IAGenWeb Project - Clayton co.

Carl Knodt
27th IA Infantry, Civil War

~researched & written by Carl Inwalson


Carl Knodt, son of Johann and Theresia Knodt, was born on April 27, 1829, in Trier, Germany, a town on the Moselle River not far from Luxembourg. On April 28, 1849, the day after his twentieth birthday, Carl left Germany for America. After landing in New York, he went to Connecticut and then Wisconsin. In 1851 he moved by ox team to Iowa and settled near Guttenberg.

Margaret Kunigunde Sontag was also born in Germany. She married John Nurnberger and they had a son also named John. Her husband went to New York to meet his brother who was arriving from Germany, but neither was seen again and police speculated that they had been robbed and killed. Margaret then married a man surnamed Sinne and, in 1853 (or 1854), they had a son named William B. Sinne. After her second husband died from a heart attack, she married Carl Knodt in July 1855. Margaret and Carl would have eight children: Charles W. in 1856, Henry Matthew in 1858, August Ernest in 1860, John Herman in 1862, Mary Magdalena in 1864, Margaret who died three weeks after her birth in 1866, Anna Katherine in 1867, and another who died as a baby in 1869.

The 27th Iowa Volunteer Infantry was mustered into service in October, 1862, when the war was already more than a year old. For more than fifteen months, it traveled extensively but did not “come into direct conflict with the enemy.” On January 23, 1864, it was ordered to report to General Sherman in Vicksburg. From there, on February 3rd, it “took up the line of march towards the interior of the State of Mississippi” and, on the same day, Carl Knodt enlisted at Read, Iowa, as a new recruit in Company I.

Carl was described as being 5' 7" tall with grey eyes, brown hair and a light complexion; occupation, carpenter. He was mustered in at Davenport on February 22nd and soon thereafter started south to find his regiment. After its expedition to the interior, the regiment returned to Vicksburg on March 4th, Carl arrived on the 6th, and they embarked on transports for Louisiana on the 10th. In a brigade with the 14th and 32nd Iowa and 24th Missouri infantries, all under the command of William Shaw, they were about to start what is known as the Red River Campaign.

The campaign started well with Fort DeRussy falling to Union forces on March 14th. The army, under the command of Nathaniel Banks, then pursued the gradually withdrawing Confederates for several weeks but encountered unexpectedly heavy skirmishing on April 7th. One of the Southern soldiers noted in his diary that they were “eager to meet the damned rascals” from the North and, on the 8th, he got his wish. The Confederate withdrawal stopped. In the Battle of Sabine Crossroads (aka Battle of Mansfield), the rebels attacked from the left and right. Cavalry circled to the Union rear. Union infantry was forced to retreat on a narrow road congested with wagons and artillery, but continued in panic, mile after mile, until the battle ended at nightfall. Federal losses were heavy, but the 27th Iowa had not been involved in the day’s fighting.

On the 9th, Shaw’s brigade with the 27th Iowa, was moved to the front, across the road from Mansfield, with other units to their left and right and artillery ready to fire over their heads. Flushed by the previous day's success, the rebels were up before dawn and headed south toward what they thought would be the remnants of a demoralized enemy. In the Battle of Pleasant Hill, the Confederates were checked by Shaw's well-positioned brigade until, about to be flanked, Shaw was ordered to fall back and escaped with heavy losses before reforming to join fresh troops in a renewed advance that ultimately turned defeat to victory and forced the enemy to withdraw.

The 27th Iowa, “although they had never been under fire before,” said Shaw, “gave their fire with the coolness and precision of veterans” with their dead, wounded and missing totaling eighty-eight. On the 10th, with water levels on the river falling, Admiral David Porter had to move his gunboats and transports downstream and Banks ordered the infantry to follow. Reinforcements from Texas arrived on the 26th but, instead of fighting, were put to work helping to build dams to deepen the water for Porter. For the infantry, they linked nineteen transports side by side with wood planks across their bows to form a bridge so their comrades could cross. The withdrawing Federals looked “dusty and worn, tired and ragged” while Banks was “hooted at by his men" and relieved of command.

On June 6th and 7th, 1864, the regiment was engaged by the enemy at Chicot, Arkansas, before proceeding to Mississippi. There, on July 14 and 15, they participated in the Battle of Tupelo, the first day at the town of Harrisburg and the second day at Old Town Creek. Carl remained with the regiment went it moved to Memphis but, on October 2nd, became ill and was sent to the general hospital at Jefferson Barracks for treatment of an “enlargement of the Submaxillary gland.” On his release in late November, he rejoined the regiment and was with it during the two-day Battle of Nashville on December 15th and 16th when Federals under General George Thomas routed John Bell Hood’s Confederates who withdrew to the south.

After leaving Tennessee, the regiment served in Mississippi, Illinois and Louisiana. At New Orleans on March 7, 1865, they boarded the Empire City and were conveyed down the river and into the Gulf of Mexico where some of the Hawkeyes became seasick and “began to call up their accounts.” On the 8th they were put ashore on Dauphin Island at the entrance to Mobile Bay and visited with many friends who were serving with Iowa’s 21st infantry. In a campaign to capture the city of Mobile, some regiments, including the 21st, walked and waded north along the east side of the bay while the 27th and others were conveyed by steamer to Danby’s Landing on the Fish River where, said Edward Rolfe of Company F, the trees were over one hundred feet high. During religious services, "for a light to shine over the Congregation,” he said, “we have 4 Stakes Drove in the Ground and cross pieces on them and then Dirt and pine Knots set on fire and it gives a splendid light we have Chopped Down the tall pines for seats and these 3 Altor fires give it a Solemn Appearance.”

Guarding eastern approaches to the city were Spanish Fort and Fort Blakely. Carl Knodt was with his regiment at Fort Blakely where a siege commenced on April 4th. When Spanish Fort fell on the 8th, more Federals moved to Blakely and it fell during an assault on the 9th. The next day, back at Dauphin Island, Carl was hospitalized with intermittent fever. From there he was transferred to the Marine General Hospital in New Orleans for treatment of scurvy, to the hospital boat D. A. January, to Memphis’ Overton Hospital, to the transport steamer Baltic, and finally to Jefferson Barracks where he was treated for scurvy and abdominal problems. He was still there on July 15, 1864, when orders from Headquarters, Department of the Gulf, directed the transfer of Carl and 121 other recruits from the 27th to the 12th Iowa so they could complete their military commitments. Carl, however, never joined the new regiment. Still at Jefferson Barracks on August 8, 1865, he was discharged from the military.

In 1866, he settled on a farm in Section 32 of Grand Meadow Township and, on May 15th of that year, a son, John Herman Knodt, died. Three years later, on May 4, 1869, Margaret died. John Welzel was a neighbor when Carl’s “family was sick with small Pox and Mrs Knodt died in child bed [i.e. childbirth]. he had no help and I and two neighbors went to the house and made the coffin and put Mrs Knodt and babe in it and buried them on the farm.” There is a stone with Margaret’s name on it in Postville Cemetery, but it’s not known if the coffin was moved from the farm or if the stone is a cenotaph.

On January 12, 1870, forty-year-old Carl married Dorethea “Dora” Rieck in Clayton Center. While maintaining the 170-acre farm, Carl also worked as a carpenter and served as a township trustee. In 1884 he applied for an invalid pension indicating he had become run down in the military and contracted asthma “caused by exposure in the field.” Military files reflected his hospitalizations, but made no mention of asthma and pension surgeons in McGregor, while not doubting he had asthma, were “not prepared to believe that his service in the capacity of a soldier produced a predisposition to it.” Six years later, with a new attorney, he reapplied, but again no pension was granted. On January 20, 1892, surgeons in Waukon disagreed with the McGregor panel and issued a certificate indicating their belief that Carl’s asthma was service-related and suggesting a pension based on asthma and “general debility.”

That was the same year that Carl retained George Van Leuven, Jr., a Lime Springs attorney with an excellent reputation and references from the Hon. Wm. B. Allison, U. S. Senator Thomas Updegraff, members of Congress and many others. Van Leuven had long been “credited with being the most successful pension agent in the state” and quickly secured affidavits from Postville druggist Anton Staadt (who testified to Carl’s use of inhaling remedies), Postville doctor John Shepherd (who said Carl often could not lie down and “had to sit in a chair beside an open window day and night”), Conrad Thoma (who said Carl was often unable to work due to breathing problems), John Thoma (who testified to Carl’s “wheezing”), and several other friends, neighbors and former comrades who testified to Carl’s breathing problems.

The application was still pending on May 22, 1893, when Carl’s attorney was arrested and charged with pension fraud. Van Leuven would eventually be found guilty and sentenced to prison but, unlike many other claims, Carl’s claim was not implicated and, on November 14, 1894, a certificate was issued entitling him to $2.00 monthly from the date his 1884 application had been filed and $6.00 monthly from when the Waukon surgeons’ report was filed. The pension was later increased to $12.00, an amount he was receiving when he died on the morning of May 8, 1899. He was buried in Postville Cemetery.

Later that month, Dora applied for a widow’s pension. It took seven affidavits, proof of her marriage and proof she had not remarried before she was approved in 1902 for payment of Carl’s accrued but unpaid pension. The following year, after a lengthy deposition of Carl’s doctor, Dora was approved for a monthly widow’s pension of $12.00 retroactive to receipt of her application. Dora died on June 20, 1913, and is buried in Postville Cemetery.

Descendants of Carl and Margaret Knodt and their son Henry Matthew Knodt still live in Clayton County.


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