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Roster and Record
Iowa Soldiers
Vol. 6 - Miscellaneous


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Southern Border Brigade

(State Militia)

Historical Sketch

Inseparably connected with the history of the operations of the Iowa troops who were never mustered into the service of the United States, but who performed service of inestimable value on the southern border of the State, is the record of those companies composed of men whose homes were constantly in danger in the early days of the War of the Rebellion.  Living as they did in the counties bordering upon the State of Missouri, they were compelled to organized for self protection.  Rumors -- which proved to be well founded -- that armed bodies of citizens of the slave holding State of Missouri were being formed for the purpose of invading the State of Iowa, kept the inhabitants of those border counties in a constant state of excitement and apprehension.   Under the direction and command of Lieutenant Colonel John Edwards, Aid-de-Camp to Governor Kirkwood, the various companies, which had been hastily organized were concentrated into camps, and were held in readiness to move promptly across the border, and to resist any attempt of the rebel forces to invade the State of Iowa and plunder the homes of her citizens.  The prompt and determined action thus taken undoubtedly saved the people of that part of the State from the horrors of invasion.

In the meantime, the Union men in the State of Missouri were placed in a most desperate situation.  They were engaged in a fierce and relentless war with their rebel neighbors.  They were being driven from their homes and their property confiscated for the use of the rebel army.  They had appealed to their loyal neighbors across the border in Iowa to aid them in their fight for existence and they did not appeal in vain.  In his report to the Governor, (dated at Pleasant Plains, Iowa, July 26, 1861,) Colonel Edwards states that he had sent to Keokuk and Burlington for two pieces of artillery, and that he was about to start with the forces under his command to reinforce the troops under Captain W. C. Drake of Corydon, then stationed at Allenville, on the border of Ringgold County, Iowa, with the purpose of moving across the line to the support of the loyal Missourians, under Colonel Cranor.  The following brief-extracts, from the report of Colonel Edwards, will serve to show the condition of affairs on the southern border at that time.

. . . . . . . Captain Cranor, of Gentry County, Mo., had sent to Captain Drake for assistance, as the rebels were fortified on Grand River, reported to be from eight to twelve hundred strong, with three pieces of artillery.  Colonel Cranor had under his command about three hundred Union Missouri men, badly armed, and over one hundred Iowans who had volunteered under him.  I dispatched a messenger to the various armed companies within reach, ordering them to march and concentrate at Allenville, immediately, also at Chariton.  I also sent a messenger to Captain Drake to ascertain more minutely the facts as to the condition of affairs in his vicinity.   I started for Captain Drake's camp, but was met twenty-five miles this side by the returning messengers whom I had sent the day before.  They confirmed the intelligence brought me the day previous.  On reaching Captain Drake's camp, I ascertained that messengers had just arrived from Colonel Cranor's command, conveying the information that the belligerents -- then within four miles of each other -- had made a treaty of peace. . . .

The "treaty of peace" referred to proved to be but a hollow mockery.  It was simply a temporary truce, which served to prevent the armed forces from becoming engaged in battle at that time, but did not put an end to the depredations to which the property of Union citizens was subjected.  Continuing his report, Colonel Edwards says:

. . . . . . The secessionists in that region are more bold than before, and have recommenced mustering under the military laws of the State, which are obnoxious to the Union men and to which they will not submit.  The Union men are indignant and mortified at the terms of the treaty.  Many have become disheartened -- have abandoned their homes and their crops, and are leaving the State.  The same feelings have taken hold of many families on the border, in Iowa.  I have seen families who, abandoning everything to the fates, have returned to friends in other states.  The loyal men of both States, separated merely by an imaginary line, have the same sympathies in a common  cause.  When the rebels of Missouri seek to injure the property and destroy the lives of Union men of that State, appeals for aid are made to friends and neighbors in Iowa; nor do they appeal in vain.  The arming and military parades made by our companies along the border, at most points have produced salutary effects.  It strengthens and inspires the Union men of Missouri, and carries over to them the neutrals and a great many terror stricken secessionists.  At least fifteen hundred citizens of Iowa left their harvest fields and families and rushed into Missouri  to the relief of the Union men.  These citizens were armed in every conceivable manner, and were without officers, system or drill.  . . . . . .  The loyal men of Missouri express their gratitude to the people of Iowa, for their timely aid and support on every trying occasion; everything they possessed was cheerfully offered free of charge, to render our citizens as comfortable as possible.  I know several gentlemen who not only fed hundreds of Iowa citizens and their horses, daily, for a week at a time, but spent hundreds of dollars -- sometimes their last dollar -- in this benevolent manner.  On account of the excitement and constant alarm along the border, our citizens lost much valuable time, by frequent hurrying to arms; therefore a vast amount of grain was lost in the fields. . . . . .

Realizing the necessity of maintaining a permanent force of State troops along the southern border, Colonel Edwards exercised the authority given him by the Governor, and proceeded to thoroughly organize the companies, and to bring them up to a good state of efficiency in drill and discipline.  In his official report he makes the following statement, showing the conditions then existing, and his efforts to establish a military system, under which more prompt and effective service could be rendered:

In view of apprehended outbreaks, sooner or later, on the borders of Ringgold and Taylor Counties, I have ordered into camp at this place those companies which have received marching orders, and are already on the way to the scene of difficulty.   For the reasons before stated, coupled with the news of our late reverses at Manassas Junction, the rebels here and elsewhere will be inspired with new vigor.  I came into camp last night with three companies; the rest will follow today and tomorrow.   I have commenced systematizing every department of the service, placing the most competent men in the various positions.  The strictest discipline will be adopted and drill performed as in the United States service.  Every arrangement necessary for the comfort and health of the soldiers will be carried out.  The most rigid economy will be practiced, and an exact account rendered of every cent of expense incurred.  The times are such that the people demand that something be done at once and effectively.   We are so situated on the border that, when we are called upon to act, we must act at once.  Heretofore we have had no system, and if called into action our men were liable to be cut off by the enemy and by one another. . . . . .  I will keep out scouts for the next ten days, in the vicinity where danger will be most likely to occur.   I will be ready to strike at a moments notice. . . . . .  The principal design of the secessionists in the northern part of the State of Missouri is to keep up the excitement there as much as possible, in order to divert attention from Governor Jackson's operations in the southern part of the State.  They will do all in their power to harass Union men in both States. .  . . . .  (Note:  Report of the Adjutant General of Iowa, 1863, Vol. 2, pages 873, 4.  Official report of Lieutenant Colonel John Edwards to Governor Kirkwood.)

About the time these militia organizations were being perfected -- as shown in the foregoing extract -- the Fourth Regiment of Iowa Volunteer Infantry was in rendezvous at Council Bluffs, and, in accordance with instructions from Governor Kirkwood, Colonel Grenville M. Dodge marched with eight companies of his regiment, for the purpose of co-operating with the Iowa Militia in the defense of the border counties, and, if found necessary, to cross the line into Missouri and reinforce the loyal Missourians, commanded by Colonel Cranor.  In his official report to the Governor, Colonel Dodge states, that he proceeded with his command to a point thirteen miles north of the Missouri line, where he was met by his scout -- Sergeant Teal -- who had been in the rebel camp near Gentryville, Mo., and found them about six hundred strong, occupying a good position, but poorly armed and equipped.  The Sergeant confirmed the report of the truce (or compromise), and stated that the rebels had apparently disbanded and returned to their homes.  At the close of his report, Colonel Dodge made the following statement:

There is no doubt but great excitement exist on both sides of the line.   My scout canvassed pretty thoroughly all the counties of northwest Missouri, and found that the rebels of that section were fearing an invasion from Iowa equally as much as the people of southern Iowa were from Missouri.  The rebel camp was made chiefly for the purpose of drilling their forces, in order that when Jackson came (which was confidently anticipated), they might be ready to assist him in driving the Union men out of North Missouri.  Gentry and Nodoway Counties are now nearly vacant; crops are neglected and farms for miles deserted.  On breaking up their camp but very few -- say one hundred eighty -- appeared to ratify the compromise, the balance scattering, sinking their field pieces in the river, and burying their small arms.  I am fully persuaded that arms distributed in our border counties, to at least one company in each county, will render everything safe, as the Union forces in North Missouri are now stronger than the rebels.  (Note:  Report of Adjutant General f Iowa, 1863, Vol. 2, pages 876, 7.  Official report of Colonel G. M. Dodge, Fourth Regiment Iowa Infantry.)

Subsequent events proved that the fear of the rebels of northwest Missouri, of an invasion from Iowa, was well founded.  The First Regiment, Western Division, Iowa Volunteer Militia, under command of Colonel John R. Morledge, made three expeditions into the State of Missouri, the last of which extended to the city of St. Joseph, which was evacuated by the rebel forces upon the approach of the Union troops.   Colonel Morledge, in his official report to Governor Kirkwood, gives a detailed account of these expeditions, in the last of which five or six of the enemy were killed, and two rebel flags and many prisoners were captured.  During the progress of the last expedition, the number of Union troops was constantly augmented by the accession of loyal citizens of Missouri who had joined the column at different points along the line of march and, upon arriving at St. Joseph, the number had increased to four thousand.   The rebel forces retreated in the direction of Lexington, and subsequently joined the rebel army under command of General Price.  At the conclusion of his report, Colonel Morledge says:

St. Joseph looked desolate, and as though she had been despoiled of all her goods.  Whole blocks of business houses were closed up, many of which had been broken open and robbed of all or nearly all their contents, by the rebels in their flight through the city two days before.  (Note: Report of Adjutant General of Iowa, 1863, Vol. 2, pages 877, 8.  Official report of Colonel John R. Morledge.)

Colonel Morledge remained in camp at St. Joseph for three days, and then returned with his regiment to Iowa.

Adjutant General N. B. Baker, in his report, published in 1863, (Vol. 1, page xv,) says:

The General Assembly at the Extra Session, 1862, with almost entire unanimity directed the organization of the Northern and Southern Border Brigades.  As these organizations are of great interest to the State, I have inserted in the Appendix their rosters -- Northern marked (B), and Southern marked (C).  These rosters show that the number of men enlisted in the Northern Border Brigade was two hundred fifty, and in the Southern Border Brigade seven hundred ninety-four.  In the Appendix, marked (K), will be found reports of Colonels Edwards, Dodge and Morledge, relating to the difficulties on the southern border, in 1861, and the Governor's instructions in relation to the organization of the Southern Border Brigade, in 1862.

The following order was issued by Adjutant General Baker, soon after the passage of the act by the General Assembly:

Adjutant General's Office,
Davenport, Oct. 8, 1862.

General Orders No. 98:  Under the law of the last session of the General Assembly, Chapter 17, entitled an Act to provide for the better protection of the southern border of this State, the Governor has ordered that four battalions of troops, for the purpose indicated in said law, be forthwith raised, to be numbered and located as follows:

First Battalion to be composed of troops raised in the counties of Lee and Van Buren.

Second Battalion will be composed of troops from the counties of Wapello, Davis and Appanoose.

Third Battalion will be composed of troops from the counties of Wayne, Decatur and Ringgold.

Fourth Battalion will be composed of troops from the counties of Taylor, Page and Fremont.

These battalions will constitute the Southern Border Brigade.  The companies composing these battalions will be designated by this Department alone.

By order of the Commander-in-Chief.

N. B. Baker, Adjutant General of Iowa.
Report of Adjutant General of Iowa 1863, Vol. 2, page 757.)

Reference has been made -- in the foregoing part of this sketch -- to the reports alluded to by Adjutant General Baker, embracing the period from the commencement of the troubles on the southern border to the date of the organization of the Southern Border Brigade.  It will be noted that, in his letter of instructions in relation to that organization, Governor Kirkwood practically adopted the suggestions made by Colonel Grenville M. Dodge, in the concluding portion of his report, heretofore quoted in this sketch.  The letter gives a clear view of the conditions then existing in that part of the State, and is therefore, here quoted in full, as follows:

Executive Office, Iowa, Sept. 11, 1862.

W. W. Thomas,
      Corydon, Wayne Co., Iowa.

Sir:  A law has passed the General Assembly authorizing the organization in your count, and the other border counties, of a company of men for home defense against guerrilla bands from Missouri.  The law will soon be published, and you will be able to see its provisions and learn its objects.  I desire you to enlist the company for your county.  I am informed that in some of the border counties there are men whose loyalty is doubtful, and whose sympathies are with the rebels.  Such men must not be admitted into the company.  I will not, if I can avoid it, be instrumental in placing the public arms in the hands of any man whose devotion to the Government in this hour of peril is doubtful.  I do not mean by this that none but Republicans shall be enlisted, I only mean just what I say, that your company must consist of open, known, unconditional supporters of the Government and of the Union, and I hold you responsible, if you accept this service, that you enlist none others.  Your company can consist of not less than eighty, nor more than one hundred, men, all told.   When you have enlisted the minimum number, you will call the men together and have them elect one Captain and one First Lieutenant, and report the names to the Adjutant General, who will issue commissions.  The men are enlisted to act as mounted men, when their services may be needed, and each man must furnish his own horse, saddle, bridle, blankets and clothing.  It is not intended these men should all be on constant service.  A few men from each company will daily act as scouts, and the others are to be at home, holding themselves as minute men.  Please also report to me at Iowa City your action in this matter.  I trust you will feel it to be your duty to do this work, and to do it firmly and thoroughly.  It is for the defense of your own county, and the service should be promptly performed.  If, for any reason, you cannot act in this matter, please hand this authority, indorsed by you, to some man who will do it in the manner herein set forth, and report his name and post-office address to me immediately.

Very respectfully,
Samuel J. Kirkwood.

Similar letters were addressed to James H. Summers, Decatur City, Decatur County; Charles W. Lowrie, Keokuk, Lee County; John R. Morledge, Clarinda, Page County; E. S. Hedges, Sydney, Fremont County; D. W. Dixon, Ottumwa, Wapello County; R. A. Moser, Lexington, Taylor County; Joseph Dickey, Farmington, Van Buren County; H. Tannehill, Centerville, Appanoose County; H. B. Horn, Bloomfield, Davis County; Thomas Ross, Mount Ayr, Ringgold County.  (Note:  Report of Adjutant General of Iowa, 1863, Vol. 2, page 879.)

Supplementing the foregoing instructions of the Governor, Adjutant General Baker, under date of October 14, 1862, issued an order which reads as follows:

In order that the Southern Border Brigade shall not be an unnecessary expense to the State, it is directed that not more than ten men shall be detailed for special service from any company in any battalion, unless there be an actual invasion, and then the additional force must be ordered out by the Major of the battalion; and in every case full report must be made to the Governor, with a statement of the facts upon which the additional force was ordered into the field, and the officer making the order will be held responsible for the correctness of his statements and actions.  (Note:  Report of Adjutant General of Iowa, 1863, Vol. 2, page 757.)

The wisdom of the action taken by the Governor, in thus creating an efficient and adequately strong force upon the southern borders of the State, was subsequently demonstrated most fully by the better conditions which existed in that section, from the time the organization was established until the close of the war.   It is true that the inhabitants of that part of the State did not at any time, while the great struggle was going on, enjoy the feeling of complete immunity from danger which was held by those whose homes were farther away from the scene of strife.  They had -- in addition to contributing their full quota to the regiments at the front -- to maintain the militia organizations, from their own numbers, and for their own protection.   The burdens of war therefore rested more heavily upon the people of those border counties than upon those who lived in the interior of the State.

The report made by Colonel Edwards -- at the special request of General Baker - gives such a complete summary of the operations of the Iowa State troops on the southern border and in the State of Missouri, that the compiler deems its quotation appropriate to the completion of this historical sketch.  It is therefore quoted in full, as follows:

Springfield, Mo., December 24, 1862.

N. B. Baker, Adjutant General, State of Iowa.

Sir:  In compliance with your request of the 7th inst., to furnish you a brief statement of the expedition under my command, which marched into the State of Missouri during the month of September, 1861, I have the honor to report:  that, as Aid-de-Camp to his Excellency, Governor Kirkwood, I had charge of the border between the States of Iowa and Missouri, from the east line of Appanoose County to the west line of Taylor County.  The Civil War, which then convulsed the people of Missouri, raged with great violence in the northern part of the State, loyalists and rebels striving for the ascendancy.  The bitter feelings engendered between them often broke out to open hostilities, which more or less involved the peace and security of the citizens of Iowa residing near the border.  The rebels, acting on the offensive, were the first to arm and unite themselves into bands, to compel the loyalists either to unite with them or take the other alternative of leaving the State; hence thousands abandoning their homes, fled to Iowa for refuge.  During the month of August, Colonel Patten of Gentry, and Colonel Sanders of Andrew County, Mo., were engaged in organizing large bands of rebels in the northern part of that State, near the Iowa line, with the threatened intention of invading Iowa, to supply their commands with horses, principally; then to unite their forces under General Sterling Price, at that time advancing from Arkansas upon Lexington, Mo.  By a previous understanding between Kirkwood and General Pope, who was at that time in command of northern Missouri, I was authorized, in case of any emergency that might arise, to march such of the troops of Iowa, as had been assigned to me, into Missouri, to assist the struggling loyal citizens of that State, and, if possible, to prevent an invasion by the rebels into Iowa.

If fighting had to be done, it was preferable to do it in Missouri, where the trouble commenced, and to spare our citizens the consequences of an invasion by the enemy.  I was further ordered on arriving at the line, to report to the commanding General.  I did so, and my command, while I remained in the State of Missouri, were received as Federal soldiers.  Before I called out the troops under my command, however, a large number of citizens on the border, on both sides of the line, advised me of the existing state of things; also Colonel Cranor, commanding the Union forces of Gentry County, Mo.  At the numerous and urgent requests of these persons, and after dispatching messengers to the scene of difficulty , and satisfying myself as to the truth of the statements made to me, I ordered out all the troops I could collect and arm -- in all between seven and eight hundred -- requiring them to rendezvous at Allenville, near the line.  Without camp equipage or commissary stores, without any previous preparation, in less than one week's time for organization, I had put my expedition on the march from Allenville.  At that time at least three hundred loyal families of Missouri had been driven out of that Sate, and were then encamped on the prairies of Iowa.   I found the whole country in a state of great excitement; no business on either side of the line was being prosecuted; a large number of families in Iowa had abandoned their crops in harvest time, and fled into the interior of the State for safety.  A band of rebels numbering some twelve hundred, were fortified in a bend of Grand River, about twenty-five miles from the line; several other bands were at other points near by.   I pushed my command on rapidly, when the rebels commenced retreating, the different bands uniting before reaching St. Joseph, Mo.  Before reaching St. Joseph, I formed a junction with Colonel Cranor, when we were ordered by General Pope to advance rapidly on that place, the rebels having possession of the city and being engaged in plundering the citizens.  It is estimated that they took seventy-five thousand dollars worth of goods from the loyal citizens of that city.

At the time of my arrival at St. Joseph, there were no Federal forces at that post, or on the whole line of the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad.  I was ordered to proceed to Chillicothe, leaving three hundred of my men at St. Joseph to garrison that post.  While I was at Chillicothe, the surrender of Lexington, under Colonel Mulligan, took place.  Mine were the nearest Union forces to him at the time, and I had but four hundred and fifty men.  After the surrender of Colonel Mulligan, the rebel General Raines advanced upon Chillicothe with four thousand cavalry and one section of a battery, his pickets being within fifteen miles of Chillicothe, while Lewis Best, a noted rebel, had a band of three hundred, ten miles north of the post, to cut off my retreat.  I telegraphed to General Fremont for reinforcements (the telegraph wire west of me being cut).  He responded that I should be reinforced in the morning with one regiment.  A rebel in the office, named Jones, looking over the shoulder of the operator, thought it read ten regiments.  (Note:  Telegraph messages were not taken by sound in those days.)  Mounting his horse, he rode to the camp of General Raines, whom he informed of the contents of the telegram.  It caused that General to retreat to Lexington, which saved my little band, the post, and the railroad.   Later -- reinforcements having arrived, I was relieved, and ordered to return home with my troops.  Such was the excitement of the time that my command was continually overrun with refugees, seeking safety.  I made a forced march of one hundred mile sin four days, subsisting upon the enemy as best we could.  I took prominent rebels prisoners, whom I forwarded to St. Louis, and some property, which was turned over to General Prentis.  The men of my command were generally substantial farmers, a large number of them over fifty years of age.  They endured the fatigue of the campaign with fortitude.  Their bravery was tested at several critical periods; they never flinched or complained of their hard fare.  They deserve well of their Country.   These troops served one month.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, you obedient servant,

John Edwards, Lieutenant Colonel and Aid-de-Camp,
Commanding Iowa Troops.

(Note:  Report of Adjutant General of Iowa, 1863, Vol. 2, pages 875, 6.  Lieutenant Colonel Edwards was subsequently commissioned by Governor Kirkwood as Colonel of the Eighteenth Regiment Iowa Volunteer Infantry.  He won distinguished honor as commander of that regiment, and was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General of Volunteers.  See Roster  of Field and Staff and Historical Sketch, Eighteenth Regiment Iowa Infantry, "Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers,"   Vol. III, pages 117 to 124.

It will thus be seen that these hardy sons of Iowa -- insufficiently equipped and without military experience -- bravely co-operated with the troops who were regularly enrolled in the service of the United States, in putting down treason and rebellion in the State of Missouri.  They had enlisted for the purpose of defending their own homes against invasion and possible destruction, but, when called upon to aid their loyal brethren on the other side of the border, they nobly responded to the call.   At the time this sketch is written -- nearly fifty years after the events it describes had transpired -- a few of the aged men who belonged to the Southern Border Brigade are still living in their old homes, and a few of those against whom they contended, across the border in Missouri, still survive.  These men and their descendants are now living in peace and amity under the flag of a restored Union.   The bitter enmities which existed in those days of strife and discord are forgotten, and the two great Commonwealths of Iowa and Missouri vie with each other only in their efforts to contribute to the strength, greatness and perpetuity of the Great Republic to which they belong.  (Note:  The subjoined roster has been transcribed from the records in the office of the Adjutant General of Iowa, and contains the names of all the officers and enlisted men of that organization.)



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