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.

According to an online resource, Elisha R. Root, one of eight children born to Hiram and Laura Root, was born on March 12, 1847, in Talmadge, Ohio. The family was still there as late as 1850, but by the time of the Civil War Elisha was living in Delhi, Iowa.

Elisha was a fourteen-year-old schoolboy when Confederate guns fired on Fort Sumter. President Lincoln called on the states for volunteers to augment a regular army estimated at 13,000 to 16,000 infantrymen. No man under the rank of commissioned officer was to be younger than eighteen nor older than forty-five although age requirements were not always honored and some men stretched to permit (or prevent) their enlistment. The volunteers came, the war escalated and Elisha grew older.

By November, 1863, the 21st Iowa Infantry had seen its ranks (985 men when mustered in on September 9, 1862) reduced to only 643, even with the addition of recruits added during its service. A call was made for more volunteers. Fifteen volunteered in December and eleven in January but, due primarily to additional discharges and transfers, the regiment still had only 652 men on the rolls and many of them were unable for duty. In February, the ranks were swelled by fifty-one more enlistments.

On the 13th of February, 1864, four weeks before his seventeenth birthday, Elisha enlisted and was mustered in at Dubuque. A 5' 1" farmer, he was described as having black eyes, dark hair and a dark complexion and was assigned to Company I. He reached the regiment, then on Matagorda Island, Texas, on April 11th, and remained with it during the balance of its service along the Gulf Coast where they were, said Colonel Sam Merrill, nothing more than "guardians of the sacred drifting sands of Texas."

In mid-June they returned to New Orleans and saw subsequent service along the rail line in southwestern Louisiana. On July 8, 1864, they left by rail from Terrebonne Station and, about 9:00 p.m., reached Algiers. From there they were transported upriver and, on the 26th, reached Morganza where they were stationed until September 3rd. They then saw service along the White River in Arkansas before moving to Memphis where they arrived on November 29th.

On December 15th and 16th, Confederate General John Bell Hood suffered a defeat at Nashville, northeast of Memphis. As he started a withdrawal to the south, soldiers in Memphis were ordered to try to intercept Hood and his battered army. On the 21st, the regiment left tents behind, joined cavalry and headed directly east anticipating a rendezvous somewhere near the Mississippi or Alabama border. This was the earliest and coldest winter Tennessee had experienced for years and men struggled through mud and rain, suffered through cold nights and bivouacked in the open. On the 26th, unable to find Hood, they started their return through water, mud and slush. On the 27th, they reached White's Station, only eight miles from Memphis, and many were suffering. Among them was Elisha Root who caught cold and developed “inflammatory rheumatism.” Many were hospitalized, but Elisha stayed with the regiment and was marked “present” on the December 31, 1864, muster roll.

Admiral Farragut had secured the entrance to Mobile Bay early in the war but the city at the head of the bay remained in Confederate hands. In early February, 1865, Elisha and others able for duty left New Orleans on the George Peabody and, on the 7th, went ashore near Fort Gaines on Dauphin Island. They were still there on March 12th (Elisha’s eighteenth birthday), but on the 17th started a movement that would take them north along the east side of the bay. Strawberry Point’s William Grannis would later recall the difficult march that was "through swamps much of the way and that the men were detailed to make corduroy causeways, that the swamps were of such a nature that horses and mules could not be used so that the men had to cut and drag in place the timbers for causeways, that heavy rains fell, especially on the night of the 20th of March that the work was arduous and hard on the men; work all day in the mud and wet and then lie down at night in their wet clothes." On April 12th, they occupied Mobile. On the 13th they camped at Spring Hill and on the 14th President Lincoln was shot.

By now the war was nearing an end, but the regiment was sent back to New Orleans and, from there, up the Red River where Lieutenant Colonel Van Anda was directed to “do all in your power to restore confidence and promote good feeling. You will have no system of passes for the people, and will interfere in no way with trade and transportation of products.” Duty was light, but the hot sultry weather of mid-June made all work difficult and Elisha’s medical problems were aggravated by diarrhea that made his poor health even worse.

With the original three-year enlistments nearing an end, the regiment was sent to Baton Rouge where officers completed muster and descriptive rolls for all who had served in the regiment. Men like Elisha who had enlisted as recruits were transferred on July12th to a consolidated 34th/38th Iowa infantry and sent to Texas to complete their three year terms. Almost immediately, however, it was recognized that their service was no longer needed and, on August 15, 1865, at Houston, Texas, Elisha was mustered out. Most were transported back to New Orleans and up the Mississippi, but family lore indicates that Elisha, in poor health, returned more than 1,000 miles to his home in Delhi by ox cart.

On March 22, 1874, twenty-seven-year-old Elisha and twenty-one-year-old Sarah Daker were married by a pastor of the M. E. Church in Delhi. On December 7th of that year, Sarah gave birth to a son, John Martin Root. Sarah was the daughter of John and Mary Daker who had been born in England and were living in Clear Lake and that’s where Elisha and Sarah moved, where a son, Benjamin W. Root, was born on December 4, 1878, and Elisha died on February 21, 1879. Elisha is buried in Clear Lake Cemetery as are Sarah’s parents.

On June 12, 1880, Sarah applied for a pension for herself and her boys. She said Elisha had contracted “inflammatory rheumatism from exposure to the wet & cold and suffered with the same disease after his discharge,” a disease that had caused his death at only thirty-one years of age. Her application was supported by Erastus Smith (Delhi; Company K) who said Elisha was “badly run down” after the war and “unable to walk much and was wholly unable to perform manual labor.” John Snell (Delhi; Company I) said he recalled the difficult march from Memphis to try to intercept General Hood and Elisha “got sick and cold and he complained of Rheumatism and could not march and had to be taken into the ambulance.” Elisha was also sick during the Mobile campaign and, when they were on the Red River, Elisha “was sick and not fit for duty with the diarrhoea.” William Thompson (Delhi; Company I) recalled that they were “well soaked” at White’s Station and Elisha “was very lame and could hardly march.” After the war, Elisha “was nearly crippled at times.” A man who had known Elisha as a small boy, recalled the postwar suffering and said, “I helped to handle and move him when he was perfectly helpless.”

Sarah married Richard Cook on March 17, 1884. She died on October 20, 1902, and is buried in Evergreen Cemetery, Delhi, as is her husband. Benjamin Root died on November 7, 1930, and is buried in the same cemetery. John, the other son of Elisha and Sarah, died on December 13, 1954, and is buried in Lakeside Cemetery, Herman, Minnesota.
~ Compiled & submitted by Carl Ingwalson <>