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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.



      Andrew McDonald, the son of John and Martha (Young) McDonald, was born on February 14, 1834, in Glasgow, a city on the Clyde in Scotland. He was orphaned when very young and, at age fourteen, began a plumbing apprenticeship. He received a journeyman certificate and, in 1854, immigrated to the United States with his aunt, Eelen Young. After short stays in Cleveland and St. Louis, they settled in Dubuque where his sister and her husband, Martha (McDonald) and John Morrison, were living. In 1856, he opened a small plumbing shop, a shop so small that a hole had to be cut in the wall so long pipes could be extended through the hole while he worked inside threading the other ends. On November 5, 1860, Andrew became an American citizen.

      On April 12, 1861, Confederate guns fired on Fort Sumter, on the 16th the Secretary of War called on Iowa for one regiment, and on the 17th Iowa’s Governor Kirkwood called “upon the Militia of this State immediately to form in different counties.” Ten companies, each of at least seventy-eight men, were needed and were to “hold themselves in readiness of duty by the 20th of May.” On April 23rd, Andrew joined the Governor’s Greys and the same day, on board the Alhambra, they left for Davenport where men participated in field and musket drills. On May 5th, on the Hawkeye State, they continued downstream to Keokuk, the rendezvous point for the regiment then being formed. They received their uniforms, did “street drill” and musket drill and, on May 14th, were mustered into federal service as Company I of the 1st Regiment of Iowa Volunteer Infantry.

      The regiment’s early service was relatively uneventful but, on Saturday, August 10th, near Springfield, Missouri, they participated in the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, the first major battle west of the Mississippi. More than 1,300 Union soldiers were killed, wounded or captured. Among them was Andrew McDonald who was wounded below his left knee when hit by a musket ball. On the 11th, he was taken to a local hotel while Union forces withdrew to the north where, on August 21st, the 1st Infantry was mustered out of service. Still in the South, Andrew and several of his comrades were cared for by a doctor and local women (two of whom were Scottish) who washed Andrew’s clothes and brought chicken soup, potato scones and cookies while a “colored man was very attentive to us and dressed all our wounds morning and evening.” On the 31st John Morrison arrived with a “spring wagon” and on September 2nd, with three of Andrew’s wounded comrades, they started north. They reached Rolla on the 6th, traveled to St. Louis by rail the next day and took the Illinois Central Railroad to Dubuque where they arrived on September 12th and the “Company turned out to meet us.”

      During the next year major battles were fought, mostly in the east. Tens of thousands of young men died and both North and South called for more volunteers. On July 9, 1862, Governor Kirkwood was asked to raise five regiments in addition to those already in the field. Company E of the state’s 21st infantry was mustered into service at Camp Franklin on August 22, 1862, with Jacob Swivel as Captain, Samuel Osborne as 1st Lieutenant and Andrew McDonald as 2nd Lieutenant. The regiment was mustered in on September 9th and left Dubuque on the 16th on board the four-year-old sidewheel steamer Henry Clay and two barges tied alongside. After one night at Rock Island, they resumed their trip, disembarked due to low water at Montrose, traveled by rail to Keokuk, boarded the Hawkeye State (a second time for Andrew) and continued to St. Louis. From there they traveled by rail to Rolla and then spent several months walking through Missouri - Salem, Houston, Hartville, back to Houston, West Plains, Ironton, Iron Mountain and Ste. Genevieve. During that time, a wagon train was attacked on November 24th and, on January 11, 1863, Andrew participated in a one-day battle at Hartville.

      In April 1863, they were at Milliken’s Bend where General Grant was organizing a large three-corps army. On the 12th, with General John McClernand’s corps, the regiment started south and for more than two weeks walked along dirt roads, waded through swamps and crossed bayous west of the Mississippi. On the 28th, they were nearing Disharoon’s Plantation when the federal government issued Patent No. 38,316 to Andrew for an improvement he had made to screw-wrenches, a patent he later sold for $500.

      On April 30th Andrew was present when they crossed the river to Bruinsburg, Mississippi, and, as the point regiment for the entire army, started inland. On May 1st Andrew participated with his regiment in the Battle of Port Gibson. On the 16th they were present but held out of action by General John McClernand during the Battle of Champion’s Hill but, on the 17th, they were at the forefront of the army when they arrived at the Big Black River where entrenched Confederates were hoping to keep a large railroad bridge open so the balance of their army still withdrawing from Champion’s Hill could safely cross. The 21st and 23rd Iowa infantries led an assault, a three-minute assault that a newspaper reporter described as “the most perilous and ludicrous charge I witnessed during the war." The assault was successful and the way to Vicksburg was open, but the regiment had seven killed in action and eighteen more with wounds that would prove fatal. At least forty had less serious wounds. Among them were the regiment’s colonel, Sam Merrill, who had been seriously wounded early in the charge and Andrew McDonald who had been shot in the right arm above the elbow.

      While other regiments quickly encircled the rear of Vicksburg, the regiments involved in the assault were permitted to stay behind to bury their dead and care for the wounded. Andrew was granted a twenty-day leave to go north, but was cared for in the field hospital until May 31st when he and seven others from the regiment were among 417 sick and wounded men from numerous regiments on board the hospital steamer R. C. Wood when it left Chickasaw Bayou and started a two-day trip north to Memphis. Six died en route, but Andrew continued on to Dubuque where, on June 12th, Dr. Benjamin McCluer recommended an extension of leave for twenty days “to preserve life & prevent permanent disability.” Andrew eventually returned to the regiment where, effective August 4th, he was promoted to 1st Lieutenant.

      In November, 1863, they left New Orleans for the Gulf Coast of Texas. Six months later, after light service on Matagorda Island and at Indianola, they returned to New Orleans and served in southwestern Louisiana and along the White River of Arkansas. They were in Memphis when ordered to their final campaign of the war, a campaign to capture the city of Mobile. Admiral Farragut had captured two forts guarding the entrance to the harbor, but the city itself was in Confederate hands. With Andrew in command of the company, they left New Orleans on the George Peabody and went ashore on Dauphin Island on February 28, 1865. When a sufficient number of troops arrived, they crossed the bay’s entrance to Mobile Point and started a slow movement north along the east side of the bay, a movement that was still underway on March 28th when Patent #47,067 was issued to Andrew for an improved wrench. On April 12th they walked into Mobile, a city that by then had been abandoned by the enemy. For more than a month they camped at Spring Hill before returning to Louisiana, seeing light service near Natchitoches, and being mustered out at Baton Rouge on July 15th. Three times during his service, for a total of forty-four days, Andrew had been detailed as a Judge Advocate for courts martial proceedings but he was with the regiment on the 16th when they boarded the Lady Gay and started north about 7:00 a.m. They were discharged from the military at Clinton, Iowa, on July 24th.

      Four years earlier, while recuperating from his first gunshot wound, A.Y., as he was called, met Hannah Möesner, a native of Haiterbach, Germany. On September 26th, only two months after his discharge, A.Y. and Hannah were married. Making their home in Dubuque, they would have five children: Martha Elizabeth “Mattie” (October 30, 1866), Andrew Y., Jr. (December 24, 1868), John M. (July 30, 1871), Hannah M. (December 7, 1873) and Eelen “Nellie” Young McDonald (May 14, 1876).

      On September 16th and 17th, 1872, ten years after they left for war, veterans of the 21st Infantry met in Dubuque for their first reunion and A.Y. was one of many who attended. An accomplished mechanic and plumber, he continued to lead his plumbing business as it profited and expanded. Recognizing “the need prairie farmers had for water,” he became a manufacturer of pumps and well systems and, in 1873, he devised a method of improving water pumps that led to further expansion. The following year, David Drummond (a fellow Glaswegian, military comrade and holder of a patent he had secured for an improvement to screwdrivers) joined the company.

      In addition to time devoted to business, Andrew became active in politics, supported the Greenback Party and in 1879 attended the party’s convention in Chicago. Two years later, on March 18, 1881, Andrew was seriously wounded when shot in the breast by a burglar. As a result, his left arm would be paralyzed for the rest of his life, but he continued working and eventually, with demands for the company’s brass products increasing, abandoned the plumbing business. In 1887 he attended the third reunion of the 21st Infantry, this one in Manchester. Veterans marched through town and, after roll call, Andrew and Rev. James Hill, one of the regiment’s chaplains, “made some eloquent and impressive remarks.”

      In 1887, recognizing that his health was declining, Andrew incorporated his company and in 1889 was living at 989 Iowa Street in Dubuque when he applied for an invalid pension with a fellow Scot and former comrade, Archibald Stuart, as his attorney. Andrew referenced the two wounds he had received in the military and said they “caused general nervous disability & blood poisoning and the ball still lodged in the arm rendering it almost totally useless for physical labor.” Pension surgeons said the leg wound had healed in about two months but recommended a pension based on disability caused by the embedded musket ball. On May 13, 1890, the pension office mailed a certificate entitling Andrew to $4.00 monthly an amount that Andrew was receiving when he died on July 29, 1891, at fifty-seven years of age. A.Y. is buried in Dubuque’s Linwood Cemetery as is his wife who died on June 23, 1906.

      In 1911, the regiment’s fifteenth reunion was held in Central City where veterans received “a very pressing invitation from the McDonald brothers, sons of our late Lieut. A. Y. McDonald, of Dubuque, inviting the regiment to meet in Dubuque, Iowa, on September 16th and 17th, 1912, it being the 50th anniversary of the regiment leaving Dubuque for war.” The invitation “was unanimously accepted.” The date had to be changed to the 9th and 10th due to a conflict, but the reunion was held. On the 9th, they gathered at the levee and enjoyed a two-hour ride on a river steamer. On the 10th they rode in automobiles around the city and to the site of Camp Franklin where they had received their initial training, but adjourned “in time for those going as far west as Waterloo and Cedar Rapids to catch the ‘Clipper’ train leaving Dubuque at 4:00p.m.”

      The small plumbing shop opened by Andrew in 1856 continues to grow and prosper as the A. Y. McDonald Mfg. Co. in Dubuque.


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

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