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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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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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Governor's Greys officers' insignia.

GOVERNOR'S GREYS. On April 7, 1859 the Governor's Greys were organized in the office of W. W. Heath who was the chairman of the meeting and W. Hyde Clark, secretary. The first officers of the company were J. F. Bates, president; C. N. CLARK, secretary; J. M. Robinson, captain; Francis J. HERRON, first lieutenant; John B. Smith, second lieutenant; and George W. Waldron, orderly. (1) Known as the Governor's Greys, this company moved into an armory in the Sanford Block and began semi-weekly drills. The first public appearance of the Greys, then composed of thirty-three men, was made on July 4, 1859. Of the 183 muskets apportioned to the State of Iowa for 1860, one-half were pledged to the Greys who did not see their firearms until February 1860. Financing for the unit came from many sources including Julius K. GRAVES.

Dubuque Herald, April 30, 1861. Image courtesy: Diane Harris

The first Governor's Greys ball, an elaborate social occasion, was held on April 10 at the DUBUQUE CITY HALL. The striking uniform of the Greys, patterned after the National Guards of New York City, featured grey single-breasted cloth coats with three rows of buttons. Officers' coats had additional gold embroidery and lace. Trousers were grey with a black stripe. The uniform was completed with black felt caps fitted with heavy patent leather visors and the initials "G. G." The rank of the wearer determined the type of tassels, straps and scabbards.

Dubuque Herald, April 26, 1861. Image courtesy: Diane Harris.

The Greys was the first military company in the United States pledged to the service of the nation at the start of the CIVIL WAR. Realizing the high feeling caused by Abraham Lincoln's election as president of the United States, Iowa Governor Samuel J. Kirkwood promised the services of the Greys to President James Buchanan on January 24, 1861, before the inauguration of the new president. Totaling ninety-four men, the company was called to duty on May 14, 1861, when they responded to a call for seventy-five thousand troops for three month's service. The unit carried a silk flag given by twenty society ladies of the city.

Calling card for a member of the Guard.

As the state prepared for war in the spring of 1861, Franc WILKIE, then editor of the Dubuque Herald, was assigned to accompany two companies of new recruits leaving Dubuque, bound for Davenport, then on to Keokuk. (2) These two companies were the Governor's Greys and the Jackson Guards. Wilkie was to report on the war happenings involving the two Dubuque companies. But this early in the war, little was happening outside camp boredom, drill, and learning the art of being a soldier. Despite this, Wilkie always found something of interest to report:

     In one tent of the Gov. Greys they have 
     adopted a rule that whoever swears shall 
     read aloud a chapter in the Bible -- the 
     book being kept constantly open for that 
     purpose. Truth compels me to say that one 
     can scarcely pass the tent day or night 
     without hearing some one reading a selection 
     of Scriptures. Among others who are thus 
     being benefited, I may mention my handsome 
     young friend Charley ____, who, within the 
     last week has read all of Genesis and Exodus, 
     and is this morning well into Leviticus, and 
     there is a fine prospect of his finishing 
     the entire Old Testament before the end of 
     the three months. (3)

The Greys first battle took place at Wilson's Creek, Missouri, where seven were killed and thirty-six wounded. (4) On May 19, 1864 another two companies of troops left Dubuque for the war. One was called the "Governor's Greys" while the other was known as the Union Guards. The Greys were placed with the 44th Regiment and the Union Guards in the 46th Regiment of the Iowa Volunteers. They were ordered to Tennessee where they were involved in guerrilla warfare. While enlisting for three months, they were not mustered out until five months. (5)

The battle was depicted in 1955 in a painting, "The Governor's Greys," which then copied as a cover of The National Guardsman, the official publication of the National Guard. The painting was sent to Iowa Governor Leo Heogh who presented it to the men of Company A at a dinner held at Bunker Hill Country Club. (6)

On June 22, 1885, a group of former Greys and interested new members met in the Dubuque Herald office building. Plans were announced that the new group would be furnished with Springfield rifles, knapsacks and blankets by the state, Later when it could be afforded, a dress uniform similar to that worn by the old units "of gray frock coat and parts, white epaulets and white bands crossed at the breast, pants with black band down the side" could be obtained. On July 29, 1885, the Greys were made a company of the National Guard and assigned to the fourth regiment as Company A.

The Greys accepted local invitations to attend Decoration Day and the DUBUQUE SHOOTING PARK. In 1886 they received an invitation to attend an inter-state military encampment in Dallas, Texas. (7) In the same year, the Governor's Greys' Cadet Corps was organized in December. Thirteen members were enlisted into the original group with nine more in line for future enlistment. (8)

Photo courtesy: Telegraph Herald

In 1887 the Greys traveled to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for the Constitutional Centennial celebration and then moved on to Washington, D.C., to receive their special flag from General Herron who had used it as his headquarter's flag during the entire Civil War. While in the capital, the company was received at the White House by President Grover Cleveland. This was the first time a president of the United States had ever so honored a military company.

President William McKinley called the Greys into service again during the SPANISH-AMERICAN WAR. They left Dubuque on April 26, 1898 and were mustered into the army as Company A, 49th Iowa Voluntary Infantry. (9) The group was part of the United States troops that accepted the surrender of Spain on January 1, 1899. In 1899 they returned to Dubuque and were mustered out of service. (10)

They were not called again until 1916 for service on the Mexican border. (11) It was expected that cavalrymen would be ready for service in fifteen days while infantrymen would be ready for long marches in thirty to sixty days. (12)

Dubuque Governor's Greys on the steps of the Carnegie-Stout Library. Matthew SPAUTZ wearing white pants and having crossed arms stands under the right light pole. Circa 1917. Photo courtesy: Mike Spautz

Seven months after returning to Dubuque on August 15, 1917, the Greys left for WORLD WAR I. The company was used as replacements when they reached southern France. Before peace was achieved nine men had been killed and another had died in an English hospital.

In 1932 the Dubuque Company of the Iowa National Guard, Company A of the 133rd Infantry and originally known as the "Governor's Greys, was mobilized and ordered to Cedar County to restore order. Farmers there were resisting tuberculin testing of their cattle by state veterinarians. (13) They were joined by guard companies from Waterloo and Mason City.

WORLD WAR II led to the Greys being called into duty again on February 10, 1941. Some of the men joined the new Ranger Battalion. Others were assigned to British installations. Greys also saw duty in the Italian campaign in front line fighting at Anzio, Bologna, and Parma. For its service in the war, the company received the French Croix de Guerre and a distinguished unit citation.

In peacetime the Greys have seen duty at home. Guardsmen were called into service in 1950 when ice storms devastated Clinton. In 1956 Greys were involved in operating "Hay Lift," an effort to help drought-stricken farmers in southwestern Iowa. The Governor's Greys celebrated their centennial on April 7, 1959.

The formal dances remained a social event. Dubuque Daily Herald, Feb. 19, 1887. Image courtesy: Diane Harris.
Image courtesy: Dan Parkin
Telegraph Herald, May 13, 1930. Image courtesy: Diane Harris
Dubuque-Herald, January 16, 1863. Image courtesy: Diane Harris
Dubuque-Herald, January 16, 1863. Image courtesy: Diane Harris



1. "Dubuque's Military Company, Governor's Greys, Passes Its Fiftieth Milestone," Telegraph Herald, November 21, 1909, p. 13

2. Trout, Sue, IA Civil War Archives, Ancestry.com, 2012. Online: http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/IA-CIVIL-WAR/2004-11/1100054799

3. Ibid.

4. "Governor's Greys Leave Dubuque to Help Subdue Cedar County Farm Revolt," Telegraph Herald and Times Journal, Sept. 22, 1931, p. 1.Online:http://news.google.com/newspapersid=UpBSAAAAIBAJ&sjid=Mr4MAAAAIBAJ&pg=5781,2008798&dq=governor%27s+greys&hl=en

5. "Dubuque Aided Nation in Past," Telegraph Herald, June 19, 1916, p. 10. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=DmZfAAAAIBAJ&sjid=418NAAAAIBAJ&pg=5189,2857282&dq=governor%27s+greys&hl=en

6. "Heogh Urges 'Governor's Greys' As Name Again for Company A," Telegraph Herald, Sept. 30, 1955, p. p. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=WXVFAAAAIBAJ&sjid=m7wMAAAAIBAJ&pg=4506,3357920&dq=governor%27s+greys&hl=en

7. "Caught on the Fly," The Herald, May 23, 1886, p. 8

8. "The Cadet Corps," The Herald, December 10, 1886, p. 4

9. "Governor's Greys Left City 29 Years Ago for War Duty," Telegraph Herald, Apr. 26, 1927, p. 15. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=03pFAAAAIBAJ&sjid=srwMAAAAIBAJ&pg=6861,5940408&dq=governor%27s+greys&hl=en

10. "Governor's Greys Mustered Out of Service 32 Years Ago," Telegraph Herald and Times Journal, May 13, 1930. p. 13. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=F7BFAAAAIBAJ&sjid=Pb0MAAAAIBAJ&pg=2498,6974175&dq=governor%27s+greys&hl=en

11. "Governor's Greys Off to Des Moines," Telegraph Herald, June 24, 1916, p. 1. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=E2ZfAAAAIBAJ&sjid=418NAAAAIBAJ&pg=4275,3302919&dq=governor%27s+greys&hl=en

12. "Governor's Greys Ordered to Assemble; Quartered at Armory Under Arms," Telegraph Herald, June 20, 1916, p. 1. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=D2ZfAAAAIBAJ&sjid=418NAAAAIBAJ&pg=2726,2865106&dq=governor%27s+greys&hl=en

13. "Governor's Greys Leave Dubuque..."