Posts Tagged ‘Iron Brigade’

BLACK IRON MERCY  TO BE LAUNCHED IN JUNE

I’m so very happy and proud to announce that I’ve signed a contract with Deeds Publishing of Athens, Georgia, to publish my novel, Black Iron Mercy.  Final edits have been applied to the manuscript and it’s on its way to the creative director for the layout process.

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Whew!  It’s been four and a half years since I started the research for this project.  Nine months of research, two years of writing, a lifetime of editing, and five long months of querying and rejection have culminated in success.  It’s been a long road, but could have been so much longer if not for the help and support of my family and friends.

Thank you to all of YOU, my friends and followers, for your continued support through your words of kindness and encouragement, assessment and criticism.  So many of you have said the right words at just the right moment, providing motivation and inspiration to continue this voyage.  I’m grateful!

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CHAPTER 28

An excerpt from an unpublished novel of our civil war
SUBJECT TO SOME MAJOR EDITING

 

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

          July 1, 1863

             10:30 am

 

 They’d been ordered to lie down in the field by Lt. Colonel Dawes, who was in command of the regiment, as Colonel Bragg had been kicked in the foot by a horse a few weeks back and was recuperating in Washington.  The regiment was being held in reserve as the rest of the brigade went into action against the Rebel line in the woods ahead of them.  The brigade had hurried forward on the run, the Sixth Wisconsin being the last regiment in the order of march for the day, rushing to gain a position on the left flank of the brigade, which was hastily moving en echelon into the woods to the west.  They ran into the trees and disappeared into the undergrowth, no longer visible to the men of the Sixth.

Suddenly, an aide galloped up to Dawes and had spoken hurriedly to him, causing the commander to order the regiment to lie down in the field as they were now.  Gunfire erupted in a tremendous crash from the woods as the rest of the brigade ran headlong into the rebel line.

“Something’s wrong.” Arlis said, lying prone in the field.

Bath, who lay to the immediate right of Arlis, said, “Why?”  His head flailed from side to side, franticly scanning the scene before them.  He was wide-eyed.  “What’s going on?”

“That aide that rode up to the colonel is Lieutenant Marten, one of Doubleday’s aides,” Arlis said, loud enough for most of the men around him to hear.  “Something must have happened to Reynolds if Doubleday is giving the orders.”  Reynolds, a very competent Pennsylvanian, commanded the First Corp.  He was in command of three divisions, containing seven infantry brigades and a brigade of artillery.

  Arlis watched as the commander of the brigade guard, which consisted of about one hundred men, briefly met with Lt. Colonel Dawes and then split the guard into two, fifty man companies, ordering each to lie down on the flanks of the Sixth, one company per side.  This strengthened the regiment to 340 men and officers, which was less than thirty-five percent of the strength that they’d mustered in at Camp Randall two years prior.  The Sixth Wisconsin was now the only regiment that was not yet engaged in all of Wadsworth’s division, consisting of the Iron Brigade and Cutler’s Brigade, which was made up of four New York regiments, a Pennsylvania regiment, and an Indiana regiment.  Cutler’s Brigade was already in action on the right flank of the Iron Brigade.

“We’re in reserve?” Bath asked, irritation in his voice.  “Why the hell don’t they let us in on the left of the twenty-fourth?”

“Relax, Tubber,” Arlis said, using the nickname that the company had bestowed on Bath.  Bath… Bathtub… Tub… Tubber.  He looked sideways at Bath, “Usually they use the regiment that’s in reserve to plug the line where the action is hottest.  Be careful what you wish for, Private.  You’re gonna see action today.  The whole damn Rebel army is out there somewhere.”

Another aide approached the mounted Dawes on horseback.

“That’s Lieutenant Jones,” Arlis said.  “He belongs to Doubleday, too.”

“How do ya know,” Bath bellowed, attempting to be heard over the gunfire.

Arlis spun his head wildly toward Bath and yelled angrily, “Because I pay attention, Bath.  Open your eyes and shut your mouth now!”

Dawes turned and passed the order down the chain of command.  Captain Ticknor, now the commander of Company K, passed it to his men.

“On your feet, men…”

 

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Soldiers of the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry Regiment

According to “Wisconsin losses in the Civil War” compiled by Charles Edward Estabrook, 1915, 275 of the 1203 soldiers of the 2nd Wisconsin Regiment died while serving. 105 were killed in action; 62 died of wounds; 62 died from disease. One died in a fall less than a month before Gettysburg. Other sources differ slightly, but most are comparable. Wikipedia says the regiment saw 315 total deaths.

These numbers do not include those who were wounded and survived. They also don’t show those that were wounded multiple times, perhaps as many as three or four, before finally succumbing or being no longer fit for duty and sent home.

In a war that saw one soldier in ten killed in action and one soldier in three die of disease, the 2nd Wisconsin Regiment suffered 3.4 soldiers killed for every one that died of disease. It was through their blood that they forged their iron.

Included among the deaths from disease is John A Thompson, who is listed in the roster as being simply from “Wisconsin.” Thompson was murdered sometime in March of 1864. If anyone has more information on that story, please share!

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Capt Rufus R Dawes, CO K, 6th Wisconsin Volunteers

Mr. Dawes is quite a remarkable man. Forever cemented in the histories of the Iron Brigade, the affections of Mauston, WI natives, the leadership of the 6th Wisconsin, and the spirit of the “Lemonweir Minutemen,” Dawes wasn’t even a Badger by birth.

Like everyone else in early 1861, Dawes got swept up in the excitement of Lincoln’s call for Volunteers. Dawes, who happened to be in Mauston, Wisconsin with his father on extended business at the time of the firing on Fort Sumter, chose to raise a company of volunteers right there, rather than return to his home town of Marietta, Ohio to do so.

In a letter to his sister dated May 4, 1861, Dawes writes: “I have been so wholly engrossed with my work for the last week or I should have responded sooner to your question: ‘Are you going?’ If a kind Providence and President Lincoln will permit I am. I am Captain of as good, and true a band of patriots as ever rallied under the star-spangled banner.”

He’d get to lead them under that banner, too. At 2nd Bull Run, South Mountain, Antietam, and while covering the retreat of the Army after Chancellorsville. All the while, he lead from the front while enjoying an uncanny ability to come through battles unscathed, bringing to mind suggestions of the fortunes of Wyatt Earp and Captain Richard Winters, who had both had plenty of opportunities to die in fire fights but had escaped all of them unharmed.

“My Dear Mother,” he wrote home after Antietam, “I have come safely through two more terrible engagements with the enemy, that at South Mountain and the great battle of yesterday. Our splendid regiment is almost destroyed. We have had nearly four hundred men killed and wounded in the battles. Seven of our officers were shot and three killed in yesterday’s battle and nearly one hundred and fifty men killed and wounded.”

By Gettysburg, Dawes was a Lt. Colonel, leading the 6th Wisconsin in the absence of Colonel Edward Bragg, who was convalescing in Washington after being kicked in the foot by a horse. Here, he’d lead the regiment in the famed railroad cut charge, escaping unharmed while leading the 6th in capturing the entire 2nd Mississippi Regiment.

On July fourth, the day after the third day of Gettysburg, Dawes wrote to his fiance’, “The Sixth hast lost so far one hundred and sixty men. Since the first day we have lost only six. O, Mary, it is sad to look now at our shattered band of devoted men. Only four field officers in the brigade have escaped and I am one of them.”

Examining this last statement, there are typically three officers per company: a Captain, a 1st Lt, and a 2nd Lt. There are ten companies. 30 officers, ranked Captain or lower, plus the Colonel, Lt. Colonel, Major, and the Adjutant of each regiment. Since there were four regiments in the brigade, we’ll multiply the numbers by four and come up with 136.

Out of 136 field officers, the Iron Brigade had only four that were fit for duty on July 4, 1863. It would be most interesting to see what was going on in Lt. Colonel Dawes mind while he was drinking his coffee and writing his report in the rain on that day… which happened to be his 25th birthday, by the way.

Whether or not Dawes believed that he was being spared for higher purpose or not is not chronicled, but he certainly gave Providence credit for his survival. He’d lead the regiment again and again and again, at The Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor.

To his wife, June 8, 1864, he wrote: “We came down here today, and are located on the left flank of our army, and we are at last out from under the fire of the enemy… it is impossible for one who has not undergone it, to fully understand the depression of spirits caused by such long, continued, and bloody fighting and work. Colonel (Edward) Bragg said yesterday: ‘Of all I have gone through, I cannot now write an intelligent account. I can only tell my wife that I am alive and well. I am too stupid for any use.'”

Dawes’ three year enlistment came up soon after. He would indeed go on to big things… including a stint in congress representing the 15th Ohio District.

In August of 1865 Dawes’ son, Charles G Dawes was born. He’d serve as Vice-President of the United States during the Coolidge administration


Source: 

“Service with the Sixth Wisconsin Volunteers,” by Rufus Dawes, 1890

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Lt. Julius Waldschmidt, CO G, 19th Indiana Infantry Regiment.

Born in Wetzlar, Germany on February 20, 1836, Waldschmidt immigrated to America in the 1850s, settling in Elkhart, Indiana. Mustering in as a sergeant on July 29, 1861, he would be one of the many who made the leap from enlisted man to officer during the war. At his post throughout the campaigns of 1862 and 1863, Waldschmidt would be among the few who remained unharmed after the battle of Gettysburg… a battle that saw the 19th Indiana take 73% casualties.

Wounded at the battle of Wilderness in May of 1864, Lt. Waldschmidt would muster out of the 19th Indiana that fall, accepting a Captain’s commission in the 152nd Indiana Regiment in March of 1865. He’d serve out the war in this capacity, mustering out as a Major on August 30, 1865 in Clarksburg, West Virginia.

After the war, he’d spend many years in Goshen, Indiana, where he served as a deputy United States Marshall. He died on January 31, 1918 in South Bend, Indiana.

SOURCE(S):

* On Many a Bloody Field, Four Years in the Iron Brigade

– 19thindianaironbrigade.com

– South Bend Tribune, February 2nd, 1918

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Lt. Frank A Haskell (1828-1864), Adjutant, 6th Wisconsin Infantry.

Haskell, a Vermonter by birth, was a Dartmouth graduate who was practicing law and drilling a militia unit in Madison, Wisconsin when the Civil War began. Quick to offer his services to his country, Haskell was commissioned as 1st Lt and served as the 6th Wisconsin’s Adjutant for nearly a year. Known for his attention to detail and commitment to excellence, the 6th owed much of its discipline to the efforts of Haskell.

In April of 1862, Haskell’s experience and professional bearing caught the attention of the Brigade’s new commander, General John Gibbon, who made Haskell his new aide-de-camp. Haskell would apply his trade in fine fashion, serving at the General’s side through the Northern Virginia Campaign and the Maryland Campaign, when the Iron Brigade would earn its metallic nickname.

Having followed Gibbon when the General was promoted to command of the 2nd Division of I Corp, Haskell served in that capacity until Gibbon received a wound in the Fredericksburg Campaign, after which Gibbon was replaced. Gibbon would recover. This time, Haskell followed Gibbon when he was named commander of the 2nd Division, II Corp.

Gibbon’s division would see action at Chancellorsville, and then again at Gettysburg, where they would bear the brunt of the attack that would become known as “Pickett’s Charge.” Haskell, after Gibbon went down with another wound, admirably led the men of the division against the assault.

A few weeks after the Battle, Haskell wrote the account of what he had experienced at Gettysburg to his brother Harrison in Portage, Wisconsin. Haskell’s account would be published in 1898 as “The Battle of Gettysburg.” This account was hailed by Bruce Catton as “One of the genuine classics of Civil War literature.”

In November of 1863, Haskell would accompany Gibbon back to the Gettysburg Battlefield for the dedication of the National Cemetery. Both men would bear witness to Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

On February 9th, 1864, Frank Haskell was appointed Colonel of the 36th Wisconsin Infantry. On June 3rd, after the commander of the 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, II Corps, Colonel Henry Boyd McKeen was killed, Haskell took command of the brigade. A few minutes later, he would be killed by a bullet through the temple as he led the brigade in the final assault at Cold Harbor, Virginia. He was 35 years old.

Upon receiving news of Haskell’s death, General Gibbon lamented, “My God! I have lost my best friend, and one of the best soldiers in the Army of the Potomac has fallen!” Gibbon wrote to his wife that he had planned on promoting Haskell to a field command after the battle.

Frank Haskell is buried in Silver Lake Cemetery in Portage, Wisconsin.

SOURCES:

Photo is public domain.

“Service with the Sixth Wisconsin Volunteers,” by Rufus Dawes, 1890

“The Iron Brigade,” by Alan Nolan, 1961

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George E Finney, Sergeant, CO H, 19th Indiana Infantry Regiment.

Finney, a resident of Elizabethtown, Indiana, would later serve as a Lieutenant and then Adjutant of the 20th Indiana Regiment. Finney would respond to a request from David Stephenson, who had announced to the citizens of Indiana that he was looking for “A complete list of our brave soldiers who have died from sickness or fallen on the battlefield. It is my aim to do justice to the living, and to embalm in the hearts of Indiana’s sons the memory of the patriotic dead who have fallen in defense of our national government.” Finney’s account of the 19th Indiana’s role in the war from its inception until August 1st, 1863 would appear in Stephenson’s “Indiana’s Roll of Honor,” published in 1864. Many minor errors and omissions in the text, however, indicate that someone not familiar with the regiment may have had a hand in editing Finney’s document.

SOURCES:

19thindianaironbrigade.com

“On Many a Bloody Field,” by Alan D. Gaff, 1996

“Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Indiana, Volume 2,” 1865

Photo courtesy of the Indiana State Library

THE IRON BRIGADE WAITED MORE THAN A YEAR TO PROVE ITS METTLE

 

The Iron Brigade is widely renowned for its discipline, performance, valor, and for having suffered the highest percentage of casualties of any brigade in the Army of the Potomac during the Civil War.  Few major battles in the eastern theater of the war can be mentioned without the inclusion of the brigade, which was initially composed of the 2nd, 6th, and 7th Wisconsin regiments and the 19th Indiana Regiment.  The 24th Michigan Regiment was added in December of 1862, after the brigade had suffered heavy losses in the campaigns of that season.

But fame, glory, and even the occurrence of battle were a long time coming for the brigade, as one competent officer can surely attest.

Dawes

Rufus R Dawes, Captain

Rufus Dawes was a 22-year-old graduate of Marietta College when Fort Sumter was fired upon.  A native of Marietta, Ohio, Dawes found himself in Juneau County, Wisconsin at the time of Lincoln’s call for 75,000 volunteers.

“With the proclamation of the President came the announcement that the quota of the State of Wisconsin would only be one small infantry regiment of seven hundred and eighty men.  It seemed quite evident that only by prompt action I might secure what was then termed the ‘glorious privilege’ of aiding in crushing the rebellion.”

Dawes went about the business of forming a company in Mauston, Wisconsin, drawing up a pledge and gathering volunteers on the 25th of April, 1861.

“Forty-eight signers were secured as the result of my first day’s work.”

On April 30th, one hundred men met in Mauston’s Langworthy’s Hall to organize the company.  Dawes was elected “Captain,” which was no surprise, and the company adopted the name “The Lemonweir Minute men,” after a local sleepy river, and spirits were high and the excitement level through the roof.

In early May, Dawes wrote his sister in Ohio:  “I have been so wholly engrossed with my work for the last week or I should have responded sooner to your question: ‘Are you going?’  If a kind Providence and President Lincoln will permit, I am.  I am Captain of as good, and true a band of patriots as ever rallied under the star-spangled banner.”

The question of being mustered into the active service now filled the minds of all, and by the second week of May, having received no word from the government as to such, Dawes sent an influential friend to Madison to advocate on behalf of the company.

Shortly, word came that the company was to be mustered into the seventh regiment, but no solid date for such an event to occur was given.

“The first six regiments are now accepted by the General Government,” Dawes wrote in a letter dated June 10th, “and I expect to be ordered into quarters.”

Dawes waited patiently, yet anxiously.  In the meantime, his recruits went about their daily lives, scattered throughout the whole of Juneau County, causing concern in the captain.

To his sister, Dawes wrote, “…I fear they will order us into camp without giving me time to collect my men or recruit for vacancies.”

To ensure he’d have the eighty-three men required to report, Dawes initiated another recruitment drive.

“RALLY!

BOYS, RALLY!  RALLY!

ENLISTMENTS WANTED FOR THE LEMONWEIR MINUTE MEN!

HEADQUARTERS L. M. M., MAUSTON, JUNE 17th, 1861

On June 29th, a very welcome telegram came from W.H. Watson, Military Secretary of the State of Wisconsin:

“Captain R. R. Dawes:  You can board your company at expense of the State at not more than two dollars and a half a week, until further orders.  It is possible that you may be wanted for the sixth regiment.”

More than two months after organizing at Langworthy’s Hall, the company, in compliance with orders, took the cars for Madison and joined the Sixth Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment.  They were able to do so because several companies that had registered higher on the list had failed to report.  The Lemonweir Minute Men were mustered in as Company K of the Sixth Wisconsin, to serve for three years or the duration of the war, should it end sooner.

Even now, as the green troops of McDowell’s army moved south to confront the green troops of Beauregard’s, near a creek known as “Bull Run,” the Wisconsin boys were more than a year away from seeing their first real battlefield.

Instead, they settled into camp at Washington City, where they’d be placed under General Irvin McDowell, who had just recently been trounced at Bull Run.  There, they’d be charged with protecting the capital and spend their time becoming soldiers of a real sort, drilling, drilling, drilling.

The men were becoming restless and agitated.  Some feared they’d never see combat.  When McClellan led the Army of the Potomac out of Washington in the spring of 1862, in what would become known as the “Peninsular Campaign,” the Wisconsin boys were left behind, protecting Washington.

“Somebody’s got it in their skull that we western men are ta sit out the whole scrap,” Private Hugh Talty had said.  “If I ever find out who that is, I’ma gonna show the bugger up close that we kin fight better ‘an most, be gob!”

The army had been reorganized, and the Sixth Wisconsin had been reassigned to a brigade with the Second Wisconsin, who had been at Bull Run, as well as the Seventh Wisconsin and 19th Indiana, both of which had yet to see combat.  This grouping would remain for the duration of the war.

While McClellan and his army floundered to the south, the brigade, under General John Gibbon, marched, drilled, trained, and molded themselves into one of the finest brigades in all of the world.  On the parade ground, others took notice.

From General Irvin McDowell:  “Many times I have shown them to officers of distinction, as specimens of American Volunteer Soldiers, and asked them if they had ever anywhere seen even among the picked soldiers of royal and imperial guards, a more splendid body of men, and I have never had an affirmative answer.”

McClellan’s campaign would prove to be a disaster, ending with the Army of the Potomac scampering back toward Washington and the General himself being replaced by General John Pope.

Now, Gibbon’s brigade got their chance.

At Brawner’s Farm, in the 2nd Bull Run Campaign, the brigade would stand toe to toe with the Stonewall Brigade, slugging it out with the veterans for more than an hour.  At the 2nd Battle of Bull Run, they’d hold their ground as the rest of the army collapsed around them.  The brigade would help cover the retreat of Pope’s battered army.

A few weeks later, they’d earn their famous moniker while ascending the battlefield at South Mountain, moving General McClellan enough to exclaim “they must be made of iron.”

They’d see action at Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Spotsylvania Court House, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, Weldon Railroad, and Five Forks.

Dawes finest moment would come on the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg, where his Sixth Regiment would charge alone and unsupported on a Rebel line that was hidden in an unfinished railroad cut.  He and his men would capture nearly the entire 2nd Mississippi Regiment, including its officers and colors.  The victory came at a very high price, however.

“The Sixth has lost so far one hundred and sixty men,” Dawes wrote to his wife on July 4th, his 25th birthday.  “Since the first day we have lost only six.  Oh, Mary, it is sad to look now at our shattered band of devoted men.  Only four field officers in the brigade have escaped and I am one of them…”

In every engagement, the Iron Brigade would hold their own, proving that their nickname was more than a label. They earned their name through the expenditure of flesh and blood, and in giving the enemy worse than they received.  Outnumbered in nearly every engagement, the brigade seldom, if ever, turned their backs to the enemy.

Dawes, having turned down a promotion to Colonel in late July of 1864, mustered out of the service on August 10 of that year.  He would settle into civilian life with his wife, Mary, in Marietta, Ohio, operating a lumber business.  Dawes would be promoted to a rank of Brevet Brigadier General of Volunteers to rank from March 13, 1865 by President Johnson.  The Senate would confirm the promotion on April 10, 1866.  In August of that year Mary would give birth to a son, Charles, who would later serve as Vice-President of the United States under Calvin Coolidge.  Together, Rufus and Mary would raise six children.

Dawes would serve on the Board of Trustees for his alma mater, Marietta College, from 1871 until his death.  He also served for a time as a trustee for the Ohio Institute for the Deaf and Dumb.  He spent one term in congress, elected as a Republican in 1881.  He lost his bid for reelection due to his resistance to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

Rufus R. Dawes died at his home in Marietta, Ohio on August 1, 1899.  He was 61.  He is buried at Oak Grove Cemetery in Marietta.

SOURCES:

“Service with the Sixth Wisconsin Volunteers,” by Rufus R. Dawes, 1890

“In the Bloody Railroad Cut at Gettysburg,” by Lance J. Herdegen, 1990

“The Iron Brigade in Civil War and Memory,” by Lance J. Herdegen, 2012

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.  It is public domain.

Private James P “Mickey” Sullivan, CO K, 6th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment, 1862

What makes a man who has lost several toes and half a foot in combat re-enlist?

The price of thread, for one thing.

Mickey found himself and his comrades under a heavy fire in the rocky terrain at South Mountain on September 14th, 1862. “When the crash came, either a bullet slit in pieces against the stone or a fragment of the boulder hit me on the sore jaw, causing exquisite pain, and I was undetermined whether to run away or swear.” A few moments later, “there was another crashing volley,” causing, ” a stinging, burning sensation in my right foot followed by the most excruciating pain.”

Mickey would lose much of the foot, being mustered out and sent home to Mauston, Wisconsin. He couldn’t sit still for long. Boredom… boredom….

“There was no company, only discharged invalids that had killed half the rebel army, and men growling about the draft, the army, the scarcity of money. The women were growling because they had to pay fifty cents a yard for calico and twenty-five cents for a spool of thread.”

By the end of February, Mickey was back with Company K at Belle Plain, Virginia, having re-enlisted and traveled by railroad and boat to rejoin the company. This was the 2nd of three times he’d sign up with the 6th.

After being shot in the shoulder in the charge on the railroad cut at Gettysburg, Mickey would convalesce long enough to meet his future wife, fall in love, and then sign up again. He’d return to Wisconsin after mustering out in 1865 with his new wife, Angeline, and an infant son.

Sources:

“The Men Stood Like Iron, by Lance Herdegen, 1997

“An Irishman in the Iron Brigade; The Civil War Memoirs of James P Sullivan, Sergt., Company K, 6th Wisconsin Volunteers,” by William J. K. Beaudot and Lance J Herdegen, 1993

“The Iron Brigade in Civil War and Memory,” by Lance Herdegen, 2012

Captain John M. Lindley, 19th Indiana Regiment

Captain John M. Lindley, 19th Indiana Regiment.

Captain Lindley, born April 12, 1831, was a fine example of the top-notch officers put forth by the Iron Brigade. Described by Colonel Samuel Williams as “cool and courageous” in battle, Lindley would competently lead his men on every field on which he was present until mustering out as a Lt. Colonel in October of 1864. He was wounded in the leg at the Battle of Brawner’s Farm and, having been promoted to Major, was wounded again while leading his men in an organized retreat through the town of Gettysburg on July 1, 1863, when a ball struck his hand and saber, eventually leading to the amputation of a finger. Another ball grazed his cheek, leaving no permanent damage. Lindley would receive a pension after the war.

Lt. Colonel Lindley would die at the young age of 42 on February 12, 1874. He is buried in the Friends Meeting House Cemetery in Chester County, Pennsylvania.

SOURCES:

“On Many a Bloody Field,” by Alan D. Gaff, 1996

http://www.19thindianaironbrigade.com

http://www.archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com

Photo courtesy of The Indiana State Library