A very impressive day of service at Lineville Methodist Church! I want to thank all the Riflemen who made the trip to save the beautiful G.A.R. stained glass window from demolition. A fantastic job, ‘Boys’…Well Done, Brothers! You make me proud to be part of this honorable group!
The motto of Company A, 49th Iowa Veteran Volunteer Infantry Regiment
Iowa Greybeard & Soldier of Fortune
Iowa Greybeard & Soldier of Fortune
Pvt. Nicholas Ramey Musician, Co. B, 37th Iowa Vol. Infantry
One of the by-products of an enquiring mind can oft times be that you come across the most unlikely of stories, in the most improbable of places. Such appears to be the case for our erstwhile Department Historian, PDC Ron “The Sleuth” Rittel. In more or less constant pursuit of the untold stories of our long-gone ancestors of the Civil War, Ron has come up with some doozies in his time, but a recent discovery appears to thus far be “head and shoulders” above any that I have heard to date. And it is worth relating.
The story of the widely renowned 37th Iowa “Greybeards” is probably pretty well known to anyone with an interest in Iowa’s Civil War history. But for those who may not be completely familiar with their story, here are the basics:
The “Greybeards” were a regiment of “seasoned” gentlemen of a certain age who enlisted for three-year’s service when the unit first mustered at Muscatine, Iowa, in December of 1862. While the myth that one “had to be” over the age of 45 years is known to not hold water (as there were certainly men under the age of 40 on the rosters from time to time during the “life-span” of the regiment) it is factual that the “average” ages for the enlistee’s did predominately seem to hang in the late fifties and early sixties; and the oldest soldier known to have served (Curtis King) was, indeed, an octogenarian when he entered the service of the regiment. Many of these men were veterans of the War with Mexico, and at least one (as we shall see) had prior military experience that goes back much, much further.
In raising the regiment, special permission had to be sought from the Secretary of War to gather together a body of men who were to be in “good physical condition” but who would in all likelihood be used exclusively in the performance of guard and garrison duties that would facilitate the use of younger men to be assigned to combat roles. When that permission was received, General Order # 89 by the Adjutant General of the State of Iowa authorized the enlistment and mustering into Federal service of the 37th Iowa Infantry Regiment to be gathered at Camp Strong, Muscatine Iowa in the Fall of 1862. The initial rolls showing an aggregate strength of nine hundred and fourteen men were sworn into service on December 15th, 1862 by Captain H. B. Hendershott, United States Regulars.
Of the 1041 men who would pass through the muster rolls of this extraordinary group of gentlemen over the course of the regiment’s life-span, considerable research into the matter has not revealed a single man who claimed Iowa as his place of nativity. Not entirely surprising among a group of men of that age at that point in the history of the state, for Iowa had only been a state for a short fourteen years before the onset of the war, and few settlers of European extraction were known to have been within the land between two rivers before the mid 1830’s.
By the time the regiment was mustered out of service on May 24th, 1865, the summary of casualties* showed that of the 1041 who served in the 37th Iowa; 3 were killed; 145 died of disease; 364 were discharged for wounds, disease, or other causes; 91 were buried in National Cemeteries; and, 2 were transferred from the ranks to other units.
*”A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion”; Vol. III, Regimental Histories, by Frederick H. Dyer, 1959 Sagamore Press edition.
This much, you probably already knew. What follows is an amazing story of one member of this venerable regiment that pretty much appears to be true…with a certain amount of “windage” very likely built in to account for the typical old soldier’s propensity for possible embellishment of an already good tale. Some of the dates do not seem to jive altogether, but some do, and at least portions of the “facts” seem to be borne out by what scant records we have been able to piece together so far…and the search continues.
So grab your salt shaker…as you will need a grain or two here and there, put your feet up, and read on:
Nicholas Ramey, Sr. Soldier of Fortune in France and America
This story was first published in the Diamond Jubilee Edition of the Ottumwa (Iowa) Courier dated August 4th, 1923 and was written by the Great-grandson, Fred B. Tucker of Ottumwa, Iowa., R.R. 3, formerly County Clerk of Wapello, County, Iowa.
Intermingled with the wars of Napoleon and America is the soldier life of Nicholas Ramey. This grizzled veteran in his final days related to the writer much of his life’s experiences. He spent more than twenty years of his life as a soldier; 7 years as a soldier under Napoleon I, and in America in the War of 1812; the Blackhawk, Mexican, and Civil Wars. In the Civil War he enlisted as a “graybeard” and served as a drummer. His life was full of adventure and tragedy as we shall see. His services were in France and America and practically all of it was in actual war.
Nicholas Joseph Parsonette Ramey was born in Lyons (Rhone-Alpes region) France March 29, 1789 and he was the son of Nicholas and Frances (Gillett) Ramey. His father was a wealthy glass manufacturer in Lyons and when the Napoleonic Wars were at their height, Nicholas aged 16, (in 1805) wanted to join Napoleon’s army.
He was receiving his education in a military school and his father, anxious that he continue his studies, did all that was possible to prevent the young man from entering the service. His father decided to send him abroad to continue his studies, but on the way Nicholas enlisted in Napoleon’s Cavalry under his mother’s name of Gillett, in 1810. He was soon promoted to the rank of Lieutenant and was known as Lieutenant Gillett. After a period of service in the line he was attached to Napoleon’s body guard and was present at the time when the formal divorce of Napoleon and Josephine was proclaimed (on 30 Nov 1809) He was present and participated in the battles of Wagren (sp. Wagram) July 5-6, 1809, Austerlitz Dec 2., 1805, Jena Oct 14, 1806 and the Spanish campaigns of 1807-8.
When the French army was invading an enemy city, orders were issued to kill all resisting inhabitants, burn and sack the place. Lieut. Ramey in charge of a squad of soldiers in complying with this order found an abundance of gold stored in the basement vault of a rich banker. After destroying the family he and three others of his squad sacked the gold, took it to the suburbs of the place and buried it. They carefully marked and platted the spot and agreed that after the war they would return and get this treasure. His three companions were later killed in battle.
He had fought in five duels and could corroborate this claim by more than twenty saber scars on his limbs and body all received on the field of honor. Being a cavalryman, three of these duels were fought on horseback, and twice he killed his adversaries. The occasion of one of these encounters arose at a dance, which he attended in the uniform of his rank.
In dancing he made some extra movements with his feet and his spur became entangled with the silk skirt of a lady ruining her dress. At the conclusion of the dance the gentleman attending the lady challenged Ramey to a duel. The challenge was accepted and the following morning they met at dawn and fought with swords. After an exchange of thrusts both were slightly wounded but their honor was satisfied and they shook hands and departed. It was not recorded what amends were made to the lady for her destroyed gown. Lieut. Ramey was captured by the British along with 484 fellow soldiers and all were consigned to a prison ship, a mere hulk of a vessel in the harbor of Gibraltar. Sixteen English guards were in charge of the prisoners and rations were brought daily from the shore. The prisoners began systematically to save from their rations with the idea of trying to escape. After a number of days on a stormy night at a preconcerted signal, the guards were seized and thrown overboard. Ramey, as the ranking officer on board, took command and they set sail with no destination in view, drifting out of the harbor to the open sea. With their improvised sails and having no mariner aboard, they did not know where they were and finally their food became exhausted. Many of them became so weak they were unable to manage the vessel and were at the mercy of the wind and waves. For nine days they sailed the unknown sea, with a signal of distress flying at the mast-head. On the 10th day, whey sighted a ship. Was it a friendly ship or did it carry the flag of Britain? If it proved to be a British ship they intended to fight to the death, their only weapons being the guns taken from the guards, and such other close quarter implements as they might improvise.
As the ship drew nearer, they found it was flying the Stars and Stripes and shouts of joy arose from the deck. The living were taken aboard the American ship and the prison vessel was left a derelict at sea. Many of those taken aboard died within the next few days from the effect of their starvation and privation, but about 250 survived and landed in America.
The War of 1812 was then in progress and as they hated the British, all of the survivors enlisted in the American army. Ramey enlisted as a private, July 20th, 1812. In enlisting, each took an assumed name for the purpose of preventing identification in the event they were made prisoners of war. So Ramey enlisted again under his mother’s maiden name of Frances Gillett, changing the e to I in Frances. He was mustered out of the U.S. Service on July 20, 1817, having served 5 years. Ramey was a born fighter. He served through five wars, his total service being over 20 years. Up to his death he drew a pension for his service in the War of 1812, and was listed on the pension rolls as Francis Gillett (true, Reg#56376-50). Some time after the Civil War he got the idea of returning to France and unearthing the bag of gold he had planted. Numerous friends supplied him with funds and he spent three months in France trying to locate the treasure. He found the city they had sacked and burned but it had been rebuilt and had grown to about three times its former size, the suburbs extending out past where the gold had been buried and all his land marks were gone. If the gold had not been found by someone else, it is still there. Ramey was made a Mason in New York State and was an enthusiastic Mason. At the time of his death, he was the oldest Master Mason in Iowa. He was admitted to Tri-Luminar Lodge No. 18, Oskaloosa, Mahaska Co., Iowa in 1856-7 having settled in Iowa in 1854.
This warrior of two continents died March 6, 1882 at the age of 92 years, 11 months and 7 days. He was buried with masonic honors in Kirkville Cemetery (now called “West View”) Wapello Co., Iowa.
As I alluded to earlier, this account at least second-hand and was information related by an elderly gentleman nearly four decades after the death of Nicholas Ramey. Some “facts” are bound to be inconsistent. The first of which is the date given as “1810” for his entry into the armies of Napoleon Bonaparte. If the date is accurate, then he could not have been a participant in any of the battles that he outlined, nor could he have been present for the 1809 announcement of the annulment of the marriage of Napoleon and Josephine that he claimed to have witnessed from the close quarters of one of the Little Emperor’s personal guard (La Garde Impérial). Now, if one substitutes the initial date of 1805 that is referred to earlier on in the story as being “when the Napoleonic Wars were at their height”…it is all possible.
The author makes a further notation to the story that says;
“The capture by the British took place during the fighting with the English in Portugal in 1808”.
That statement is problematic….while it is abundantly true that there was lots of fighting going on in Portugal between the forces of Britain, Spain, Portugal and France in 1808; and, there were numbers of French prisoners being taken from several of those engagements, the account of being held on a “prison ship, a mere hulk of vessel” at the port of Gibraltar at that stage of the war seems unlikely on a couple of counts. Firstly, the British were transporting prisoners (especially officers) from Napoleon’s armies back to Britain (some were even being held in Scotland) aboard seaworthy vessels. The times just don’t match up, and they would have likely sailed from Lisbon, which was much closer.
Secondly, if Ramey were indeed taken prisoner in 1808 in Portugal, he could literally have swam to Boston Harbor quicker than the amount of time that it appears to have taken him to get there.
Part of his War Service Record at the National Archives shows him to have arrived in Boston on May 19th, 1812. That would be something near four-years after an alleged capture in 1808.
What would appear to be more likely, would be for him to have been among the more than 1,400 French troops captured at the Battle of Ciudad Rodrigo, Spain in January of 1812. Prisoners from that battle are known to have been held on British “hulks” (retired naval vessels, stripped of their armament, masts and rudders to make them un-seaworthy, rendering them solely useful as floating supply depots or prisoner holding vessels) or; taken aboard sea-worthy vessels to be transported to prison camps in Britain.
We know that he was living in Licking County, Ohio during the period of the “Blackhawk Wars” (May to August, 1832), but the actual fighting in that short lived conflict appears to have been mostly limited to within the territorial boundaries of Illinois and Michigan. That being said, there was a major dust up that occurred at Detroit, Michigan and only ended after reinforcements of both Regulars and Ohio militia were brought to bear upon the enemy forces. So, while there is no record as yet found to substantiate Ramey’s attributed participation in the “Blackhawk War”, it is entirely possible.
As for the War with Mexico (1846-1848), there have been no records found as yet that confirm Ramey as being a veteran of that conflict.
We do know that while living in Licking County, Ohio, in 1851 he made application for the award of “bounty lands” as a result of his service in the War of 1812. We have not as yet located the award documents to show that his petition was successful, but it could well be that IF he was awarded lands for his service they might well have been in Iowa as this was one place (like Nebraska and Kansas) there the Federal government was giving land grants to veterans (the old “Forty acres and a Mule” grant as they were known. More investigation into this possibility is in the works.
We do know that he was living in the settlement of “Benton” in Keokuk County, Iowa with a family named “Hampton” according to the Federal census of 1856. Of the ten or so people in the household, all others share the name but for Nicholas Ramey. (Likely these are relatives, maybe the family of a grown daughter, but no definite relationship has yet to be established.)
The next incontrovertible evidence of Nicholas shows up in his enlistment documents into Company “E” of the 37th Iowa Volunteer Infantry (showing his home as being in Oskaloosa) on 26th September, 1862, as a “Drummer”. He was 72 years of age at the time…actually he would have been 73, but who’s counting?
His term of service was not long…being discharged for “disability” on 11 March, 1863 at St. Louis, Missouri.
Little else is known of what followed his final bout of military service, until his death is recorded as having taken place on March 6th, 1882, with burial in the little cemetery at Kirkville, Wapello County.
What is known is that it appears that his Soldier of Fortune may have lain in an unmarked grave from the time of his death and burial until an Application for Headstone or Marker (War Department, O.Q.M.G. Form No. 623) was filed by someone named Mrs. John Glass of Ottumwa, who filed a request for a standard government issued stone in May of 1948. This was sixty-six years after his death.
That stone was visited on July 26th by PDC Rittel and myself (see attached photograph) and its exact GPS coordinates were determined and uploaded via smartphone to Sister Marilyn back here in Des Moines who immediately put the final resting place of Nicholas Ramey onto Find-a-Grave. The wonders of modern technology. I think Nicholas would likely be pleased to know that his story (if, perhaps as yet, incomplete) is being told again and by an entirely new generation of seekers.
Two further intriguing bits of information have come to light in our enquiry so far. The first is an “Iowa Letter” bearing the date of March 10, 1882 and addressed to the Editor of the Newark, Ohio, Daily Advocate. It reads:
“Iowa Letter Oskaloosa, Iowa, March 10, 1882.
EDITOR ADVOCATE—On the 6th of this month, Nicholas Ramey, a former resident of your county, died at Kirkville, a small town fourteen miles south of here, at the age of 90 years. He was a native of France and a veteran of the wars. Mr. Ramey was a lieutenant in the Grand Army under Napoleon; was captured at Salamanca, Spain, and while he was being transported on a British vessel bound for London, assisted in a mutiny, which was successful, and made his escape to America. He became a soldier of the Republic in the war of 1812. He also served during the war of the late rebellion as a principal musician of the 37th Iowa (Graybeard) regiment. The pioneers of Licking will remember him as a great admirer of Napoleon. He organized a company at Newark, headed, I believe by Moody Smith and went with them to Gibraltar, to recover treasures hidden there by his great commander. When the writer was a small boy, Mr. Ramey lived close to Newark on the farm of S.D. King, on the road leading from there to Granville. He has children and grandchildren residing in your city and county. Mrs. Anderson, of Chatham, was one of his daughters. He was totally blind before he died. He was buried with Masonic honors on the 8th inst. J.”
No idea who “J’ might have been, but I am assuming it to be someone who would have felt there to have been people back in Ohio who would have wished to know of the passing of the old soldier.
Another article, dating from April 7th, 1936, appeared in The Newark Advocate (Newark, Ohio) and is transcribed as follows:
“Our County History Written by Ben Jones for the Historical Committee of the Licking County Archaeological and Historical Society.
A NAPOLEONIC SOLDIER
I find a record of Nicholas Ramey who was living in the county until 1857 when he went to Iowa and there died at the age of 90 years. He served in the European wars under Napoleon and was with the French armies in the Spanish campaign.
He was very enthusiastic in his talk when Napoleon was mentioned and before his departure for Iowa, he made a voyage to Gibraltar to see some of the scenes of the wars.
I do not know whether Nicholas and Elijah Ramey were related at all but Nicholas had many descendants scattered about the country.
He comes to my knowledge in an account given by Isaac Smucker in telling of the “gray headed regiment of Iowa,” which was organized from the older settlers of Iowa for the purpose of guarding the Confederate prisoners sent to that state for detention. Among these recruits were three men who had been citizens of this county and had gone to Iowa. They were Nicholas Ramey, John Colville, and Wayne Mc Caddon.”
Perhaps the John Colville named above might be the “J” from the previous excerpted writings. Interesting conjecture, but perhaps ultimately indiscernible, and potentially irrelevant.
Both of these later finds among the archives of the Ohio State Historical Society’s print collections do tent to lend gravitas to the previous writings and certainly add a couple of more pieces to the puzzle that is the intriguing story of Nicholas Ramey.
More work is left to do to see what can be turned up to add to this magnificent tale. But we shall follow the trails we have and see where they take us. While we know that no “military honors” were rendered Nicholas at the time of his interment, that is a situation that the Honor Guard of the 49th Iowa has every intention of setting right. We are also exploring the possibility that the nation of France may also be interested in learning of the final resting place of one who saw so much of that nation’s history through the eyes of a soldier of Napoleon I. For the time being, we can only say,
Nicholas, repose en paix, mon frère!
1/Lt. David M. Lamb Commanding “The Governor’s Own”
Citations: Interactive ancestry.com American Civil War Research Database, Historical Data Systems, Inc. Duxbury, MA 02331 Fold3.com, National Archives and Records Administration Records of the Veteran’s Administration, Dept. of Veteran’s Affairs of the United States, Monuments Division, Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.A.
One Hundred and Fifty-two years ago tomorrow, on the banks of Auxvasse Creek in North-east Missouri’ Callaway County, a force of approximately 400 Confederate soldiers led by Col. Joseph C. Porter attacked a numerically superior force of Federals under the command of Col. Odon Guitar near the site of a steam powered mill owned by a local resident named William P. Moore. For the remainder of that hot July day, the fortunes of the fight ebbed and flowed over the half-mile long crest of the hill and wood just to the Northeast of the creek as the roughly 400 Confederates and 730 Federal troops struggled to gain the upper hand. After several long hours of fierce fighting, Federal firepower in the form of field guns of the 3rd Indiana artillery caused damage to the Confederates that proved too great to endure and they were forced to quite the field. The badly mauled Federals were too exhausted to give pursuit and all that was left to do was to gather in the dead and the dying and await the arrival of the Union re-enforcements that were believed to be within ten miles.
When all was said and done, the canister of the Indiana gunners had done its deadly duty and left fifty-two Confederate dead and over one-hundred wounded, a loss approaching one-half of the original number committed in the opening stages of battle. Federal losses were set at thirteen dead and fifty-five wounded.
As happened all too frequently in that terrible war, many of the dead were gathered together and buried in a common grave site on the field of battle near where they fell. If any marker was erected to show the place at which perhaps as many as twenty-four or so of the dead were lain to rest, side by side, and comingled Union and Confederate alike, it did not long survive. Only a general notation that the site was so many paces to the North of the running Auxvasse Creek; and, so many paces to the East of the single track road that wound past on the Western edge of the field of battle, “near a small store”, appears to be have been recorded.
And so they remained, these former recent enemies, now united by the soil of the damp earth that enfolded them for the better part of a century and one-half until members of two unlikely fraternal brotherhoods forged by the survivors of that war came together with local historians, re-enactors, and academics to locate and mark the final resting place of these men who died for their respective beliefs.
The Elijah Camp # 570 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans spearheaded the effort to see to it that the grave site was located, verified, and that access to the site would be granted ad infinitum by the property owner. Joined in their efforts by the Tiger Camp #432 of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War; these groups then set about raising the funds to see to it that a stone marker was professionally made and set at the site that had been independently verified by ground-penetrating radar as having “subterranean anomalies present that are indicative of a mass burial”. Once the extent of the site had been established, a permanent fence would be placed around the borders of the actual grave site itself. These efforts took well in excess of one year, and culminated with a memorial service and ceremonials honors that were performed at the site at 1:00pm on Sunday, July 27th, 2014.
Approximately twenty-five to thirty members of the Gates Camp were joined by members of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, the Command Staff of the 4th Military District/SVR and PCinC Dr. Donald D. Palmer. Lt/Col.(Ret’d) Grothe and his wife, Maggie, joined the delegation that came to honor the fallen and recognize the efforts of all who contributed to this outstanding endeavor to see to it that these men’s final posts would be marked after one-hundred-and fifty-two years. Re-enactors from Missouri, Iowa, and Illinois would also turn out to participate in the ceremonies. A crowd of perhaps two-hundred local citizens from the “Kingdom of Callaway”, and beyond came to witness the event; and, both State and County political dignitaries issues congratulatory proclamations in appreciation of the efforts made in honoring these fallen warriors of so long ago.
Major David M. Lamb, Commanding Fourth Military District Sons of Veterans Reserve
Coming home from what can only be described as both a voyage of peril and discovery that might easily rival any taken by the mid-nineteenth sailors that he represents, “Jack Tar” is back home tonight in Elkader, Iowa. Once again finding safe harbor as part of that NE Iowa community’s beautiful monument to the men who fought the Civil War.
Corporal Ricky Stewart of the Governor’s Own battled the untold obstacles of working with one-hundred-year-old metals that are approximately one-third the thickness of a modern penny to fabricate a whole new hand and telescope (modeled from an original London-made Dolland Day or Night used by the ships of the line of the Royal Navy as well as most of the Federal naval vessels of the Civil War period). He also mended several breaks and tears in the surfaces of the statue; and fabricated an entirely new mounting system that will secure the piece to its grey-granite base. Additionally, a protective anode system to counteract the ravages of low-voltage electrolysis set up by the mixed metals of the statue that promoted deterioration of some of the mountings, was contrived in the imagination of this very talented artist.
1st Corporal Court Stahr, seen in some of these photographs manning the core drill
that was employed to make safe the mounting phalanges of the rejuvenated metal sculpture, proudly assisted in the placement of the piece; and helped us load up the “next victim” (the infantryman) for transport to Rick’s studio for what we hope shall be less extensive repairs and re-conditioning efforts.
On hand to witness Jack’s triumphant return was journalist Pat McTaggart of the local news media, and many passersby from the community, who unanimously gave us the “thumbs up” as we went about the re-mounting of the statue onto his granite pedestal on this magnificent early-summer afternoon.
In time, the eagle that rests atop of the monument, and the plaques that adorn the front surfaces will all fall under the artist’s loving and talented hands so that yet another generation or two can pass by and remember the costs of our freedoms heroically paid by our ancestors during the darkest days of our nation’s history.
Somewhere tonight, a sailor’s spirit proudly plays a horn pipe in celebration I am certain.
The regiment bids our fond farewells to two more guardsmen whose duties to their “parent unit” are requiring more of their time, efforts and energies.
Sgt. Michael Carr, and Chaplain Dennis Sasse leave the rosters of the 49th Iowa in order to be able to devote their energies entirely to their positions within our “sister unit” of Company “B” 10th Iowa Infantry where they hold the positions of Captain (Commanding) and 1/Sgt., respectively. The 10th Iowa has been extraordinarily active in their geographical area of Western Iowa over the course of the past couple of years as they have striven to hold events in each county in their portion of the state during the Sesquicentennial observances of the Civil War.
Both guardsmen were members of the 49th’s “First Muster” back in June of 2009. We wish them both continued success in all of their endeavors and thank them for their years of dedicated service.
Respectfully submitted, 1/Lt. David M. Lamb Commanding
The 49th Iowa bids a fond farewell to two of our own whose expanding schedules and other commitments have precluded their active involvement in the on-going activities and missions of the regiment.
Corporal (Rifleman) David Haverkamp; and Corporal (Drummer) Quinn Haverkamp will be leaving the active duty rosters of the 49th Iowa as of 1 June, 2014, after a term of nearly four years of service. Though not on the First Muster rosters of the regiment, the Haverkamp father and son joined the regiment during our first “marching season” in 2010. On behalf of all of their brothers in arms, we heartily thank them for their service to the regiment in the furtherance of our missions; and wish them continued success in all of their endeavors.
At the same time, the regiment is pleased to bid “welcome” to Probationary Rifleman, Corporal Jeffrey P. Rasmussen of Des Moines. Corporal Rasmussen is relatively new to the SUVCW, having joined the Grenville M. Dodge Camp # 75 just a bit over a year ago. He was, until recently a full-time student at Iowa State University; and now is employed in retail sales in the Des Moines area.
Corporal Rasmussen will be falling in with the regiment under the watchful eyes of First and Second Corporals Stahr and Braden; and the ever-watchful supervisory eyes of Drill Sergeant Rittel and Color Sergeant Grim who will be teaching him the finer points of Civil War marksmanship at our next regimental Live Fire event in September. His initial duty assignment will be as part of the Rifle Detail.
Under sometimes threatening skies, eleven guardsmen of the 49th Iowa Veteran Volunteer Infantry Regiment, gathered today at Oakwood Cemetery in Pella, Iowa to render long overdue military honors to Veterans of the Civil War who had lain in unmarked graves for the better portion of a century. How we came to be here at this place, on this day, and performing these honors is a story worth re-telling.
In mid-September, 2012, the regiment had performed the posting of the colors at the opening ceremonies of Pella’s official commemoration of the American Civil War. On that beautiful early fall weekend, eight members of the regiment and their ladies dressed in “period” dress took part in the official program on the town square where thousands of visitors come in April and May to view the profusion of blooming tulips; and, watch wooden shoed townsfolk dressed in the traditional attire of their native Holland scrub the streets clean.
The 2012 events not only celebrated the dozens of young men from tiny Central College of the late 1850’s and the local farm boys who marched off to help fill the ranks of several Iowa regiments rallying to answer President Lincoln’s call for volunteers; but, also to take part in the opening of the Civil War exhibition at the Scholte House Museum.
One of the driving forces in planning that weekend was our own Brother Tom Gaard of the Grenville M. Dodge Camp #75 in Des Moines, where many of the guardsmen belong. Tom, is a native of the Pella area, and so acted as our liaison between the regiment, the Pella Historical Society, and the Scholte House Museum.
As often happens….one thing leads to another.
In the days and weeks following our appearance in Pella, Brother Tom began to have conversations with Mr. Doug Wiley, caretaker at Oakwood Cemetery; and others from the “Pella Community” and beyond about the gravesites of three Civil War soldiers who were known to be at rest in the enfolding earth of Oakwood; but, whose final posts had never been marked with military gravestones.
Making the necessary contacts currently required under Federal regulations of the Veteran’s Administration to gain family input into the project, Tom and Doug began the process of collecting the supporting documentation to support a formal request of the United States government that would result in the issuance of military stones for each of the three veterans. This process is one that can take twists and turns; and, always takes time.
But that time was spent; and, each hurdle crossed, so that once the Pennsylvania gray-granite markers (each weighing in at close to 300 lbs.) began arriving in Pella, Doug Wiley and his crew could make certain that they were properly set in place at the graves in the fall of last year, and the early spring of this year.
In February of this year, Brother Tom approached me and asked if the 49th Iowa could schedule a time to visit Pella and perform the military ceremonies that these three veterans’ service to their nation entitled them to receive.
Memorial Day seemed to be the appropriate occasion.
By 1:00pm on Monday, a crowd of approximately one-hundred descendants, family, and members of the community of Pella had gathered at the grave of Private Dirk Rhynsburger, 15th Iowa Infantry
to silently observe the first ceremonial exercises. The citizens and families would then move en-masse with the regiment to the graves of Private Daniel Dingeman, 33rd Iowa Infantry,
thence on to the furthest site, and final post of Lt. Thomas Forsyth, 40th Iowa Infantry,
where the honors would be rendered in turn for each of these soldiers.
The 49th Iowa wishes to extend its heartfelt thanks to Brother Tom Gaard and Mr. Doug Wiley for their exceptional efforts, to the he American Legion’s Patriot Guard for the provision of the three burial flags used in today’s ceremonies and then presented to the families of Private Dingeman and Lt. Forsyth, and to the City of Pella that received the flag from the Rhynsburger ceremony.
We thank SGM (Ret’d) Mike Kuhn of the Marion County V.A. for his help in contacting the local Patriot Guard unit; and, Deputy Director Nick Lemmo of the Polk County Veterans Administration offices in Des Moines for the beautiful cherry wood flag display cases that we were honored to give to the families and the City of Pella on his behalf.
And lastly, we thank Lt/Col. Joni Ernst, Iowa Army National Guard, who assumed temporary command of the regiment for the deployment of, and salute to, the National colors at the Dingeman ceremony.
Tonight, as the sun sets under stormy Iowa skies, these three soldiers of the Civil War are at rest in honored recognition of their service under the loving colors of the nation that they served.
1/Lt. David M. Lamb Commanding The Governor’s Own
Photos & Video by Marilyn Rittel, Janet Stahr, & Dana Lamb
Regimental Color Sergeant Rowley Receives Honors From The Sons of the American Revolution
MEMORIAL DAY OBSERVANCE, 26th May, 2014 Pella, Marion County, Iowa
After his regiment participated in the rendering of Full Military Honors for three veterans of the Civil War whose “final posts” at the local cemetery in Pella, Iowa had gone unmarked for the better part of the last century; a guardsman of the 49th Iowa was “ambushed” by his brothers at the close of the ceremonies.
Regimental Color Sergeant Michael John Rowley was presented with the National Sons of the American Revolution’s prestigious “Service to Veterans Award and Medal” for his years of dedicated work in honor of our nations’ military veterans and their families.
Documented service which earned him this recognition included hundreds of gravesites visited, scores of new gravestone obtained by RCS Rowley for placement and replacement, coordinating veterans events at V.A. Hospitals, hundreds of hours and thousands of miles logged in participating in ceremonial activities like the one today, countless public appearances in the uniforms of this nations bygone eras, as well as significant monetary contributions to various veterans organizations over many years.
RCS Rowley’s absolute and unwavering dedication to honoring this nations’ military veterans is a credit to himself, this regiment, his nation, and all that we stand for. He deserves the hearty and sincere congratulations of all of his brothers-in-arms of the 49th Iowa for a job exceedingly “well done!”
Over the course of the past few years, “The Governor’s Own” has taken on the role of providing the proper Military Disposal of “unserviceable” National Flags for the Des Moines Parks and Recreation Department; and, holds ceremonies twice per year at historic Woodland Cemetery for that purpose. With each passing season, it seems, that task becomes larger, as more and more flags are brought to us for retirement.
On Saturday, May 3rd, 2014, the most recent of these ceremonies saw guardsmen of the 49th Iowa assemble from several corners of the State for the purpose of committing over 1,000 flags to the healing flames as required by long-standing military tradition and Federal law. As always, we found that our best efforts to properly dispose of the flags that we have been charged with retiring were not sufficient to deplete the supply that has been taken in, and several hundreds more will await our next committal ceremonies that are scheduled for September.
In the interim, Color Sergeant Zenti will be working on constructing a larger Disposal unit; and, we will be scouring our schedule for additional ceremony dates over the course of the remainder of this year and into the middle of next.
In addition to reporting early for the set-up and safety briefings that accompany each Disposal Ceremony, guardsmen utilized the opportunity of mustering to get in always worthwhile drill in the use of their muskets, and the ceremonial folding and unfolding of burial flags that are used by the Honor Guard when performing the rendering of “Full Military Honors” in compliance with existing military regulations for same.
This muster and drill was also the first opportunity for one of our newest enlistees, Corporal Asher Beermann, to begin learning to master the handling of his musket. True to our origins as “The Iowa Rifles”, within the 49th Iowa, every man is a rifleman and each must strive to constantly improve upon his level of proficiency with his weapon.
SCHOOL OF THE PIECE Boscobel, Wisconsin 17th May 2014
Due to the lack of sufficient registrations to cover the costs of presenting the annual training on the artillery of the Civil War period, it has become necessary to CANCEL the day-long course that was to be held at the Boscobel, Wisconsin, “Sportsman’s Club” on Saturday, 17th May, 2014.
The previously submitted registration forms and payments that were received by this command shall be sent back to those who submitted same by return post.
The names and addresses of all of those who DID register will be entered onto a database for future notification of events of this sort. Unit Commanders are encouraged to assured widest dissemination of this cancellation notice to their personnel.
It is hoped that the need to cancel this school will not prove to be an inconvenience.
Maj. David M. Lamb Inf., Commanding Fourth Military District Sons of Veterans Reserve