Delaware County IAGenWeb

Military Biography

United We Stand

Delaware County, Iowa in the Civil War
Delaware county Civil War Soldiers
of the
Twenty-first Regiment Iowa Volunteer Infantry

Historical information, notes & comments, in some cases correcting the record
Soldier biographies written by Carl Ingwalson

Carl will do look-ups in his extensive records of the 21st Iowa and he is always willing to share what he has.


Confederate guns fired on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, and an unexpected war quickly escalated. The North suffered heavy losses and, in the fall of 1862, President Lincoln called for more volunteers. On August 2nd, Governor Kirkwood assured Secretary of State Stanton that Iowa would meet its quota.

Born in Rockford, Illinois, on October 5, 1842, Henry Potter was working as an Iowa farmer when he answered the call. On August 7th he was enrolled at Strawberry Point by Charles Heath. Heath was a local dentist who enrolled at least three others that day and another four the following day.

On the 16th, they were ordered into quarters at Camp Franklin in Dubuque and, on the 18th, ninety-nine men were mustered in as Company B. On September 9, 1862, ten companies were mustered in as the 21st regiment of Iowa’s volunteer Infantry with McGregor’s Sam Merrill as colonel. On the Muster-in Roll, Henry was described as being twenty years old (which he almost was), 5' 9˝” tall with blue eyes, brown hair and a dark complexion. Like others, he was paid $25.00 of the $100.00 enlistment bounty and a $2.00 premium.

They left Dubuque on the 16th, went down the Mississippi, reached St. Louis on the 20th and the next night left by rail for Rolla. Their initial service would continue in Missouri with Henry marked “present’ on the company’s bimonthly muster rolls on October 31st at Salem, December 31st at Houston (where Jim Bethard was scheduled for guard duty, but “changed off with Henry Potter and I am to answer to his name when he is detailed for guard”) and February 28th at Iron Mountain. From there they marched to Ste. Genevieve and were transported downstream to Milliken’s Bend where General Grant was organizing a 30,000 man three-corps army to capture Vicksburg.

They walked south along the west side of the river and crossed to the east bank at Bruinsburg on April 30th. On May 1st, Henry participated with his regiment in the one-day Battle of Port Gibson. After being in the advance on the 30th and 1st, they were moved to the rear as the army headed east. On the 15th, they reversed direction and camped not far from Raymond. They were held in reserve during the Battle of Champion’s Hill on the 16th, but Company A and Henry’s Company B engaged in some light skirmishing and guarded prisoners before moving to Edward’s Station for the night.

Having not participated in the battle on the 16th, they were rotated to the front and, on May 17, 1863, Henry Potter was with his regiment when it, and the 23rd Iowa, led an assault on entrenched Confederates at the Big Black River. The assault was successful, the Confederates were routed and many were captured, but the 21st Iowa had seven killed during the assault, eighteen who suffered wounds that would soon prove fatal, and at least forty with non-fatal wounds but many of which necessitated a discharge from the military. Among the most seriously wounded was Colonel Merrill who had given the order to charge and been wounded early in the assault when shot in the hip.

Henry was not wounded and was with the regiment at Vicksburg on May 22nd when they again participated in an assault on the enemy. This time twenty-three were killed in action, twelve had fatal wounds and at least forty-eight had non-fatal wounds, some serious, some not. The assault was followed by a siege that ended with the city’s surrender on July 4th. The next morning they joined in a pursuit of General Joe Johnston, driving him east to Jackson, a city that was occupied by the Federals after a brief siege. Henry had been present continuously since his enlistment and was with the regiment when it returned to Vicksburg and then went downstream to Carrollton.

From there they were transported across the gulf to Texas where they would serve on Matagorda Island and in the Indianola area until mid-June, 1864. After returning to New Orleans, they engaged in activities in southwestern Louisiana and Arkansas before moving to Memphis and then participating in their final campaign of the war, a successful campaign to occupy the city of Mobile. Transported on the George Peabody, they were put ashore on Dauphin Island where Henry was treated one day for diarrhea, his first reported illness of the war. After moving up the west side of Mobile Bay, the regiment entered the city on April 12, 1865, and camped at Spring Hill.

They were later transported back to Louisiana where, for three days in June, Henry was treated for an undisclosed illness. After helping with surrenders and doing garrison duty, they were mustered out on July 15, 1865, and discharged at Clinton on the 24th. It’s not clear what Henry did for the next fifteen years, but he said he had lived in Iowa (Delaware County), Kansas (Clark County) and Nebraska (Lancaster County). On December 25, 1880, in Edgewood, Iowa, he married Francis “Fannie” Orr. Fannie’s death certificate and an affidavit signed by Henry indicate her parents were Sarah Ann (McFall) and Frank McVay (although an online resource gave her father’s name as Nelson Ives). Her first husband, James Orr, had died near Dubuque in 1875 or 1876.

Henry and Fannie made their home in Greeley where three children were born - George P. on July 12, 1882, Whitney H. (also shown as Henry) in 1883 or 1884, and Julia H. on February 16, 1886.

On January 4, 1887, forty-six-year-old Henry applied for an invalid pension. He said he had contracted chronic diarrhea when they were stationed in Rolla, but the Adjutant General’s records showed only the four days he had been treated near the end of his service. On September 15th and 16th, 1887, while Henry’s claim was being processed, he traveled to Manchester to attend a regimental reunion. Veterans reminisced, business was conducted and a resolution was adopted condemning an account that had appeared in the Manchester Press about the assault at the Big Black River, an erroneous account that was repeated in the published History of Delaware County.

On September 25, 1887, in Greeley, another son, Clark M. Potter, was born to Henry and Fannie, but Henry’s pension claim languished. In August, 1892, two neighbors, G. H. Odell and John Malven, signed an affidavit saying Henry was “in feeble health and wholly unable to perform labor.” He was, they said, “in destitute circumstances” and “dependent on charity for his support.” No action having been taken, Henry applied again. Still living in Greeley, on March 6, 1894, he said he was suffering from a general breakdown of his health, liver problems, kidney problems and rheumatism. Finally, eight years after applying, a pension of $6.00 monthly was approved in October 1895, for general debility and rheumatism.

Seven years later, giving Manchester as his post office address, Henry applied for an increase and again it was approved. In addition to his previous ailments, he was having heart, lung and kidney problems and was granted a pension of $8.00 retroactive to June 17, 1903. In 1907 he applied from Elk Township and his pension was raised to $12.00.

On August 27, 1909, he was admitted to the National Home for Disabled Veterans in Los Angeles, but on September 19th and 20th, 1911, Henry was back in Iowa where he was one of sixty-two veterans who attended the regiment’s reunion in Central City. They had a good time, enjoyed a local band and remembered twenty-nine comrades who were known to have died in the past two years.

In 1912, Henry gave his address as Greeley when he applied for another increase, but five months later said he was living in Oakland, California when he applied again and was granted an increase to $18.00.

On September 16, 1915, he was admitted to the Iowa Soldier’s Home in Marshalltown, but his stay was brief and, by 1917, he said he was living in Frederic, Wisconsin. He was still there in 1923, but his health was failing and Henry and Fannie moved to Carterville, Missouri. In February 1925, he moved in with his niece, Elva (Burr) Woodford, daughter of his sister, Ella Lucille “Celia” (Potter) Burr in Joplin. By then, his hearing was bad, his eyesight was bad and he needed assistance when leaving his room.

During the next several years, he lived in Webb City and Joplin in Missouri, the soldier’s home in Marshalltown, Iowa, and finally Reeds, Missouri, where he died on November 28, 1932, at ninety years of age. With a burial flag from the Veterans Administration, Henry was buried in Reeds Cemetery. His estate totaled $45.00. On January 13, 1933, Fannie applied for a widow’s pension, a pension that was granted at $40.00 monthly. Fannie died on December 28, 1833, and was buried next to Henry in Reeds Cemetery.

Clark, their youngest son, committed suicide on January 19, 1923, and is buried in the State Hospital Cemetery, Independence, Iowa. Their daughter, Julia, married Frederick Malven in 1910, died on March 3, 1974, and is buried in Sarcoxie Cemetery, Sarcoxie, Missouri. The other two sons of Henry and Fannie have not been located.

~ Compiled & submitted by Carl Ingwalson <>


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