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~ Military Biography ~

Dubuque county Civil War Soldiers
 of the
Twenty-first Regiment Iowa Volunteer Infantry

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.



    The youngest of three sons born to European immigrants John and Margaret “Mary” Baal, Martin was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on August 14, 1841. When he was twelve years old the family of five moved to Iowa and settled on a farm near Sherrill’s Mound in Dubuque County.

      Nineteen-year-old Martin was still living and working on the farm when Abraham Lincoln was elected President on November 16, 1860. Southern states had threatened secession, but few in the North thought it would happen. As the Clayton County Journal said, “We do not believe that the people of South Carolina desire a dissolution of the Union simply because a Northern man was elected President. There are only a few hot-heads in our opinion who make all this disturbance and they cannot effect anything.” The Journal was wrong. States did secede and, on April 12, 1861, General Beauregard’s Confederate cannon fired on Fort Sumter.

      As the ensuing war escalated through a second year and casualties mounted, more men were needed. On July 9, 1862, Iowa’s governor, Sam Kirkwood, received a telegram asking him to raise another five regiments. If not raised by August 15th, a draft was likely. On August 16th, twenty-two-year-old John Baal enlisted and on the 20th Martin joined him. At 5' 10" Martin was slightly taller than average and was described as having dark hair and a dark complexion, occupation farmer. On the 22nd, the brothers were mustered into Company E of what would be the 21st regiment of Iowa’s volunteer infantry. Training at Dubuque’s Camp Franklin was brief and on September 9th, with a total of 985 men, ten companies were mustered in as a regiment. On a rainy 16th, those able for duty boarded the sidewheel steamer Henry Clay and two barges tied alongside and started south.

      On the 17th they stopped at Rock Island for one night and, while there, learned that Thompson Spottswood had become the first to die. Ill and left behind, he had succumbed to measles and lung congestion while being treated at his uncle’s house in Epworth. The regiment resumed its trip on the 18th, debarked at Montrose due to low water, traveled by rail to Keokuk, boarded the Hawkeye State and arrived in St. Louis about 10:00 a.m. on the 20th. The weather was hot and by the time they reached Benton Barracks many were exhausted. After the next day’s inspection, they marched to the rail line, boarded cars usually reserved for freight and livestock, and traveled through the night to the railhead at Rolla.

      The water at their first campsite “oppressed the senses like the breath of sewers” and they soon relocated to Sycamore Springs southwest of town. For the next month they practiced their drill and waited for orders. On October 18th they left Rolla for Salem followed by Houston and Hartville where they arrived on November 15th. After a wagon train was attacked on November 24th, they returned to Houston but, when word was received that a Confederate column was advancing on Springfield, a hastily organized relief force including 262 volunteers from the 21st Infantry hurried in that direction. On January 11th, before reaching Springfield, they engaged in a one-day battle at Hartville. Military records do not indicate that Martin was present during the battle.

      After the battle, the able-bodied returned to Houston by way of Lebanon and rejoined their comrades. The regiment then  moved to West Plains where they spent nine nights before moving northeast through Ironton and Iron Mountain to Ste. Genevieve where they arrived on March 11th. From there they were transported downstream to Milliken’s Bend where General Grant was organizing an army to capture Vicksburg. So far, Martin had been marked “present” on all bimonthly company muster rolls and he continued with the regiment when it started a slow march through swamps, along dirt roads and over bayous west of the river. On April 30th, they crossed to Bruinsburg on the east bank and, with the 21st Iowa as the point regiment for the entire 30,000 man army, started a slow march inland. Continuing to maintain his health while many others had been discharged due to medical disabilities, Martin participated in the next day’s Battle of Port Gibson.

      On May 16 the largest battle of the campaign, the Battle of Champion Hill, was fought with heavy casualties on both sides, but the 21st Iowa had been held in reserve by General McClernand and did not participate. “Those who stood there that day,” said William Crooke, “will surely never forget the bands of humiliation and shame which bound them to the spot, while listening to the awful crashes of musketry and thunders of cannon close by." Having not been engaged on the 16th, they were moved to the front on the 17th and continued to advance toward Vicksburg. West of the rail depot at Edwards they encountered entrenched Confederates who were hoping to keep the railroad bridge over the Big Black River open. Officers conferred and then ordered their men forward. The 21st and 23rd Iowa led the charge, a successful assault that only took three minutes but came at a heavy price. Seven members of the regiment were killed, another eighteen had wounds that would soon prove fatal and at least forty suffered wounds that, although not fatal, were often serious. Martin Baal was among them.

      Martin was wounded in the right foot and that evening the foot was amputated above the joint.

As soon as safe access to the river was available, Martin and eight of his comrades were taken on board the hospital steamer City of Memphis and transported upstream where they were admitted to the Adams U.S.A. General Hospital in Memphis. Martin was later transported to the general hospital at St. Louis’ Jefferson Barracks and that’s where he was when he was discharged from the military on September 26, 1863.

      Three months later he applied for an invalid pension. With a supportive affidavit from his former captain, Jacob Swivel, Martin’s application was approved and on March 5, 1864, a certificate was issued entitling him to $8.00 per month, payable quarterly. In September he was provided with an “artificial limb” made by Charles Stafford but, still unable to effectively return to farming, he worked as a cigar maker. In 1866, with the support of John Buckholz (another comrade from the 21st Infantry), Martin received a pension increase to $15.00 monthly payable through the agency in Marion.

      On October 3, 1873, thirty-year-old Martin and eighteen-year-old Mary Hoerner were married by Rev. Herman Ficke in Dubuque where they made their home at 1335 Iowa Street. They were living at 379 Windsor Avenue in 1885, 381 Windsor Avenue in 1887 and 904 Davis Street in 1920. In answer to a 1915 government questionnaire Martin said all of their children “living or dead” were Alvin Frederick Baal born July 27, 1874, John Andrew Baal born February 16, 1878, and David J. Baal born March 31, 1892.

      Martin’s pension had been increased to $40 by 1926 when he applied for another increase. That May, after Dr. Matthew Moes signed an affidavit saying eighty-two-year-old Martin had “developed many of the infirmities that go with age” and constantly “requires the care and attention of another person,” the pension was increased to $72. An application for another increase was pending when Martin died on April 12, 1930, sixty-nine years after Confederate guns had fired on Fort Sumter.

      Indicating that Martin had left no personal or real property and only $60.00 cash, Mary applied for and received her husband’s accrued but unpaid pension and her own widow’s pension that was soon granted at an initial rate of $30 monthly. She was still living at her home on Davis Street when she died on May 13, 1938.

      Martin’s parents are buried in the Sherrill United Church of Christ Cemetery while Martin and Mary are in Linwood Cemetery as are two of their sons (John and David) and both of Mary’s parents, Andrew and Maria Hoerner.  




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