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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.



     Ernst Renner was born in what was then known as the Kingdom of Hanover in 1822 and immigrated to the United States where he married Mary P. Parmalee. In November 1856 a son, Edward E. Renner, was born in Dubuque, Iowa, and on the 13th of that month Mary died, possibly from complications related to childbirth. Three months later, on January 4, 1857, Edward died. Edward and his mother are buried in the city’s Linwood Cemetery.

      Augusta Knoop was born in Hoextel, Prussia, on September 5, 1830, and in April, 1853, married Georg Andreas Arens. His surname was also shown as Arnns, Arnes and Arenz and Georg’s brother explained, “my surname is spelt in many different ways as I am of German birth and this accounts for the different ways the surname of my brother was spelt.” Georg died on January 19, 1855, and was buried in the cemetery at St. Martini Evangelical Church in Minden.  Later that year Augusta moved to the United States.

      On June 5, 1857, Ernst and Augusta were married by a Justice of the Peace in Dubuque and, on December 15, 1859, a son, Charles Theodore Renner, was born. The following June a census of Peru Township reflected a household of six: Ernst, Augusta and three girls presumably from Ernst’s first marriage - Carolina (8) born in Connecticut and Emilie (6) and Grace (5) both born in Iowa - together with Charles who was listed as being five months old. Ernst was identified as a farmer with real property valued at $15,000, an exceptional amount when compared with others in the census.

      The Civil War had been on-going for more than a year when Ernst enlisted on August 20, 1862, in Company E of what would be the state’s 21st Regiment of Volunteer Infantry. He was described as being forty years old, 5' 10" tall with hazel eyes, dark hair and a dark complexion; occupation lawyer. Training was at Camp Franklin in Dubuque where the company was mustered in on August 22nd and the regiment on September 9th. On a rainy September 16th men crowded on board the sidewheel steamer Henry Clay and two barges tied alongside and started downstream. They spent one night on Rock Island before resuming their trip, debarking at Montrose due to low water levels, traveling by train to Keokuk and then taking the Hawkeye State to St. Louis where they arrived on September 20th and spent one night before taking a train to the railhead in Rolla.

      They remained in Missouri for several months - Rolla, Salem, Houston, Hartville, back to Houston, West Plains, Iron Mountain - and on March 11th arrived in the old French town of St. Genevieve and camped on a ridge above the Mississippi River. From there they were transported south to Milliken’s Bend where General Grant was organizing a large three-corps army to capture the Confederate stronghold at Vicksburg. After walking south along the west side of the river they crossed to the Bruinsburg landing in Mississippi on April 30th. There’s no indication that Ernst participated in the next day’s Battle of Port Gibson, but he was promoted to Sergeant Major to replace William Dickinson and on May 17th participated in an assault at the Big Black River. On June1st, during the siege of Vicksburg, Ernst was detailed as Acting Adjutant and for the next two months administered the oath to several of his comrades when they received promotions.

      On August 4, 1863, he was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant of Company E to replace Dubuque’s Andrew McDonald who had been promoted to 1st Lieutenant. By September they were in Carrollton, Louisiana, when Ernst requested a commission with one of the colored regiments. His promotion was recommended by his captain, by the regiment’s lieutenant colonel and by Major General Michael Lawler who said Ernst was a “good soldier” who had been “conspicuous in the Battle of the Big Black” and, he said, “I cordially recommend him for promotion. He is worthy of it.” Despite the recommendations, no apparent action was taken on Ernst’s request.

      In November, 1864, the regiment was sent to the Gulf coast of Texas where it would spend the next six months. On February 13th, a patrol near Chocolate Bayou found itself inadvertently confined in a 200-acre cattle corral when attacked by Confederate cavalrymen. The Federals, including Ernst who “went along as a sightseer and was not armed,” were able to escape with only two (apparently from other regiments) captured. They were still in Texas on April 12th when Ernst submitted his resignation. “My wife and family,” he said, “were against my becoming a soldier and subsequent privations seem to have further alienated them from me and for many months I have been without information from home. The constant anxiety about my children, to the oldest of whom my wife is a stepmother, unfits me for the service.” The resignation was denied by General McClernand who suggested Ernst could, instead, apply for “a leave of absence for sixty days.” On May 28th a leave was granted for forty days but, marked “present” on the June 30th muster roll, he may have elected to forego the leave.

      After leaving Texas, they served in Louisiana, Arkansas and Tennessee, but were back in Louisiana on February 3, 1865, when Ernst again submitted his resignation. Rarely consistent when giving his age, Ernst said Company E was down to sixty-two men and had “two able Officers besides me, whilst I being 44 years old and having stood 2˝ years of constant and active campaigning feel, on account of weakness, often unable to do my proper share of duty.” Recognizing that he had earlier accepted monthly pay of twice what he was entitled to, money he said “was erroneously overpaid me,” he acknowledged his final pay would have to be reduced by that excess. Ernst’s resignation was accepted, but Lieutenant Colonel Van Anda added a note that Ernst, by accepting the erroneous pay, “rendered himself unfit for the service.” “I have released him from arrest without preferring charges for the purpose of letting him resign. He has drawn pay twice for the same period which could not of been by mistake.” Van Anda added, “I do not desire that he should be dishonorably discharged for the reason that he has done good service. But the Regt. and the service would be benefited by the acceptance of his resignation.” On February 7th, Ernst was honorably discharged.

      It’s not known if Augusta and the children remained in Dubuque while Ernst was in the army or went to Ohio, but not long after his return from the war Ernst and Augusta were living in Cincinnati where the city’s large German population included siblings of Augusta’s first husband. On October 7, 1882, Ernst executed a will in which he left everything to Augusta and, on her death, to “my only living son, Charles Theodore Renner.” No mention was made of the three girls.

      Living in the Correyville section of the city where they acquired lots at 3333 and 3335 Bishop Street, Ernst worked as a school teacher and principal but gradually felt the effects of age. On August 22, 1891, he applied for an invalid pension indicating he had a throat illness, poor eyesight and kidney problems. He was examined by a board of pension surgeons who agreed and felt he was entitled to a pension for catarrh, rheumatism and general debility. On January 9, 1892, a certificate was mailed entitling him to $12.00 monthly, payable quarterly.   That same year, while living at 3335 Bishop Street, Ernst borrowed $2,000 from a building association to construct a residence on the neighboring parcel, but a few years later “on account of age” Ernst had to give up his position as principal. He then “gave private lessons at home, but he realized but a small income.” In 1895 he borrowed $3,000 from Fanny Fleuret, secured it with a mortgage on 3333 Bishop Street, and repaid the $2,000 he had borrowed earlier. In 1897, having received no payments, Fanny filed suit and foreclosed her mortgage. Ernst died on October 8, 1902, and two days later, for a fee of $25.00, his body was cremated by The Cincinnati Cremation Company.

      Ernst had been “hard up for several years before he died” and two weeks after his death, seventy-two-year-old Augusta applied for a widow’s pension. To document the death of her first husband, she secured affidavits from Georg’s sister Henrietta in Zanesville and his sister Doris and brother August in Cincinnati, but the government wasn’t convinced that she needed financial assistance. A special examiner deposed Augusta and several other witnesses. “I have but one child living and his name is Charles Theodore Renner,” she said, but added, “I do not know that he is living as I have not heard from him since 14 years ago last Dec.” She had received only $141.37 from the proceeds of the foreclosure, her six room brick and frame house was taxed at $100 annually, the city had imposed an assessment for street improvements and she had borrowed $250 from Rosa Wirth and $600 from Carl Diedrich, money she used to pay for Ernst’s funeral, replace eave troughs and install a furnace and, since the water closet had been outside, she had “two water closets put into the house” so she could take in boarders. Augusta received Ernst’s accrued pension, but her own claim was rejected “on the ground that claimant was at date of filing claim in possession of resources amply sufficient if prudently managed to secure her an annual net income of more than $250.”

      A new pension law was enacted on April 19, 1908, and eight days later Augusta applied. This time she was awarded $12.00, later increased to $20.00 monthly, an amount she received until her death on December 2, 1923. Her body was cremated on December 4th for a fee of $35.00. Listed as her “nearest friend” on the application for cremation was Rosa Wirth “servant” who had earlier loaned $250 to Augusta. The ashes of Ernst and Augusta were placed in a niche in Cincinnati’s Hillside Chapel Mausoleum.


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

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