contact our Junior Vice Department Commander
Michael W. Carr, PDC
P.O. Box 42
Carson, Iowa 51525
Greetings from the Deptartment of Iowa's Junior Vice Commander. I would like to extend a welcome to those of you who wish to join our Order, or those who merely seek information. My job is to assist you in finding you a camp to join. Or, better yet, getting you to start a NEW camp. To join a camp, merely contact a member of the camp you wish to join, or if you don't know who to contact, contact me and I'll get you set up. If there's no camp nearby, you can start a new camp with as few as FIVE members. In such a case, all should have lineage to a Civil War veteran. You do not have to have a Civil War ancestor to join a camp. If you do want to start a camp, I can pass on your request to our Camp Organizer. We will do all we can to assist you. You can contact me by phone at (712) 484-3647, by email at email@example.com or by mail at P.O. Box 42, Carson, Iowa 51525. I look forward to hearing from you.
Donald William Shaw
Commander in Chief
Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War
3914 Larchmont Street
Flint, Michigan 48532
General Order #8
7 January 2019
1. It is my sad duty to report the passing of a real son. Frederick M. Upham, a brother of our Order
and member of the Col. John Bryner Camp No. 67, Department of Illinois, died on December 30,
2018. He was the son of William H. Upham, Sr. who was a member of the Second Wisconsin
Volunteer Infantry from May, 1861 until May, 1862, when he was discharged so as to attend the
United States Military Academy at West Point. He graduated from the Academy in 1866.
William H. Upham would later go on to become a Governor of the State of Wisconsin.
2. We have been privileged to have our brother with us. Now, at the passing of this real son, we
shall do him a final honor. I now Order that the SUVCW National Web Site and the Charters of
all SUVCW Departments and Camps be draped, and that all brothers attach a black mourning
ribbon to their membership badges. This Order shall remain in effect for 30 days from this date.
Ordered this 7th Day of January, 2019
Attested: Donald W. Shaw
Jonathan C. Davis Commander in Chief
National Secretary Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War
Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War
The 136th Annual Encampment of the
Department of Iowa
Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War
will be held Saturday April 6, 2019 from 9:00 to 4:00, at the
Iowa Veterans Home, Marshalltown, Iowa.
more information can be found on our "Upcoming Events" page
Headstone Dedicated for Civil War Veteran
In Clayton County
Five generations of descendants of Hiram Davis gathered at the Clayton County Poor Farm Cemetery near St. Olaf over the weekend for a dedication ceremony of a headstone for the Civil War veteran.
Family historian Tom Stoeber, of Cedar Rapids, gave a short address to the assemblage, which was followed by the dedication of the headstone. Although the Davis grave was unmarked, the headstone was placed in the center of the cemetery, which is located 230th Street between the Clayton County Law Enforcement Center and the Scenic Acres home in rural Elkader.
The ceremony was also attended by members of the Marion’s Robert Mitchell Camp No. 206, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War and Elkader’s Lemka-Stendal American Legion Post 106.
Davis was born in Delaware County, Ohio, in 1824 and was married in 1845. He and his family moved to Iowa and settled in Clayton County in the late 1850’s. He and his wife, Hulda, had nine children.
By 1860, Davis and his family had moved back to Ohio. It is speculated that he joined his closest friends when he enlisted in Company B, 68th Ohio Infantry Regiment in 1861.
Following the battle of Shiloh, in 1862, Davis was discharged, and the family moved back to Iowa. Davis and his wife owned land in Clayton County’s Highland Township until 1872.
In 1873, Davis entered the State of Iowa Insane Asylum in Independence and was transferred to the Clayton County Insane Asylum in 1878, where he remained until his death on October 30, 1885.
Dubuque Telegraph Herald October 9, 2018
Died - At the asylum for Insane of Clayton county, Friday morning, Oct. 30th, 1885, Mr. Hy Davis, who has been a resident of the asylum ever since it was built, some six years ago. Mr. Davis formerly resided in Sperry township, and was about 60 years of age. His death was very sudden. He seemed in perfect health the evening previous to his death the cause of which is unknown.
~Clayton County Journal, November 4, 1885
Sister Linda Linn receives the
Dr. Mary Edwards Walker Award
On October 4, 2018, at Atlantic, Iowa, at 7:00 pm, Past Department Commander Michael W. Carr convened a Department Court of Honor for the occasion of presentation of the Dr. Mary Edwards Walker Award to Sister Linda Linn, member of the Auxiliary to the Colonel William H. Kinsman Camp #23, SUVCW
as issued by then Commander-in-Chief Mark Day at the 137th Annual Encampment of the Allied Orders of the Grand Army of the Republic.
Linda was nominated for her work on the Department of Iowa’s Graves Registration Project. Along with her husband, our Department’s Graves Registration Officer, she has personally walked untold numbers of cemeteries in Iowa in search of our Civil War Veterans, double checking the sexton records, WPA records and records from the County Veterans Affairs, many times finding Veterans who have not been listed. Being physically impossible for the two of them to survey each and every cemetery in the state, she has and continues to compile every possible data base and contact to achieve “Our” objective of locating as many Civil War Veterans as possible in the state of Iowa. Linda searches the records at the local libraries, courthouses, VA offices and historical societies.
I’m sure you can attest that when doing this type of research these men become family and you become driven to “leave no man behind”.
Brother Michael Friedel, PDC receives the
Elmer (Bud) Atkinson Lifetime Achievement Award
This award is to recognize Brothers of the Order who have a minimum of thirty (30) years with the Order and have provided significant and continuous support over that entire timeframe as either a full member or an associate.
Ebenezer Gordon McMurray was one of the last two Civil War veterans in Iowa and the Last Union Civil War Soldier of Johnson County.
McMurray was born August 27, 1844 in Kingston, Jamaica, to missionaries James & Elizabeth, both natives of Scotland. After the death of his father, Elizabeth took Ebenezer and his siblings to live in Tuscarawas, Ohio. In January of 1865, when he was 19, he enlisted in the 185th Ohio Infantry for the Civil War and was discharged in September of that year. In 1868, he married Lydia Van Lehn.
After the death of his wife in 1936, McMurray moved to Iowa City to live with his daughter. A member of an Ohio G.A.R. post, it wasn't until he met James P. Martin in September of 1947 at the dedication ceremony for the Grand Army of the Republic Highway in Iowa City that he chose to become a member of the Iowa G.A.R. He was named Sr. Vice Commander and Assistant Adjutant General for the Department of Iowa in January 1948.
On June 20, 1948, Ebenezer McMurray passed away at the home of his daughter in Iowa City. He was laid to rest in the Tuscarawas Sharon Moravian Church Cemetery in Ohio beside his wife.
Recently, his grave was marked with his Last Soldier marker by Department of Iowa SUVCW & ASUVCW members Ron & Marilyn Rittel while passing through on vacation.
Thank you to Marilyn Rittel for the grave site photos.
Last Soldiers on the GAR Highway
On Saturday, June 30, Department of Iowa Grand Army of the Republic Highway Officer Dan Rittel and Department of Iowa Auxiliary to the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War President Mary Rittel hit Highway 6 in Eastern Iowa for a parade and to mark the Last Union Civil War Soldiers in three Iowa counties.
The town of Victor along the historic route of U.S. Highway 6 in Iowa County was celebrating its Sesquicentennial and having a parade in which Dan & Mary represented the SUVCW & ASUVCW. Dan wore Civil War period uniform and walked the parade route while Mary drove the GAR Highway Jeep behind him with an SUVCW flag. Parades don’t happen in Victor every year, so the event had many entries and there were hundreds of people watching along the parade route.
After the parade, the Rittels visited the Victor Memorial Cemetery to mark the grave of Francis M. Isenhart, the Last Union Civil War Soldier of Iowa County. Isenhart had served with Company C, 75th Illinois Infantry and was also a member of I. M. Huston Post 394 of the Grand Army of the Republic in Victor. Isenhart passed away in 1938 at the age of 97. Not far from Isenhart’s grave is the grave of Isaac M. Huston for whom the Victor G.A.R. post was named. Huston was an assistant surgeon for the 8th Iowa Infantry.
The Rittels next travelled to West Liberty, another Highway 6 town. There, in the Oak Ridge Cemetery, the grave of Charles F. Regnier, the Last Union Civil War Soldier of Muscatine County was marked. Regnier had served with Company H, 1st Ohio Light Artillery. Regnier passed away in 1942, less than two months shy of his 97th birthday. Records indicate Regnier was also a member of Silas Jackson Post 255 of the G.A.R.
After enjoying a cool treat at the Wilton Candy Kitchen, the Rittels headed back West to the Highway 6 town of Grinnell and the Hazelwood Cemetery where they marked the grave of the Last Union Civil War Soldier of Poweshiek County, Charles Van Doren. Van Doren had served with Company B, 155 Illinois Infantry and was a member of Gordon Granger Post 64 of the G.A.R. in Grinnell. Van Doren passed away in 1940 at age 95. Van Doren had a fond memory of shaking hands with Abraham Lincoln. Van Doren’s father and Abraham Lincoln were acquaintances before Lincoln became president and when Charles was a boy of about 13, he was with his father at a Lincoln speech and was able to shake hands with the future president.
Departments of Iowa & Nebraska Hold Joint Ceremonies
Over the weekend of April 28-29, the Departments of Iowa & Nebraska held a series of joint ceremonies for the last Civil War veterans to die in seven western Iowa counties. The Camp Guard of Kinsman Camp #23, Dept. Of Iowa, carried out four ceremonies on Saturday, and were assisted on Sunday by the Nebraska Rangers, S.V. R. Those veterans being honored were:
Sylvester Flummer, Co. K, 118th Indiana Infantry Regiment. Pottawattamie County
John A. Hood, Co. D, 51st Indiana Infantry Regiment. Carroll County
John Bonwell, Co. A, 176th Ohio Infantry Regiment. Audubon County
William J. Blair, Co. I,7th Iowa Infantry Regiment, Shelby County
Myron Rowe, Co D, 1st Michigan Light Artillery Regiment, Crawford County
Sylvester Pokett, Co. C, 1st Nebraska Cavalry Regiment., Harrison County
Marion Morgan, Co. K, 29th Iowa Infantry Regiment., Monona County
Participants from the Kinsman Camp Guard were: Capt. Mike Carr, 1st Lt. Dennis Sasse, Sgts. Dan Rittel & Roy Linn, Corp. John Weeber, and Pvts. John Butcher & Charles Boeck. Participants from the Nebraska Rangers were: Capt. Marc Witkovski, 2nd Lt. Keith Rockefeller, Sgt. T.J. Howard and Pvts. Bill Dean and Gage Stermenski.
Our thanks to the American Legion posts from Glidden, Denison and Defiance, as well as to the members of Kinsman Camp Auxiliary #23, Linda Linn, Deb Carr, Barbara Butcher and Joan Boeck.
This set of ceremonies completes the placing of Last Veteran Markers in the western third of Iowa.
Iowa Veterans Home
On Sunday, April 21, 2018, members of the Curtis King Camp #37 gave a Living History presentation to the residents of the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown. There were two groups, 1:00 to 2:30 and 3:00 to 4:00. Infantry, Cavalry and Artillery were covered as well as daily life of a soldier. A lot of interaction with residents along with questions and stories of their own. Those attending from the King Camp were: Ken Lindblom, Monte Aman, Dave Thompson, Ron Deal and Danny Krock.
Two Pioneer Cemeteries
On Saturday, April 28, 2018, members of the Grenville M. Dodge Camp #37 performed two headstone dedications in Winneshiek County, Iowa. The first took place at 11:00 at the Young/Riha Cemetery near Ft. Atchinson, for Thomas Murphy.
Thomas Murphy was the son of Thomas and Ann Murphy. Born in LaPorte County, Indiana. He was engaged in farming when he enlisted at the age of 18 years, on 2 Nov 1861 as a Private. On 15 Nov 1861, he mustered into “I” Co. 12th Iowa Infantry. For a 3 year term. He was 5’7 ½”, with brown hair, blue eyes and light complexion. He was among those captured at Shiloh, April 6, 1862. Paroled at Montgomery, Alabama on May 28, 1862, to Benton Barracks , reported sick at Benton Barracks in October. Released to active duty November 25, 1863. Re-enlisted Christmas day, 1863. Reported sick January 25, 1864 at Memphis. Veteran furlough in April. In Iowa in June 1864, too ill to return, arrested as a straggler in Dubuque, on his own accord. Sent to convalescent camp at Memphis until October, returned to duty. He was mustered out on 20 Jan 1866 at Memphis, Tennessee. Thomas died on 20 June 1866.
At 2:00, Tosten Nyhus, Sergeant, Co. K, 15th Wisconsin Infantry was remembered at the Asae Cemetery near Decorah. Mr. Nyhus was born in Norway in 1834. He enlisted November 30, 1861 in Freeborn County, Minnesota. Mustered February 11, 1862, 28 years old.
He served under the name of Tosten Erickson (his middle name) and was appointed Sergeant February 1, 1862. He was discharged at Humboldt, Tennesse on July 3, 1862 due to a hernia from lifting heavy timber at Birds Point, Missouri on April 11, 1862. while loading a steamboat.
Those present from the Dodge Camp were: Don McGuire, Dan Greene, Mike Rowley and Danny Krock
2018 Department Encampment
The 135th Annual Encampment of the Department of Iowa, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War was held Saturday, April 21, 2018, at the Veterans Memorial Hall in Waterloo, Iowa, with Brian Pierson, member of the Council of Administration representing the National Organization. Danny Krock was elected Department Commander, Don McGuire elected Senior Vice Department Commander and Mike Carr as Junior Vice Department Commander. We were joined by the Department of Iowa, Auxiliary to the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, who elected Mary Rittel as Department President.
Elliott Parr. Age 19, Residence Lowden, nativity Ohio. Enlisted Aug. 12, 1862. Mustered Sept. 4, 1862. Wounded severely April 9, 1864. Pleasant Hill, La. Mustered out Aug. 10, 1865, Davenport, Iowa. Died May 29, 1870, Lowden, Iowa.
Beside a windswept portion of the blacktop Hoover highway, about three miles southwest of Lowden, a United States flag flutters in the breeze above a lone grave.
The tiny cemetery carved from the corner of a farm field is certainly one of Iowa's smallest burial places and the reason for it is surprising to people who hear of it today.
A government headstone marks the final resting place of Elliott Parr, a veteran of the Civil War and member of a pioneer Lowden family. No date of birth or death is inscribed on the simple marker.
Elliott Parr was a son of old Billy Parr, as he was known back in Ohio and later in Cedar County where he and his family settled with the earliest pioneers in this area.
A caravan of 13 covered wagons housing Ohio immigrants, who were seeking a home in the new west, crossed the Mississippi river on Nov. 9, 1848. After two days of hard work the travelers, wagons and horses had been ferried across into the new country.
Under darkening November skies the sturdy band of pioneers continued north and west about 40 miles, finally stopping near what is now Lowden. They transferred the wilderness into a small settlement of log houses and took up life in the new west.
It was in this setting that young Elliott Parr grew to manhood. When the country became embroiled in the Civil War, Elliott, with four of his brothers joined others to march away.
Elliott came back to Billy unscratched. But the smallpox epidemic struck Cedar County and Elliott Parr died of the then dread disease.
Residents in the area were terrified and refused to allow burial of smallpox victims in Van Horne cemetery, the only burial ground in the vicinity. Billy Parr said, “I have enough land of my own. My son was a good soldier. He can have a cemetery of his own.”
And so it was that old Billy set aside a quarter acre of his farm beside the road and deeded it to Cedar county. There he buried his son.
Many years ago the government placed the headstone at the grave. Each year on Memorial Day members of the Lillis Deerberg Post of the American Legion place a new U.S. Flag at the gravesite – and pause to remember Elliott Parr.
The tiny cemetery is enclosed with a high wire fence and the government stone is inscribed simply “Elliott Parr, Company K, 35th Iowa Infantry”.
Some of the burial customs of the earlier pioneers seem hard for us to understand today. Since death and life go together the pioneer had barely established his home when oftentimes he had to make arrangements to dispose of his dead. No funeral homes, hearses or caskets existed so a few sympathetic neighbors would gather and prepare the body for burial. In early days a kindly neighbor would undertake to make funeral arrangements and thus the phrase “undertaker” came into use.
Many were laid in the bare ground but later on crude coffins were sometimes made to the size of the deceased by the neighborhood cabinet maker. This accounts for the fact that selling furniture and funeral directing became linked together and remains so in many communities today.
Lowden's Van Horne cemetery in which Elliott Parr was refused burial is on land a quarter mile down the road from this tiny cemetery.
Transcribed by Sharon Elijah, November 20, 2015, Lowden Historical Society
thanks to: Jeff Buesing-The Forgotten Iowa Historical Society (Facebook)
Last Soldier Project
Beginning in 2003, the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW) embarked on the Last Soldier Project. The purpose of the project is to locate and appropriately mark the final resting place of the last Civil War Soldier buried in each county/parish and in each state of this great country.
The Last Soldier project is funded, in part, by the SUVCW's Monuments and Memorials Grant Fund and also by obtaining contributions of the citizens, local veteran organizations and governmental agencies.
The Last Soldier project marries the efforts of the SUVCW's grave registration and Monument restoration programs. The objective ofthe SUVCW's Monuments and Memorials Grant Fund is to restore and preserve Civil War Monuments. The SUVCW Council of Administration authorized that new monuments and memorials could be subsidized from Monuments and Memorials Grant Fund after all requests for restoration/preservation have be filled. Requests for new monuments and the Last Soldier Project will be entertained by the SUVCW Council of Administration between May 1st and June 15th of each year. Requests will be honored on a first come, first served basis from SUVCW Camps and Departments.
The intent of the SUVCW is not to fully fund any memorial for the Last Soldier project. Rather, the SUVCW intends that the Camps/Departments make contact with other organizations to obtain contributions to the project. This serves two purposes. First, it gets the the public’s attention and affords the SUVCW with an opportunity to interact more within the local community. Second, the SUVCW is capbable of doing more with the money in the fund.
The SUVCW is are aware that in counties and states with strong historical societies, the effort of funding the Last Soldier project will be rather easy, while for other areas, this project will be a little more difficult. But as this project is to be a shared effort, it may bring a greater attention to the sacrifices that ALL our Veterans have made to this great county. It may also serve as a wonderful project for prospective Eagle scouts and encourage veterans’ organizations to search for the the Last Soldier of all wars.
The following Last Soldiers in Iowa have been recognized, to date:
Adair County Last Soldier Lewis Lawson
Adams County Last Soldier Darius P. Kerns
Audubon County Last Soldier John Bonwell
Buena Vista County Last Soldier Charles P. Matson
Carroll County Last Soldier John A. Hood
Cass County Last Soldier Adnah D. Bullock
Cherokee County Last Soldier Nicholas T. Wells
Clarke County Last Soldier Theodore F. Yetts
Clay County Last Soldier Frederick P. Pettygrove
Clinton County Last Soldier John Avery
Crawford County Last Soldier Myron E. Rowe
Dallas County Last Soldier Charles S. Curler
Decatur County Last Soldier Jonas Hoffhines
Dickinson County Last Soldier Gifford S. Robinson
Emmet County Last Soldier George W. Albee
Fayette County Last Soldier John T. Gager
Fremont County Last Soldier Phineas H. Drake
Greene County Last Soldier Robert G. Martin
Guthrie County Last Soldier John T. Palmer
Harrison County Last Soldier Sylvester Pokett
Howard County Last Soldier Ira C. Wheeler
Ida County Last Soldier Paul Fox
Kossuth County Last Soldier John H. Grover
Lucas County Last Soldier Robert Killen & William Humphreys
Lyon County Last Soldier George W. Lyon
Madison County Last Soldier Aaron E. Cleveland
Mahaska County Last Soldier Henry A. White
Marion County Last Soldier Robert A. Millen
Mills County Last Soldier Marion T. Davis
Monona County Last Soldier Marion Morgan
Monroe County Last Soldier Harvey A. Bloomfield
Montgomery County Last Soldier Hiram Finley
Osceola County Last Soldier Thomas O. Wilbern
Page County Last Soldier John M. Gudgel
Palo Alto County Last Soldier Franklin E. Jones
Plymouth County Last Soldier Andrew J. Crouch
Pocahontas County Last Soldier William A. Marther
Polk County Last Soldier Jacob J. Neuman
Pottawattamie County Last Soldier Sylvester E. Flummer
Ringgold County Last Soldier Harrison R. Crecelius
Sac County Last Soldier George Matson
Shelby County Last Soldier William J. Blair
Sioux County Last Soldier John H. Huyck
Taylor County Last Soldier Benjamin F. Akers
Union County Last Soldier Chester L. Dickenson
Warren County Last Soldier Charles Hester
Winnebago County Last Soldier Andrew N. Brones
Winneshiek County Last Soldier Ancil O. Ash
Woodbury County Last Soldier Michael J. Hawk
Wright County Last Soldier James T. Jackson
Last Soldier October 20, 2017
John Grover, Kossuth County
Members of the General Grenville M. Dodge Camp #75 placed markers noting the county’s “Last Union Veteran of the Civil War” at the graves of six of Iowa’s last soldiers on October 20, 2017.
The first grave marked was that of James T. Jackson (Wright County) in Kanawha. Corporal Jackson was a native of Ireland and served in the 36th Wisconsin Infantry. Private Ancil O. Ash (Winnishiek County) was born in Ohio and was a member of the 47th Wisconsin Infantry. Private Ash is buried in Wesley. The third grave marked was Andrew N. Brones (Winnebago County) in Forest City. Privates Brones was born in Norway and was a member of the 43rd Wisconsin Infantry. Private Brones’ brother, Olavus, died as a POW at Andersonville.
Marking the grave of John H. Grover (Kossuth County) was more of a challenge as the database listed the incorrect cemetery. After consulting GAR records on the Department of Iowa’s website, the grave was found in the Burt, Iowa cemetery. Private Grover served in the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry. Franklin E. Jones (Palo Alto County) was born in Massachusetts and was a member of the 49th Wisconsin Infantry. He is buried in Emmetsburg. Private William Marther (Pocahontas County) was the only veteran of the day who was born in Iowa. Private Marther served in the 8th Iowa Infantry and is buried in Rolfe.
Members of the Dodge Camp attending were Danny Krock, Dan Green and Don McGuire.
Last Soldier October 14 and 15, 2017
Benjamin Akers, Taylor County
Members of Co. B, 10th Iowa Volunteer Infantry, the Camp Guard of Col. William H. Kinsman Camp #23, Department of Iowa, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, together with members of the Kinsman Camp Auxiliary to the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, placed markers noting the county’s “Last Union Soldier of the Civil War” at the graves of seven of Iowa’s Last Soldiers over the weekend of October 14-15, 2017.
In rainy weather all day Saturday, the graves of Harrison Crecelius (Ringgold County), Benjamin Akers (Taylor County), and Darius Kerns (Adams County) were marked. At the grave site of Harrison Crecelius, we were aided by the American Legion Post from Mt. Ayr. Outside Gravity, at the grave of Benjamin Akers, several descendants of Mr. Akers were in attendance and we were aided in the ceremony by the Gravity American Legion Post. At the grave of Darius Kerns in the Prairie Rose Cemetery South of Corning, thunder, lightning, and heavy rains prevented us from doing a full ceremony, however the grave was appropriately marked.
Sunday was clear, though started off rather chilly in Red Oak where the grave of Hiram Finley (Montgomery County) was marked. In Shenandoah, while marking the grave of John Gudgel (Page County) the Guard was joined by the local American Legion including 93 year old Hugh Bell, a veteran of World War II, who, as a Boy Scout in the 1930s, played Taps at several of the town’s Civil War veteran’s funerals. The Guard then traveled to Tabor to mark the grave of Phineas Drake (Fremont County) and to Malvern to mark the grave of Marion Davis (Mills County).
Members of Kinsman Camp participating in the weekend tour were: Mike Carr (Captain of the Camp Guard), Roy Linn (Commander of Kinsman Camp #23), Dennis Sasse (Chaplain), Dan Rittel, John Weeber, and Charles Boeck. Kinsman Auxiliary members participating were Denise Sasse, Linda Linn, Mary Rittel and Deb Bailey. Department Memorials Officer Tom Gaard was also present.
As a note, John Gudgel (Page County's last veteran) attended Phineas Drake's funeral, and Phineas Drake (Fremont County's last veteran) had attended the services for Marion Davis.
Grand Army Highway marks 70 years
September 28, 2017, marks the 70th Anniversary of the formal dedication ceremony to name
U.S. Highway 6 across Iowa as the Grand Army of the Republic Highway.
It was at 2:00 in the afternoon on Sunday, September 28, 1947, when Iowa’s two remaining Civil War veterans James Martin and Ebenezer McMurray came together at the
Old Capitol Building in Iowa City with Governor Robert Blue, other dignitaries, and a crowd of about 400 people for the formal dedication of the Grand Army of the Republic Highway. As the proposed marker sign for the highway was unveiled, Governor Blue proclaimed “the deeds that Civil War veterans performed have not been forgotten.” (Iowa City Press-Citizen, 29 September 1947, p. 1) And, “We dedicate this highway today as a symbol of unity between these 48 states from coast to coast, to the vision of the boys of the Civil War, and to the future, for these men have left to us a heritage of freedom.” (Des Moines Register, 29 September 1947, p. 1)
Civil War Fought by Boys
Page County Democrat, Clarinda, Iowa
Friday May 22, 1925
The Veterans of the Civil War are still fondly spoken of as “boys”, “boys in blue.” Year after year for sixty years still “boys.” It has become almost as specialized as a designation of the soldiers of the Civil War, as senator, as alderman. As age was to mean wisdom, the highest legislative body of old was at first actually and later theoretically, at least, composed of old men. Senator, alderman, means simply, old man.
So the boys in blue, who were only boys when in that blue, have stayed boys in affectionate address ever since, says the Manchester Union. No succeeding war has carried that entitlement. In current conversation we hear the soldiers of the World War spoken of as “soldiers”, “legionnaires”, even as “veterans”. But seldom indeed as “boys”. Just why is this? How did the soldiers of the Civil War gain and keep the name “boys”?
Because they were boys, boys as the soldiers of none of our other wars were. That war was fought by boys. When the officer addressed them as “boys” he spoke a literal fact. When the general before a charge cried “boys” he addressed a body that might have been assembled from school and college yards, and were so assembled. There were majors and colonels under twenty. Charles Stoughton was colonel of a Vermont cavalry regiment at seventeen! Boys they were and boys they remained in name and spirit and are still.
There has always been a strange unaccountableness in the buoyancy of spirit of the soldier of the Civil War. It was the last great war that was also a great spectacle, fought over an immense territory, with imposing marches, immense rides, and it caught the imagination as modern wars do not. The dash of cavalry, the charge with the colors, has gone. The Civil War was a great sporting event, fought by boys with the high spirits that they would fought a football game.
Thanks to Linda Linn for discovering this article while searching obituaries for the Grave Registration Project.
With the assistance of Dan Rittel, the Iowan in the “Mary Bowditch Forbes” video http://www.iowasuvcw.org/home/videos/ has been identified as Robert Stewart McGeehon. McGeehon was a member of the Sam Rice Post #6, Atlantic, Iowa, and can be seen at 3:30, 5:24 and 6:15 through 8:22 during the video.
McGeehon was born May 18, 1839, near Enon Valley in Lawrence County, Pennsylvania, the second of nine children. He enlisted as a Private in Company “I”, 134th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry in July of 1862 and mustered into service on August 19. They were taken to Harrisburg where they were given their uniforms and then sent to Washington for their first meal, two slices of dry bread and a pint cup of black coffee. They laid in camp at Arlington Heights for some time and then forced marched to Antietam, arriving after the battle had ended. From there they went to Fredericksburg, then Chancellorsville. At Fredericksburg while in support of a battery, they were ordered to charge the enemy. They were told to lie down until the battery had fired and then charge. Theirs was the last charge of the battle; he did not hear the order to fall back. When he “did” turn, a bullet struck his bayonet, knocking the rifle from his hand. Running, he grabbed it and returned to the ranks. He was wounded at Chancellorsville on May 3, 1863, hastily brought into the line of battle, and under attack, while loading his rifle, he ran his ramrod through his right hand. Reluctantly going, he was ordered to the hospital for two weeks. Company “I”s term of enlistment expired and they were discharged at Harrisburg on May 26.
His service records list him as Stewart Robert McGeehon. In his G.A.R. file is a card upon which he states: “My real name is Robert Stewart McGeehon, but when the officers made out the pay roll they got my name wrong and I went through the service as Stewart R. McGeehon”.
He came to Atlantic, Iowa in 1868 and became a carpenter, a trade which he had learned from his father. McGeehon built many of the first homes in Atlantic. In 1883, he open a grocery store, retiring in 1904, residing at 801 Poplar Street.
He was a member of the Iowa Division of the National Association of Civil War Musicians, playing the bass drum. They performed at the Iowa State Fair for many years and at several National Encampments of the Grand Army. Just before the Parade at the 1935 Department Encampment at Waterloo, McGeehon suffered a foot injury at the hotel, which hampered his marching ability. He was 96, and the oldest musician in the nation in 1935....While there have been many who were musicians during the war a goodly number of soldiers took up the fife and drum after being mustered out. A drummer quite familiar in Iowa for many years was "Uncle Mac" McGeehon, of Atlantic, who fell in love with the big bass drum after the close of the war. He was a prominent business man, but at the Iowa State fairs he was prominent with his "Old Soldiers Drum Corps." On account of his age and his long white beard he was a real feature. In 1936, on May 18, he passed his 97th year, but in June he played his bass drum at the encampment in Des Moines with all his old time vigor and enthusiasm. He answered the final roll call on August 10 of that year. We all knew how much "Uncle Mac" loved his bass drum; and in 1924 the national encampment was to be held in Boston the same week as the Iowa State fair. The drum corps had agreed to play at the fair but "Uncle Mac" wanted to go to Boston so he could visit his old home near by, so it was arranged for him to go but leave his drum. But he said if he went the old bass drum had to go along, and the drum went along. The National Drum Corps, with sixty-five members, marched in the Boston parade and there was but one from Iowa. He was placed on the outside of the line and on his big drum was the inscription, "Iowa Dept. G. A. R." The Boston papers in their account stated "what a fine drum corps Iowa had in the parade." "Uncle Mac" had the laugh on his comrades when he returned and told how much Iowa would have missed had he not taken his drum along....
Robert McGeehon died August 10, 1936, and is buried at the Atlantic Cemetery, Atlantic, Iowa. His funeral was conducted by the local American Legion Post under the direction of the WRC and the LGAR. He was 97 years, 2 months and 2 days.
“There was something infinitely grand about this 97 year old veteran, who until the last few weeks went about his daily rounds of the city and was a familiar figure. He was a living example of how fine a thing it is to grow old gracefully. He was philosophical in his views of life and death and disposed to accept what the fates dealt out to him without complaint….We of the present generation have had a privilege generations to come will not enjoy, in that we have been permitted to personally know many of the men who laid down their future upon the altar of their county in 1861 and carried to a victorious close the most sanguinary struggle in the history of the world.”