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Roster and Record
Iowa Soldiers
Vol. 6 - Miscellaneous


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Historical Sketch

Mississippi Marine Brigade

(Iowa men in the United States Navy, either directly enlisted or detailed form the Iowa regiments to which they belonged, for service in "The Mississippi Marine Brigade.")

The archives of the office of the Adjutant General of Iowa contain but scant material from which to compile the record of her sons who were -- either directly or indirectly -- connected with the naval branch of the service, during the great War of the Rebellion.   The compiler has, therefore, had recourse to such sources of information as were obtainable, to show the part taken by Iowa men in the brilliant achievements of the United States Navy.

The following brief extracts are made from a carefully prepared paper, read before the "Crocker's Iowa Brigade Association" at Waterloo, Iowa, September 14, 1904:   (Note: Ensign William H. Michael (the author of the paper referred to) had first entered the service -- as a youth of eighteen years -- in Company B, Eleventh Iowa Infantry, on Oct. 1, 1861.  The records show that he was discharged for disability Sept. 29, 1862, and, that before the expiration of that year, he had enlisted in the U.S. Navy, in which he served to the close of the war.  He was promoted to Masters Mate on May 11, 1863, and was again promoted to Ensign (in 1864), for gallantry in the engagement off Clarendon, on White River, Ark.)

"It is for the purpose of reminding you of the eminent service performed, in part, by Iowa boys as sailors in the War of the rebellion, that I appear before you .....   The 131,954 United States Sailors and Marines, by their bravery, endurance, and genius, locked up more than three thousand miles of shore line, wrested from a wary and active foe one thousand five hundred miles of internal water line, excited the wonder of all nations by its dramatic achievements, and, by its original methods, compelled a revolution of naval warfare throughout the civilized world.  Iowa sailors helped to make up this naval force, and are entitled to share in the glories and honors of all that it accomplished.  Iowa had sons in every Squadron save one, and in the Mississippi Squadron she had commissioned officers on twenty-seven vessels, and men before the mast on nearly every one of the hundred vessels comprising that Squadron.

Iowa had nine commissioned officers in the Regular Navy, during the war, ranging in rank from Ensign to lieutenant-commander, and four commissioned officers in the Marine Corps.  In the Volunteer Navy she had thirty-six officers, namely:  three Lieutenants, three Masters, seven Ensigns, sever Masters' Mates, one Chief Engineer, five First Assistant engineers, six Second Assistant Engineers, three Third Assistant Engineers, and one Surgeon.  The First Paymaster of this Squadron was also an Iowan.   The most painstaking research has led me to the conclusion that the number of enlisted men furnished by Iowa for the Navy is above eight hundred.  Most of these served in the Mississippi Squadron.  Thus the young State of Iowa, far removed from the scenes that lure to sailor life, furnished to the Navy a body of men whose numbers -- in the aggregate -- almost equaled a full regiment of infantry."

Ensign Michael gives in detail the history of the achievements of vessels of the Squadron, the names of which are identified with all the early battles of the war which were fought in the near vicinity of navigable rivers, where they were enabled to co-operate with, and render valuable service to, the army.  Some of the most notable of these were Belmont, where General Grant's little army of three thousand men was saved from being captured by the enemy by the timely arrival of the gunboats Conestoga and Lexington.  Fort Henry was captured by the naval vessels alone, the land forces not arriving until after the fort had surrendered.  The iron-clads Tyler, Lexington and Carondulet, were important factors in winning the victory at Fort Donelson.  At Shiloh -- near the close of the first day of the battle -- the Tyler and Lexington again rendered most important service.  General grant says:  "At a late hour in the afternoon a desperate attempt was made to turn our left and get possession of the landing, transports, etc.  This point was guarded by the gunboats Tyler and Lexington, and much credit is due these vessels for the effectual aid they rendered in repulsing the enemy."  General Hurlburt says:  "From my own observation and the statement of prisoners, the fire of the gunboats was most effectual in stopping the advance of the enemy on Sunday afternoon and night."  The heroic feat of running the rebel batteries at Island Number Ten, on the Mississippi River, was accomplished on April 6 and 7, 1862, by the iron-clads Carondelet and Pittsburg, of Commodore Foot's Squadron.  Then followed the engagement between the vessels of the Union and Confederate fleets in front of Memphis, resulting in the capture of that city, the destruction of most of the vessels of the enemy, and the clearing of the river for navigation of most of the vessels of the enemy, and the clearing of the river for navigation as far south as Vicksburg, the capture of Arkansas Post, and the series of important operations of the Mississippi Squadron, reflected great honor upon the Navy.   In all these operations the "Baron DeKalb," commanded by Lieutenant Commander John G. Walker, of Iowa, rendered most notable and conspicuous service.   (Note:  This gallant officer was later promoted to the rank of Admiral.)  

At an early period of the war, that unique volunteer organization, known as "Ellet's Mississippi Marine Brigade," was attached to Admiral Porter's Squadron, and at once became an important adjunct of the Navy.  General Alfred of its infantry contingent.  It was indeed a novel organization, composed of armored transports which had been converted into gunboats, bearing companies of infantry, artillery and cavalry, and several of its boats were rigged for ramming.  The subjoined roster shows only the names of those who had been reported to Adjutant General Baker as having enlisted from Iowa in the Marine Brigade.  The roster constitutes, however, but a small portion of the names of Iowa men who served with the brigade.  Nearly every one of the Iowa regiments, whose field of operations extended along the lower Mississippi River and its navigable tributaries, had contributed to its forces, as shown by their respective rosters contained in this work..  The larger number of these men were detailed for such service, but some of them were transferred.  The little fleet became the scouts of the Mississippi river, and often preceded the transports, heavily loaded with troops and army supplies, guarding them against attacks of the enemy.  Owing to its novel equipment it could move rapidly from point to point along the river, land, and engage the enemy, and, if too hard pressed, retreat under cover of the fire of its gunboats, and re-embark.  While rendering such important service, the commander of the Marine Brigade seems to have found it somewhat difficult to fully comply with the strict requirements of naval and army discipline, at least such inference is drawn form the following official communication from Admiral Porter to the Secretary of War:

United States Mississippi Squadron,
Flag-Ship Black Hawk, off Vicksburg.
July 13, 1863.

Hon. Gideon Welles,
    Secretary of the Navy,
        Washington, D. C.

Sir:---The want of steam transportation in the army is very much felt.   The Marine Brigade consists of a large number of vessels, capable of transporting ten thousand men.  I would recommend that the brigade and vessels should be turned over to the Commander-in-Chief of the Army of the Tennessee, Major General U. S. Grant, who should properly direct all military movements here.  I find the Marine Brigade and Army do not get along very well together when co-operating.  I would, therefore, recommend that General Grant should take charge of the whole concern, excepting the ram fleet, which should be turned over to the Navy for transports.  They are mostly worn out and are run at great expense.  The brigade, as it is now, is so small that it is not available against the bodies of guerrillas which infest the Mississippi.  If it is placed under general Grant's orders altogether, he can use the vessels to throw into any place a body of ten thousand men.  I have offered to order the brigade to report to him for what duty he may wish to assign it, but he would prefer to have it placed entirely under his control, that he may make permanent arrangements with regard to a proper organization.  At present there are a good many complaints about the Ellet Marine Brigade, which, whether true or not, seem to require that a better organization should exist.  I recommend most urgently that I may be ordered to transfer the brigade and vessels permanently to the Army, and that an order may be received from the War Department to deliver up to the Navy the rams, to be used as transports, or else to have them turned over to the Quartermaster's department of the Army, where they are much needed.  General Banks has just called for twenty steamers, and General Grant has to curtail his transportation to comply with the request.  The brigade is at present employed at a distance, and the whole effective force is about five hundred men.  If the Army had the steamers, it could make better use of them.

I have the honor to remain, very respectfully, your obedient servant.

David D. Porter.


The Secretary of the Navy referred the foregoing communication to the Secretary of War, by whom it was referred to the General-in-Chief, as shown by the following reply:


Navy Department, July 31, 1863.

Honorable E. M. Stanton,
     Secretary of War,

Sir:-- I have the honor to transit herewith a copy of a communication, dated the 13th instant, received from Rear-Admiral Porter, and to recommend his suggestions touching the disposition of the Marine Brigade to your favorable consideration.

Very respectfully, etc.,
Gideon Welles.


Referred to the General-in-Chief.

Edwin M. Stanton.


The only further reference to this matter, which the compiler has been able to find, is embraced in the following communication:

War Department, Washington,
August 5, 1863.

Honorable Gideon Welles,
    Secretary of the Navy,

Sir:  In reply to your letter of the 31st ultimo, transmitting a copy of a communication from Rear-Admiral Porter, suggesting that the Marine Brigade be turned over to the Commanding General of the Army of the Tennessee, and that the ram fleet be transferred to the Navy, I have the honor to inform you that, upon reference of the same to the General-in-Chief, that officer has made a report in the following words, to-wit:   "This matter having been fully discussed in Cabinet, and decided.  I see no good reasons for changing the decision there made.

H. W. Halleck.

    August 4, 1863.

In which opinion this Department concurs.

I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant.
E. M. Stanton

(Note:  War of the Rebellion Official Records, Series I, Vol. 24, pages 564-5, and 576.)


While the records do not show what decision was reached in the Cabinet discussion of the matter, the inference is that the Brigade retained its former status, subject to orders of both Army and Navy commanders.  That it continued to render effective and important service along the Mississippi and its tributaries is a well established fact.   It has not been the purpose of the compiler to attempt a detailed history of its operations, but simply to show the connection of Iowa men with the organization.   From the beginning of hostilities to the close of the war, history clearly shows that Iowa was well and ably represented in the naval branch of the service.


Mississippi Marine Brigade

Barney, William W.  Age 18.  Residence Jackson County, nativity Illinois.  Enlisted March 1, 1864.   Mustered March 2, 1864.

Bulgack, Joseph.  Age 18.  Residence Linn County, nativity Bohemia.  Enlisted Jan. 21, 1864.  Mustered Feb. 1, 1864.

Carson, William.  Age 17.  Residence Davenport, nativity Illinois.  Enlisted Feb. 3, 1864.  Mustered Feb. 4, 1864.

Corrie, William.  Age 18.  Residence Davenport, nativity Scotland.  Enlisted Feb. 18, 1864.  Mustered Feb. 18, 1864.

Croy, John T. V.  Age 23.  Residence Story County, nativity Ohio.  Enlisted Jan. 4, 1864.  Mustered Jan. 4, 1864.

Firth, Edward A.  Age 19.  Residence Iowa City, nativity Tennessee.  Enlisted March 24, 1864.  Mustered April 2, 1864.

Johnson, George W.  Age 17.  Residence Davenport, nativity Virginia.  Enlisted Feb. 26, 1864.  Mustered Feb. 26, 1864.

McMurray, Melvin E.  Age 18.  Residence Scott County, nativity Illinois.  Enlisted Feb 4, 1864.  Mustered Feb. 4, 1864.

Madison, Francis M.  Age 18.  Residence Davenport, nativity Indiana.  Enlisted Jan. 18, 1864.  Mustered Jan. 20, 1864.

Messler, Basil H.  Age 30.  Residence Davenport, nativity Ohio.  Enlisted Feb. 27, 1864.  Mustered Feb. 29, 1864.

Messler, Jacob R.  Age 20.  Residence Muscatine County, nativity Ohio.  Enlisted March 10, 1864.  Mustered March 11, 1864.

Moel, Charles.  Age 19.  Residence Linn County, nativity Bohemia.  Enlisted Jan. 28, 1864.  Mustered March 11, 1864.

Murin, Thomas D.  Age 22.  Residence Muscatine County, nativity Ohio.  Enlisted March 10, 1864.  Mustered March 11, 1864.

Oakley, William A.  Age 27.  Residence Davenport, nativity New York.  Enlisted Jan. 25, 1864.  Mustered Jan. 25, 1864.

Paden, John.  Age 26.  Residence Davenport, nativity Ohio.   Enlisted Feb. 15, 1864.  Mustered Feb. 18, 1864.

Ruick, Earnest N.  Age 18.  Residence Davenport, nativity Ohio.  Enlisted Feb. 12, 1864.  Mustered Feb. 12, 1864.

Scrivens, Dickinson.  Age 19.  Residence Davenport, nativity New York.  Enlisted Jan.. 11, 1864.  Mustered Jan. 11, 1864.

Smith, James J.  Age 25.  Residence Muscatine, nativity Ohio.  Enlisted March 4, 1864.  Mustered March 10, 1864.

Swanks, Frank.  Age 17.  Residence Davenport, nativity Illinois.  Enlisted Feb. 3, 1864.  Mustered Feb. 4, 1864.

Thompson, James E.  Age 19.  Residence Davenport, nativity Pennsylvania.  Enlisted Feb. 12, 1864.  Mustered Feb. 13, 1864.  Killed in action, Vicksburg, Miss.

Vanepp, George.  Age 26.  Residence Davenport, nativity New York.  Enlisted Feb. 24, 1864.  Mustered Feb. 24, 1864.

Warner, Benjamin F.  Age 17.  Residence LeClaire, nativity Wisconsin.  Enlisted Jan. 22, 1864.  Mustered Jan. 25, 1864.

Wilson, Milton.  Age 18.  Residence Davenport, nativity Illinois.  Enlisted Feb. 15, 1864.  Mustered Feb. 15, 1864.

Wood, Mahlon F.  Age 20.  Residence Muscatine County, nativity New York.  Enlisted Feb. 29, 1864.  Mustered March 9, 1864.



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