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.


Jane H. Wilson and William Risher were married in July 1832 on a farm in Clarion County, Pennsylvania. Their children, all born in Pennsylvania, included Angeline born in 1834, Elizabeth in 1840, Robert in 1840 or 1841, and Oliver on February 18, 1843, in Blairsville. William died in 1847 and, on March 20, 1852, Jane married Isaac Dunlap. In about1857, the family moved to Delaware County, Iowa.

On April 12, 1861, Confederate guns fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor and three months later Union forces under Irvin McDowell were defeated in battle near a small Virginia stream called Bull Run. As the war progressed into the following year, more battles were fought and thousands died. On July 9, 1862, Iowa’s governor, Samuel Kirkwood, received a telegram asking him to raise five regiments in addition to those already in the field. If the state’s quota wasn’t raised by August 15th, it "would be made up by draft." The governor was optimistic, but enlistments started slowly as "farmers were busy with the harvest, the war was much more serious than had been anticipated, and the first ebullition of military enthusiasm had subsided." All men between eighteen and forty-five were listed in preparation for a possible draft. To spur enlistments a bounty of $100 would be paid to enlistees, $25.00 in advance and the balance on completion of honorable service. To this was added a $2.00 premium for men who appeared in person.

Robert was one of twenty-eight who enlisted on August 15th in what would be Company K. With a total of ninety-two men, the company was mustered in at Dubuque’s Camp Franklin on August 23, 1862, with Alexander Voorhees as Captain. On September 9th, with nine other companies and a total of 985 men, officers and enlisted, they were mustered in as the 21st regiment of Iowa’s volunteer infantry. Twenty-one year old, Robert was described as being 5' 8½” tall with hazel eyes, dark hair and a dark complexion; occupation, farmer.

On September 16, 1862, they crowded on board the sidewheel steamer Henry Clay and two open barges tied alongside and started down the Mississippi. After being held for one day at Rock Island and later transferring to the Hawkeye State, they reached St. Louis on September 20th. The next day they were reviewed at Camp Benton and that night boarded rail cars and left for Rolla. Robert was present with the regiment when it left Rolla on October 18th and started the first of many long marches. They reached Salem on the 19th, left on November 2nd, reached Houston on the 4th, left on the 13th and reached Hartville on November 13th.

At Hartville they were dependent on supplies brought by wagons from the railhead in Rolla. After a supply train was attacked on November 24th, Colonel Merrill moved the regiment back to the safer confines of Houston. That’s where they were on January 9, 1863, when word was received that a Confederate force was advancing on Springfield. Within hours, a hastily organized relief force left Houston on the “double quick.” Robert was one of twenty-five who volunteered from Company K and participated in a one-day battle at Hartville on the 11th before returning to Houston.

From Houston they walked south to West Plains and then northeast through Thomasville, Ironton and Iron Mountain and into the town of Ste. Genevieve where they arrived on March 11th. From there they were transported down the Mississippi to Milliken’s Bend where they were assigned to a corps led by John McClernand in an army being organized by General Grant to capture Vicksburg. On a rainy April 13th, south of the Bend, soldiers were working on a levee when Robert’s twenty-eight-year-old sister, Angeline (Risher) Miller, died. She was buried in Delhi’s Upper Bay Cemetery.

Robert continued with the regiment as it moved south on the west side of the Mississippi, crossed to Bruinsburg on the east bank and, on May 1, 1863, participated in the one-day Battle of Port Gibson. On the 16th, the regiment was held in reserve during the Battle of Champion’s Hill but, on the 17th, Robert participated in an assault over open ground on entrenched Confederates at the Big Black River. The Vicksburg campaign ended with the city’s surrender on July 4, 1863, and Robert continued to be marked “present” on bimonthly muster rolls when they were stationed in Louisiana at Carrollton on August 31st and Vermilion Bayou on October 31st. Most left New Orleans on November 23rd and were transported down the Mississippi and west across the Gulf of Mexico. Due to overcrowding, some, including members of Company K, left a few days later on the St. Mary’s. On December 15, 1863, Robert was with his regiment at Decros Point in Texas while his brother, twenty-year-old Oliver, was enlisting in the 4th Illinois Cavalry.

Robert remained with the regiment during the balance of its service along the Gulf Coast of Texas and was with it when it returned to New Orleans the following June. During the next several months, they crossed the river to Algiers, were stationed along the rail line near Terrebonne Station in southwestern Louisiana and then returned to Algiers. From there they went north to Morganza and in September saw service at St. Charles, De Valls Bluff and other locations in Arkansas. At Memphis on October 23, 1864, Robert was sick and admitted to the Washington U.S. Army General Hospital.

The regiment’s final campaign was a campaign to capture the city of Mobile, Alabama. For the second time during their service they left New Orleans and were transported down the Mississippi, but this time turned east and, on February 7, 1865, went ashore on Dauphin Island at the entrance to Mobile Bay. Robert was marked “present” on the February 28th muster roll but had possibly not fully recovered from his earlier illness. He was hospitalized on March 2nd and later sent back to New Orleans for better care in the St. Louis U.S. Army Hospital. Still in the hospital, he died on April 25, 1865. Robert is buried in Monument National Cemetery, New Orleans. His mother would later say he died “from the effects of doing picket duty got wet by having rain came to camp & went to bed & never got well.”

Robert never married but, his accrued pay and the $75.00 balance of enlistment bounty were paid to his mother. Her husband, Isaac Dunlap, died on September 25, 1870, and was buried in Delhi’s Upper Bay Cemetery. Jane tried to find work and did some nursing but, she said, Isaac’s “children took every thing away from me but what little my son Robert left me when he died.” Jane moved to Platte County, Nebraska, and “had a home in a room in my son’s house on a government claim.” In 1887, giving her age as seventy-eight, she applied for a dependent mother’s pension saying she was a widow and had been partially dependent on Robert for her support. Her daughter, Elizabeth, was married to Alphonso Guiles, but he “had nothing to support his own family with.” Oliver and Esther had given her a room to live in, but were also struggling financially. They had a large family and Oliver was in poor health.

A pension was granted and Jane was receiving $12.00 monthly when she died on July 4, 1897. At the time of her death, she was still living with Oliver near Otterville, but the place of her burial has not been located. Elizabeth died in 1906 and was buried in New Hope Cemetery, Monroe, Nebraska. Oliver died on June 19, 1934, and is buried in Otterville’s IOOF Cemetery.

~ Compiled & submitted by Carl Ingwalson <>