36th Iowa Volunteer Infantry Regiment

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36th Regiment Iowa Volunteer Infantry
Flag of Iowa.svg
Iowa state flag
Active 4 October 1862 to 24 August 1865
Country United States
Allegiance Union
Branch Infantry
Engagements Battle of Marks' Mills

The Thirty-sixth Regiment Iowa Volunteer Infantry' was an infantry regiment that served in the Union Army during the American Civil War.


Early days of the regiment[edit]

The Thirty-sixth Iowa Infantry Regiment, US Volunteers, was one of several Midwestern volunteer regiments raised in Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin in the late winter, spring and summer of 1862. Companies A and K consisted of men from Monroe County, while Companies B, C, D, E, F G, H and I were made up of men from Appanoose and Wapello Counties. A handful of additional men were mustered for the regiment from Wayne, Marion, Lucas, Davis, Lee and Van Buren Counties. The first recruits were mustered into state service as early as February 1862. The ranks were filled out with additional recruits following Lincoln's July 1862 call for 300,000 state volunteers and, by early September, the regiment was officially designated the Thirty-sixth Iowa Infantry Regiment. Colonel Charles W. Kittredge of Ottumwa Iowa was placed in command. Colonel Kittredge had previously served as a captain with the 7th Iowa Infantry Regiment in Missouri during the first year of the war and was an experienced combat veteran.

All companies rendezvoused at Camp Lincoln, Keokuk, Iowa where, on 4 October 1862, they were sworn into United States service for a term of three years. The men were first issued old Austrian and Belgian smoothbore muskets with "sword" bayonets, but these antiques were eventually replaced with more effective Enfield rifled muskets. Following four weeks of basic training at Camp Lincoln, the regiment departed Keokuk on 1 November 1862 aboard two steamboats for St. Louis to await corps and division assignment and to continue training.

St. Louis, Memphis and Helena[edit]

At St. Louis, the regiment went into garrison at Benton Barracks. The Thirty-sixth was attached to the XIII Corps, Army of the Tennessee, and commenced drill by brigade and division. On 20 December 1862 they embarked by steamer for the federal garrison at Helena, Arkansas. The vessel halted at Memphis, Tennessee when the local citizens hailed it from shore with an alarming report that Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest and his cavalry were in the neighborhood and were preparing an attack on the city. That night the men of the 36th slept with their arms stacked nearby in Jackson Square. The regiment eventually moved to some old vacated mule-sheds and remained in Memphis performing guard duty at Fort Pickering until 1 January 1863, when it resumed its movement to Helena.

At Helena, the regiment became part of the 1st Brigade, 13th Division, XIII Corps under General Benjamin Prentiss. The regiment was initially quartered in tents but later moved into winter quarters at Fort Curtis in semi-permanent “half-cabins” consisting of log walls with canvas ceilings and dirt floors. These billets had formerly been occupied by the 47th Indiana Infantry Regiment. According to Captain Seth Swiggett of Company B, the ex-Postmaster at Blakesburg, Iowa, the Iowans devised an efficient central heating system in these cabins by burying a length of stovepipe beneath the dirt floor and running it the length of the cabin from a small tin stove on one end to an exhaust pipe on the opposite end. With 5 to 8 men occupying each cabin, the regiment passed the month of January 1863 in as comfortable a manner as could be expected under the circumstances.

The Yazoo Pass Expedition and the First Military Action at Shellmound, Mississippi[edit]

In February 1863, the Thirty-sixth Iowa, 600 strong and part of 13th Division of the XIII Corps commanded by General Leonard Ross, embarked on troop transports for Mississippi to take part in the Yazoo Pass, or Fort Pemberton Expedition. This operation was conceived by General Grant and entailed blowing an opening through the east bank of the Mississippi River near Moon Lake below Helena to open a channel connecting with an inland water route that would enable Grant to encircle the Confederate stronghold at Vicksburg, Mississippi from the north. Veterans of the regiment recalled that during reconnaissance patrols the men had to wade through swamps waist deep. The regiment saw its first action at Shellmound, Mississippi where, after witnessing a fierce artillery duel between federal gunboats and rebel batteries, Captain Swiggett noted that the 36th Iowa had a "sharp exchange" with the rebels The regiment was holding a picket line some 2 miles above the enemy fort and was under frequent artillery fire for several days. No men were killed by enemy action due to the cover afforded by woods on the west bank of the Tallahatchie River. The regiment was engaged on this march for 43 days. They found no unguarded route to Vicksburg and the expedition was abandoned. The men suffered greatly because of almost continuous exposure to the elements on this campaign, including freezing rain and high winds that blew their tents down. In addition to colds, flu fevers and rheumatism, many men were struck down by typhoid and malaria.

The Battle of Helena[edit]

Returning to Helena, the Thirty-sixth commenced a physically demanding daily regimen of drill and building fortifications in anticipation of a Confederate attack expected with the arrival of spring weather. The Thirty-sixth was assigned to build breast works and trenches in support of Battery A at Fort Curtis, on the northernmost end of the Union defenses. The federal line ran in a semicircle around the town with the Mississippi River being their east flank.

On 4 July 1863, a Confederate force under General Holmes estimated at between 8,000 and 10,000 attacked Helena. With devastating artillery fire and additional fire support from the U.S. Navy gunboat Tyler anchored in the river offshore, the Union positions repulsed the assault in a savage, bloody all-day slugfest under a burning hot sun. The Confederates nearly captured some of the federal redoubts where the fighting devolved into gory hand-to-hand combat. Confederate losses were estimated at 2,000–3,000. The next day the 36th Iowa and its sister units celebrated Independence Day a day late by collecting and burying rebel corpses.

Vicksburg also surrendered to Grant on 4 July. These two victories ended further serious Confederate threats to federal operations along the Mississippi River and essentially cut off regular lines of communication and supply between rebel forces on opposite sides of the Mississippi for the remainder of the war. With New Orleans, Vicksburg, Helena, Memphis and St. Louis all in federal hands, the Mississippi became the unfettered transportation and supply nexus of the U.S. Navy and U.S. Army. Meanwhile, the Army of the Potomac under General George Meade celebrated a grand if bloody victory at Gettysburg Pennsylvania on the Fourth of July—a battle that marked the high tide of the Confederacy in the eastern theater.

Duvall's Bluff, Pine Bluff and the capture of Little Rock[edit]

Following the battle at Helena, the Thirty-sixth was attached to the VII Corps, Department of Arkansas under command of Major General Frederick Steele and was sent into garrison duty at the federal supply base at DuVall's Bluff, Arkansas, on the White River. In July and August, the regiment was sent on a guard assignment to Pine Bluff, Arkansas. In early September 1863, Steele's corps, including the Thirty-sixth, launched its attack up the Arkansas River, converging on Little Rock and, after a running battle with Confederate troops, captured that city on 10 September 1863. The 36th Iowa Infantry Regiment went into bivouac on the grounds of the old Arkansas state arsenal and there endured a bitterly cold winter. Meanwhile, Arkansas state officials had moved their capital to the county courthouse at Washington, Arkansas nearer to the Texas-Louisiana border.

The Dodd Affair[edit]

On January 8, 1964, the regiment formed with other regiments of the VII Corps on the parade ground of the old arsenal at Little Rock to witness the execution of 17-year-old David Dodd, a Confederate spy. Dodd had attended nearby St. John College—a private secondary academy—but had relocated with his parents to Texas when the Union Army captured Little Rock. Dodd obtained a legitimate US Army pass and returned to the city, ostensibly to visit friends. As Dodd departed after dark he lost his bearings and inadvertently re-entered the federal lines and was arrested by Union pickets on duty along a road on the southeast side of Little Rock. No longer in possession of a valid pass permitting re-entry, Dodd was arrested by a non-commissioned officer as a routine matter. Taken before an officer, Dodd was interrogated and searched. A notebook containing codes and hand-made maps depicting the disposition of federal forces and the location of Union artillery batteries in Little Rock were discovered sewn into Dodd's coat. Wiith this incriminating evidence in hand, Dodd was taken before a general officer, further interrogated and charged as a spy. A full investigation revealed that Dodd was almost certainly assisted by a local female accomplice who was also brought before military authorities and interrogated. Dodd was sentenced to death, but Steele did not bring charges against the female and instead had her removed from the Department of Arkansas and deported to an eastern state.

Dodd's case naturally drew the attention of thousands of Arkansans who sought clemency. Steele would not commute the death sentence but he delayed the execution until after the Christmas and New Years holidays. The morning of Dodd's execution he was placed on an army wagon that had been driven beneath a tree. Bound hand and foot, Dodd was made to step out onto the wagon's open tailgate which was propped up by a stout wooden post. The noose was placed around his neck and the post was knocked out from beneath the tail-gate causing the teenager to fall straight down. Apparently this fall did not break Dodd's neck and the teenager struggled for several minutes as he slowly strangled. After nearly 10 minutes a Union surgeon examined him and pronounced him dead. Some of the federal soldiers who witnessed the execution described it as a "sickening" and "ghastly" affair.

The Camden Expedition of the Red River Campaign[edit]

In March 1864, General Steele received orders to move the VII Corps through southern Arkansas and proceed to attack Shreveport, Louisiana to link up with Union forces under command of General Nathaniel Banks. Banks had already commenced a campaign up the Red River of Louisiana aimed at capturing Alexandria, converging upon Shreveport and, after linking up with Steele, the combined Union force would push into Texas. It was hoped that Steele's southward thrust from Little Rock would catch Confederate Commander E. Kirby Smith in a pincer movement, force Smith to fight a two-front action and thus divert precious Confederate resources from the main line of battle on the Red River.

Departing Little Rock on 23 March, Steele's Corps of about 20,000 troops, including the Thirty-sixth Iowa Infantry Regiment, immediately encountered rebel resistance in the form of skirmishers along the line of March. The first major engagement took place as Steele’s column was crossing the Little Missouri River. The Confederates had burned the only bridge across the river—swollen by spring rains—but federal scouts had located the a passable crossing at Elkin’s Ford. The rebels lay in ambush at the ford and viciously attacked as the federals made their crossing. A sharp infantry and artillery exchange ensued in which the 1st Battalion of the Thirty-sixth Iowa played a key role. Under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Francis Drake, the federals fought off a rebel force more than twice their number and secured the south bank after an all-day fight. The rebels abandoned their effort and withdrew, allowing Steele to cross the remainder of the VII Corps the following day.

Steele's column was at this time reinforced by Thayer's Frontier Division which had marched from Northwest Arkansas to join his command. The combined column continued onward, harassed at every opportunity by rebel skirmishers and snipers as it proceeded slowly on dusty roads through thick forests to the southwest. These attacks slowed Steele's progress and the Corps managed to move only 82 miles in 10 days. Facing the unexpected resistance, and growing dangerously short on supplies, Steele placed all troops on half-rations.

The Confederates finally attacked in force as the federals emerged into open country on the Prairie D'Ane near present-day Prescott, Arkansas. The rebels had built fortifications in depth on the prairie, including laying their artillery in strong positions. Much of the fighting at Prairie D'Ane was an artillery duel. But aA before, the Confederates harassed and then retreated, disappearing in the forests ringing Prairie D'Ane.

It was at Prairie D'Ane that Steele received intelligence of the defeat of Banks' army on the Red River below Shreveport. Realizing that his situation was suddenly made extremely precarious by this development, Steele altered his plans. While he commanded 20,000 battle-hardened veterans, they were now down to short rations—1/2 ration of hard tack, and 1/4 rations of salt-pork and coffee. The defeat of Banks on the Red River would enable Kirby Smith to immediately move his command quickly into southern Arkansas—bringing additional infantry regiments with him from Louisiana and raising some newly recruited units along the way—thus possibly destroying the VII Corps and liberating Little Rock from Union control. Smith had some of the Confederacy's most creative general officers in the Arkansas Theater, including the talented Sterling Price, John Marmaduke, Samuel Maxey, cavalry commander James Fagan and his bold and aggressive division commanders—Joe Shelby and William Cabell. Steele decided to halt his march southward and instead turn eastward toward Camden, where it was hoped that food and grain might be located to refresh his troops before marching back to Little Rock via the crossing at Jenkins' Ferry on the Saline River.

Massacre at Poison Springs[edit]

Steele moved into Camden on 15 April with almost no resistance and discovered that the rebels had destroyed all the steam gristmills near the city except Britton's Mill some 6 miles south of town. The Thirty-sixth Iowa was ordered to seize the mill and they spent the next few days getting it back in operation and grinding what supply of corn could found by Union foraging parties into meal for the army.

Steele meanwhile had sent scouts foraging for other sources of grain and food, and word soon reached his headquarters that a large cache of corn had been discovered northwest of Camden on the upper Washington Road near Poison Springs. On 17 April, Steele ordered the 1st Kansas Colored Infantry, elements of three Kansas cavalry regiments, a section of light artillery and 198 wagons there to collect the grain. The next day as the loaded federal wagons were getting underway for the return to Camden, the escort was ambushed, encircled, cut off and virtually wiped out. The federals suffered more than 300 casualties, including 204 wounded. True to the threats of Jefferson Davis and the Confederate Government, Negro troops received no quarter in this battle. Most of the enlisted men of the 1st Kansas Colored Infantry were shot down after they had already surrendered. General E. Kirby Smith, who had arrived in Arkansas on 19 April, witnessed the collection of prisoners and later admitted in his after-action report that, "not more than 2 were Negroes." Such was the savagery found in the western theater of operations during the Civil War.

The disaster at Poison Springs had resulted in the loss of nearly 200 supply wagons and the mules to pull them, exacerbating further resupply and foraging efforts. The men of the Thirty-sixth Iowa clearly heard the sounds of the Poison Springs battle to their northwest and they were ordered back to Camden with all haste in fear that the rebel cavalry would sweep around to the southwest of Camden to launch a similar attack at Britton's Mill.

Disaster at Mark's Mills[edit]

A 240-wagon supply train arrived at Camden from the federal base at Pine Bluff on 20 April, but it only carried half-rations for ten days. With supplies short, Steele ordered Lt. Colonel Francis Drake, Thirty-sixth Iowa, to take temporary command of the 2nd Brigade to escort these wagons back to Pine Bluff. At Pine Bluff, Drake was to refill the wagons and escort the train back to Camden. Colonel Charles Kittredge, who would have commanded the 2nd Brigade on this expedition, reported sick and sent Drake in his place.

The train would be heavily escorted by the Thirty-sixth Iowa, Major Augustus .H. Hamilton in temporary command, the First Indiana Cavalry and elements of the Fifth Missouri Cavalry, Forty-third Indiana Infantry, Seventy-seventh Ohio Infantry, and a four-gun light battery of the Second Missouri Light Artillery. The Fjrst Iowa Cavalry Regiment, which had served its 3 years and was on its way home on furlough and for re-enlistment, was scheduled to follow and catch up with Drake's train. The brigade also included a section of 75 civilian Negro pioneer laborers whose job it was to move ahead of the train, felling trees and laying them down to build corduroy roads over the muddy, difficult route. The train with escort left Camden on Friday, 22 April and Drake soon found that an additional entourage of some 50–75 civilian wagons carrying teamsters, sutlers, cotton speculators, about 300 Negro refugees and other assorted camp followers had joined the expedition. Due to very muddy road conditions, progress was slow and according to Company B's Captain Seth Swiggett, the column was harassed by rebel skirmishers and snipers throughout Saturday and Sunday. By mid-afternoon Sunday, Drake's column had reached the western approach to the Moro River—essentially a large creek that habitually went out of its banks in a wide swath during spring rains. Swiggett recounted in his memoirs that, while no surface water could be discerned in the Moro Bottom, the ground was so saturated by the recent rains that anyone or anything attempting to cross it would become hopelessly buried deep in mud and muck.

Steele had cautioned Drake not to attempt to cross the Moro Bottom after dark, and additionally, the civilian teamsters were starting to get out of hand, complaining to Drake about the rigors of the pace, according to Swiggett. Rather than proceed, therefore, Drake halted the column on the west bank of the Moro Bottom. In his official after-action report, Drake stated that he stopped the column that Sunday "evening". The timing is very much in dispute, for Captain Swiggett later noted in his memoirs that the column halted long before nightfall and in fact had gone into camp on the west bank at 2 pm Sunday. Captain Swiggett opined that, had Drake exhibited more backbone by insisting on moving across Moro Bottom Sunday afternoon, the entire train could have crossed safely before nightfall, would have been well on its way to Pine Bluff, and would have avoided the tragedy to come. Although Drake could perhaps claim later that he was technically following Steele's orders by going into bivouac when he did, Swiggett noted that there was a strong sense of gloom and foreboding in the federal camp as they lay there immobile on Sunday afternoon. As it was, Drake posted cavalry squads of 25 troopers each 2 miles to his front and 5 miles to his rear on Sunday, with orders for them to scout all roads for 5 miles in all directions at daybreak on Monday.

Sunday night passed without incident and, having received no reports of the enemy from his scouts on Monday morning, Drake ordered the march resumed. The 43rd Indiana Infantry Regiment was deployed to lead the way, while the Thirty-sixth Iowa marched on the flank of the wagons. Drake ordered the Seventy-seventh Ohio to form the rear-guard and that regiment lagged almost 3 miles to the rear. As the column crossed the Moro Bottom with difficulty and headed to higher ground, federal scouts informed Colonel Norris in command of the Forty-third ndiana that they had discovered signs of large, hastily abandoned cavalry encampments to their immediate front. Norris sent that report back to Drake, who dismissed it rather curtly and sent forward orders for the 43rd to pick up the pace. A short distance further, in a clearing at a fork in the road occupied by a few log cabins, the Forty-third Indiana was fired on by dismounted rebel cavalry from General Fagan's command. Fagan had evaded Union scouts the previous night by crossing the Ouachita River below Camden and making a forced march (52 miles) to get into position ahead of Drake’s train between the Moro and Pine Bluff. That morning they were lying in ambush near the crossroad clearing, known locally as Mark's Mills, just east of present-day Fordyce in Cleveland County.

Forming line of battle, the 43rd Indiana's Norris ordered his command to charge Fagan's dismounted cavalry. As the charge commenced, Confederate General William Cabell's mounted cavalry revealed itself from concealed positions in the trees on the south, or right flank. What began as a skirmish at around 8:30 am quickly developed into a very hot firefight with the federals firing in two directions to beat off the assault. The well-aimed fire from the veteran federal infantry was devastatingly effective and temporarily slowed Fagan’s advance. Drake ordered the train to pull off the road into an empty field and then ordered Major Hamilton to deploy the first battalion of the 36th Iowa Infantry up and onto the firing line on the 43rd Indiana’s left flank. Just as Companies A, B and C came on line, the Confederates charged the center and took another devastating musket volley from the federals. Drake then ordered up Peetz's 2nd Missouri Battery at the double-quick. As Peetz’s gun crews swung their cannon into position, the federal infantry was ordered to move to both flanks to open a hole in the center. This was done with alacrity and Peetz's gun crews opened fire on the rebels with grapeshot at less than 200 yards. This stunned the Confederates, resulting in a momentary lull in the battle, but musket fire quickly resumed. As the Iowa and Indiana infantrymen were concentrating on the rebels to their front and right flank. General Joe Shelby's cavalry brigade swooped down on them from the left flank. Three companies of the Thirty-sixth Iowa, the entire Forty-third Indiana and Captain Peetz’s battery of the Second Missouri Light Artillerywere now pressed on three sides and were in danger of being encircled. Drake ordered the remainder of the 36th Iowa Infantry, still positioned near the wagons, to charge into Cabell's troopers on the right to push them back, prevent encirclement and attempt a link-up with the Seventy-seventh Ohio, which was now moving forward to join the battle. Before this charge could be accomplished however, the rebels closed the trap. As the federal troops were surrounded, it quickly became a confused entanglement of small units fighting small units and then it became, according to Captain Seth Swiggett, "Every man for himself."

The federals fought bravely but were now surrounded and receiving fire from all sides. The fight was hotly contested and veterans reported that it lasted fully five hours. Some men of the Thirty-sixth Iowa’s first battalion took cover in the log cabins and kept up a withering and deadly fire, holding out from those protected positions until long after the others had surrendered, and until they exhausted their ammunition. When the insurgents threatened to burn the cabins down, the Iowans surrendered. In his after-action report, Cabell stated that 17 prisoners were taken from the larger of the two cabins. According to Captain Swiggett, when capture became certain, most of the Iowa men smashed their rifles against trees rather than hand them over to their captors.

As the men of the Thirty-sixth and Forty-third Indiana were being rounded up and dis-armed, a last-ditch effort to break into the Confederate ring by some brave federal cavalrymen created enough confusion and a diversion for some of the Iowa soldiers to bolt. Several disappeared into the nearby woods and a few headed to the rear to warn the Seventy-seventh Ohio of the overwhelming size of the enemy force to the front. Reaching the 77th a mile to the rear, the 36th Iowa men were accused of being deserters and their report was not believed. The Commanding Officer of the Seventy-seventh Ohio ordered his regiment forward at the double quick into the melee and soon that regiment was also overwhelmed by the three rebel cavalry divisions and surrendered.

Some of the men who escaped evaded re-capture by moving across country, carefully avoiding rebel patrols. Half starved, exhausted and unarmed, some reached the safety of Union lines at Pine Bluff, while others managed to reach Little Rock. There they reported the news of what had befallen their comrades at Mark's Mills. Colonel Powell Clayton, the federal commander at Pine Bluff, reported to General Sherman a few days after the battle that 186 Union cavalry and about 90 federal infantrymen had managed to escape and report in at Pine Bluff and at Little Rock. The 36th Iowa Infantry had ceased to exist by 3 pm on 25 April 1864.

The Battle of Jenkins' Ferry[edit]

Learning of the disaster at Mark's Mills, Steele immediately put the VII Corps in motion from Camden on the morning of 26 April with the object of crossing the Saline River at Jenkins’ Ferry and retiring to Little Rock. The corps made a forced march northeastward to the Saline, where high water necessitated the installation of a rubber pontoon bridge. Steele then moved his army across the swollen river, one wagon at a time, one gun limber at a time, and had three-quarters of his trains and artillery on the opposite bank when his rear-guard regiments were strongly attacked by the pursuing Confederates. In a savage battle that ranged through plowed fields on the south bank of the Saline, Steele's troops poured volley after volley into the pursuing insurgents, first stalling their attack, and then turning it and buying time for the lead elements of the column to cross the pontoon bridge. Union infantry then made their crossing and took up guard from the opposite bank. Steele ordered the pontoon bridge to remain in place two more hours to enable wounded men and stragglers to be rescued. Then the bridge was destroyed in place, and allowed to sink into the river. While Steele's Corps got bogged down on muddy roads north of the Saline, it managed to make a safe withdrawal to Little Rock.

While the majority of 36th Iowa Infantry troops were captured at the Battle of Mark's Mills, some men of the 2nd Brigade—including Thirty-sixthh Iowa men who had been left behind sick in quarters at Camden—were not present with the regiment at Mark's Mills. When Steele abandoned Camden therefore, these 36th Iowa remnants were assigned to a Casual Detachment under the command of Captain Marmaduke Darnall of the Forty-third Indiana, and these men fought bravely with the Casual Detachment in the Battle of Jenkins' Ferry.

Prisoners of war at Camp Ford[edit]

Fully three-fourths of the Thirt-sixth Iowa Infantry Regiment was captured or killed at the Battle of Mark's Mills. In the aftermath, those too seriously wounded to be moved were left under guard at the home of the Marks Family on whose property the battle had taken place, and in the care of the regiment's medical aides. Lieutenant Colonel Drake, who had been seriously wounded by a bullet to the hip, was held only a week before being paroled and released. Drake returned to Iowa for treatment and convalescence. Meanwhile, the regiment's battle dead were interred on the Marks Family property. The wounded and regimental medical aides were left under the supervision of Lieutenant Benjamin Pearson of Company B. The Confederate soldiers assigned to remain at Marks Mills to guard the wounded federal soldiers had no medical supplies and, after a few days, they asked Lt. Pearson to travel into the Union lines at Pine Bluff and bring back food and medicine for the wounded. Pearson succeeded in this task, but he did not return to Marks Mills, instead sending the supplies back to Marks' Mills by a courier and then re-joining the federals and eventually making his way back to Little Rock. Pearson had not been wounded in the battle, and his selection as officer to remain behind with these seriously wounded soldiers may have been due to the fact that Pearson had served as a second chaplain with the regiment since its days at Helena.

The Confederate victors of Marks Mills robbed the survivors of every valuable item they possessed, including hats, boots, watches, money and in some cases, the clothes on their backs. Overall, they were very roughly handled by their captors, according to Captain Swiggett. They were force-marched to the rebel prison at Camp Ford in Tyler, Texas, where dozens of them perished from disease over the next 12 months. Conditions at Camp Ford were primitive. Although a good spring provided cool clean water, and while the Confederate guards slaughtered cattle to supply the prisoners fresh beef regularly, the prisoners had no shelter from the sun or rain except improvised huts or blankets, and as the numbers of prisoners rose, the sanitary conditions declined precipitously, leading to many deaths from exposure, chronic diarrhea and disease. A number of the 36th Iowa's officers escaped. Captain Swiggett twice escaped but was recaptured on both occasions and was rewarded for his bad behavior by being one of the last prisoners exchanged.

Those who survived the horrors of Camp Ford were repatriated in April 1865, and the first of these paroled prisoners reached a detachment of Company A that was then garrisoning the town of St. Charles, Arkansas and subsequently were transported to DuVall's Bluff to rejoin the main garrison of the Thirty-sixth Iowa. There, along with the handful of men who had escaped capture the year before, the Thirty-sixth Iowa Infantry Regiment was re-constituted. The regiment, now numbering about 250 men, saw no further combat action and completed its service guarding the depot at DuVall’s Bluff and at St. Charles. Various of the regiment's companies were occasionally sent on detached duty to serve as guards on supply trains.

The regiment was mustered out of federal service at DuVall's Bluff 24 August 1865. The veterans returned north to Davenport, Iowa, where they received their final Army pay before dispersing to their respective home counties.


The Union Army never controlled the territory of Southern Arkansas, but it occupied the capital and effectively took the state out of the war for all practical purposes and contained the threat to Missouri from Shelby and other Confederate raiders in the final two years of the war.

Lieutenant Colonel Francis Drake, whose bad judgment and weakness in command led to the disaster at Mark's Mills, was wounded by a musket ball to the hip and captured there. As senior Union officer in command, the rebels exchanged Drake a few weeks after his capture. He returned to Iowa to a hero's welcome and he subsequently used that as political capital to win election as Governor of Iowa. Contemporaries from his service days, including officers and men alike from the regiment and from other regiments engaged at Mark's Mills were far less complimentary toward their former acting brigade commander. Men of the Forty-third Indiana Infantry Regiment, in particular, held Francis Drake in contempt for his actions at Mark's Mills, accusing him of leading them straight into ambush by his dithering indecisiveness in failing to cross the Moro Bottom on the afternoon of 24 April.

The official VII Army Corps report for the battle of Mark's Mills listed the Thirty-sixth Iowa Infantry Regiment's casualties as 18 men killed or wounded and 371 captured. According to Company K’s Sergeant Josiah Young's history of the regiment, however, 49 men were either killed outright or subsequently died of wounds suffered at Mark's Mills.

Confederate General William Cabell perhaps paid the greatest compliment to the men of the 36th Iowa Infantry Regiment when he noted in his official after-action report that, The killed and wounded of Cabell's Brigade show how stubborn the enemy was and how reluctantly they gave up the train. [My] men never fought better. They whipped the best infantry regiments that the enemy had...old Veterans as they were called."

The regimental colors of the Thirt-sixth Iowa Infantry are on display in the rotunda of the Iowa State Capital in Des Moines.

Officers of the Thirty-sixth Iowa Infantry at Mark's Mills, 25 April 1864[edit]

  • Lieutenant Colonel Francis M. Drake, Acting Commander, 2nd Brigade *
  • Major Augustus.H. Hamilton, Commanding the Thirty-sixth Iowa *
  • Major Colin M. Strong, Surgeon *
  • Lieutenant Steven K. Mahon, Adjutant *
  • Michael Huston Hare, Chaplain *
  • Captain John M. Porter - Company A *
  • Captain Samuel A. Swiggett - Company B *
  • Captain Allen H. Miller - Company C *
  • Captain Thomas B. Hale - Company D *
  • First Sergeant Henry Slagle - Company E *
  • Captain William F. Vermillion - Company F
  • Captain Thomas M. Fee - Company G *
  • Lieutenant James W. Thompson - Company H *
  • Captain Joseph B. Gedney - Company I *
  • Captain John Lambert - Company K *
  • Denotes staff and line officers captured At Mark's Mills 25 April 1864

Summary of service[edit]

Organized at Keokuk and mustered in 4 October 1862. Ordered to Memphis, Tennessee, December 1862; thence to Helena, Arkansas. Attached to 1st Brigade, 13th Division, 13th Army Corps, Dept. of Tennessee, to February 1863. 2nd Brigade, 13th Division, 13th Army Corps, to July 1863, 2nd Brigade, 13th Division, 16th Army Corps, to August 1863. 1st Brigade, 13th Division, 16th Army Corps, to August 1863. 1st Brigade, 3rd Division, Arkansas Expedition, to December 1863. 1st Brigade, 3rd Division, 7th Army Corps, Dept. of Arkansas, to March 1864. 2nd Brigade, 3rd Division, 7th Army Corps, to May 1864. 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, 7th Army Corps, to February 1865. 1st Brigade, 1st Division, 7th Army Corps, to March 1865. 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, 7th Army Corps, to August 1865.

Duty at Helena, Arkansas, until 24 February 1863. Yazoo Pass Expedition by Moon Lake, Yazoo Pass and Coldwater and Tallahatchie Rivers, and operations against Fort Pemberton and Greenwood 24 February – 5 April. Fort Pemberton 4 April. Post duty at Helena until 10 August. Repulse of Holmes' attack on Helena 4 July. (A detachment on expedition to Napoleonville 23–26 May, and engaged near Island No. 65, 25 May.) Steele's Expedition to Little Rock 10 August – 10 September. Bayou Fourche and capture of Little Rock 10 September. Duty at Little Rock until 26 October. Pursuit of Marmaduke's forces 26 October – 1 November. Duty at Pine Bluff and Little Rock until 23 March 1864. Steele's Expedition to Camden 23 March – 3 May. Elkin's Ford, Little Missouri River, 4–6 April. Prairie D'Ann 10–13 April. Jenkins Ferry and Camden 15 April. Occupation of Camden 15–23 April. Battle of Marks Mill 25 April; most of Regiment captured. Confined at Camp Ford, Tyler, Texas, until March 1865. Rejoined Regiment at St. Charles on White River, Arkansas, April 1865. Action at Jenkins Ferry, Saline River, 30 April 1864. Duty at Little Rock until March 1865; at St. Charles until May, and at Duvall's Bluff until August 1865. Mustered out 24 August 1865.

Regiment lost during service 1 officer and 64 enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and 6 officers and 232 enlisted men by disease. Total 303.

Total strength and casualties[edit]

A total of 1335 men served in the 36th Iowa at one time or another during its existence.[1] It suffered 1 officer and 64 enlisted men killed in action or who died of wounds and 6 officers and 232 enlisted men died of disease, for a total of 303 fatalities.[2]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Roster and Record of Iowa Troops In the Rebellion, Vol. 1 Iowa Genweb Iowa in the Civil War Project after Logan, Guy E.
  2. ^ A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion, The Civil War Archive website after Dyer, Frederick Henry. 3 vols. New York: Thomas Yoseloff, 1959.


  1. Bearss, Edward., Steele's Retreat from Camden and the Battle of Jenkin's Ferry.

(Little Rock: Pioneer Press, 1961).

  1. Christ, Mark, ed. Rugged and Sublime. The Civil War in Arkansas. (Fayettville: The University of Arkansas Press, 1994).
  2. ____________. "The Civil War In Arkansas, 1863" (University of Oklahoma Press, 2010)
  3. Pearson, Benjamin. "War Diary," Vols. 1-6. (Iowa State Historical Society, 1926)
  4. Forsyth, J. Michael. "The Camden Expedition of 1864" (McFarland and Company Inc. 2003)
  5. Scott, Newton. "Letters Home From An Iowa Soldier"
  6. Swiggett, Seth. The Bright Side of Prison Life (Baltimore: Fleet, McGinley Co., 1897).
  7. The Official Record of the War of the Rebellion (OR), Series I, Vol. XXXIV, Part 1, Official Reports, pp. 665–713. (Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1891).
  8. "Biographical sketch of Michael Hittle," in A History of Monona County, Iowa. (Chicago: National Publishing Company, 1890).
  9. Young, Josiah T., "History of the Thirty-Sixth Iowa Infantry,", in A History of Monroe County, Iowa. (Chicago: Western Historical Company, 1896).