. Frost is sick. The Nodaway Rangers (what the horse company called themselves) have returned. They arrested a good many secessionists.
July 15, 1862 - Rain last night. Warm weather. I am unwell. Our company has now an opportunity within 20 days to go into the U.S. service as we have recieved notice from the government. First called out concerning secssionists in Missouri. Joined several companies at Bedford (Iowa) and started toward Gentry county (Missouri). The regiment stops to take dinner on the state line, Council taken by the officers decided to proceed. Many return home - nearly half. Tis harvest time, some haven't got their wheat cut and stacked - the most busy time of year. Proceed a few miles and camp. More recruits received from Fremont county (Iowa) at night which swells our numbers considerably.
They proceeded to Gentry County
and during the next few days of July Madden commented that there were
speeches and advice from officers, but not much else going on. They then
were told that the Missouri secession and union parties had made a treaty
to lay down their arms and return home but first they were to meet each
other and shake hands in friendship -
The Taylor County, Iowa History (1881) states the Company received their "baptism of blood" at the Helena, Arkansas Battle and that the only other significant battles were at Arkansas Post and Spanish Fort.3 The men themselves, for reasons described later, most often mentioned the Yazoo Pass Expedition and Jenkin's Ferry as being most important.
On December 5 to the 9, 1862, Company F marched to St. Joseph, Missouri and two weeks later they proceeded on to Benton Barracks, Missouri, at St. Louis, where they served as Prison Guards for a short time. Finally, on January 8, 1863, they moved to Helena, Arkansas.4
January 12, 1863, they were involved in the Arkansas Post Battle. Arkansas Post was an outpost that the French had established in 1685 on the Arkansas River. The Confederates had built an enclosure there they called Fort Hindman, having 5,000 men to protect it. Their main objective was to be able to man gunboats, survey, and intercept the traffic on the Mississippi River between Memphis and Vicksburg. Because this threatened the main Federal supply line to Vicksburg, General McClernand though it would be a definite advantage to overtake the Fort. The Federals attacked the Fort hard all afternoon with no signs of surrender, but the next day with the heavy guns at close range, the Rebels asked for a "cease fire."5
A letter from Thomas P. Latimer
written to his parents in Fremont County, Iowa, gives an eye witness account
of this battle:
Dear Father and Mother: I again take my pen in hand to write you a few lines to let you know that I am still in the land of the living. I wrote you a letter a few days ago before we started up the Arkansas river.
We have had some pretty hard experiences since then. We started up the river on the morning of the 9th and landed about three miles below the fort. There was some pretty hard cannonading that evening. The rebels tried to keep us back. All was quiet on our side.
Sunday morning we went on taking our position in the forenoon without paying any attention to their shells. They kept throwing shells at us all the morning, but did not hurt us very much.
At about 2 p.m., we were all ready to go for them. We opened on them with all our land batteries and the gunboats. At the same time the infantry were pecking into them when ever they would show their heads over the works. The battle lasted about two hours, when the rebels ran up the white flag. It was pretty hard fighting while it lasted, almost as hard as it was at Shiloh.
Tuesday, Jan. 13. - I had to go on guard and did not finish my letter last night. We made a clean sweep of them, bagging the whole kit. There were between six and eleven thousand of them, all Texans except one regiment from Arkansas. Our loss was about five hundred killed and wounded. Our regiment was in the second line and in support of the first line, to be ready to charge on their works at any moment if necessary, but happily it was not necessary. The gun boats tore their fort all to pieces. They had two big 120 pounders mounted in the fort and both were dismounted. One was knocked off its trunions and the other had part of its muzzle broken off. The rebels were well fortified.
Gen. McClelland is in command
of our forces here now and Sherman is second in command. We had only
one man killed in our regiment and four wounded. I hope we will always
come out that well. Company K did not lose a man. They had breastworks
about 1 1/2 miles long across from the river below the fort to the river
above the fort. I never saw things so tore up as they were inside the
fort. Nearly every one of the artillery horses were killed. I saw twelve
lying in one pile and six in another still hitched to thee caissons,
which were torn to pieces with our shells. I do not know how many the
rebels had in the battle. I saw a great number of their dead.
They were terribly mangled, some with their heads torn off and some
with both legs off. I saw one poor fellow who had all his lower parts
blown off with a shell. His shoe with his foot still in it was blown
clear over on the outside of the works. It is a terrible sight to look
upon a battlefield after the battle.
The Offical Record contains a communique dated Mar. 7th from "15 miles below mouth of Coldwater River" that they planned "to leave the coal-barges in charge of the gunboats and the Twenty-ninth Iowa Infantry, and with the balance of our forces to push on to Greenwood."9 Other correspondence of the 8th mentioned the complaints about the unserviceable condition of some of the boats. They wanted to get the boats back to the mouth of the Yalabusha River to make repairs. A report enclosed with this stated that the steamers "Diana, John Bell, Luella, and Bayard, (very) unseaworthy, and incapable of making the trip without great risk of their loss. I send up this morning the Luella. She is in bad condition, and should be repaired at once."10
The Official Record makes no further comment on the Luella and one can only speculate that the steamer was later sent to retrieve the Twenty-ninth as the pension papers of John Luellen definitely state that "all the effects of Private John Luellen were lost on board the steamer Luella (sunk) in Yazoo Pass, Miss., March 19th, 1863."11 A biographical sketch of Samuel Gant states it more dramatically, "When at Yazoo Pass near Vicksburg, came near losing his life by the sinking of the boat which he was on. The boat and contents went down but the crew fortunately escaped."12 In most history books it wasn't very important, but Company F of the 29th Iowa all remembered it well.
The Twenty-ninth Iowa Infantry then returned to Helena, Ark., where they were on duty until August. The most significant battle of their whole tour took place here with the repulse of Holmes' attack July 4th, 1863.13 Not realizing that the Battles of Gettysburg and Vicksburg would monopolize the historian's accounts for July 4, 1863, the Twenty-ninth Iowa was nevertheless preparing to write their own history for that day. Intelligence had reached them that the Confederates were planning to try and take control of the Helena (Ark.) garrison - in case Vicksburg did fall - they would still have a foothold on the Mississippi. Rebel Theophilus Holmes with two brigades planned to join two more brigades of Gen. Sterling Price and with 7,646 men they could overpower the 4,129 Federal troops. The Rebels had not planned on having to march through calf-deep mud for several days and by the time they arrived the Federals were waiting for them. The Federals had the gunboat Tyler, with 8-inch guns, rifle pits and entrenchments had been dug into the ridge beyond and around the fort - and all plans for any Fourth of July celebration had been forbidden. The Federal troops were mostly farm boys from Wisconsin, Iowa, and Missouri, whose only experience in the War was at Yazoo Pass; they were outnumbered, but very ready. Nothing went right for the Rebels. Their big gun artillery did not make it through the mud in time. Capturing some of the enemy guns they soon realized the Federals had retreated with the friction primers so the guns were useless, and at one time they had troops putting up white flags and surrendering while their comrades behind them were still firing. By 10:30 a.m., the Fourth of July "fireworks" were over, the Confederates withdrew having lost 1,590 men as prisoners or casualties; the Federals lost only 239.14
The next major episode of the War for Company F occurred April 30, 1864, at Jenkin's Ferry, Ark. Both Federals and Rebels moving toward Little Rock had to cross the Saline River, with the Federals planning to get there first, cross and burn the bridge, thereby stopping the Rebels. The nightmare of rain and mud slowed and exhausted them to the extent that the Rebels were able to pick up stragglers at the end of the column. They both arrived at nearly the same time and the skirmish was fought in knee-deep mud and thick fog - everyone shot their weapons not being absolutely sure at what. In the end the Rebels had 1,000 casualties and the defenders 700, including the stragglers they had lost on the three day march from Camden, Ark. Once the Federal troops crossed the Saline River, they did cut the bridge loose and burn it. The Rebels could not follow.15
The remainder of 1864 until February 1865 Company F was in or near Little Rock. In February, they were dispatched to Mobile, Alabama, and participated in the Siege of Spanish Fort March 26 to April 9, 1865.16 Spanish Fort was a garrison at the head of Mobile Bay nine miles east of the city near Fort Blakely - a strategic point. If it fell, the city of Mobile was completely vulnerable.17
After the War officially ended, Company F was stationed at Mobile, Mt. Vernon Arsenal, New Orleans, and returned home mustered out August 10, 1865.18
Of the one hundred and ten members of Company F, John F. Cobb was the only man killed in action, John Hicks died of wounds at Helena, eleven men were taken prisoners at Jenkin's Ferry, seven were discharged for or with disabilities, and twenty-three died of "disease." The Taylor County, Iowa History (1881) says this disease was in "some degree from the camp regime."19
This "ailment" - camp regime or camp fever - was blamed on several things: casually ignoring latrines and thus contamination of all drinking water, poor hygiene in general, poor nutrition, and things like sleeping on the ground in cold rain. All contributed low resistance to diarrhea and dysentery, typhus, malaria, pneumonia, smallpox, measles, and tuberculosis.20
George Madden, whose diary was mentioned earlier, never participated in most of the Company F activities because "camp fever" cut short his career May 31, 1863 at a St. Louis hospital - age 33, with his beloved wife Lizzie by his side, buried in a soldier cemetery there. It is evident from the Madden diary that his wife was very supportive of him and completely agreed with his stand on the issues. His dying interrupted her life, but she later remarried, moved on West, and life went on.21
In contrast, there were others
back home who responded differently to a soldier's death, especially parents
when the soldier was a youngest unmarried son. One such example was Pamela
Allen, who wrote the following letter to the pension board:
What was said over and over by these men who returned home was that this experience was always going to be a part of them. There was never an adage of "now it's over, let's forget it..." The patriotic organization of The Grand Army of the Republic developed by 1866 and was strongly supported by Company F members. The "G.A.R." members, 409,487 strong in 1890, were anyone who had served in the United States Army, Navy, or Marine Corps between April 12, 1861 and April 9, 1865, and had been honorably discharged. Its purpose was fraternal mutual assistance and the commemoration of dead comrades. This commemoration in 1868 was officially instituted as Decoration Day to be observed on May 30th each year.23
Today Decoration Day is called Memorial Day and people think of hot dogs and picnics, parades, and the Indy 500 Race. As long as the Civil War veteran's were alive, it was observed in a very dedicated and solemn manner. A typical Decoration Day in Clarinda, Iowa at the turn of the century would be observed in the following manner: people from town and surrounding area would gather by 10 a.m. in the south school yard - everyone would bring arms-full of cut flowers and flags. They would make a procession in the following order, Adjutant Jordan on horseback followed by the rest on foot, the high school band, the veteran's of the Spanish and Philippine Wars, couple hundred school children from the primary rooms of the Clarinda schools, the Taylor Band, the drum corps, veteran's in the Grand Army of the Republic with the Women's Relief Corps (wives of the G.A.R. members), a long line of citizen's, followed by carriages of those unable to march to the cemetery. The decorating committee from the Grand Army with muffled drumbeat marched from grave to grave and distributed flowers and flags, followed by others also distributing flowers. They then assembled at the unknown soldier's grave and listened to a short ceremony by the Women's Relief Corps. After the bugle call and a hymn, there was another short address about the deeds of those buried there. The firing squad fired three volleys over the mound and a closing benediction closed that part of the services. Picnic lunches were then eaten. In the afternoon, the state hospital band played in the courthouse square and then all proceeded to the school yard again to have appropriate music and addresses concerning why they assembled - slavery - and the sacrifices of the veterans departed.24
On many other occasions the veteran's assembled for "encampments" or reunions. Most of these mentioned in newspaper articles do not contain serious information about their war services. They usually got together to have a good time, having mock court martials because someone was smoking a cigar found to be too short or general pranks.25 At a reunion of the Twenty-ninth in 1922 a detailed account was told about what the captives did when taken prisoners at Jenkin's Ferry. A favorite part of this story was when Alexander Duncan, in his best "southern vernacular" asked General Price (who was reviewing the prisoners) if he "could lend a fellar a chaw of your best long green?" It was also noted that the group sang "Marching Through Georgia," "Beans," and other "high classical and operatic music."26
In other more serious interviews,
they let people know the War was not funny or a good time. An article
in the Shenandoah, Iowa newspaper, Sentinel Post, of May 5, 1912
relates how Jerry Brown had felt about the Battle of Williamsburg, Virginia,
that had occurred May 5, 1862. After describing the battle, he added:
There are many things to consider
about how this War affected people throughout the rest of their lives.
In the Preface of Bruce Catton's The Army of the Potomac: Mr. Lincoln's
Army, he made the comment that he as a small boy remembered these
men with long white beards and dignity -
1. Madden, George, personal diary, published in the Villisca Review (Villisca, Iowa), date unknow.
2. Evans, Lyman, History of Taylor County, Iowa. Des Moines: State Historical Company, 1881), p.524
3. Evans, p. 520.
4. Dyer, Frederick H., A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion Vol. 3, (New York: Thomas Yoseloff, 1959), p. 1177.
5. Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative, Fredericksburg to Meridian, Vol. 2, (New York: Random House, 1963), p. 133-136.
6. "A letter 49 Years Old Written by T.P. Latimer," Sentinel Post, Shenandoah, Iowa, Jan 12, 1912.
7. Dyer, p. 1177.
8. Foote, Vol. 2, pp. 201-206.
9. The War of the Rebellion, A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I Vol. XXIV, (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1889), p. 393.
10. The Official Record, p. 394-395.
11. Luellen, John, Private pension application #54567, National Archives Records, Washington, D.C.
12. Evans, p. 755.
13. Dyer, p. 1177.
14. Foote, Vol. 2, p. 600-606.
15. Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative, Red River to Appomattox, Vol. 3, (New York: Random House, 1974), p. 77-79.
16. Dyer, p. 1177.
17. Foote, Vol. 3, p. 849, 904.
18. Dyer, p. 1177.
19. Evans, p. 524.
20. Brooks, Stewart, Civil War Medicine, (Springfield, Il; Charles C. Thomas, 1966), p. 69.
21. Madden Diary
22. Allen, Lorenzo, Private, pension application #66105, National Archives Records, Washington, D.C.
23. "Memorial Day," The World Book Encyclopedia, (Chicago: World Book, Inc., 1983).
24. "Decoration Day Events," The Clarinda Herald, (Clarinda, Iowa) Jun 1, 1900, May 31, 1901.
25. "Civil War vets meet in Bedford,"
Taylor County Republican, (Bedford, Iowa) Sep 16, 1915.
26. "Vets of Co. F 29th Ia. enjoy reunion," Bedford Times Republican, (Bedford, Iowa) Oct 24, 1922.
27. Catton, Bruce, The Army
of the Potomac: Mr. Lincoln's Army, (New York: Doubleday and Company,