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

DORR, Joseph B.

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DORR, Joseph B. (Erie County, NY, August 15, 1825--Macon, Georgia, May 28, 1865). Dorr was educated in Erie County, New York and attended Hamburg Academy and the Seminary at Westfield, New York. He journeyed west and in 1848 became the editor of the Jackson County Democrat. (1) In 1849 he established the Western Democrat and Common School Journal, the first education journal in Iowa. (2) He married in 1851 and moved to Dubuque in 1852 where he purchased an interest in the Dubuque Herald. Dorr and Dennis MAHONY published the newspaper until 1861. From 1853-1855 they were appointed state printers. (3) Dorr sold his interest and joined the Union Army during the CIVIL WAR.

Dorr served as quartermaster of the 12th Iowa. His military service saw him participate in the siege and capture of Fort Donelson, Tennessee in February, 1862. On April 6th, Dorr and four hundred other Union troops were captured during the battle of Shiloh. (4)

Held in captivity in a large cotton shed in Montgomery, Alabama, Dorr survived on half rations of moldy crackers, corn bread made of cobs, spoiled beef and a few beans. Relief from boredom came when they found clay beneath the surface of the jail yard. Digging up the clay, the prisoners fashioned clay pipes to sell to people living in the area and flower vases. (5)

In May 1862, Dorr put on a private's uniform and was exchanged for Confederate prisoners. He eventually returned to Dubuque where he assisted in raising a regiment of cavalry. He was also promoted from lieutenant to colonel. (6)

Re-enlisting, he was wounded on March 6, 1864. He was again wounded on July 29th in a raid to cut the Atlanta and Macon Railroad. Tied in his saddle, he continued to lead his troops until again being captured. As an officer, he was sent to prison in Charleston, South Carolina. Enlisted men were sent to the infamous Andersonville. He was involved in another prisoner exchange in November, 1864. (7)

Within six months of his exchange, Dorr and the 8th Iowa was involved in "Croxton's Raid." Covering over six hundred miles, the troops under General Croxton captured five hundred prisoners while destroying factories and mills. In April, 1865 Dorr was stationed in Macon, Georgia to perform "pacification" duties. Imprisonment, wounds, and effects of the raid led to his death. (8)

Col. Dorr kept a journal during his imprisonment which was later published as Journal of My Prison Life (Dubuque, Iowa, 1877). He also began drafting a history of the 8th Cavalry’s activities for 1863-1864 in Tennessee and Georgia. (9)



1. Goodspeed, Weston Arthur, History of Dubuque County, Iowa. Chicago: Goodspeed Historical Association, 1911, p. 532

2. Edward DECKERT and Cherba, Connie. "The Union Hero and the Anti-Lincoln Fanatic," Julien's Journal, August 2010, p. 77

3. Iowa Official Register, 1906, p. 105

4. Deckert

5. Deckert

6. "Joseph B. Dorr Collection," Northwestern University Library. Online: http://findingaids.library.northwestern.edu/catalog/inu-ead-spec-archon-1564

7. Deckert, p. 78

8. Ibid.

9. Iowa Official Register