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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.



     Larkin Luck and Catharine Bright were married in Kentucky in 1825. They would have eleven children, the first of whom were born in Kentucky. From there they moved to Dubuque, Iowa, where they were among the first white settlers. Larkin was a builder of wagons and sleighs and built “the first wagon ever made in Dubuque” but, with few residents in the area, business was slow and they moved to Pike County, Missouri, for several years during which a son, Greenberry Larkin, was born on November 9, 1833. They then returned to Dubuque where George was born on May 2, 1836, as “one of the oldest native-born citizens in the city.” More children were born, some died very young and, for a while, Larkin operated a store “in the mining neighborhood” of Buena Vista in Clayton County. He died on July 27, 1855, and was buried in Dubuque’s Linwood Cemetery where several of his children were already buried.

      Abraham Lincoln was elected in 1860, South Carolina passed an Ordinance of Secession that December and on April 12, 1861, Confederate guns fired on Fort Sumter. A war that started with a single shot quickly escalated, thousands of men died and on July 9, 1862, Iowa Governor Sam Kirkwood received a telegram asking him to raise five regiments in addition to those already in the field. Iowa was not heavily populated, many had already gone to war and the fall harvest was approaching, but the Governor was confident the state would meet its quota. Each regiment was to consist of ten companies of approximately 100 men each and by August 17th real estate agent Leonard Horr, already appointed Captain, had enrolled seventy-five men for Company F. More followed and on August 22nd, George Luck joined them. The company was mustered in the same day with 100 men and the regiment on September 9th with a total enrollment (officers and enlisted) of 985.

      George was listed as being twenty-five years old, an age that does not coincide with the date given for his birth (something that’s not uncommon), with black eyes, black hair and a dark complexion; occupation plasterer. On a rainy September 16th, after brief and largely ineffective training at Camp Franklin in Dubuque, men marched through town and from the levee at the foot of Jones Street boarded the Henry Clay, a 184' four-year-old sidewheel steamer, and two barges tied alongside. After spending their first night on Rock Island, they continued their journey, debarked at Montrose due to low water, traveled by rail to Keokuk, boarded the Hawkeye State and reached St. Louis on the 20th. After an inspection on the 21st, they left by rail about midnight and traveled to the railhead in Rolla where they would spend the next month. While there, Andrew Hannah, one of George’s comrades, took mules out of a corral to “break them” and George offered to help. When the mules started to run, George was able to catch the head mule and hold him until the others quieted down.

      From Rolla they walked to Salem, Houston and Hartville where they arrived on a rainy 15th of November. Dependent on supplies brought from Rolla, they relied on long trains of heavily loaded army wagons - driven by teamsters and protected by armed guards - that brought food, arms and other items from the railhead to Houston where some wagons were left for the garrison stationed there while other wagons continued to Hartville. On November 24th, George was one of the teamsters when, unable to cover the final miles to Hartville, they camped for the night along Beaver Creek. That evening, some were walking in nearby woods, some were finishing dinner and others were cleaning weapons and talking when they were attacked by enemy cavalry and quickly overwhelmed. A few escaped and alerted their comrades in Hartville. A relief force rushed to the creek and found “the rebels stripped them of their clothing, pocket books, and, in fact everything they possessed. Oh what a sight next met our eyes, there lay three of our noble boys cold in death, shot through and through, stripped of their clothing even to shoes.” The others, including George Luck, had been captured and paroled by the rebels who took what they could carry, burned the rest and quickly left.

      George continued as a teamster for the balance of their service in Missouri but, at Milliken’s Bend on April 8, 1863, he was relieved and rejoined his company. From there, General Grant’s 30,000 man army walked south along the west side of the Mississippi until crossing to the Bruinsburg landing in Mississippi on April 30th. A battle, the Battle of Port Gibson, was fought the next day with Confederates withdrawing that evening. While the army started a movement inland before turning toward Vicksburg, George and several others were detailed as ambulance drivers. Near Little Bayou Pierre on May 5th (or 6th) they were captured by Wirt Adams’ Confederate cavalry. By May 19th, George was in Richmond’s Libby Prison. On the 23rd he was paroled at City Point, on the 26th he reported at Camp Parole in Annapolis and on June 23rd he was sent to St. Louis’ Benton Barracks. He was reportedly exchanged in August, but it was October 24, 1863, at Vermilion Bayou before he rejoined his regiment.

      He was marked “present” on all subsequent bi-monthly company muster rolls and saw service along the Gulf coast of Texas and in Louisiana, Arkansas and Tennessee before participating in the successful Mobile campaign in the spring of 1865. Thirty-seven early enlistees were mustered out at Shreveport on June 10th and 110 who had enlisted as “recruits” after the regiment’s organization were transferred on July 12th to a consolidated 34th/38th regiment, but George and 464 of the original enlistees were mustered out at Baton Rouge on July 15th. They started north the next morning and were discharged at Clinton on July 24th.

      After returning home, George continued his pre-war profession as a plasterer and was active in the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the Order of Foresters and the Ancient Order of United Workmen. On June 13, 1866, George and Sarah Z. Harris, a native of Glasgow, Scotland, were married by a Baptist minister in Dubuque and on April 15th of the following year Sarah gave birth to Charles F. Luck, possibly their only child. His seventy-eight-year-old mother was living with them when she died on May 19, 1886.

      George had maintained his health well during the war and it was not until March 17, 1897, that he applied for a pension. To prove his claim he had to demonstrate that he had served at least ninety days, been honorably discharged and was suffering from a mental or physical disability that at least partially disabled him from earning a living by manual labor and was not caused by “vicious habits.” The Bureau of Pensions verified his military service and George submitted affidavits from Thomas Mahone and A. J. Krise, two plasterers who worked for him and said he had rheumatism, mostly in the knees, “sometimes dropping out from under him and dropping him nearly or quite to the ground.” At times, they said, he had nearly fallen from scaffold. Examining surgeons felt he was partially disabled by rheumatism and deafness, but a Medical Referee decided that George had “no ratable disability” and a pension was denied.

      Sarah died on December 1, 1898, and was buried in Linwood Cemetery three days later. On the 9th, a funeral was held at their long-time residence, 219 Alta Vista Street.

      George had persevered with his pension application and a board of surgeons said there was “no doubt” that his weak, rheumatic right ankle was interfering with his work as a plasterer and he couldn’t “hear normal conversation at any distance greater than three feet with either or both ears.” George’s personal doctor, Edward Jackson, agreed and said the physical problems made “manual labor difficult and painful.” The pension office was finally convinced and on February 25, 1899, a certificate was mailed entitling George to a $6.00 monthly pension payable quarterly.

      On May 6, 1901, he applied for an increase saying he was suffering from a bad ankle sprain “caused by a violent fall incurred about 2 years ago, while engaged in plastering St. Luke’s Church in Dubuque.” George’s pension was increased to $8.00 and another application was pending when he died at home on the morning of September 24, 1903. Like Sarah and his parents, he’s buried in Linwood Cemetery. 




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