Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Capt. Daniel Iseminger: A comrade remembers

Channing Smith died at his home on South 8th Street at age 78 during September of 1921, a veteran not only of the Civil War but also of many funerals for departed comrades --- held with increasing frequency in Chariton and elsewhere as the boys of 1861-65 turned to old men, then walked on.

This was his mourning badge, worn during those funerals or on other somber occasions, including the annual Memorial Day decoration of veteran graves at the Chariton Cemetery. Retired upon his death, it eventually came to the Lucas County Historical Society in pristine condition, other than a broken clasp. He had two of these --- we have the other one, too; its clasp intact.

I've written before about Daniel Iseminger, after whom Iseminger Post No. 18, Grand Army of the Republic, was named. Organized on Oct. 18, 1879, Iseminger Post ranks grew to include nearly 100 men, including Channing Smith, before old age began to accomplish what the late war had not and comrades felled by the passing years gradually rejoined those who had fallen in war.

Iseminger, a veteran of the Mexican War, came to Chariton from Fort Madison in 1855 with his wife and son and went into business, then was among the first to answer the call when Civil War erupted. He died in combat on April 6, 1862, while leading the men of Company B, 6th Iowa Volunteer Infantry, at bloody Shiloh. Hugely respected by his men, there was no doubt among charter members that the new G.A.R. post would be named in his honor.

I wrote about the departure of this company from Chariton on July 8, 1861, just the other day: "Farewell to the boys of Company B."

What follows is a companion piece, a descriptive sketch of Iseminger himself, published on March 25, 1909, in The Chariton Leader during the weeks leading up to a reunion of Shiloh veterans. It had been written years earlier, however --- probably during the early 1890s --- by Emmett B. Woodward, who had served Iseminger as lieutenant and was promoted to captain and took command of Company B after his death.

Woodward, an attorney, had moved to Atlanta, Georgia, some years earlier because his wife, considered to be in delicate health, thought the climate more favorable. He died there at age 64 on Feb. 7, 1898. She outlived him by more than 20 years, dying in California at age 79 on Dec. 14, 1921. The remains of both were returned to the Chariton Cemetery for burial.

Woodward, too, was respected hugely by his men --- and other fellow citizens of Chariton. "Perhaps no man who ever lived in Lucas county had more friends or fewer enemies than he," his eulogist wrote upon his passing during 1898.

Here is Woodward's account of his old friend and commanding officer:


Several years since, when the picture of Capt. Iseminger was presented to Iseminger Post G.A.R., of Chariton, Maj. E.B. Woodward, of Atlanta, Ga., was asked to write something appropriate and following is the result. He too has long since answered the final roll call. The article will be interesting now on the eve of the Annual Shiloh Veterans Reunion:

It has been so long since the invitation to furnish a sketch of Captain Daniel Iseminger was exended to me, that an apology is due you for the seeming neglect on my part in not responding long ago. As most of you know I have been absent from Chariton a great deal, and could not designate an evening when I could well be with you. Again, I was some time in finding out where his family lived and procuring from them data as to his life prior to coming here.

I would not have the comrades believe the delay has been through any want of respect to their wishes, but through neglect and want of opportunity on my part.

I had no personal acquaintance with Captain Iseminger until the spring of 1860 at which time I located in Chariton. Hence, for the incidents of his life prior to that time, I am dependent upon information kindly furnished by his widow, now a lady of 72 years of age, and only son, George O. Iseminger, both of Bedford, Indiana, where they have resided since the war.

Daniel Iseminger was born near the city of Hamilton, Ohio, on the 30th of May, 1812, and when eight years of age, came with his father's family to Jackson county, Indiana, and a few years later removed to Monroe county in the same state, near the city of Bloomington, residing there until the breaking out of the war between this country and Mexico.

On the first call for volunteers, Iseminger enlisted at Bloomington, Indiana, and upon the formation of the third regiment of Indiana volunteers the company in which he had enlisted became Company "B" of that regiment, and he was elected orderly sergeant of his company. the regiment was commanded by Jim Lane, a man whose name became then, and for years afterwards, a household name throughout this land. With his company and regiment young Iseminger served through the war, being honorably discharged at its close. At the battle of Buena Vista, Sergeant Iseminger commanded the company being the ranking officer present. Wherever the regiment went, he went, and as Jim Lane was a renowned fighter, the regiment was always at the front when possible.

Upon the declaration of peace, our hero returned to Bloomington and remained until 1848, when he crossed the Mississippi River, settling at Fort Madison, and there engaging in the mercantile business; but for Iseminger the place had no attractions, for (in 1855) he left Fort Madison and came to Chariton, where he engaged in merchandising, and remained in this business until sometime in 1857.

When I first knew Iseminger he was, I believe, a Justice of the Peace of Chariton township, and deputy postmaster, under A.C. Cameron, then postmaster under the Buchanan administration, and remained as such until the breaking out of the war of the Rebellion in the spring of 1861. As soon as the result of the election of 1860 was known, the war clouds commenced to gather, and when congress met in December it soon became evident that our southern brethren would not hear to reason, but blindly made the election of Mr. Lincoln the excuse for (as they hoped) a peaceable withdrawing from the Union, yet while the North slumbered, took every precaution to be ready to fight for their darling theory if more peaceable and cowardly means failed.

In those days our nearest railway station was Ottumwa, and from there we had a daily line of stages carrying the mail which arrived here about three or four o'clock in the morning, thus giving us Chicago papers 48 hours old, and we thought ourselves then fortunate, little thinking we would ever receive Chicago morning papers at noon of the same day on which they were published.

In the fall of 1860, the lower part of our present courthouse was prepared for offices. Judge Edwards and his son, Eugene (now of California) and a nephew from Kentucky, a young gentleman of fine attainments, and who in the spring of 1861 returned to Kentucky, accepting a commission in the rebel army where he lost his life at Stone River, occupied the room now the recorder's office; while John D. Sarver and myself had an office where the clerk's office now is, and all being on neighborly terms, with little or nothing to do in the way of law practice, about all of our time was devoted to reading the papers and discussing the probabilities and possibilities of peace and war.

Judge Edwards was then speaker of the House of Representatives, a most genial gentleman, by birth a Kentuckian, and being in years and experience much older than others of our little set, we had a good deal of regard for his opinions, based upon his knowledge of southern people and their institutions. These offices became quite an agreeable loafing place for the business men, as well as idlers of the town, and opinions passed and prophecies were made in these accidental meetings that would have been creditable to a statesman of any age.

I was the only democrat (with the exception of young Edwards of Kentucky, who was an out-and-out rebel) in the courthouse clique, but Jim Baker, subsequently a captain in the army, since justice of the supreme court of Missouri, and now a retired millionaire of Evanston, Illinois; A.C. Cameron, then postmaster, and one of the first to enlist; and Daniel Iseminger, his deputy, all good democrats, as well as some others, dropped in daily, smoked their pipes, and helped to discuss the all-important and in fact the only question then before us, that of the breaking up of the then existing union by letting the slave states withdraw, or its preservation if necessary by the force of arms.

To show how little the magnitude of the approaching contest was comprehended by the most intelligent men, I recall a little incident of those days. On receiving the news of the first call by President Lincoln of 75,000 volunteers, Judge Edwards was in a towering passion over the folly and extravagance of the administration in asking for 75,000 men. "Why less than half that number added to our regular army could whip the south," said he, and he a man born and raised to manhood in the south. Well do I recollect one who was present and who had never been in the south replying, "Judge, before this thing is over with the president will want half a million men" and Judge left with the remark, "You are a fool." The judge, like some of the rest of us, lived to see who the better prophet was.

When the second call for troops was made, our little town of Chariton concluded to be represented, and we attempted to raise a company. Col. W.S. Dungan, E.E. Edwards, Iseminger and myself talked it over and went to work, calling meetings in different parts of the county, and enlisting all that we could. Iseminger, being the only one in our community who had ever had any connection with the army, we looked to him naturally for information concerning the formation and drill of a company, believing his experience in the Mexican War made him the most capable of any one we then knew for instructions. His whole heart was in the cause, and he would have as readily gone as a private, as commander of the company, and to him we were indebted for such knowledge as we had of soldiering before entering the U.S. Service. After much labor in this county, by taking about 30 men from Clarke and Wayne counties, we had a company in readiness and tendered it to the governor, who first promised us a place in the third regiment, but finally placed us in the sixth.

While awaiting assignment, for weeks we were drilling here, keeping the smart weed and dog-fennel well trod down along the outskirts of the town, and the boys naturally talked over the subject as to who their officers should be, and upon the question as to who should be captain there was but one opinion, and that was favorable to Iseminger. His former service in the Mexican War, his kindness of heart, and intense loyalty to the union, all made him pre-eminently the man to lead us.

I well recollect the day he was mustered into the U.S. service at Burlington by Capt. Chambers of the regular army. It was supposed that the law requiring every man to be perfectly sound and not over 45 years of age would be strictly enforced, and it was quite amusing to see those having any ailment or deformity, or being over age, resort to various devices to mislead the mustering officer. Being adjutant of the reigment, and having made up the mustering rolls, I had a pretty good understanding of affairs, and placed on the rolls men I feared would not be admitted, but as they were anxious to enter the service, and it was the business of the regular inspecting officers to reject, I did not scruple to place them upon the rolls as requested by the company officers. Capt. Iseminger was in his 49th year, and looked all of that, being a spare man and prematurely gray, and had worried considerably over the prospect of being rejected --- however, his age appeared upon the rolls as 44 years of age, and that day, as he stood up in front of his company with a new uniform, shaved and primped up, he would have passed for a man of 30, and the mustering officer simply glanced at the captain with an approving smile and passed on. Visiting the captain's quarters that evening I found him about the happiest man in camp. Notwithstanding Capt. Iseminger's age and the fact that he was not naturally a strong man, there was no man in the company who could stand marching and the fatigues of campaign any better. No matter how long or difficult the march, Captain Iseminger invariably brought his company into camp at night.

In the Fremont expedition after Price in the fall of 1861 from Jefferson City to Springfield, Mo., the march was a forced and rapid one, and told plainly upon the new recruits, and it was not uncommon to see regiments come into camp with less than a third of men in ranks, but I never recollect a day on that march or the return to Sedalia that Captain Iseminger was not leading his men.

After the return of Fremont's army to the line of the Missouri Pacific Railroad in November, 1861, our regiment wintered with others along the road west to Jefferson City. The regiment was for some time divided, one portion being at Tipton and the other at Syracuse, of this latter detachment Capt. Iseminger had command, and for some time that winter commanded the post at Syracuse. Soon after the fall of Fort Donaldson, the regiment, with others, was ordered to Cairo, thence up the Tennessee River to Pittsburg Landing, and there being assigned to the division of the renowned Gen. Wm. T. Sherman. This was some ten days prior to the Battle of Shiloh, in which Capt. Iseminger lost his life.

On Sunday morning, the 6th of April, about 10 o'clock, Capt. Iseminger was killed, being struck in the abdomen by a piece of shell, and the regiment being forced back, his body with others was not recovered until after the light on Monday, when our army recovered its lost ground and camps.

Captain Iseminger was buried with six others of his company in one grave by the boys of his command upon the fatal field of Shiloh near where he fell; and today his bones repose in the National cemetery on that noted field, unmarked and unknown to all save Him who knows all things.


As a commander of men Captain Iseminger had few superiors. He was not only a fair drill officer, but always looked out for the interests of his men. If there was anything good to be had in camp, and money or strategy would obtain it. Captain Iseminger's men had it. To the sick and weak he ever extended a helping hand.

While enforcing military discipline and etiquette, he was ever kind and respectful to those he commanded; and really he looked upon his company with the love that a father has for a large family of boys. They could not be imposed upon by any ranking or inferior officer if the captain knew it, and let one of them get into trouble (as mischevious boys sometimes will, even in times of peace), the Captain was always ready to intercede for them.

As to bravery he was excelled by no man, and I doubt if he ever realized such a thing as fear. I have no doubt that he would face death, knowing it to be certain, with the coolness and indifference with which he would perform any of the ordinary functions of life.

In politics Captain Iseminger was a democrat of the Jacksonian school, but believed that the south had no cause for attempting to secede from the union, and that Buchanan made a great mistake in not arresting Jeff Davis, Breckenridge and the other leaders and hanging them, as Jackson threatened to do with Mr. Calhoun and his nullification conferees. Being the Captain's first lieutenant, though regimental adjutant, I was naturally much about the Captain's quarters, and being of the same political faith, and warm personal friends, I probably knew his thoughts as well or better than any one else could, and I know that no more loyal man ever lived. The Captain could not believe in one thing and fight for its opposite. If there was any one virtue in which he excelled it was that of consistent love for the integrity of the union.

Captain Iseminger had strong religous convictions, and was from an early day up to that of his deah a member of the Christian church, and while he was a man who made little parade of his religious belief, there was running through his whole career, as a civilian and a soldier, that quiet and unostentatious Christian like spirit and charity, than can only belong to the true child of God.

I have in my hand a letter written last may by the Rev. James N. Mathes, now in his 81st year, to George O. Iseminger, giving in brief his knowledge of the Captain's early Christian life, which you will pardon me for reading:

Bedford, Indiana, May 23rd, 1889
Geo. O. Iseminger:

Dear Brother: At your request, I seat myself to furnish you some of my recollections of the church life of your honored Father, the late Capt. Daniel Iseminger. I have passed the 80th mile post of my earthly pilgrimage, and I find that writing is not so easy for me as it was half a century ago. But I remember Brother Daniel Iseminger well, and I knew Uncle George Iseminger, your grandfather, intimately.

In my pioneer days in Monroe County, Ind., as an Evangelist of the Christian church, I frequently preached at the house of Uncle George's, and I often remained with him and family all night. He was a prominent member of the Christian church.

When I first met and became acquainted with brother Daniel Iseminger, while he was yet a young men, he and I were not far from the same age. I think he became a member of the Christian church while yet a young man, and he honored his profession as long as he lived.

After the close of the Mexican war, in which he bore an honorable part under Capt. John M. Sluss, of Bloomington, Ind., he and family removed to Iowa, and because a citizen of Chariton, Lucas Co., and united with the Christian church in that place, as I understand. And in 18681 when the war of the rebellion broke out, he raised a company of volunteers, and as Captain led them to the contest with "the Southern confederacy," where he lost his life.

It may be truly said of Daniel Iseminger, he was a true patriot, a good citizen, a gallant and brave soldier, and an earnest and devoted Christan. He was an Elder in the Christian church in Chariton when he died.

I regret that this little sketch of your father's church life is so imperfect.

Fraternally yours, James M. Mathes.

Taking it all in all Captain Iseminger, while an honest man, and whose station in life was like many others, not of an exalted and meteor-like character, as a neighbor, citizen, Christian gentleman and a brave soldier, his life was one to be admired and imitated by the young men of today. He was born and raised in Indiana at a time when schools were not numerous, and he had no opportunity to procure a liberal education; while probably a liberal education would have brought wealth and social distinction to Captain Iseminger, no schools or university could have added one mite to the noble attributes of manhood which nature had bestowed.

While his remains lie among those of the unknown dead, upon the once gory field of Shiloh, we have here, in naming this post after Captain Iseminger, done what we could to perpetuate the name of the old hero in the hearts of the living comrades, and it is to be hoped in the memories of our descendants, long after the last member of this post shall have answered the final roll call.

E.B. Woodward.

No comments: