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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 son of Allen and Mercy (Emerson) Goodrich, John was born in Mont Vernon, New Hampshire, on August 13, 1826. He was fifteen years old when his mother died and not long after that he struck out on his own working for one year as a clerk in Massachusetts, spending five years searching for gold in California and eventually buying a farm near Epworth (elsewhere Farley).

      On February 12, 1857 he married Marion Coats, daughter of Truman and Polly (Messenger) Coats. John and Marion had two sons  - Truman F. Goodrich born December 16, 1857, and Edward E. Goodrich born September 24, 1859 - and a daughter, Frances A. Goodrich, who was born on  November 3, 1861, seven months after General Beauregard’s Confederate guns opened fire on Fort Sumter.

      With a twenty-six-year-old wife and three young children and the North anticipating an early end to the war, John did not immediately enlist but, as the war raged on and more and more men died, President Lincoln in the fall of 1862 called for another 300,000 volunteers. If they were not forthcoming by August 15th, the shortfall would be made up by a draft. Iowa’s quota was five regiments, roughly 5,000 men, and Governor Kirkwood assured the President "the State of Iowa in the future as in the past, will be prompt and ready to do her duty to the country in the time of sore trial. Our harvest is just upon us, and we have now scarcely men enough to save our crops, but if need be our women can help." 

      James Hill, a Baptist minister in Cascade, was an active recruiter and secured the enlistments of seventy-two volunteers, one of whom was John Goodrich on August 10, 1862. A religious man, John wrote: “If there had been an abundance of young men in our State ready to enlist, I should undoubtedly have remained at home. But it was not so. The alternative remained for me to enlist and be removed far away from all the sweet amenities of home, incur all the risks of war in all its varied forms, - and those on the battlefield are not the greatest, - or remain at home in peace, and have my cheek mantle with eternal shame. It was a severe trial for my dear wife, but she endured it with Christian fortitude.” In recognition of his recruiting efforts, James Hill was appointed 1st Lieutenant of Company I.

      John Goodrich was mustered in as member of the company at Camp Franklin in Dubuque on August 23rd. On September 9th, with a total enrollment of 985 men, ten companies were mustered in as the state’s 21st infantry regiment. On a rainy September 16th those well enough to travel boarded the Henry Clay and two barges tied alongside and started south. They spent one night on Rock Island before continuing downstream, debarking at Montrose due to low water, traveling by train to Keokuk, boarding the Hawkeye State, and resuming their trip to St. Louis where they arrived on the 20th. On the night of the 21st, they crowded onto cars of the Southwest Branch of the Pacific Railroad and traveled in darkness to its western terminus at Rolla, a town of about 600 residents. For the next month they camped near a spring southwest of town before marching to Salem, Houston, Hartville and then, after a wagon train bringing supplies from Rolla was attacked on November 24th, back to Houston.

      On January 9, 1863, word was received that a Confederate force was moving north towards Springfield and a hastily organized relief force was organized. Included were twenty-five volunteers from each company with John being one of the volunteers from Company I. On the night of the 10th, they camped along Wood’s Fork of the Gasconade River unaware that two Confederate columns had joined forces and were camped a short distance away. On the morning of the 11th, each became aware of the other and, after brief firing by pickets, rushed to the nearby town of Hartville with Confederates occupying high ground to the east and the Union soldiers aligned along a low ridge on the west. During the daylong battle Carl Preschel, Charles Carlton and Ted Dare were killed. William Jones died the next day from a bowel wound and another thirteen had non-fatal wounds. After the battle, the Northern soldiers withdrew to Lebanon before returning to Houston, but John Goodrich was one of several members of the regiment who stayed in Hartville to serve as nurses. When not caring for the wounded, John read a book that one of the Confederates had left behind, an 1858 book by Mason Weems about the life of George Washington.

      By the time John rejoined his comrades they were with General Grant preparing for a campaign to capture Vicksburg. From Milliken’s Bend they walked south along the west side of the Mississippi and, on April 30th, crossed from Disharoon’s Plantation to Bruinsburg. As the point regiment at the head of the entire army, they drew enemy fire about midnight before resting on their arms. Knowing there would be a battle the next day, John prayed for God “to cover my head in the day of battle, if it be his will; but if he has otherwise ordained, ‘his will, not mine be done.’ It would be very sweet to meet my wife and children once again on earth.” John survived the battle, was present during the May 16th battle at Champion’s Hill when the regiment was held in reserve, and participated in a May 17th assault on entrenched Confederates at the Big Black River.

      On May 22nd, they were on the Union line surrounding the rear of Vicksburg. Starting early in the morning, Northern cannon bombarded the city. At 10:00 a.m. the bombardment stopped. Bugles blared and along the entire line soldiers ran toward the heavily fortified city. The assault was unsuccessful and the regiment saw heavy casualties. Combined losses for the assaults of the 17th and 22nd were thirty killed in action and another thirty with wounds that would soon prove fatal. Dozens more were wounded, some seriously enough to cause arms and legs to be amputated. John was not wounded, but suffered sunstroke and was taken into the tent of Lieutenant Hill who later wrote:

“Mr. Goodrich was as brave a soldier as ever entered the field. Every fight we have had he was in; and when the charge was made on the Black River works of the Rebels, he rushed forward, and was nearly the first man to mount the embankment, and nobly did he lead back a number of Rebels from their rifle-pits to our camp. The same is true at the charge on the outer works of Vicksburg. It may be said of him, that a good man has fallen. Mr. Goodrich has lived the life of a Christian from the time he enlisted until the day of his death. The evening before his death he assured me all was well, and his trust was in Christ alone. He repeated several times over, to tell his dear wife to train up his two sons for Christ; and very calmly passed away about four o’clock on the morning of the 4th of June.” 

      John Goodrich died from “inflammation of the brain.” He is buried in Vicksburg National Cemetery.

      Marion sold the family farm, moved into Epworth and, two months after John’s death, applied for a widow’s pension. On October 6, 1963, she was appointed Guardian of the estate of her three children with the order being signed by Stephen Hempstead, a Dubuque County judge and formerly Iowa’s second Governor.  On June 21, 1864, the application was approved at a rate of $8.00 monthly retroactive to the date of John’s death. The pension was terminated two years later when Marion married David B. Ames on October 6, 1866. Officiating was James Hill, the Cascade minister and regimental lieutenant who had enrolled John four years earlier and written to Marion after John’s death.

      In 1869, the family moved to Waterloo where Marion became active in the local Baptist church. Marion and David had four children: Gertrude E., Josephine M., Laura A. and Augustus. Marion died on November 6, 1907, while living with Laura and her husband, Olin D. Young, at 315 Saxton Street, Waterloo. Marion (Coats) (Goodrich) Ames and David Ames are buried in Fairview Cemetery, Waterloo.

~ Compiled & submitted by Carl Ingwalson <cingwalson@cfilaw.com>

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