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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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21ST IOWA VOLUNTEER INFANTRY REGIMENT. The 21st Iowa Infantry, organized at Dubuque, was mustered in for three years of Federal service during the CIVIL WAR on August 25, 1862. The regiment left CAMP FRANKLIN in Dubuque by barge and aboard the sidewheel steamer Henry Clay to St. Louis, Missouri. They boarded railroad cars usually used for freight and livestock and started west. Arriving in Rolla on the 22nd, they camped near the railhead. On October 31st at Salem, Missouri and December 31, 1862 in Houston, Missouri They left Houston on January 27th, walked south to West Plains and then moved to the northeast passing through Thomasville, Ironton, Iron Mountain, Pilot Knob and Farmington before reaching Ste. Genevieve on March 11th. From there they were transported downstream to Milliken’s Bend where General U. S. Grant was organizing a large army with three corps led by Generals James McPherson, John McClernand, and William Sherman. The intent was capturing Vicksburg, Mississippi. (1) The brigade, under the command of General Fitz Henry Warren, included the 21st Iowa, 99th Illinois, and 33rd Missouri regiments as well as detachments from the 3rd Missouri Cavalry, 3rd Iowa Cavalry, and the 1st Missouri Artillery.

The regiment's first test was the Battle of Hartville, Missouri. Fought from January 9–11, 1863, in Wright County, Missouri, the battle marked Confederate General John S. Marmaduke's first expedition into Missouri.

General Marmaduke's strategy was two-pronged. Col. Joseph C. Porter led one column of his Missouri Cavalry Brigade, out of Pocahontas, Arkansas, to assault Union posts around Hartville, Missouri. When he neared Hartville on January 9, he sent a detachment forward to reconnoiter. It succeeded in capturing the small militia garrison. The same day, Porter moved toward Marshfield. On January 10, some of Porter's men raided other Union installations in the area before making contact with Marmaduke's column east of Marshfield. Marmaduke had received reports of Union troops approaching to surround him and prepared for a battle.

On January 10, Col. Samuel Merrill commanded an approaching Union relief column from Houston, Missouri. He and his command arrived in Hartville that morning. Discovering that the small garrison had already surrendered; they set out toward Springfield and camped on Wood's Fork of the Gasconade River. Early on the morning of January 11 the approaching Confederates under Porter made contact with Merrill's scouts and fighting began. The opposing forces:

Colonel Samuel Merrill

       99th Illinois Infantry - Lt. Col. Lemuel Parke
       21st Iowa Infantry - Lt. Col. C.W. Dunlap (w)
       3rd Iowa Cavalry (detachment)- Maj. George Duffield
       3rd Missouri Cavalry (detachment) - Capt. Thomas G. Black
       2nd Missouri Artillery, Battery L (section) - Lt. William Waldschmidt


Brig. Gen. John S. Marmaduke

       Shelby's Brigade - Col. J.O. Shelby
       1st Missouri Cavalry - Lt. Col. B.F. Gordon - Maj. George R. Kirtley (k)[1]
       2nd Missouri Cavalry - Lt. Col. C.A. Gilkey
       3rd Missouri Cavalry - Col. G.W. Thompson
       1st Battn. Missouri Cavalry - Maj. Ben Elliott
       Quantrill's Partisan Rangers - Lt. William H. Gregg
       Porter's Brigade - Col. Joseph C. Porter (mw)[1]
       Burbridges' Regt. - Lt. Col. John M. Wimer (k)[2]
       Green's Regt. - Lt. Col. L.C. Campbell
       Jeffers' Regt. - Col. William M. Jeffers
       Not Brigaded
       MacDonald's Missouri Regt. - Col. Emmett MacDonald (k)[3]
       Capt. Brown's Arkansas Battery - Capt. Louis T. Brown [4]
       Lt. Collins' Section of Bledsoe's Battery (later Collins' Battery) - Lt. Richard A. Collins [5]

Marmaduke believed he was being pressed by several forces. He diverted Porter and Shelby's columns along another road to Hartville. Observing this movement, Merrill marched his force directly to Hartville and took a strong defensive position on covered, high ground west of the courthouse. Shelby and Porter's brigades attempted to dislodge Merrill's force, but it was too strongly positioned. Over a four-hour period several Confederate assaults were made, each being defeated. Eventually Merrill withdrew most of his force, although a third of the men under Lt. Col Dunlap never received the order and remained on the field until nightfall.

Elements of both sides observed the other withdrawing from the field as night approached resulting in both claiming victory. The real results were mixed. From the Union command's perspective they had repulsed Marmaduke's assaults inflicting heavy casualties, but the Union had been forced to leave the field. From the Confederate perspective Marmaduke had united his force and secured his line of withdrawal. He set up a field hospital in town and could claim to briefly control the field. However, he was forced to make a rapid retreat into Arkansas and then an difficult marh to winter camp. Additionally, the frontal assaults had resulted in the death or mortal wounding of several senior Confederate officers including: brigade commander Col. Joseph C. Porter, Col. Emmett MacDonald, Lt. Col. John Wimer, and Major George R. Kirtley.

The raid itself caused great disruption of Federal forces in the region and a number of small outposts had been overrun, destroyed, or abandoned. The other major objective, the depot at Springfield, remained in Union hands. The successful escape of the raiding party did show the vulnerability of Federal Missouri to fast-moving expeditions. (2)

Following the expedition in Missouri, the regiment was joined with the 22nd Iowa, 23rd Iowa, and 11th Wisconsin regiments in March, 1863, to form the 2nd Brigade (Lawler's Brigade) of Gen. Carr's Division, of the 13th Army Corp under Gen. U. S. The brigade saw action in Mississippi at Port Gibson.

Grant launched his campaign against Vicksburg, Mississippi, in the spring of 1863, starting his army south from Milliken's Bend on the west side of the Mississippi River. He intended to storm Grand Gulf, while his subordinate Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman deceived the main army in Vicksburg by feigning an assault on the Yazoo Bluffs. Grant would then detach the XIII Corps to Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks at Port Hudson, Louisiana, while Sherman hurried to join Grant and James B. McPherson for an inland move against the railroad. The Union fleet, however, failed to silence the Confederate batteries at Grand Gulf. Grant then sailed farther south and began crossing at Bruinsburg, Mississippi, on April 30. Sherman's feint against the Yazoo Bluffs—the Battle of Snyder's Bluff—was a complete success, and only a single Confederate brigade was sent south.

The only Confederate cavalry in the area, Wirt Adams's regiment, had been ordered away to pursue Grierson's raiders, and Maj. Gen. John S. Bowen performed a reconnaissance in force to determine Grant's intentions. Bowen moved south from Grand Gulf with Green's Brigade and took up a position across the Rodney road just southwest of Port Gibson near Magnolia Church. A single brigade of reinforcements from Vicksburg under Brig. Gen. Edward D. Tracy arrived later and was posted across the Bruinsburg Road two miles north of Green's position. Baldwin's Brigade arrived later and was positioned in support of Green's Brigade. One-hundred-foot-tall (30 m) hills separated by nearly vertical ravines choked with canebrakes and underbrush left Bowen's position able to be held, despite the overwhelming Union force heading his way.

The absence of any Confederate cavalry had a major impact on the campaign. If Bowen had known that Grant's men were landing at Bruinsburg and not Rodney, he would have taken a position on the bluffs above Bruinsburg, denying Grant's army a bridgehead into the area. Federal efforts to push rapidly inland were slowed because Maj. Gen. John A. McClernand had forgotten to issue rations to the men. Despite the resulting delay, however, the Army of the Tennessee moved onto the river bluffs unopposed and pushed rapidly towards Port Gibson. Shortly after midnight on May 1, advanced elements of the 14th Division under Brig. Gen. Eugene A. Carr engaged Confederate pickets near the Shaifer House. Sporadic skirmishing and artillery fire continued until 3 a.m. Wary of Tracy's Brigade to the north, McClernand posted Brig. Gen. Peter J. Osterhaus's 9th Division facing that direction. Having developed each other's positions, the opposing forces sat down and waited for daylight.

General Carr scouted the ground before him and realized that a frontal assault through the canebrakes would be pointless. He planned a turning movement in which one brigade would move slowly forward through the canebrake, while the second brigade would descend into the Widow's Creek bottoms and strike for the Confederates' left flank. Brig. Gen. Alvin P. Hovey's 12th Division arrived and surged forward just as Carr's men were storming the Confederate position. Both flanks were turned, and Green's men broke and ran. McClernand stopped to reorganize, then launched into a series of grandiose speeches until Grant pointed out that the Confederates had simply withdrawn to a more defendable position. Reinforced by Brig. Gen. A. J. Smith's 10th Division and Stevenson's Brigade of McPherson's XVII Corp, McClernand resumed the pursuit. With 20,000 men crowded into a 1.5-mile (2.4 km) front, McClernand's plan appeared to be to force his way past the Confederate line. A flanking assault by Col. Francis Cockrell's Missourians crumpled the Federal right flank and gave McClernand a reason to slow his advance. Sundown found the two sides settling into a stalemate along a broad front on the Rodney Road several miles from Port Gibson.

On the Bruinsburg Road front, Osterhaus had been satisfied to pressure Tracy's command with federal sharpshooters and artillery, occasionally launching an unsupported regiment against the Confederate line. Maj. Gen. James B. McPherson showed up late in the afternoon with John E. Smith's brigade. Wearing a cloak to disguise his rank, he reviewed the front lines and quickly devised a turning movement that would result in the entire Confederate right flank being unable to hold its position. Twenty minutes after the troops had been staged for the assault, the Confederates were retreating into the Bayou Pierre bottoms, having left behind several hundred prisoners. The road to his rear now threatened, Bowen commenced retreating through Port Gibson to the north shore of Bayou Pierre

On May 2, Grant quickly maneuvered Bowen out of position by sending McPherson to cross the Bayou Pierre at a ford several miles upstream. Realizing that McPherson could cut him off from the bridge over the Big Black River, Bowen ordered the formidable defenses at Grand Gulf abandoned, the magazine exploded, and the heavy artillery destroyed. Union gunboats, investigating the explosion, arrived and took Grand Gulf without a shot. Grant understood the nature of the explosion and rode to Grand Gulf with a small escort, enjoyed his first bath in weeks, and celebrating the capture of what would become his central supply depot as he moved inland. As he relaxed, he caught up on correspondence, including a message from Banks that he was nowhere near Port Hudson. Grant's plan to detach McClernand to Banks would have to wait.

Too late to do anything more than agree with Bowen's decision, Maj. Gen. William W. Loring arrived and took command. Heavy rear-guard activity took place as the Confederates scrambled to remove their force across the narrow bridge. Advanced elements of the XVII Corps arrived in time to save the bridge from destruction. The ragtag army that had fought so well at Port Gibson would not rest until they had entered the Warrenton fortifications nearly ten miles away. Here they began improving the fortifications along the roads to Vicksburg, expecting that Grant would be close behind. Grant, however, would have other plans; the roads on the west bank of the Big Black River were open all the way to the Mississippi state capital and the critical rail link to Vicksburg. It was gainst this target that Grant positioned his army to strike. (3)

On May 16, 1863, 55,000 soldiers clashed in the largest and bloodiest action of the Vicksburg Campaign. The Confederates held the high ground covering the roads from Jackson, Mississippi. Champion’s Hill with the 23rd Iowa Infantry, the 21st outflanked them and led an assault on Confederates hoping to keep the railroad bridge over the Big Black River. (4) The three-minute charge over an open field was successful. The Confederates were driven off the hill as the Union army hurried across the river. (5) The path to Vicksburg was opened resulting in Grant's army enveloping the city.

Lawler's brigade distinguished themselves again during the initial assaults at Vicksburg by the brigade's assault on the Railroad Redoubt. The brigade charged up the slopes toward those waiting at the top in the redoubt. After fierce fighting, the brigade controlled the ridge at the top for a few hours before being driven off. Gen. Grant abandoned his efforts to take Vicksburg by force and settled into a prolonged siege which ended with Gen. Pemberton's surrender of his Confederate forces and the city on July 4, 1863. An impressive memorial near the redoubt honors the Iowans who fought and those who sacrificed themselves in the Vicksburg Campaign.

Following Vicksburg, the regiment was part of a force that marched on Jackson, MS. The regiment then took part in expeditions in Louisiana and then moved to Matagorda Island, TX.

The regiment finally saw action in the Mobile campaign, taking part in the capitulations of Ft. Blakely and Spanish Fort. (6)

Shortly after the fall of Blakely it marched into the city of Mobile, where it remained a short time before marching to Spring Hill, a few miles west of the city. It remained until May 26th, when it again broke camp and, leaving on transports, proceeded to Lakeport, La. It ascended the MISSISSIPPI RIVER to the mouth of Red River and debarked at Grand Ecore on June 5th.

On the 21st of June the regiment embarked on transports and was conveyed to Baton Rouge, La., arriving there on the 23d. Orders were there received from the War Department, transferring the recruits, whose terms of service had not expired, to the Thirty-fourth Iowa Infantry. The remainder of the regiment was mustered out of the service of the United States, July 15, 1865, at Baton Rouge, La. The regiment was conveyed by transport to Clinton, Iowa, where it arrived and was finally disbanded, July 28, 1865. (7)

On May 16, 1915 the veterans of the 21st held a reunion in Cascade. Those who attended were:

Major W.D. Crooke, McGregor

Surgeon W.L. Orr, Ottumwa

Surgeon D.W. Chase, Elkader

Adjutant Horace POOLE, Dubuque

Adjutant George Crook, McGregor

Chaplain James Hill, Cascade

Sergeant Major Wm. P. Dickinson, Dubuque

Commissary Sergeant Jeffrey A. Parker, Dubuque

Company A

D.W. Cleveland, Dubuque

Alonzo C. Fuller, Dubuque

George FENGLER, Dubuque

Thos W. Wheeler, DeWitt

Company B

Lieut D.D. Drummond, McGregor

Lieut B.W. Phelps, Strawberry Point

John Meyer, Ridgway, Winneshiek County

Company C

Capt Jesse M. Harrison, Dubuque

Lieut Geo. L. Fisher, Dubuque

Henry J. --anie, Dubuque

Jas. Brunskill, Dubuque

John Bottoms, Dubuque

Mathew Demuth, Dubuque

Carl Schiltz, Rockdale

Wm McCarty, Rockdale

Joseph E. Radford, Rockdale

Company D

Eber Golden, Yankee Settlement

Company E

Lieut MCDONALD, Andrew Young|Andrew Young MCDONALD]], Dubuque

George H. Hess, Dubuque

Matquias Bickel, Dubuque

John M. Buchholz, Dubuque

John Allgeyer, Dubuque

John Swens, Dubuque

Dan Wolf, Dubuque

D.D. Nitterauer, Dubuque

Wm Kruse, Dubuque

F. Trenkle, Dubuque

Aug Hoffmeuller, Dubuque

Dan Wagner, Dubuque

Chas T. Zugenbuhler, Dubuque

Wm Dusenbery, Moline, IL

W.W. Vana, Dixon, IL

John Reinert, Terrene, MS

Benn Kirst, Winona, MN

Company F

Lieut Jas H. Russell, Dubuque

Ed S. Stiles, Dubuque

Geo. C. Puck, Dubuque

J.A. Fanning, Dubuque

Lewis A. Deaver, Dubuque

Alex R. Foster, Zwingle

Walter J. McNally, Cedar Falls

Robt Strain, Prairieburg, Linn County

Company G

Lieut Arch H. Stuart, Dubuque

Wm. S.C. Barber, Clayton County

James P. Withrow, McGregor

Company H

Andrew J. Lett, Delhi

N.S. Preston, Delhi

Mathew F. King, Dubuque

Henry R. Paul, Janesville, Iowa

Company I

Capt. David Greaves, Delaware Center

Lieut Wm H. Lorimier, Dubuque

Lieut Geo. G. Moser, Dubuque

Lewis Castinet, Dubuque

James Baird, Dubuque

John F. Honer, Dubuque

Joseph Rogers, Dubuque

Jacob Collins, Dubuque

Elon Rafferty, Cascade

Rufus J. Dean, Cascade

Thos J. Worley, Cascade

Henry Heitchew, Cascade

John Lees, Cascade

Company K

Lieut Henry Hurger, Delhi

Thomas Simons, Delhi

Clemens P. Dunton, Dubuque

Alexander Philips, Sand Spring

~ Source: Dubuque Herald, September 18, 1872



1. "Military Biography--George Carroll, Jr." Dubuque County IAGenWeb. Online:http://iagenweb.org/dubuque/military/cw/Carroll_George.htm

2. "21st Iowa Volunteer Infantry," Wikipedia, Online: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/21st_Iowa_Volunteer_Infantry_Regiment

3. "Battle of Port Gibson," Wikipedia, Online: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Port_Gibson

4. "Recently Saved Land," Hallowed Ground, American Battlefield Trust, Spring 2020, p. 14

5. "Military Biography--Alexander Milne," Dubuque County IAGenWeb. Online: http://iagenweb.org/dubuque/military/cw/Milne_Alexander.htm

6. "21st Iowa..."

7. "Historical Sketch 21st Regiment Iowa Volunteer Infantry," A Kephart Blog, Online: https://kephartbook.blogspot.com/2010/02/historical-sketch-21st-regiment-iowa.html