Alonzo John Rutter, the son of Emerson and Mary Rutter, was
born on June 14, 1837, in Smithfield, Rhode Island. A brother,
Hollis E. Rutter, was born in 1842 and another brother, Jubal
Adelbert Rutter, in 1844, both in New York. The family moved
to Delaware County, Iowa, in about 1856.
On Christmas Day, 1856, nineteen year old Alonzo married Mary
Emily Finch in Spring Branch, Iowa. Sixteen-year-old Mary was
born June 6, 1840. They would have at least ten children,
three of whom were born before the Civil War: Flora L. Rutter
was born on September 12, 1857, Alice L. Rutter was born on
March 17, 1859 and, two months before Confederate guns fired
on Fort Sumter, Dora Emily Rutter was born on February 3,
1861. All three of the girls were born in Delaware County.
On August 14, 1861, Hollis enlisted in the state’s 2nd Cavalry
Regiment. The following year, on August 15, 1862, Alonzo
enlisted in what would be Company K of the 21st Iowa Infantry.
Company K was mustered into service at Camp Franklin in
Dubuque on August 23rd and the regiment, also at Camp
Franklin, on September 9th. Training was brief, but Company
B’s William Crooke said, “the process of getting used to
restraints of freedom, to inclemencies of weather, to hard
beds, and new forms of food, sometimes not well cooked, was
not always a pleasant one. Habits of obedience had to be
formed.” A different view was given by a postwar author who
said “the rendezvous was so near the men’s homes, that their
fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, wives, sweethearts, and
friends, were too often present to allow either drill or
discipline to any great extent. But, whatever the cause, the
main fact is, the regiment was not drilled at Camp Franklin.”
On a rainy September 16th, they left
Dubuque on board the sidewheel steamer
and two barges tied alongside. They transferred downstream to
the Hawkeye State,
reached St. Louis at 10:00am on the 20th, and the next night
left by rail for Rolla. Alonzo was marked “present” on the
bimonthly company muster rolls for October 31st at Salem and
December 31st at Houston. From there they were ordered to West
Plains and, on January 26th, started their march - on the
wrong road. They had covered five or six miles in "mud knee
deep" by the time they realized their mistake, reversed
direction, and started a return to Houston. The weather was
cold and the march exhausting but, bit by bit, in small
groups, they arrived about dark. All were tired, wet and very
hungry. Alonzo said he “gave out and was one of the last to
get into camp.”
The next day, those able for duty
left on the right road, but Alonzo, suffering from ague and a
fever, was one of many who were sick and left behind. He was
transferred from one place to another but eventually rejoined
the regiment and was present when it was stationed at
Milliken’s Bend, Louisiana, in April. General Grant was
planning a Vicksburg campaign that would entail a march south
along dirt roads, through swamps and across bayous west of the
Mississippi and only able-bodied men were needed. On April
11th, Alonzo was still convalescing when he was admitted to
the hospital steamer
Nashville and the next day
his regiment started its march.
On May 4th, with an intermittent
fever, Alonzo was transferred to the
City of Memphis.
On the 11th, he was suffering from chronic diarrhea when he
was transferred to the Marine General Hospital in St. Louis.
On June 8th, he was transferred to the Keokuk General Hospital
where he arrived the next day. He was still there on July 21st
when he wrote to an aunt, Caroline Stone, in Friendship, New
York. “I don’t expect that I will ever be fit for field duty,”
he said. “I am completely broke down.”
Despite his prediction, military records indicate Alonzo
returned to the regiment on September 29, 1863, and was marked
“present” on all subsequent company muster rolls until being
mustered out with the regiment on July 15, 1865, at Baton
Rouge. Although “present,” records don’t indicate if he was
able for duty the entire time.
Meanwhile, Jubal enlisted in the 2nd Cavalry on February 26,
1864, and Hollis reenlisted in the same regiment on March 28,
1864. Alonzo was mustered out of service on July 15, 1865, and
discharged at Clinton on July 24th. Jubal and Hollis were
mustered out on September 19, 1865, at Selma, Alabama.
By the time Alonzo returned home, Flora was seven years old,
Alice was six and Dora was four. Another daughter, Nina
Estelle, was born in Delaware County on May 16, 1866, and a
son, Adelbert E. was born on December 29, 1869.
On January 3, 1871, giving his address as Cherokee, Iowa,
thirty-three-year-old Alonzo applied for an invalid pension.
He said he had been working as a carpenter, but was suffering
from service-related chronic diarrhea, piles and general
debility. A surgeon thought Alonzo was “one-half degree
incapacitated for obtaining his subsistence by manual labor,”
but the claim was rejected.
A daughter, whose name was given by her father as H. Louresa
Rutter, was born on February 12, 1871. Alonzo said they moved
to Sibley in Osceola County in 1872 and that where their next
child, William Eugene was born on April 1, 1873. He was
followed by Leona P. on October 29, 1878, and by Phillip E. on
August 22, 1879.
On June 22, 1880, giving his Post Office address as Sibley,
Alonzo applied again. He retained George Lemon, a well-known
pension attorney, to assist him and said he had suffered a
hearing loss starting in March, 1863, that was caused by
exposure and the use of quinine by the doctors who treated
him. He was, he said, “a poor man with a large family
dependent upon him and he has been without means wherewith to
employ a physician.” He submitted additional affidavits and
secured others from people who knew him, people such as Rock
Rapids’ resident John Kaster who said Alonzo “was very deaf at
the time of his discharge and has been ever since” and Flora
Dixon who agreed that Alonzo was deaf. This time a pension was
granted at $6.00 retroactive to the day after his discharge
and $8.00 effective January 3, 1883.
Pension laws became more
liberal as years passed and, like most pensioned veterans,
Alonzo made several requests that his monthly pension be
increased. His requests were granted and his pension was
increased to $12.00 in 1884 and $16.00 in 1885. By then they
were living in Pipestone, Minnesota, and that’s where their
last child, Guy Alonzo Rutter was born on February 8, 1887.
The monthly pension, payable quarterly through a local pension
agent, was increased to $18.00 in 1887, $22.00 in 1888, and
$25.00 in 1888.
Alonzo’s father, Emerson
Rutter, died on April 21, 1891, and was buried in Hopkinton
Cemetery. Alonzo and Mary were still in Pipestone but, in
1899, Alonzo gave his address as Northfield, Minnesota, when
he applied for another increase. Mary explained that they
lived in Northfield for two years “so our son Eugene could
stay at home and go the Carlton Colledge,” but then returned
Some of their children stayed in the area while others moved
away. A private bill was passed by Congress increasing
Alonzo’s pension to $40.00 monthly but, less than four months
later, on September 15, 1910, Alonzo died at age
seventy-three. He was buried in Pipestone Cemetery. Mary
applied for the balance of his accrued but unpaid pension and
requested her own pension. On January 10, 1911, she was
approved for $12.00 monthly, but died the following year on
January 22d. She is buried in Riverview Cemetery, Rock Rapids,
Alonzo’s brother, Hollis, moved to California where he died on
October 12, 1914. Jubal was the last of the brothers to die.
He moved to Kansas, and died on September 24, 1936.