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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.



James and Margaret (Kants) Spottswood made their home in Carlisle, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. Their children included Thompson A. Spottswood born in 1831, Wilson Lee Spottswood born in 1840, and a daughter who has not been identified.

Also living in Carlisle was James’ younger brother, Edward Spottswood, who was born in 1813, attended the town’s Dickinson College and married Catherine Egbert. In 1851, they moved to Dubuque where Edward prospered, served as an Alderman and worked as a “Designated Collector” for the government.

Thompson, as the eldest child, stayed in Carlisle and worked to support the family. His father, a shoemaker, was often in “delicate health” and Thompson’s assistance was necessary. He moved to Baltimore for a “couple of years” and sent money home, but then returned to Carlisle for two years, moved back in with the family, paid all the rent for their house on West Pomfret Street and, said Wilson, “was the mainstay of the family.”

While there, he taught school in “No. 14, in Education Hall” on West Church Alley. One of his students said Thompson “was one of the kindest men, and for one year disciplined that bad, bad school without resorting to the rod once.” Another recalled that on August 15, 1854, he was transferred to No. 14 where “Thomps” was “not only a model teacher, but universally popular with the boys.” Shortly thereafter, “to the regret of the scholars, Mr. Spottswood severed his connection with No. 14 and took up his chosen profession, dentistry.”

Two or three years before the start of the war, Thompson moved to Dubuque where he worked part of the time as a clerk for his Uncle Edward and “part of the time practiced dentistry.” In 1859, he returned to Carlisle for a visit and, before returning to Dubuque, gave his mother another $25.

Thompson was still sending money home in 1861 when, on April 12th, shots were fired at Fort Sumter. On the 15th President Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to augment the regulars, on the 16th Secretary of War Cameron sent a wire to Governor Kirkwood calling for “one regiment of militia for immediate service,” on the 17th Governor Kirkwood issued a proclamation calling for volunteers and on the 23rd of the same month Thompson Spottswood answered the call and enlisted as a private in the 1st Iowa Infantry. After service in Missouri, including participation in the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, their slightly lengthened 90-day enlistments ended and they were mustered out on August 21, 1861. On the same day, in Pennsylvania, Wilson, was enlisting in the 7th Pennsylvania Reserves.

After being discharged from the military, Thompson worked in Dubuque and continued to pay his parents’ annual rent. On August 5, 1862, he was appointed 2d Lieutenant in Company F of what would be the 21st Iowa Infantry. The company was ordered into quarters and mustered on August 22nd at Camp Franklin in Dubuque. The camp’s ten buildings were each twenty by sixty feet, "arranged to accommodate one hundred men each" and "boarded horizontally with pine board with shingled roofs having within on either side three tiers of bunks for the men, with a hallway or aisle through the middle with doors at either end.”

With so many men closely confined, illness could spread quickly and many were affected by an outbreak of measles. Thompson was one of them. On September 5th, Edward Spottswood traveled to Dubuque from his new home near Epworth, Colonel Merrill approved a sick leave and Thompson left camp with his uncle. Edward then contacted Epworth physician John Sanborn to care for Thompson. Dr. Sanborn was a New Hampshire native with a medical degree from Harvard and, after initially practicing in Massachusetts, had accepted a position with the Medical College of the University of Iowa. Only a month before being called to care for Thompson, he had sought an appointment as Surgeon of the regiment, an appointment that had gone to Elkader’s William Hyde. Dr. Sanborn would later say that Thompson “had been taken ill while at Camp Franklin in Dubuque with measles & was brought out by Mr. Spottswood to his new home, for better care & attention. He was under my medical care about twelve days, at first apparently improving, but on the sudden invasion of violent congestion of the lungs, he failed rapidly, & died on the 17th day of September 1862."

Thompson, had been mustered into the regiment in absentia, his death was the regiment’s first and news of the death was telegraphed to the regiment which had spent the night of the 17th at Rock Island. On the 18th, according to Walter McNally, a comrade in Company F:

about noone the Regt was ordered abord the Boat againe where our flag was out halfe mast in honor of the death of our second Lieutenant Spotswood.”

The Davenport Daily Gazette said the officers met on board the Henry Clay, at 1:00 p.m. “to express their feelings” and, after “appropriate addresses” by Lieutenant Colonel Cornelius Dunlap, Adjutant General Nathaniel Baker, Chaplain Samuel Sloane and others “they were named to head a committee for resolutions to be published.” Thompson was buried in Dubuque’s Linwood Cemetery. In the next few months at least five more would die due to complications resulting from measles.

Wilson Spottswood received a medical discharge from his Pennsylvania regiment that December and returned to the family home in Carlisle. By 1870, his father, James, was “so afflicted and enfeebled that he was utterly unable to work” and, on March 9, 1873, he died. He was buried in the Old Graveyard in Carlisle. The following year, on May 26, 1874, Margaret applied for a dependent mother’s pension.

Her application was supported by Wilson who testified to the constant financial support she had received from his brother. John Underwood, who had boarded with the family, attested to her financial need and said “she has 2 children living but none to look to for support one a daughter living with her mother & the other a son married with a family which he can scarcely support and can do nothing whatever toward supporting his mother.” The county assessor said, to his knowledge, the family had no real estate “and the only personal property they ever owned was a little house furniture” that he valued at $50. Aaron Story, George Lusk and William Johnson, all comrades of Thompson, testified to his illness.

The evidence was evaluated and Margaret’s claim was approved. On September 20, 1865, a certificate was mailed entitling her to $15.00 monthly commencing May 22, 1875.

On January 25, 1879, an “arrears act” was approved by Congress thanks, in large part, to claims agents, attorneys and representatives of the G.A.R. This new law provided that pensions were to be granted either from the soldier’s date of death or from his date of discharge, not from the date the pension application was filed as had been done in Margaret’s case. If approved, payment was to be made in a lump sum. Margaret applied for the arrearage, her claim was granted and she was awarded an additional $2,282.50 dating back to September 17, 1862.

Wilson, died on April 20, 1879, and his mother on May 18, 1891. Like James, they were buried in the Old Graveyard in Carlisle.





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