Thursday, March 13, 2014

"Old Austrian Musket" (UPDATED)

 In September of 1861 the men of the 6th Iowa continued their training Missouri. It was here that they were issued their first set of army equipment including muskets. We also see in this entry their first uniforms.

 "On the next day arms and aecoiiterments and a large supply of clothing were issued to the regiment, each man receiving a gun and equipment, 2 shirts, 2 pair drawers, 2 pair socks, 1 pair shoes, 1 pair pants, 1 cloth cap, 1 blue jacket, 1 sky blue overcoat, 1 wool blanket, knap- sack, and canteen. The guns were the old Austrian musket pattern, with fuse primers. At the first dress parade Major Corse tested the quality of the guns by trying to fire a volley, when only about a dozen guns in the line fired. Colonel McDowell's swearing order had no effect in restraining men and officers from expressing their disgust in vigorous language."

 The men of this regiment were apparently "disgusted" with the poor quality of this musket.

Austrian Musket

These muskets were common in the Western theatre as a first musket and would sometimes later be replaced with an Enfield or Springfield Musket.

Another kind was the Belgian musket. This is described by Theodore Upson of the 100th Indiana.

August 1862 Camp Morton, Indianapolis 

 "We have been drawing arms today. We don't like them much; they are Belgian muskets with a great cheek piece on the side of the stock and are about the poorest excuse of a gun I ever saw. I don't believe one could hit the broadside of a barn with them."

Another description of early war muskets comes from Alexander Downing of the 11th Iowa. He writes:

" Friday 25th Oct 1861. - We got our equipments today. Our guns are the old-fashioned muskets made by working over the old flint-lock gun so as to use a cap in place of the flint. The musket is loaded with a cartridge containing powder, ball and three buckshot in front of the ball. Each man is to carry 40 rounds of ammunition all the time. "

 This description could be talking about the Belgian smoothbore but I am unsure and not as familiar with arms of the period as I'd like to be. Perhaps a reader could straighten this out for me.

Soldiers with Lorenz Austrian Musket

An amusing incident involving an Austrian Musket: 

 November 1861
 "At another time a newly arrived recruit alarmed the whole camp by firing at a flock of crows while on duty as a camp guard on a lonesome beat out on the big prairie near a cornfield where the crows were accustomed to perch on the high stakes of a rail fence.
noise they made, they tempted the sentinels to test the serviceable qualities of their guns and their marksman- ship on them.
The young man had enlisted from patriotic motives and had some practical ideas of the duties that would be required of him as a soldier, which prompted him to try the merits of his gun on the crows. The cannon-like reports of the old Austrian musket, when he opened fire, aroused the camps and the whole command was summoned to arms. Colonel McDowell, mounted on his horse,proceededing great haste to the point of danger. In a rage of anger and with abusive language, he assailed the sentinel for his breach of discipline; when, in fact, he had only demonstrated what the military genius of those in command had failed to do, that the troops were inexperienced in the use of firearms and non-effective with the unserviceable guns then in their hands. "When approached in a respectful manner by those with whom he was acquainted and asked concerning the firing, he replied in a spirit of injured dignity, "that he was try- ing the killing merits of his gun and that it wasn't worth shucks"When the absurdity of the affair was fullv realized everybody laughed and the young* soldier returned to duty."

Soldier with Lorenz Austrian Musket 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Tin Cup and Plate, Knife, Fork, and Spoon....

Union Soldiers Eating

According to Hardee's Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics, the rations for a soldier during this time usually included:

-20 oz. pork or beef (Beef was either fresh or salted, and pork was always salted.)
-12 oz. hard bread in camp or garrison or 16 oz. of hard bread at sea, on campaign, or on the march
- 1 oz. compressed cube of desiccated mixed vegetables or a 1.5 oz. compressed cube of desiccated potatoes if supplemental foods were unavailable

 This would be supplemented by (per 100 rations):
-8 qts. of beans or peas
-10 lbs. of rice or hominy
-10 lbs. of green coffee beans or 8 lbs. of roasted coffee beans
-10 lbs. of sugar
-2 qts. of salt
-1 gallon of vinegar

 In July of 1861 the 6th Iowa, still encamped at Burlington were to provide themselves with eating utensils. This is the following account :

July of 1861

"The supply for the meals furnished by the contractors was abundant, but the cooking and facilities for serving were horrid — grub, dirt, and flies was the general mix- ture. Three meals were served each day consisting of fresh beef, boiled; bakers bread, raised with yeast sponge ; boiled vegetables ; coffee and tea — with an abundance of sugar. Not many of the men were accustomed to the use of fresh beef at that season of the year, and it was seldom that any of them used bakers bread at their homes, so that, when they partook in such large quantity of the prepared food and were forced by the circumstances to inactivity, as compared with their active habits of life on the farms, many developed camp diseases and ailments. The arrangement was soon made
to issue the army ration to the companies and then have the food prepared by company cooks ; each man supplying himself with a tin cup and plate, knife, fork, and spoon. This gave much better satisfaction, and improved the health in the camp."

The Boys of Iowa would have to adjust to army rations quickly. Soon salt pork and hardtack would be the mainstay of their diet.
Soldier eating hard tack 

Civil War era plate, bowls, knife and fork

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Sibley Tent for the 6th (UPDATED)

Soon the 6th Iowa moved south towards St. Louis and the Jefferson Barracks. On August 11th the steamer carried them from St. Louis, 12 miles south to the barracks located on the banks of the Mississippi. After reaching the site of the barracks they made camp on a high bluff "without tents or arms". 

On August 14th the Regiment participated in it's first battalion drill.

 In the evening the men gathered at the arsenal and were issued the following.

 "Linen pants, cotton drawers, woolen shirts, socks and coarse shoes, also Sibley tents."

 "It was stated and so understood at the time by the men in the regiment that General Fremont had purchased the clothing, on his own account, and had given it as a present to the regiment." 

Sibley Tent US Patten US14740 A

 The Sibley tent was invented Henry Hopkins Sibley and patented in 1856. This tent became a standard in the West and was used by the likes of George Armstrong Custer in the Indian Wars. 

 The tent saw it's first service during the Utah Expedition of 57-58 proving that the tent would stand up well. Sibley would recieve $5 dollars for every tent made according to the agreement with the US Department of War. However Sibley would resign and join the Confederacy and would forfeit the royalties from some 44,000 of the tents he designed.

The 6th Iowa used these tents for quite some time.   In November of 1862 the tent would be turned in in exchange for new "pup" tents or "dog" tents.
 However a reference is made to Sibley tents arriving for the 100th Indiana with a mention of them being made in Theodore Upsons Journal.

 January 22, 1863 Grand Junction Mississippi 
 "When we got back to camp we found that a lot of Sibly tents had come for the regiment." 

"When we went to bed we were rather crowded; for when you get 20 in a Sibly tent there is not any spare room. We had to lie down with our feet to the centre and were packed in like sardines in a box." 
 "There are five regiments here, the 12th Ind, 6th Iowa, 40th Ill, 46th Ohio and the 100th Ind; also part of a battery." 

 Another note on tents issued to the 6th:

 "On the 19th (August), each company received five Fremont tents for the enlisted men and two wall tents for the officers, and the camp was then regularly laid out and permanently established on the south side of the park, and named Camp Jessie in honor of Jessie Benton Fremont, wife of the commanding general."

Soldiers sitting in front of a Sibley Tent 

Sibley Tents

Sunday, January 12, 2014

On to Keokuk and the Battle of Athens

 On Monday August 5th a messenger arrived in Burlington from Athens MO. 1,500 secessionists were en-route to attack a force commanded by Colonel David Moore. Moore was in command of 500
David Moore, Colonel
  Missouri Home Guard troops. However because of men on leave he had only 333 men on the line.  These men were new recruits and armed with varied weapons and accoutrements. The opposing force was commanded by Colonel Martin Green and was composed of 2,000 secessionist Home Guard troops. 
Martin Green, Colonel 
 As Col. Moore prepared to defend Athens men from the 6th Iowa were marched to a building to receive arms for the purpose of reenforcing Athens. This is the account: 

   "Three companies of the Sixth Regiment Company D, Captain Walden commanding, Company I, Captain Brydolf commanding, and Company K, Lieutenant White commanding, were marched to a large building near the levee, where new Springfield muskets, with accouterments and ammunition were issued to the men, and then the command was immediately embarked on board cars on the Des Moines Valley Railroad, and started for the scene of threatened hostilities."

 They apparently encountered more messengers on the way that had news that the rebel troops had pushed the Union boys across the Iowa line. The left flank commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Charles S. Callihan did falter as the confederate advance name him nervous. The rest of the line held. Colonel Martin's men were ill equipped compared to that of the defenders of Athens. 

As the union train approached Colonel McDowell ordered "...cartridges distributed to the men, guns loaded, bayonets fixed and every man standing ready to leap from the car when the train arrived at the depot."

 When the rebels saw the train they made a hasty retreat and the battle was over before the 6th Iowa could see any action. 

 The troops unloaded from the cars to warm reception and soon were given orders.

 "McDowell ordered the men to take off their shoes and stockings, roll up their pants and proceed to wade the Des Moines River, which was knee deep and about two hundred yards wide. It was soon learned that Colonel Martin Green with his band of Missouri secessionists had abandoned the field and fled south in a demoralized condition. The only participation had in the affair after arriving on the field was by a detail of advance skirmishers, who fired a few parting shots at some stragglers in the rear of the enemy's fleeing forces."

 Here was another account of the battle given. 
 " According to accounts given, a force, said to be fifteen hundred armed men with three pieces of artillery, had charged in at daylight upon the three hundred Union men occupying the hamlet of Athens, pouring in volleys of musketry, yelling like demons, firing solid shot and dis- charges of slugs from their cannon, most of which were aimed high and passed over the river where they lodged in the low hills back of Croton. The battle raged with great fury for several hours, the Union men holding sub- stantially their position in the town. When the reinforcements were seen approaching, the Union men took courage and charged with great gallantly, dispersing the enemy in uttor rout and confusion. There were two Union men killed in the affair and fifteen wounded; the loss of the enemy was never definitely reported, but was believed to be more than double that of the Union side."

 Later under a flag of truce the rebels recovered their dead. The Union troops set out pickets and were prepared to answer an attack, sleeping on their arms as to be ready. 

 The next day at 5pm the company's of the 6th were loaded onto cars and sent to Keokuk where they arrived at 6pm to much applause. 

 The arms they had received for the battle of Athens were returned. 

"I am called "Little Mother" : Sewing in the Army

Well it looks like I had to do some repair work to the trousers. Two buttons came off. I thought this was a good chance to talk about sewing in the army.

 Soldiers in both armies carried needle books, sometimes called a "housewife". Everything you needed for a quick repair was contained a nice little wallet of sorts. These were usually made for the men by their women folk back on the home front and sent with them as they marched off for war.

I was reading this account of sewing from a Journal written by Theodore Upson of the 100th Indiana. He was talking about nicknames in the army and describes why his nickname was "Little Mother".

 "Among the boys I am called "Little Mother", all because when we first came out I had a needle book with thread and needles all very convenient. And when the boys lost a button, or tore their trouse(r)s, what more natural than to go and get "Mother" to fix it." 
 -Private Theodore Upson, 100th Indiana Volunteer Regiment

 You can imagine how hard they were on their uniforms. Missing buttons and rips were a common occurrence.

 FOR REENACTORS: If you are looking a quality reproduction housewife for use in your kit and don't want to try your hand at making your own,  I reccomend S&S Sutler of Gettysburg PA.
 You can find it here :

Saturday, January 11, 2014


John Adair McDowell, Colonel
The 6th Iowa was mustered in Burlington Iowa and it's organization went into effect on July 17th 1861. These men would have been un-uniformed and with out standard equipment until a later date.

John Murray Corse, Major
 From Wright's History of the Regiments :

On July 17, 1861, at Camp Warren, in the city of Burlington, Des Moines County, Iowa, the organization of the Sixth Iowa Infantry Volunteers was effected with held and staff officers commissioned as follows: Colonel, John Adair McDowell of Keokuk; Major, John Murray Corse of Burlington; Assistant-Surgeon, John E. Lake of Marion ; Chaplain, John Ufford of Muscatine.

 Companies were accepted and assigned as follows:
"Marlon Light Guards'' of Marion, Linn County: Captain, Rosea AY. Gray; First-Lieutenant, Tarlton Caldwell; Second-Lieutenant, Willard EL Harland; 13
non-commissioned officers, 1 musician, 1 wagoner, and 69 privates; total, 87 men; mustered in, July 17, 1861.
"Lucas County Guards" of Chariton, Lucas County: Captain, Daniel Tseminger; First-Lieutenant, Emmet B. Woodward; Second-Lieutenant, Eugene E. Edwards; 13 non-commissioned officers, 2 musicians, 1 wagoner, and 66 privates; total, 85 men; mustered in, July 17, 1861.
"Union Guards" of Eldora, Hardin County: Captain, David M. Stump; First-Lieutenant, Abraham B. Harris; Second-Lieutenant, Philander Lockard; 12 non-commis- sioned officers, 1 musician, 1 wagoner, and 66 privates; total, 83 men; mustered in, July 17, 1861.

"Appanoose Volunteers" of Centerville, Appanoose County: Captain, Madison M. Walden ; First-Lieutenant, John L. Bashore; Second-Lieutenant, William A. E. Ehodes; 13 non-commissioned officers, 2 musicians, 1
wagoner, and 6S privates; total, 87 men; mustered in,

"Monroe Guards" of Albia, Monroe County: Captain,  Henry Saunders; First-Lieutenant, Calvin Kelsey; Sec- ond-Lieutenant,-Leander C. Allison; 13 non-commissioned officers, 2 musicians, 1 wagoner, and 68 privates; total, 87 men; mustered in, July 17, 1861.
"Clarke County Guards'' of Osceola, Clarke County: Captain, Samuel P. Glenn ; First-Lieutenant, Calvin Min- ton; Second-Lieutenant, John T. Grimes; 13 non-com- missioned officers, 2 musicians, 1 wagoner, and 65 pri- vates; total, 84 men; mustered in, Julv 17, 1861.
"Union Guards'' of North Liberty and Iowa City., [JohnsonCounty: Captain,JohnWilliams;First-Lieu- tenant, Alexander J. Miller; Second-Lieutenant, Joseph M. Douglas; 13 non-commissioned officers, 2 musicians, and65privates; total,83men; musteredin,July18,1861.
"MontroseGuards"of Montrose, LeeCounty: Cap- tain,WashingtonGalland; First-Lieutenant,EufusGood- nough; Second-Lieutenant, George R. Nunn; 13 non- commissioned officers, 2 musicians, 1 wagoner, and 66

" Burlington Blues" of Burlington, Des Moines Coun- ty: Captain, Fabian Brydolf ; First-Lieutenant, Joseph S. Halliday; Second-Lieutenant, Samuel B. Philips; 13 non-commissioned officers, 1 wagoner, and 69 privates; total, S6 men; mustered in, July IS, 1861.

"Tippecanoe Guards" of Borne and Mount Pleasant, Henry County: Captain, Wilson D. Deniston; First- Lieutenant, James Brunaugli; Second-Lieutenant, Hi-ch- ard E. White; 13 non-comrnissioned officers, 1 musician,
1 wagoner, and 73 privates; total, 91 men; mustered in, July 18, 1861.*

 The men of Iowa are highly praised in the writings of Wright. Maybe he was a little biased, but the high opinions of Iowa boys during the war was not something only Iowegians talked about. 

 He writes :
 "The young men composing the rank and file of the regiment were drawn from the best brain and brawn and the best pioneer blood of the western prairies. Their parents had emigrated in an early clay to the new country then opening up west of the Mississippi River, where they were inured to the severities of rugged pioneer life. With the glow of health on their cheeks, the fire of patriotic enthusiasm sparkling in their eyes, their hearts swelling with manly pride, honest but untutored in the wiles of the world, earnest in their devotions to the principles of liberty, they were ready and willing to try the pending issue at arms squarely, and never flinch or quail, when the day of trial and danger should come." 

 Many of the men that rose up to fight for this cause were in fact not native to the state. Many had come from Ohio, Indiana and many other states in the East as small children. However they seem to have embraced the idea of the hard working rugged midwesterner even then. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Charles F. Stratton, Sergeant

 This was the first tidbit I found about Company D of the 6th Iowa. This is to my knowledge the only photo of a soldier of this company.
Charles F. Stratton, Sergeant 
 Stratton, Charles F. (Veteran.) Age 19. Residence Centerville, nativity Missouri. Enlisted June 25, 1861, as
Drummer. Mustered July 17, 1861. Wounded April 6, 1861, Shiloh, Tenn.
Re-enlisted and re-mustered Jan. 26, 1864. Promoted Third Sergeant Nov. 10,
1864. Killed in action March 20, 1865, Bentonville, N. C. Buried in National
Cemetery, Raleigh, N. C. Section 17, grave 5.

 In researching this young man he seems to have been well liked by the men. I found this excerpt :

"On Friday morning, April 4th, a scouting party of Con- federate cavalry made an attack on the picket guard posted on the Purdy road beyond Owl Creek, which was guarded by Captain Walden with his company (Company D) at the bridge. Here Charles F. Stratton, company drummer, serving on the picket post at the time, was shot and se-verely wounded in the hand, causing the amputation of a finger. The bold raiders were speedily driven away, by the guards on duly, without any additional casualties. The jolly drummer boy of Company D had the distinction of being the first man in the regiment to be shot by the enemy."
                          -A History of the 6th Iowa Infantry by Henry H. Wright 

 This is a fascinating story. Charles Stratton almost survived the entire war. He was killed at Bentonville  on March 20th. Henry Wright recounts some of the days actions. 

"At daybreak, March 20, 1865, all of the troops were busy wiping out guns, filling up cartridge boxes with fresh dry ammunition, and putting everything in order for the work of the day, for they knew, as well as did the general commanding, what was in store for them as the advance division of the corps 
....all of the troops were busy wiping out guns

 "The Second Brigade led the advance with the Sixth Iowa next to the advance regiment in the brigade."

 "Captain Orlando J. Fast, serving as brigade Adjutant-General and always a familiar figure
at the front, spoke encouragingly to the troops as they filed into position, saying, "Keep a stiff upper lip boys, and give them the best you have".

 "The battle opened at once with a crackling fire of small arms, accompanied by the familiar shouting of the 97th, which was heartily responded to by the whole brigade. Glorious commencement! The enemy was routed from his first position and the column steadily advanced for three miles, the skirmishers driving the foe out of several strong; positions, protected by rail barricades. A hall was called to let the column close up, at which time the 97th Indiana was relieved and the 6th Iowa advanced as the skirmishers." 

After they were relieved the 6th were not engaged for the rest of the day taking up a position in a fortified line at the rear.