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~ Military Biography ~

Dubuque 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.




The Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers (1910) indicates that Joseph Schoepf was a native of Switzerland and a thirty-eight-year-old resident of Dubuque when he enlisted on August 16, 1862, in Company E of the 21st Iowa Infantry one week after earlier company enlistees had been ordered into quarters at Dubuque’s Camp Franklin. They were mustered in as a company on August 22, 1862, and as a regiment on September 9th. The Company Muster-in Roll does not mention Switzerland, but says Joseph was born in “Tyrolese” (a probable reference to the area known as Tyrol), was 5' 8" tall and had blue eyes, dark hair and a dark complexion; occupation mechanic. Like other enlistees, he was paid $25.00 of the $100.00 enlistment bounty and a $2.00 premium.


They left Dubuque on board the Henry Clay and two barges tied alongside on a rainy September 16, 1862. Due to low water at Montrose, they debarked and traveled by rail to Keokuk where they boarded the Hawkeye State and continued south. They reached St. Louis on September 20th, spent that night at Benton Barracks, and on the 21st boarded rail cars of the kind usually used for freight and traveled through the night to Rolla.



On the bimonthly Company Muster Rolls, Joseph Schoepf is listed as “present” on October 31st at Salem and December 31st at Houston, Missouri. He continued to be marked “present” on February 28, 1863, at Iron Mountain, Missouri, on a “special muster” on April 10, 1863, at Milliken’s Bend, Louisiana, and on April 30, 1863, the day they crossed the Mississippi River from Disharoon’s Plantation to the Bruinsburg landing in Mississippi.


On May 1, 1863, Joseph participated in the daylong Battle of Port Gibson during which regimental casualties were light. This was the first battle of what would be a successful campaign to capture the city of Vicksburg. A large battle was fought at Champion’s Hill on May 16th, but the regiment did not participate since it and others in its brigade were held in reserve by General McClernand (although Company I’s Joseph Carter accidentally shot himself and lost two fingers). The next day they were rotated to the front of the army and were among the first to encounter Confederates entrenched on the east side of the Big Black River who hoped to keep its railroad bridge open so comrades still withdrawing from Champion’s Hill could cross. Colonels Sam Merrill of the 21st Infantry and William Kinsman of the state’s 23rd Infantry gave orders to charge and their two regiments led an assault across an open field.

Casualties included seven killed in action, another eighteen with fatal wounds, and forty with non-fatal wounds. Joseph participated in the assault, but was not injured.


After the assault they were allowed to rest, recuperate, tend to the wounded and bury the dead, but were soon positioned on the line slowly encircling the city. A hasty assault on the 19th had been unsuccessful, but General Grant thought a second assault could have better results. This time the able-bodied men of the regiment were present. An artillery bombardment ended at 10:00 a.m. and the assault followed. Twenty-three members of the regiment were killed during the assault, twelve more had fatal wounds, and at least forty-eight had non-fatal wounds. This assault, like the one three days earlier, was unsuccessful. Some of the wounded crawled back to their lines under cover of darkness, but it was the 25th before the stench from the bloated, decomposing bodies became so offensive that Confederate General Pemberton proposed to Grant "in the name of humanity ... a cessation of hostilities for two hours and a half, that you may be enabled to remove your dead and dying men.”


Joseph Schoepf was among those most seriously wounded and military records indicate one of his arms was amputated on the day of the battle. He was transported north, reached Memphis on June 4th, and was admitted to the Adams General Hospital. Still in the hospital, he died on June 27, 1863. His personal effects consisting of one hat, a pair of shoes and a blanket were to be disposed of by a Council of Administration.


Joseph may or may not have had a wife, children or dependent parents who applied for a pension, but the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D. C., could find no pension file and nothing more is known.

~ Compiled & submitted by Carl Ingwalson <cingwalson@cfilaw.com>

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