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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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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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GREYBEARD REGIMENT. The Dubuque Herald of February 27, 1891 noted in the obituary of John Markle that he was appointed by Governor Kirkwood a first lieutenant of Company F, 37th Iowa Infantry, the Greybeard Regiment.

The Thirty-seventh Regiment of Iowa Volunteer Infantry occupies a unique position in the history of the CIVIL WAR. Its ranks were filled entirely of men who were exempt from the obligations of military duty. From the date of its organization, it came to be generally known and designated as the "Greybeard Regiment."

This editorial in the Dubuque Herald of January 1, 1863 showed that those entering the Regiment were not without their detractors. Image courtesy: Diane Harris.

Special authority was obtained from the Secretary of War to organize one regiment, composed of men who were over forty-five years of age, but who were in good physical condition, and therefore able to perform the duty of soldiers. It was understood, however, that the regiment was to be assigned to guard and garrison duty, and was not to be put upon active service in the field, except in the event of an emergency. During the history of the regiment it was called upon to perform in dangerous situation and was exposed to enemy fire. Its greatest loss and suffering, however, came from disease. Many of the men were beyond the age of sixty years; quite a number were between seventy and eighty and one had reached the age of eighty years.

This editorial in the Dubuque Herald of February 7, 1863 continued the anti-Union sentiment. Image courtesy: Diane Harris.

The ten companies of the regiment was composed were ordered into quarters at Camp Strong, near Muscatine, Iowa, on October 10, 1862, and were there mustered into the service of the United States, by Captain H. B. Hendershott, of the Regular Army, on December 15, 1862. At the completion of its muster, the rolls showed the strength of the regiment was nine hundred fourteen, rank and file. During the interval, from the time the companies had assembled at the rendezvous and the departure of the regiment from the State the officers and men had acquired a fair knowledge of their duties as soldiers.

The regiment was ordered to proceed to St. Louis, where it arrived on January 1, 1863. It remained in Benton Barracks until January 5th, when it was assigned to the duty of guarding the rebel prisoners confined in the two military prisons, with headquarters of the regiment and quarters for the officers and men located in Schofield Barracks. In addition to the duty of guarding the prisoners, the regiment had one company on provost guard duty in the city.

In the month of April, 1863, the Confederate Generals Price and Van Dorn invaded Missouri and threatened to march upon St. Louis. Six companies of the Thirty-seventh Iowa were placed on duty at the arsenal. When the rebel forces had been defeated by the Union forces, the six companies were relieved from duty at the arsenal and the entire regiment was ordered to go upon guard duty along the line of the Pacific Railroad, west of St. Louis. The headquarters of the regiment were established at Franklin, Mo., and detachments were stationed at different points along the line of the road, from St. Louis to Jefferson City.

The regiment entered upon this important duty on May 1st, and was thus engaged until July 29, 1863, when it was relieved by other troops, and ordered to proceed to Alton, Ill., where it relieved the Seventy-seventh Ohio Infantry and took charge of the military prison at that place. It remained on duty at Alton until January 17, 1864, when it was ordered to proceed to Rock Island, Ill., where another military prison -the largest in the West- was located, and where ten thousand rebel prisoners were confined. The regiment remained on duty at Rock Island until June 5, 1864, when it was ordered south to Memphis, Tenn. There, instead of performing garrison duty, the regiment was called upon to furnish the guard every other day for the provision train from Memphis east to LaGrange, Tenn., and from there south to Holly Springs, Miss.

The country was filled with roving bands of the enemy, making the duty of guarding the trains both dangerous and difficult. It was while in the performance of this duty that the Thirty-seventh Iowa came into conflict with the enemy and lost several men, killed and wounded. During this period of their service, the officers and men suffered greatly from sickness, both on account of the change of climate and the exposure to frequent rain storms. They were not provided with adequate camp equipment, and the exposure and hardships which they encountered resulted in many deaths and disabilities. This accounts for the great number of discharges for disability shown in the subjoined roster.

On August 27, 1864, the regiment was ordered to proceed to Indianapolis, Ind., where it arrived August 31st. From there five companies, under command of Colonel Kincaid, were sent to Cincinnati, Ohio, where they were placed on duty as guards to rebel prisoners, at the military prison in that city. The other five companies remained at Indianapolis, as guards at Camp Morton, where nine thousand rebel prisoners were confined. Three of these companies were later sent to Columbus, Ohio, under command of Lieutenant Colonel West, and the remaining two companies, under command of Major Allen, were sent to Gallipolis, Ohio. Both of these detachments were engaged in guarding rebel prisoners. During the stay of the three companies at Columbus, they assisted in guarding the sixteen thousand rebel prisoners confined at Camp Chase, near the city, and Captain Lamb was, for a part of the time, in charge of a detail on provost guard duty in the city. Lieutenant Shelladay was also on detached duty in the city of Cincinnati, and assisted General Willich, the officer in command of the post. Captain Lamb and Lieutenants Havens and Belknap were later detailed on the special service of conducting recruits from the draft rendezvous at Columbus to the regiments in the field. They continued in that duty until they were ordered to rejoin the regiment at Cincinnati, in May. A number of the officers of the regiment who were stationed at Cincinnati were also detailed on special duty.

About the middle of the month of May, 1865, the regiment was reunited at Cincinnati, Ohio. The war was nearly ended, and the officers and men of the regiment were anxious to return to their homes. There seemed to be no necessity for their further detention in the service, and they respectfully requested the Post Commander to make application to the War Department in Washington for the muster out of the regiment. In compliance with their request, the General forwarded a communication to the Adjutant General of the Army:

May 13, 1865 Headquarters, Cincinnati, Ohio Brigadier General L. Thomas,Adjutant General U.S. Army.

GENERAL: I have the honor to submit for your consideration the following statement:

The Thirty-seventh Regiment Iowa Volunteer Infantry, called the "Greybeards," on duty at this post, consists exclusively of old men-none under forty-five, many over sixty years of age. After the men of this regiment had devoted their sons and grandsons, numbering thirteen hundred men, to the service of their country, their patriotism induced them to enlist themselves for garrison duty, thus enabling the government to send the young men to the front. Officers and men would cheerfully remain in the service as long as they are wanted, though they are very much needed at home to save the next harvest, most of them being farmers. I most respectfully submit to you whether there is any necessity now to hold these old men under such heavy sacrifices. They have received the commendations of their former post commanders. At this post they have performed very heavy duties, which to perform would even have been difficult for an equal number of young men. The high patriotism displayed by these men in devoting a few years of their old age to their country's service is unparalleled in history, and commands the respect of every patriotic citizen of the United States. I therefore most respectfully recommend that the Thirty-seventh Iowa Volunteer Infantry may be mustered out of the service immediately, with the honors and acknowledgments of their services, due to the noble spirit with which they gave so glorious an example to the youths of their country. Very respectfully, your obedient servant, J. Willich,Brigadier General Commanding.

On May 20th, the regiment left Cincinnati and was transported to Davenport, Iowa, and was mustered out of the service of the United States, on May 24th. It was then formally disbanded, and the survivors departed for their respective homes.

The following also served from Dubuque:

George B. West Age 63. Residence Dubuque, nativity New York. Promoted Lieutenant Colonel from Company F, Nov. 12, 1862. Mustered Dec. 15, 1862. Mustered out May 24, 1865, Davenport, Iowa.

John FINLEY Residence Dubuque. Appointed Surgeon Oct. 1, 1862. Mustered Jan. 23, 1863. Mustered out May 24, 1865, Davenport, Iowa.

Edward Dorn Residence Dubuque. Appointed Assistant Surgeon Feb. 18, 1863. Mustered March 7, 1863. Mustered out May 24, 1865, Davport, Iowa.

John C. Corielle Age 48. Residence Dubuque, nativity New Jersey. Appointed Commissary Sergeant Nov. 12. 1862. Mustered Dec. 15, 1862. Promoted Sergeant Major Feb. 1, 1863; First Lieutenant of Company A, Nov. 7, 1863.

George Bennett Age 57. Residence Dubuque. nativity Vermont. Promoted Drum Major from Drummer of Company F, July 16, 1863. Mustered out May 24, 1865, Davenport, Iowa.




Central Iowa Genealogical Society. http://www.manorweb./cigs/graybrd.html

Dubuque Herald, February 27, 1891

Harris, Diane

IA GenWeb Project

Mussen, Dale. http://wyrk.com/civil-war-greybeards-dales-daily-data/