Dubuque County IAGenWeb      

Join Our Team


~ 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.


Joseph L. Rogers was born on December 20, 1832, and Alice Smith on November 7, 1836, both in the town of Stanley in Derbyshire, England. On March 11, 1857, they were married by an Episcopal minister in Lower Merion, Pennsylvania, and by the following year had settled in Dubuque. By then, the state was beginning to recover from the financial panic that followed the "wild and giddy speculation" of the previous two years but, on a national level, there was increased tension. On March 4, 1858, South Carolina Senator Hammond bragged, "you dare not make war on cotton. No power on earth dares to make war on cotton. Cotton is King!" The next day a son, Lawrence Joseph Rogers, was born to Joseph and Alice and on December 29th of the following year a daughter, Ida Matilda Rogers was born.

In 1860, two-year-old Lawrence died on June 20th, Abraham Lincoln was elected President, South Carolina passed an Ordinance of Secession, and Senator Hammond remained convinced "that the slave-holding power of the South is now the controlling power of the world." No one, he said, "would face us in hostility." Senator Hammond was wrong. Southern guns fired on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, war followed, thousands died and, in the fall of 1862, Iowa's Governor Kirkwood was asked to provide five more regiments in addition to those already in the field.

On August 19, 1862, Joseph Rogers, a farmer and champion wrestler, was enrolled in the Union army at Cascade by Baptist minister James Hill. At 5' 8", Joseph was of average height and was described as having blue eyes, light hair and a light complexion. He was one of 101 men mustered in as Company I on August 23rd at Dubuque's Camp Franklin. On September 9th, ten companies were mustered in as the state's 2lst regiment of volunteer infantry and on a rainy September 16th they left for war on board the side-wheel steamer Henry Clay and two barges lashed alongside. Downstream they transferred to the Hawkeye State due to low water at Montrose and, on the 2th, arrived in St. Louis.

For the next several months they remained in Missouri - Rolla, Salem, Houston, Hartville - and that's where they were when Alice gave birth to another daughter, Helen Josephine Rogers, on November 17, 1862. A wagon train carrying supplies to Hartville was attacked on November 24th and Colonel Merrill soon moved the regiment back to the more defensible Houston. Some members of the regiment participated in a battle back at Hartville on January 11th, but there's no indication that Joseph was involved. Later that month they reached West Plains near the Arkansas border and from there moved northeasterly to Thomasville, Ironton, Iron Mountain and, on March 11th, into the Mississippi River town of Ste. Genevieve.

They were then transported downriver to Milliken's Bend where General Grant, intent on capturing Vicksburg, organized a large three-corps army. Assigned to a corps led by General John McClernand, they moved slowly south along the west side of the river until reaching Disharoon's Plantation. From there, on April 30th, they crossed to the Bruinsburg landing in Mississippi and, as the point regiment for the entire army, started a slow march inland. On May 1, 1863, Joseph participated with his regiment in the Battle of Port Gibson and two days later was detached to serve with a forage train scouring the countryside for provisions and that's likely why there's no indication that he participated in the regiment's next engagements.

By early June, Joseph, like many others, was sick and, on the 9th, he was admitted to a regimental hospital at the rear of Vicksburg. On July 10th he was sent to ·a general hospital at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis where he was cared for until admitted to a general hospital in Quincy,

Illinois, on September 23rd. His skin was sallow, his eyes were dull and his appetite poor as he treated for diarrhea (an ailment that led to the deaths of at least sixty-five of his comrades) and intermittent fever, but very slowly his health improved. On February 11, 1864, he was able to go north on a sick furlough, visit with Alice and Ida, and meet fifteen-month-old Helen. He returned to the hospital but was released "cured" on March 22, 1864, and two months later reached the regiment then on the Gulf coast of Texas. Except for a brief illness at the end of July, he remained with the regiment during subsequent service in Texas, Louisiana and Tennessee. In the spring of 1865.he participated in the Mobile Campaign during which the regiment, after advancing along the east side of Mobile Bay, occupied the city and camped at Spring Hill and that's where they were on April 18th when twenty-nine-month-old Helen died.

On July 15, 1865, the men· were mustered out at Baton Rouge and on the 24th they were discharged from the military at Clinton. Joseph returned to Alice and five-year-old Ida in Dubuque and resumed his life-long farming career. Another daughter, Evelyn, was born on July 28, 1867, but died two months later. Two more boys were born - George on December 6, 1868, and Frederick on April 1, 1873. They were followed by Ella who was born on August 25, 1874, but died forty-three days later and Charles who was born on October 14, 1877. Alice had given birth to eight children, four who had died very young and four who grew to adulthood. On December 17, 1879, at forty-two years of age, Alice died. She is buried in Asbury Cemetery on Asbury Road, Dubuque County.

Joseph moved to Milford in Dickinson County. Like several others in the regiment, he retained Lime Springs attorney George Van Leuven and, on June 19, 1891, applied for an invalid pension. Van Leuven had an excellent reputation. He had references from a U.S. Senator, members of Congress, attorney Thomas Updegraff of McGregor, and many others. He was generally credited with being "the most successful pension agent in the state." Joseph's application said that, at Vicksburg, he was attacked with constipation, liver disease, malaria, scurvy, rheumatism and heart disease as a result of which "he is now totally disabled from obtaining his subsistence by manual labor." Supportive affidavits were signed by Nicholas Leyten, Jacob Loes, Edward Baker and George Mason, all former comrades. Also submitting an affidavit was James Hill who had enrolled Joseph twenty-nine years earlier, would soon be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions during the Vicksburg Campaign, served as Chaplain and was a postwar pastor in Cascade. Other than the two ailments for which Joseph had been hospitalized, War Department records showed only two months of treatment for phthisis. On November 4, 1891, pension surgeons in Emmetsburg substantiated most of Joseph's claims. A fee of $25.00 was approved for Mr. Van Leuven and a pension of $12.00 monthly for Joseph.

In 1892, still in Dickinson County and still represented by Mr. Van Leuven, Joseph applied for an increase. In 1893, Van Leuven was arrested. His extraordinary success had not gone unnoticed by the President or Pension Commissioner. Van Leuven was indicted and charged with pension fraud securing perjured affidavits from comrades of applicants and bribing or attempting to bribe surgeons responsible for examining pension applicants. Claims of his clients were immediately suspect. While no action was taken on Joseph's pending application, there's no indication that his claim was questioned.

In 1894, giving his address as 1645 Atlantic Avenue, Dubuque (and with a new attorney), Joseph applied for an increase, but none was granted. In 1899, living back in Milford, he was examined by pension surgeons, but again no increase was granted. In February, 1904, Joseph suffered a stroke and partial paralysis and was in bed for a month. Since then, he required the assistance of an attendant most of the time, but a request for an increase was denied since the paralysis was not service-related.

On May 12, 1905, now living at 141 Grace Street, Dubuque, Joseph applied again and, due to increased pensionable disabilities, was approved for $17.00. Veterans of the regiment held periodic reunions. The first had been in Dubuque on the 16th and 17th of September, 1872, ten years after they left for war and Joseph was one of seventy-four who attended. In 1911 Joseph and one of his sons attended the 15th reunion, this one held in Central City on the 19th and 20th of January with veterans "greeting each other as none but comrades can." Thirty of his comrades were known to have died in the past two years and were remembered with bowed heads as a prayer was given and John Merry sang "Nearer My God to Thee."

Eventually, with new laws in effect, Joseph was approved for age-based increases to $20.00 and then $30.00, the amount he was receiving when he died on July 16, 1917. Joseph had not remarried after Alice's death almost thirty-eight years earlier and was buried next to her in Asbury Cemetery. Their daughter, Ida (Rogers) Cobb, died in 1929 and was also buried in Asbury Cemetery. George died in 1949 and is buried in Newell, South Dakota. Charles died in 1960, but his burial has not been found. Frederick was living at late as 1898, but no further information was found.





back to Dubuque Military

back to Dubuque home