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.



      Born on June 5, 1844, in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, Robert Strane was the fourth of thirteen children born to James and Elizabeth (Aber) Strane. When Confederate guns fired on Fort Sumter, the family was living in Iowa. 

      On September 4, 1861, the oldest of the siblings, twenty-three-year-old Williams A. Strane, enlisted in Iowa’s 2nd Cavalry. Two months later they left Davenport for St. Louis where they went into quarters at Benton Barracks before pursuing expeditions in Missouri and Mississippi. By the following fall the war had escalated significantly and President Lincoln called for 300,000 volunteers with Iowa to provide five regiments. If not raised by August 15th, a draft was possible. Robert, the fourth of the thirteen children, enlisted on August 11th and John, the second of the children, enlisted on August 18th, both in what would be Company F of the state’s 21st regiment of volunteer infantry. At 5' 9" Robert was of average height and was described as having grey eyes, light hair and a fair complexion, residence Buncombe (a town that ceased to exist after its post office was closed).

        Company F was ordered into quarters at Dubuque’s Camp Franklin on the 22nd and mustered into service the same day. On September 9th ten companies were mustered in as a regiment. On a miserable rainy morning, September 16, 1862, those who weren’t ill left Camp Franklin at 10:00 a.m. and marched through town while families, friends and local residents watched. Women sent cakes and cheese and others tossed apples. From the levee at the foot of Jones Street, "packing ourselves like sardines in a box," the soldiers boarded an overly crowded Henry Clay and two open barges tied alongside and left for war. They spent one night at Rock Island, encountered low water at Montrose, traveled by train to Keokuk, boarded the Hawkeye State and arrived in St. Louis on the 20th where they, like Williams before them, went into quarters at Benton Barracks. The regiment’s early service was in Missouri - Rolla, Salem, Houston, Hartville and, after a wagon train was attacked on November 24th, back to Houston.

      On January 9, 1863, word was received that a Confederate force was moving north towards a Union base in Springfield and a hastily organized relief force including twenty-five volunteers from each company left Houston. Robert was one of the volunteers from Company F and was with it when it engaged in a one-day battle at Hartville on the 11th before returning to Houston. He then continued with the regiment as it moved south to West Plains and then northeast to Thomasville, Ironton, Iron Mountain and on March 11th into the old French town of St. Genevieve where it camped on a ridge north of town. Two days later Robert wrote to his older sister, Elizabeth (“Eliza”), that “John is on guard today down at town on patrol guard that is to go round through the town and arest all soldiers that haven’t passes. . . . John is well and in good spirits. him and i washed and our clothes are dry and they look pretty clean.”

      From St. Genevieve they were transported down the Mississippi to Milliken’s Bend where they were assigned to a corps led by General John McClernand as part of any army organized by General Grant to capture Vicksburg. Robert was present as they moved slowly south along the west side of the river until April 30th when they crossed to the east bank at Bruinsburg. The 21st Iowa was designated as the point regiment when the army moved inland and, on May 1st, fought the enemy in the Battle of Port Gibson. Robert received a wound on his right side, but was able to continue with the regiment. On the 16th they were present but held out of action during the Battle of Champion’s Hill. On the 17th, with the 23d Iowa, they led an assault on Confederates entrenched near the railroad bridge over the Big Black River although there’s no indication whether Robert was able to participate.

      After burying their dead and caring for the wounded while other regiments crossed the river, they rejoined the army and took a position on the Union line around the rear of Vicksburg. An assault on the 19th had been repulsed, but General Grant thought another assault might prove successful. On May 22nd, along the entire line, his army attacked but again was unsuccessful and thirty-five members of the regiment were killed or received fatal wounds. Another forty-eight received less severe wounds. Among the dead was Robert’s brother, John Strane. A stone, likely a cenotaph, bearing his name now stands in Zwingle’s Bethel Cemetery.

      Robert participated in the siege of Vicksburg that ended with its surrender on July 4th, moved south with it to Carrollton and participated with the regiment during subsequent activities in southwestern Louisiana. From Brashear City on September 12th he wrote to his father, “I have not got a letter for a week from Wms,” but another member of their company had heard from his brother that Williams’ regiment had moved to Memphis.

      After service in Louisiana, they were transported on the Corinthian and St. Mary’s to Texas where they served for more than six months along the Gulf coast and, from Indianola on January 19, 1864, Robert wrote to his “sisters” and again said, “I have not had a letter from Wms. for a long time.” On March 23rd he wrote to Hugh, his eighteen-year-old brother, and this time was able to say, “I received a letter from brother Wms. yesterday - he was well. He said they had been on another very rough Scout and had some fighting - none of the acquaintances was hurt.” Robert continued with the regiment when it returned to Louisiana and was marked “present” on bimonthly company muster rolls at Terrebonne Station on June 30th and Morganza on August 31st.

      On October 3, 1864, Williams, with his enlistment having come to an end, was mustered out of the 2nd Cavalry at Davenport and started north to rejoin the family in Zwingle. Robert was at St. Charles, Arkansas, on the 3rd and continued on duty as they moved to Memphis and from there to Alabama where they engaged in their final campaign of the war, a successful campaign to occupy the city of Mobile. After entering the city, they camped at nearby Spring Hill where Robert was treated for “hepatitis” for two days and “intermittent fever.” He continued to be treated for fever until July 10th when they were in Baton Rouge. Five days later they were mustered out of service. They hadn’t been paid since February 28th and, like most of his comrades, Robert elected to have his account debited $6.00 so he could retain his musket and accouterments. On the 16th they started a long trip up the Mississippi and, at Clinton, Iowa, on the 24th the regiment was disbanded.

      Before leaving for his home 160 miles away in Waverly, Flavius Patterson who had served with Robert in Company F took time to buy a “Sute of Clothes & trunk for 48 dollars,” take the Charles Cheever to Dubuque where he “was introduced to Miss Margret Timmons, afterwards my wife,” and, on August 1st, “went up to Mr. Stranes near Buncomb took dinner with Robert” before leaving for Waverly the next day.

      Robert remained in Zwingle and worked as a farmer. He and his wife, Mary Elizabeth Wallace, had twelve children: Grace (1878), James (1880), Margaret (1882), Floyd (1884), Myrtle (1887), Jennie Ida (1889), Leila (1892), William, Archibald (1896), Harold (1898), Wallace and Kyle (1905).

      On September 15th and 16th, 1887, Robert was one of 156 members of the regiment, including eleven from Company F, who attended a reunion in Manchester. The city was “gaily decorated in honor of the ‘boys’” who “marched through the principal streets, led by the Merry drum corps, and after roll call at the hall, Capt. McDonald and Rev. James Hill of Cascade, made some eloquent and impressive remarks.” The afternoon “was devoted to social intercourse and renewing the memories of ‘the time that tried men’s souls.’ This, to the veterans, was the chief and best part of the re-union.” In 1902, at fifty-eight years of age, Robert applied for an “invalid pension” under a law enacted in 1890 that required ninety days’ service, an honorable discharge and ratable medical issues “not due to vicious habits.” On April 20, 1903, he was approved for a monthly pension of $6.00 (later increased to $12.00) payable quarterly through the Des Moines Agency.

      Mary died in 1907 and Robert in 1912. They’re buried in Bethel Cemetery as are Robert’s parents, at least five of his children and four of his siblings, including Williams.


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

back to Dubuque Military

back to Dubuque home