While most states were having problems filling the ranks of their home regiments, Iowa recruiters were swamped by enlistments from both young and old. One of the strangest regiments ever to be formed from this rush to enlist was the graybeard regiment. These older men wanted to go to war, and many of them asked Governor Kirkwood in 1863 to form a regiment for older men. The governor agreed and ordered the formation of the graybeard regiment. These Iowa men were well over 50 years old, some even 70, but they were frontier farmers and hardship had always been their way of life.Though they weren't sent to battle, they were sent to guard duty on the railroads and the prison camps.
They slept on the ground in the cold, never complaining
if the food was poor or the tents too short. They left their farms and businesses
to serve with their sons and grandsons. During their three years of service,
the graybeards guarded over 160,000 Southern prisoners and did sentry duty
on countless trains. On such duty, only two graybeards were killed--shot
defending a supply from Rebel ambush. At the end of their service, their
unit was discharged in Davenport. Theirs was the first unit to receive a
total honorable discharge for their three years of service in the war. Only
one problem developed that soured them on the army life-they didn't receive
their enlistment bounty on discharge. It was several years after the war
that they were finally paid for their services to their country. Since that
time, there has never been a unit in the army like Iowa's graybeards.
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