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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.



Alexander Milne was born in Scotland on September 22, 1820. On November 9, 1843, in Jersey City, New Jersey, he married Selina Hillyer although the spelling of her surname is somewhat in doubt. In an 1880 sworn affidavit, Selina said the spelling was Hillyer, her 1904 gravestone has Hillier, and one of her descendants spelled it Hilliard. An 1850 census said they were then living in Haverstraw, New York, where Alexander was working as grocer.

A son, William Henry Milne, was born on August 21, 1854, in Keyport, New Jersey, but their other two children were reportedly born in Iowa - George Wesley Milne on April 23 (or 25), 1857, in Scotch Grove and Rosa E Milne in 1860 although little else is known about her.

Scotland had an excellent education system and it’s not surprising that Alexander, living in La Motte, was working as a teacher when he was enrolled as a 4th Corporal in Company F of what would be the 21st Iowa Volunteer Infantry. The Company Muster-In Roll gives his description as 5' 8½” tall with dark hazel eyes, black hair and a dark complexion. Like other volunteers, he was paid $25.00 of the $100.00 federal enlistment bounty and a $2.00 premium. The balance of the bounty would be paid on completion of his service.

The regiment was mustered in at Camp Franklin in Dubuque on September 9, 1862, and, on the 16th, left for war on board the sidewheel steamer Henry Clay. Forced to change to the Hawkeye State due to low water at Montrose, they went first to St. Louis where they spent one night before boarding railroad cars usually used for freight and livestock and traveled to the western terminus at Rolla. After a month in Rolla, they walked to Salem and then Houston, Hartville and back to Houston, and that’s where they were on January 9th when word was received that a Confederate force was advancing on Springfield. A relief column with 262 volunteers from the 21st Infantry, including Alexander Milne, as well as volunteers from another regiment and some light artillery, was hastily assembled. On January 11, 1863, they fought a daylong battle against a superior force in Hartville.

They returned to Houston but, on January 27th, started a march to West Plains and, from there, moved northeast to Ironton, Iron Mountain and Ste. Genevieve before boarding steamers for Milliken’s Bend where General Grant organized a 30,000 army with Vicksburg as its goal. Men walked and waded south along the west side of the Mississippi, crossed to the Bruinsburg landing on the east bank on April 30th, and the next day fought the daylong Battle of Port Gibson, a town that General Grant reputedly said was too pretty to burn. On May 16th, at Champion’s Hill they were held in reserve by General McClernand, but the next day, with the 23rd Iowa Infantry, led an assault on Confederates hoping to keep the railroad bridge over the Big Black River open long enough for all their forces retreating from Champion’s Hill to cross. The three-minute charge over an open field was successful and Grant’s army hurried across the river to establish a siege line around the rear of Vicksburg.

Iowa’s 21st infantry was allowed to stay behind to care for its wounded, including Colonel Sam Merrill who had been seriously wounded while leading the charge. They weren’t present when Union forces assaulted the defenses of Vicksburg on May 19th, but did arrive and join in an assault on May 22d. So far, at Hartville, Port Gibson and the Big Black, they had lost a total of 10 killed in action, 22 who were mortally wounded, and at least 67 who suffered non-fatal wounds but were often serious enough to cause amputations and many discharges. Alexander had maintained his health well, participated in all engagements and been promoted. He participated again on the 22d, but this time was wounded when shot on the left side of his chest. He was one of at least 48 who suffered non-fatal wounds, but another 35 of his comrades would die of their wounds.

Colonel Merrill was taken to his home in McGregor to recuperate while Alexander, perhaps weakened by his wound, became ill with chronic diarrhea and typhoid fever and was hospitalized behind the lines and, later, upriver in St. Louis. Apparently granted a sick furlough, he made his way to Iowa and was there on September 4th when Colonel Merrill wrote to Governor Kirkwood recommending Alexander for promotion as a Lieutenant in the Invalid Corps. Alexander, he said, “has been a faithful & brave sharpshooter” in every battle and skirmish. “He is both cool & brave in battle. His character is above suspicion. He is always to be trusted.” Merrill wrote again on the 24th but, in the meantime, Alexander, having not returned to St. Louis, was sent as a “straggler” to Camp Hendershot near Davenport. On October 17, 1863, he was readmitted as a patient in the general hospital at Benton Barracks.

On November 12th another letter was written, this one by the senior officers of Company F, Captain George Childs and 1st Lieutenant John Wallace. “He is a faithful & brave soldier,” they said, “having acted with remarkable coolness & bravery.” He was a man of “good character & temperate habits.” Alexander was promoted to 5th Sergeant, but the recommended promotion to a commissioned office in the Invalid Corps was not forthcoming. Instead, his illness worsened and, on December 4, 1863, the surgeon in charge at Benton Barracks certified that Alexander had been off duty for five months and was suffering from tuberculosis (“phthisis pulmonalis of left lung and chronic nephritis”). He was unfit even for the Invalid Corps. On December 8th, still at Camp Benton, he was discharged from the military.

On April 16, 1864, living in La Motte and “not doing anything except teaching school,” he applied for an invalid pension. The Adjutant General’s Office verified his service record and Captain Childs, then with the regiment at Morganza Bend, wrote to confirm that Alexander had been in good health at enlistment, but become ill with chronic diarrhea, typhoid and phthisis pulmonalis of the left lung, disabilities that “caused a good & willing & dutiful soldier to become unfit for service.” While many routine documents are missing, Alexander’s application was granted and he was awarded a pension.

In the following years his tuberculosis gradually worsened. A Maquoketa doctor who witnessed Alexander’s “slow but certain tendency to his grave” said “there was a general progress of the disease toward a fatal termination.” Alexander moved farther south, to Mayfield, Kansas, hoping a change of climate would help. It was apparently the fall of 1875 when he arrived and, from then “until his death eight months thereafter,” his health continued to decline. He didn’t bother seeing doctors since he didn’t “wish one feeling they could do him no good.” “No doctors would give him any hopes of relief through medicine,” said Selina, “hence he declined treatment.” On May 23, 1876, after exemplary military service and only thirteen years after his discharge, fifty-five year old Alexander Milne died. There was no inquest since “the disease of which he died was known to all” - tuberculosis contracted in the military. His current gravestone, erected more than twenty-seven years later, gives the date as May 21st, but Selina and others who knew him signed affidavits in 1880 and all said the date was May 23rd. He was buried in Osborne Township Cemetery in Mayfield.

Pension payments stopped with Alexander’s death and, on July 5, 1880, Selina applied for a widow’s pension. She had no documents confirming her marriage, but friends who had been present thirty-seven years earlier testified to the marriage. Her application was approved and she was awarded a $12.00 monthly pension that continued until her death in Harlan, Iowa, on December 7, 1904. She is buried with Alexander in Mayfield’s Osborne Township Cemetery.

Their son, William Henry Milne, married Margaret Belle Stevens in 1884. He died in 1932 and she died in 1939.

Their other son, George Wesley Milne, married Margaret Anderson. After her death in 1898, he married Laura Overholtzer. George died in 1951 and Laura in 1957.




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