Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Say the name again: Daniel Iseminger

Iowa Monument at Shiloh (Photo by Iowa Civil War Monuments.com)

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, Susan, 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 since 1855, Daniel was 47 going on 48 and comfortably settled. Susan 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, 1812, in Hamilton or Butler County, Ohio, to George and Mary (Myers) Iseminger. Susan (or 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 Susan 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.

On June 22, 1846, he was mustered as a corporal from Indiana militia service into Company A, 3rd Indiana Infantry, U.S. Army. After a trip down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers by steamboat to New Orleans, then via ocean-going vessel to Point Isabelle and the mouth of the Rio Grande, Daniel and his unit participated honorably in several engagements, including the Battle of Buena Vista. He returned home safely, was discharged and resumed a normal life.

By 1848, the family had decided to seek opportunity elsewhere and moved west to Fort Madison, along the Mississippi. During 1855, Daniel, Susan and George moved on to Chariton, approachable at that time only by horse power or on foot. He opened a general merchandise store on the square and did a little speculating in government land, too.

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, marching out of Chariton after a ceremonious farewell on the 8th.

The men were ordered to quarters on July 1 and 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 bloody Sunday, 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.

The 6th Iowa had been assigned to the First Brigade, Fifth Division, with the brigade commanded by Col. John A. McDowell and the regiment, by Lt. Col. Markoe Cummins. It became obvious early on that Sunday, however, that Cummins was drunk and unfit for duty. McDowell relieved him of his command (he later was court martialed) and placed Dan Iseminger in charge of the regiment instead.

Daniel was was leading his men in combat that day, but accounts of the circumstances leading to his death vary. Some day he was killed about 7:30 that evening, when he was shot by an enemy sharpshooter. Another, that he was truck in the abdomen by a shell fragment at about 10 a.m. that morning.

After the battle ended, bodies were gathered from the field and buried hurriedly near where they were found. Some 38 soldiers from the 6th were buried together, but their bodies could not be identified when disinterred a few years later and moved to what became Shiloh National Cemetery. So Daniel rests at Shiloh among the unknown. His time in command was so brief that it isn't even acknowledged as commander on the Shiloh monument to the 6th Regiment..


Susannah probably had remained at home in Chariton when Daniel marched off to war, although that is not certain, but by the fall of 1862 she had relocated to Bedford, Indiana, which would be home for the remainder of her life. Her son, George, would practice law there 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 organized Oct. 18, 1878, and 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.


Susan did not remarry and continued to live in Bedford until her death at age 91 on April 6, 1907, the 45th anniversary of Daniel’s death. She is buried with their son, George, in Bedford's Green Hill Cemetery.

6th Iowa Volunteer Infantry Monument at Shiloh (Iowa Civil War Monuments.com photo)


Debra Iseminger Chase said...

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

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Frank, you've helped me research another branch of my family tree. Had heard the name my whole life in Chariton, of course, and when the surname appeared on Ancestry.com I found your blog in a Google search. Daniel is my 1st cousin 4x removed.

Betty Best