A History of the 24th Iowa Infantry 1862-1865

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Kimble, Harvey H. Jr.
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Western Illinois University
On April 15, 1861, President Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for seventy-five thousand volunteers from the states not in rebellion. While not yet fifteen years old, the State of Iowa answered this call and future calls at an enviable rate. The state was credited with 76,309 enlistments; more than one half of Iowa's male population of military age bore arms. Forty-eight infantry regiments, nine cavalry regiments, and four artillery companies were organized during the four years of fighting. Iowa men were to win positions of high command during the war, and the state's regiments were prominent in most of the battles in the Western Theater. One of the most interesting infantry regiments to see service was the Twenty-fourth Regiment of Iowa Volunteer Infantry. Colonel Eber C. Byam, a Methodist minister, organized this unit which was often referred to as the "Iowa Temperance Regiment." The Temperance Regiment, recruited mainly in east-central Iowa, first saw action in the Vicksburg Campaign, took an active part in the disastrous Red River Expedition, and was one of only three Iowa regiments to support General Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley. On July 17, 1865, the Twenty-fourth Regiment of Iowa Volunteer Infantry was mustered out of service in Savannah, Georgia, where the unit had been serving as a rear guard to the army of General Sherman. Although the 24th Iowa was a distinguished and battle-tested regiment of both the Western and Eastern Theaters of the Civil War, little has been formally written of its history. No published regimental history is known to exist, and summary sketches often describe the role of the 24th as viewed by the regiments that fought with it, rather than in terms of the 24th Iowa's personal achievements. The thesis presents the regiment's history chronologically. Chapters cover: Iowa and the Civil War, the organization of the "Temperance Regiment," winter camp at Helena, Arkansas, the Vicksburg Campaign, the Red River Campaign, operations in the Shenandoah Valley, and guard duty in Savannah, Georgia, until the end of the war. While this thesis is designed primarily to be descriptive rather than analytical, a Civil War regimental history must include elements of state and local history, military history, and political history. A small contribution in these areas is attempted. The following primary sources from the Iowa State Department of History and Archives Library were used extensively: A. A. Rigby Diary, Amasa Allen Civil War Letters, Ezra W. Webb Papers, Diary of Levi L. Hoag in the Katherine Gue Leonard Collection, James H. Shanklin Letters, John N. Shedenhalm's Civil War Daybook, 24th Iowa's Infantry Papers, and a Charles Lucas Letter. Besides the above accounts written by members of the 24th Iowa, the Annals of Iowa provided two summary sketches of the 24th. "First Year's Medical History of the Twenty-fourth Iowa," by John F. Ely in Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States - Iowa and "A Soldier's Letters from the Field," by Charles Lucas in Iowa Historical Record provided valuable information. Since the majority of the primary sources were recorded by the common soldiers of the 24th Iowa, the regimental history is intended to reflect the view of the men of the ranks whose goal it was to preserve the Union rather than to rise to position of prominence by military successes. Although slower to answer their country's call, they joined at a time of real need. Perhaps Lincoln's third call in 1862, of which the men of the 24th were a part, enlisted as real patriots who served in the main, not for adventure or glory, but out of a deep sense of duty.