Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Say the name again: Daniel Iseminger


April 12 may have dawned 150 years ago in Chariton much as it did today, filled with the promise of early spring.

It was a Friday, and Daniel Iseminger would have arisen early in the modest home he shared with his wife, Susannah, and their only son, George; had breakfast; then walked up town to the general merchandise store he owned and operated on the square.

Widely respected in the community where he had lived for the six years since leaving Indiana in 1855, Daniel was 47 and comfortably settled. Susannah had just turned 44 on March 8, a month before.

George, a month shy of his 20th birthday and a school teacher in Chariton when the 1860 federal census was taken, may have been attending what became Indiana University at Bloomington that spring, since he received his law degree there with the class of 1862, a year later.

None could have known in those days long before instant communications that half a nation away, Confederate Gen. Pierre Beauregard had ordered his troops to open fire before dawn on Fort Sumter, guarding the mouth of Charleston Harbor in South Carolina.

Those had been the first shots of a civil war that would reshape millions of lives and the nation. Within a year, Daniel would be dead; before April 12 came round again, his body would rest in an unmarked grave on that great and awful battlefield known as Shiloh.

+++

Daniel had been born May 30, 1813, in Hamilton County, Ohio, to George and Mary (Myer) Iseminger. Susannah, the eldest child of William and Elizabeth (Berkey) Ribble, was born March 8, 1817, near Salem in Washington County, Indiana.

When Daniel was a child, he moved with his family to Monroe County, Indiana, where he grew up.

On Dec. 2, 1836, when he was 23 and she was 19, Daniel and Susannah were married in Jackson County, Indiana. Son George was born four years later, on May 6, 1841, at Bloomington.

The Isemingers continued to live in Indiana for more than 10 years and during the latter half of the 1840s, Daniel volunteered to serve from that state in the Mexican War, did so honorably and returned home safely.

By the early 1850s, however, the family had decided to seek opportunity elsewhere and, during 1855, arrived in Chairiton, approachable at that time only by horse power or on foot.

During 1856, Daniel was among the organizers of a drive led by attorney Warren S. Dungan to incorporate Chariton, founded eight years earlier, in 1849. The election was held and a town charter adopted on Feb. 26, 1857. Daniel became the city’s first mayor.

+++

On May 3, 1861, two weeks after shots were fired at Fort Sumter, Daniel answered Lincoln’s call to serve and perhaps because of his Mexican War service and prominence was named a state guard captain. He then joined his friend, Warren Dungan, in raising volunteers in Lucas County, a task that continued into mid-summer.

After the “Union Guards” had been recruited and organized at Chariton, the unit’s men elected Iseminger their captain and so it was he who led the company with hundreds of other to Camp Warren in Burlington during early July.

The men were mustered into federal service as Co. B, 6th Iowa Volunteer Infantry, on July 17 of 1861, and Daniel was federally commissioned. His company was made up of 85 souls --- Daniel, as captain; Emmet B. Woodward as first-lieutenant; Eugene E. Edwards as second-lieutenant; 13 noncommissioned officers, 2 musicians, a wagoner and 66 privates.

The Sixth Iowa left Burlington on Aug. 3 and on Aug. 5 participated in the Battle of Athens, a minor conflict along the Des Moines upriver from Keokuk that was the closest Iowa came to becoming a Civil War battlefield.

During the fall, the unit was engaged in the campaign in southwest Missouri, and as the spring of 1862 approached, during March, joined Union troops under Grant’s command then massing at Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee.

There, Union forces were surprised by an attack from Confederate forces on April 6. Among the Confederate commanders was the same Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard who had ordered the attack on Fort Sumter.

Although Union forces were ultimately victorious, the losses were horrifying. Approximately 1,700 Union troops and 1,700 Confederate troops were killed; more than 16,000 were wounded; and nearly 3,000 Union troops were captured or reported missing. Iowa units were especially hard hit.

Daniel was killed by a sharpshooter while leading his men on the evening of April 6, the most deadly day for Union forces. Family tradition, perhaps based upon witness reports, placed the hour at 7:30 p.m.

After the battle ended, bodies were gathered from the battlefield and buried hurriedly. If Daniel’s specific burial place ever was marked, that marker was lost long before national cemeteries became the immaculately manicured places they are today. So he rests still among the “unknowns” at Shiloh.

+++

Susannah probably had remained at home in Chariton when Daniel marched off to war, but that not certain, nor is it clear when she joined her son in Indiana. By 1869, both had settled in Bedford, Indiana, where George would practice law for many years.

Ten years later, when Civil War veterans then living in Chariton decided to organize a post of the Grand Army of the Republic, equivalent in a way to today’s American Legion post, they chose to honor Daniel by naming it after him. Iseminger Post, No. 18, Grand Army of the Republic of Iowa, was chartered Oct. 23, 1879, with Daniel’s old friends Warren Dungan and Emmet Woodward as charter members.

Because of that, Daniel’s name probably became the most often repeated of those men from Lucas County who died in service during the years 1861-65.

All those old soldiers' voices have long since been silenced by death, however, and the G.A.R. ceased to be when the last of them died. So it's been a long time since Daniel Iseminger's name last was heard. This anniversary of the commencement of our greatest and most deadly war would be a good time to say it again.
+++

Susannah did not remarry and continued to live in Bedford, Indiana, until her death at age 91. Her death occurred on April 6, 1907, the 45th anniversary of Daniel’s death, and reportedly at the same hour --- 7:30 p.m.

1 comment:

Debra Iseminger Chase said...

What a surprise to find such a nice mention of one of my ancestors.