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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.



George Perhamus was born in Muncy, Pennsylvania, in 1835 or 1836. Mary Elizabeth “Elis” Hitesman was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, on January 2, 1835. On March 23, 1857, they were married in Muncy. From there they moved to Dyersville where, on July 22, 1858, a daughter, Adda Viola Perhamus, was born, but looming ominously was “the great moral question of slavery.” Only four months earlier a South Carolina Senator had bragged, "without firing a gun, without drawing a sword, should the North make war on us, we could bring the whole world to our feet.

In 1860 Abraham Lincoln was elected President and, on February 11, 1861, he left Illinois for his inauguration. Passing through Pittsburgh, he remarked that "there really is no crisis except an artificial one.... If the great American people will only keep their temper, on both sides of the line, the troubles will come to an end.” Three days later, Florence Amelia Perhamus was born to George and Mary in Dyersville and the Clayton County Journal, convinced that war was imminent, editorialized:
"A few months ago we, in common with the mass of the people of the whole North, scouted the idea of the disruption of the Union. We thought it impossible and believed that if such an attempt were made it could at once be subdued. But things are changed now. Nine [sic] States are out of the Union, our forts and arsenals are in the hands of the Disunionists, the United States Mint at New Orleans is wrested from us, the Mississippi River is blockaded so that no Northern vessel can go into New Orleans. Vessel after vessel belonging to us is captured by the South and - war is at our doors!”
Fort Sumter was attacked in April, the war escalated and by the summer of 1862 it was clear that the war would not end soon. On July 9, 1862, Iowa’s Governor Kirkwood received a telegram asking him to raise five regiments in addition to those already in the field. On August 21st, George enlisted in what would be Company E of the state’s 21st Infantry. He was described as being 5' 5" tall with blue eyes, dark hair and a fair complexion. His age was listed as twenty-six and his occupation as mechanic.

Training was at Camp Franklin in Dubuque where, on September 9, 1862, ten companies with a total of 985 men were mustered into service. On a rainy September 16th, crowded on board the sidewheel steamer Henry Clay and two barges tied alongside, they started down the Mississippi. After one night at Rock Island and a subsequent transfer to the Hawkeye State, they reached St. Louis about 10:00 a.m. on September 20th, spent a night at Benton Barracks and, about midnight on the 21st, boarded a train for Rolla.

The next several months of their service were in Missouri and George was marked “present” when bimonthly muster rolls were prepared at Salem on October 31st and Houston on December 31st. While there, word was received that a Confederate force was approaching Springfield. Volunteers, twenty-five from each company, joined a similar number from an Illinois regiment and, with supportive artillery, rushed in that direction. On January 11, 1863, George was one of the volunteers who participated in a one-day battle at Hartville during which three of his comrades were killed in action, two more were fatally wounded and at least thirteen had wounds that were less severe.

Later that month they walked south to West Plains. Many thought they would continue into Arkansas but, instead, they moved northeast to Thomasville, Eminence, Ironton, Iron Mountain and, on March 11th, into the old French town of Ste. Genevieve. Camped on a ridge north of town, their stay was pleasant, but the next month they were transported down-river to Milliken’s Bend where General Grant was organizing a large, three-corps, army to capture Vicksburg. George was present with his regiment as they started a march south along roads, through swamps and across bayous west of the Mississippi. On April 30th, they crossed to the Bruinsburg landing on the east bank and started inland with Iowa’s 21st Infantry as the point regiment for the entire army. An advance patrol met Confederate pickets near the Shaifer house about midnight but, unable to see each other, both sides soon rested.

The next day, George Perhamus participated with his regiment in the one-day Battle of Port Gibson. On May 16th he was present during the Battle of Champion’s Hill when the regiment was held in reserve by General McClernand and on the 17th he participated in an assault on entrenched Confederates at the Big Black River. He remained with the regiment through the ensuing siege of Vicksburg that ended on July 4, 1863. That was followed immediately by an expedition to and siege of the capital at Jackson, but there’s no indication that George participated. On the 27th, he was one of several who were granted furloughs and started north.

He rejoined the regiment in Louisiana, but was then assigned to unspecified “detached duty.” On November 12, 1863, while the regiment was stationed at Berwick, a general order was issued detailing George as a regimental blacksmith. For the next several months he was noted as “absent” and on detached duty with the “teams,” but returned and was present by the end of April. On July 31, 1864, he was hospitalized in New Orleans and on August 18th, at Morganza, he was granted another furlough. This time he did not return. About 3:00 p.m. on October 31, 1864, still at home, he died from an enlarged liver. Mary was twenty-nine, Adda six and Florence only three. George is buried in Mount Hope Cemetery, Dyersville.

Widows and children of union veterans were entitled to pensions and Mary applied. She secured an affidavit from Rev. George Drake, formerly Rector of St. James Church in Muncy, who said he had performed their wedding ceremony. The regiment’s surgeon, William Orr, said George had become sick at Terrebonne Station in Louisiana with “acute inflammation of the Liver which became so serious that it was found necessary to send him north.” The furlough was granted “on my certificate, that a change of climate was necessary to save life.” Another affidavit was from Dr. Redkey in Dyersville who had treated George “during the month of October 1864" for “disease of the liver.”

In her own affidavit of September 28, 1865, in which she said her “post Office address is Muncy in the State of Pennsylvania,” Mary swore to their marriage, the birth of the girls and that she had not remarried or been divorced. The following February, the Adjutant General’s office confirmed George’s service, but the application stalled and, still in Muncy, Mary signed another affidavit regarding the girls. Fanny Stallard and Lavina Bagley said they “were present and officiated at the accouchement” of Mary when Adda was born and Fanny said she was the only other person present when Mary gave birth to Florence. Mary moved back to Dyersville and, exasperated by the delay and lack of information from her attorney, hired another attorney. On May 1, 1869, a certificate was issued providing Mary with $8.00 monthly retroactive to the date of George’s death plus $2.00 per month for each of the girls until their sixteenth birthdays.

Mary and the girls stayed in Dyersville until 1888 when they moved to Storm Lake in Buena Vista County. Mary died at eighty-seven years of age on May 24, 1922, and was buried in Storm Lake Cemetery. Florence married twice and died on March 12, 1939, at age seventy-eight. Adda also married twice. She was eighty-eight when she died on April 15, 1947. Both girls, like their mother, are buried in Storm Lake Cemetery.






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