Saturday, August 22, 2015

Three Perspectives on Service in the 19th Iowa Infantry

Historians are quite fortunate when they find a regiment whose service was well documented by its members. An example of one of these for the trans-Mississippi was the 19th Iowa Infantry, a regiment that suffered heavy casualties at the battle of Prairie Grove and then went on to serve in Louisiana where 210 men were taken prisoner at Stirling’s Plantation. The survivors occupied Brownsville, Texas, and then ended the war serving in operations near Mobile Bay.

Three particularly fine surviving accounts document service in the 19th Iowa and from varying perspectives. Benjamin Franklin McIntyre enlisted at age 34 in Keokuk serving initially as a sergeant and then earning a commission as second lieutenant. His diary is one of the better surviving ones for a Federal soldier serving in the trans-Mississippi. He wrote about a variety of topics and since he was not captured at Stirling’s Plantation, he left behind an excellent account of duty in south Texas. On the other hand his diary abruptly ended in August 1864 so there is no account of his service along the Gulf in the last part of the war. For interested readers here is the citation for his published journal:
Tilley, Nannie M., ed. Federals On The Frontier: The Diary of Benjamin F. McIntyre, 1862-1864. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1963.

William Henry Harrison Clayton enlisted at age 22 in Keosauqua and became a company clerk. Clayton documented his service in regular letters to his parents and to his brothers. He had the misfortune to be captured at Stirling’s Plantation that resulted in a ten-month incarceration at Camp Ford, Texas, and a sizable gap in his correspondence. Following an exchange, he returned to his regiment and wrote about the final actions near Mobile Bay. Taken together, McIntyre’s and Clayton’s writings dovetail nicely in a chronological sense but provide varying perspectives of service in the 19th Iowa Infantry. The citation for Clayton’s letters is:
Elder, Donald C., III, ed. A Damned Iowa Greyhound: The Civil War Letters of William Henry Harrison Clayton. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1998.

Finally, the 19th Iowa Infantry was the subject of one of the earliest Civil War regimental histories. Published in 1865, History of the Nineteenth Regiment Iowa Volunteer Infantry by J. Irvine Dungan is an interesting history that discusses all of the regiment’s campaigns, but it is challenging to even locate a copy. Luckily, the Internet Archive has a digital copy available.

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