“A Hopeless, Endless Task:” The Work of John Logan Power, Superintendent of Army Records

On this Memorial Day, I thought it entirely proper to write about the one Mississippian who devoted himself to preserving the records of the Magnolia State’s Civil War dead. The man in question was John Logan Power, an Irish immigrant who settled in Mississippi in 1856. When the war came, Power cast his lot with his adopted state, and served it very well throughout the entire war.

In February 1864, the Confederate Congress passed a piece of legislation with the

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Photo of John L. Power and his wife Jane (Clarion-Ledger, January 19, 1947)

ponderous title of “An act to aid any State in communicating with and perfecting the records concerning its troops.” The purpose of this act was to create a new position for one officer in each state dedicated to collecting information on casualties to expedite the completion of “final statements of deceased soldiers,” so that their families could obtain any monies due them from the Confederate government. (Official Records, Serial 129, pages 189-190; available online at: http://ehistory.osu.edu/books/official-records/129/0189.)

Responding to this legislation, in April 1864, Mississippi governor Charles Clark appointed Major John Logan Power, adjutant of the 1st Mississippi Light Artillery, to the position, which would be known as “Superintendent of Army Records.” Power immediately sent in his resignation as adjutant of the 1st Mississippi Light Artillery to take up his new post. (Compiled Service Record of John L. Power, 1st Mississippi Light Artillery, accessed on Fold3.com).

J.L. Power 1
Letter from Governor Charles Clark appointing John L. Power Superintendent of Army Records for the State of Mississippi (Compiled Service Record of John L. Power, 1st Mississippi Light Artillery.)

The job assigned to John L. Power was massive; in a post-war speech for the veterans of Humphrey’s Mississippi Brigade, he explained that it was the “duty of that office to collect and place in a form for permanent preservation and reference, the names of all Mississippians in the Confederate service, with the personal and military status of each; also to procure from the Commander of each Company a certified statement of the amount due each deceased soldier, and to place the same in a shape for settlement…and although I labored faithfully until the general surrender of our armies, yet I found so many obstacles to the successful prosecution of my duties that I was able to accomplish but comparatively little. To enter upon the compilation of these records, after more than three years of active military operations, involving the loss of company books and muster rolls, seemed indeed a hopeless, endless task; and in order to attain anything like accuracy, it was necessary to visit the camps, explain what was wanted, furnish blanks, and assist in filling them out.” (The Clarion-Ledger, May 26, 1880.)

The task set before John L. Power was daunting, but he went to the work with a will. In December 1864 he traveled to Richmond to begin documenting the casualties of those Mississippi units serving in the Army of Northern Virginia. The war ended before he could complete this task, but he was able to compile casualty figures for Humphrey’s Mississippi Brigade:

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Casualty Figures for Humphrey’s Mississippi Brigade             (Clarion-Ledger, May 26, 1880.)

Colonel Power said of his time with Humphrey’s Brigade, “My first visit was to the gallant brigade, so long, and so ably commanded by him who presides over this meeting to-day. Four years of active war had made sad havoc in the ranks of the four regiments composing it. Of more than five thousand names on the muster rolls since the organization of each command, not exceeding four hundred now answered to the bugle-call for dress-parade. Where were the absent? A glance at the tabular statement herewith submitted, shows that nearly two thousand were in their graves – that they had fought their last battle – that no “sound should awake them to glory again.” (Clarion-Ledger, May 26, 1880)

Although the war ended in 1865, Power’s work on behalf of Mississippi’s soldiers

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Advertisement placed in the Clarion-Ledger, March 10, 1867, by J.L. Power, requesting bids for artificial limbs.

continued into the next year. In 1866 the state legislature passed an act instructing the Superintendent of Army Records to determine the number of Mississippi veterans requiring artificial limbs. Upon completion of this task, Power reported to the legislature that thirty-six counties answered his request for information, listing 188 soldiers in need of artificial limbs. The colonel went on to speculate that the total number of veterans needing artificial limbs in Mississippi was in excess of 300. (Natchez Daily Courier, October 23, 1866)

Although he went on to bigger and better things (including being elected Mississippi’s Secretary of State twice,) J.L. Power never gave up on documenting the service of the Magnolia State’s Civil War soldiers. Using the documentation he had put together during his time as Superintendent of Army Records, Power drew up an estimate of Mississippi’s total military losses during the Civil War. The totals were as follows:

WHOLE NUMBER IN SERVICE: 78,000

DIED OF DISEASE: 17,500

KILLED AND DIED AFTERWARDS: 15,000

DISCHARGED, RESIGNED, RETIRED: 19,000

DESERTED OR DROPPED: 6,000

MISSING: 250

TRANSFERRED TO COMMANDS IN OTHER STATES: 1,500

TOTAL LOSS FROM ALL CAUSES: 59,250

BALANCE ACCOUNTED FOR: 18,700

(Casualty figures are from The Clarion-Ledger, May 26, 1880)

Colonel Power also felt it necessary to give his thoughts on the Mississippians who deserted from their commands:

It is proper to remark that a large per cent of those reported as deserters were not such in the most odious sense of that term. Indeed I do not think that more than one thousand of the entire number of volunteers from Mississippi deserted to the Federal lines. Our reserves for the last two years of the war, the despondency, speculation and extortion in the rear, the inability of the government to pay the troops promptly, or to furnish them with anything like adequate supplies of food and clothing, the absolute destitution of many families of soldiers, and towards the last, the seeming hopelessness of the struggle, all conspired to depress the soldier’s heart, and causes thousands to retire from the contest when there was greatest need for their services.” (The Clarion-Ledger, May 26, 1880)

John Logan Power passed away on September 24, 1901, while serving in his second term as Mississippi’s Secretary of State. His efforts on behalf of Mississippi’s veterans were noted in his obituary:

The contributions of Col. Power to Mississippi history have been many and valuable, and

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Picture of John L. Power from his obituary in The Weekly Clarion-Ledger, September 26, 1901

through his efforts much valuable data pertaining to the affairs of the commonwealth would have been lost forever had it not been for his efforts. He has written a large number of articles now on file in the archives of the Mississippi Historical Society, and at the time of death was at work on a large volume history of the commonwealth he loved so well.” (The Weekly Clarion-Ledger, September 26, 1901)

Colonel John L. Power now rests at Greenwood Cemetery in Jackson, Mississippi. It seems very fitting to me that he is buried in a cemetery surrounded by the graves of untold scores of Mississippi’s Civil War veterans.

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“I Love the word Raymond”

I had planned to publish this article on May 12, the anniversary of the battle of Raymond, but it ended up taking longer than I thought. I would also like to thank Laura at the Civilwartalk.com website, who was able to identify the unit that Francis E. Hyde served in.

Raymond is one of my favorite battlefields: I grew up just a few miles from there, attended school there, and have many friends from this beautiful little town. I am happy to share these stories of the battle, and hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them.

The day after the battle of Raymond, Mississippi, Corporal Francis E. Hyde of Company B, 32nd Ohio Infantry, took a trip to the Hinds County courthouse. Why he was there is unknown; but that he was there is certain, as the young soldier left behind a memento of his visit. In one of the big leather-bound ledger books used to record the legal details of Chancery Court cases, Hyde found a page and inscribed the following message:

State of Mississippi, Hinds County, April 12, [sic] 1863

Be it remembered by all the citizens of Hinds County, State of Miss., that the Yankees did on

SCAN0295
Photostat Copy of the message written by Frank E. Hyde (Battle of Raymond Subject File, MDAH)

the 12th day of May A.D. 1863 take possession of Raymond by a force of arms and drive the Rebbels from the village. And be it also remembered that the said Yankees not only intend to keep possession of said village of Raymond, but to seize and hold possession of the city of Jackson together with the ballance of the so called Southern Confederacy.

Given under my hand & seal, this Thirteenth day of May A.D. 1863

A.A.C.

 

 

 

Francis Hyde’s letter was boastful and cocksure, but he had good reason to be; he and his comrades had won a hard fought victory the day before at the battle of Raymond. His regiment, the 32nd Ohio Infantry, had seen plenty of action the day before; as part of Major General John A. Logan’s Division, XVII Army Corps, Army of Tennessee. The casualties of the 32nd Ohio were never reported, but the other three regiments of their brigade had 18 killed, 85 wounded, and 12 missing. (The Vicksburg Campaign by Edwin C. Bearss, Volume 2, page 516)

Raymond Map - Copy
Map of the Battle of Raymond – the 32nd Ohio is at the bottom center. Map courtesy of the Civil War Trust (https://www.civilwar.org/learn/maps/battle-raymond.)

After recording his message for posterity, Francis Hyde returned to his unit, for they were in the middle of a campaign, and there was much hard fighting still to be done before Vicksburg fell.

Before the curtain closed on the war, the 32nd Ohio saw action in more than half a dozen major battles, but Hyde survived them all to muster out with the regiment on July 20, 1865, at Louisville, Kentucky.

With the war won, Hyde returned home to Mechanicsburg, Ohio, and eventually married and had several children. On the 1880 U.S. Census, Francis Hyde is listed with his wife Susan, sons Vern and Fred, and sister-in-law Farley Montgomery. He listed his occupation as laborer. (1880 U.S. Census, Champaign County, Ohio, page 227.)

Sometime after the census was taken, the Hyde family moved to Kansas. They were still living there when Frank Hyde passed away on March 13, 1886. He is buried in the First Congregational Church Cemetery in Fowler, Kansas. (Listing for Frank E. Hyde, Findagrave.com.) I found the page with Frank Hyde’s brief message in a subject file at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History on the Battle of Raymond. I could tell that the photostat had come from a ledger book, but which one? The only clue was a single sentence written on the back of the copy saying that it had been donated to the archive by Craig Castle of Jackson in 1953.

I did a search of Newspapers.com searching for the term “Craig Castle,” and in just a few minutes I had my answer: in the April 19, 1953 edition of the Clarion-Ledger, I found an article written by Castle entitled “Yankee’s Calling Card – Left at Raymond in 1863 is still there.” The article detailed how Castle had found Frank Hyde’s message in one of the ledger books from the Raymond Chancery Court. The only problem was that in the article, Castle never specifies which book he found the note in. I can already see that a trip to the Raymond Courthouse is in my immediate future.

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Craig Castle article from the Clarion-Ledger, April 19, 1953

Frank Hyde’s message alone was quite a find, but it turns out he was not the only soldier to sign the Chancery Court ledger. Down at the very bottom of the same page that Hyde wrote on was the following message, written by someone with a shaky hand and absolutely no idea how to spell “Raymond.”

It took me a few minutes to decipher the poor handwriting, but I eventually translated the following message:

Rheamond, Mississippi, May 14th 1863

Thomas J. Bunch a private of Company g, 3 Tenn. Vols., Captain David Rheas Company, C.H. Walker Colonel Commanding, 3 Tennessee regiment volunteers.

Thomas J. Bunch

Co. G, 3 Tennessee regt. volunteers

I did a search of the Confederate service records on Fold3.com, and soon had the scoop

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Captain James D. Rhea, commander of Company G, 3rd Tennessee Infantry (Confederate Veteran Magazine, Volume 22, page 71)

on Thomas J. Bunch. He enlisted as a private in Company G, 3rd Tennessee Infantry (Clack’s), on November 14, 1862, in Pulaski, Tennessee. His muster roll for June 30 – August 14, 1863 listed Bunch as “Captured and paroled at Raymond, May 12, 1863.

I went back to my online newspaper databases, but didn’t find anything on Private Bunch. I did however find a very interesting account of the Battle of Raymond from another member of the 3rd Tennessee Infantry. Benjamin Franklin Herron was a private in Company K, 3rd Tennessee Infantry, and the following letter from him was published in the Hinds County Gazette on April 19, 1907:

From a Boy Soldier

Graham, Texas, April 9, 1907

Mrs. J. R. Eggleston, Raymond, Miss.

Dear Mrs. Eggleston: I noticed in the “Veteran” that your chapter was making an effort to

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Obituary of Frank Herron (Confederate Veteran Magazine, Volume 31, page 66)

raise funds sufficient to enclose, with an iron fence, the graves of the soldiers who were killed in the battle of Raymond, and to erect a monument to their memory. I was wounded in the battle of Raymond, on the 12th day of May, 1863. Never have I, nor will I ever forget how tenderly we wounded Rebels were nursed and cared for by the noble ladies of Raymond and surrounding country.

I was captured and carried from the battlefield to the home of a Mr. McDonald. At this Southern home I met his daughter, Miss Myra, who nursed and cared for me while I was at her father’s house, and after I was sent to the court house at Raymond, she continued her kindness to me. She is now a Mrs. Dennis and lives at Jackson, Miss. Her daughter, Miss Ida, a beautiful girl, paid me a visit some years ago.

I will mention the names of several ladies that I remember: Miss Laura Brown, Miss Johnie Jenkins and sister, Miss Kate Nelson and a Mrs. Reynolds who lived several miles from Raymond. Would be proud to hear from any of these ladies, for I love them all.

I enclose you postoffice money order for $5.00 to be used in your noble efforts, as herein mentioned.

I was 15 years, 2 months, and 13 days old the day I was wounded. I was a member of Company K, Third Tennessee Infantry, General Gregg’s Brigade. I would appreciate a letter from any of the within mentioned ladies, and if desired, would be pleased to give a write up of my experience while at Raymond.

Yours in true Southern love,

F. Herron

Frank Herron never forgot the care he received from the people of Raymond, and he wrote of them fondly on several occasions. In 1912 Mamie Yeary of McGregor, Texas, published a book of Texas Confederate veteran’s recollections of the war entitled Reminiscences of the Boys in Gray 1861 – 1865. One of the soldiers who had a story in the book was Frank Herron. His reminiscence from this publication can be found online here: http://battleofraymond.org/history/herron1.htm.

 

Heaps of Human Bones: The Dead of Champion Hill

Today is the 145th Anniversary of Champion Hill, and even though I haven’t had the time to write a full article on the battle, I can’t let it pass without saying something. Growing up so close to this battlefield left it’s mark on me, and spurred the love of history that has led to a rewarding career. The following passage is taken from a longer article written by Benjamin F. Boring, who fought at Champion Hill with Company D, 30th Illinois Infantry. I think Boring’s account speaks volumes about the high cost of this battle:

I would like to know whose dead it was, and who buried them in the gullies on the hillside

B.F. Boring
Wartime image of Benjamin F. Boring (findagrave.com)

along the road sloping south from Champion’s Hill. This battle, you know, was fought on the 16th day of May. As I said once before, as soon as the formalities of the surrender at Vicksburg were over, the command to which my regiment belonged was sent back on the Jackson road after Joe Johnston, and pushed him beyond Pearl River again. I think it was about the 5th day of July we passed along the road across the Champion’s Hill battlefield, and at the mouth or lower end of these gullies lay heaps of human bones that had been washed down there from the gullies, where the dead had been thrown and buried instead of in graves on the top of the hill. These bones were entirely destitute of flesh and naked, except the feet still had the shoes on. I remember noticing how oddly the bones looked with shoes on, and how nicely the shoes were still tied.  (The National Tribune, April 5, 1894)

The 30th Illinois had seen plenty of fighting at Champion Hill; part of Leggett’s Brigade, Logan’s Division, XV Army Corps, the regiment had 9 killed and 49 wounded in the battle. (Ed Bearss, The Vicksburg Campaign Volume 2, page 650)

I found the following biography of Benjamin F. Boring on the Vigo County (Indiana) Library website:

Born March 16, 1840 in Marion County, Indiana, Benjamin Franklin Boring was the son of Elizabeth Buchanon and Thomas W. Boring, a travelling preacher. He was educated in Lawrence and Crawford counties in Illinois. At the age of 21, Boring was mustered into the Union Army on August 26, 1861 at Camp Butler, Illinois, for a 3 year term of service with Company D, 30th Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry. During the Civil War, his company was involved in many battles and skirmishes, including the battle of Britton’s Lane, the battle of Belmont (where Benjamin Boring was slightly wounded), the siege of Corinth, the battle of Champion Hills, the siege of Vicksburg and took part in Sherman’s push to Atlanta. Boring was mustered out of the army at the end of his term on August 27, 1864.

30th Illinois Infantry
Battleflag of the 30th Illinois Infantry

After his discharge, Benjamin Boring attended the Terre Haute Commercial College as well as received a teacher’s certificate which allowed him to teach school at the Durham schoolhouse, school district number 1, Honey Creek Township, Vigo County, Indiana (December 1864-March 1865). In May 1865, he received his diploma from the Commercial College and moved to Robinson, Illinois, where he sold goods in a store for Dorothy & Mills. When the store closed after his three month contract of hire expired, Boring moved back to Terre Haute and firmly established his teaching career. He taught again in Honey Creek Township, but eventually became the principal of Greenwood School in Terre Haute. By 1881, Boring worked for the Federal Revenue Department as a U.S. Storekeeper and Gauger. In the 1890s, he became a grocer and opened his own dry goods store (southwest corner of 1st and Boring) near his residence on the south side of Terre Haute.

On November 21, 1867, Benjamin Boring married Sarah Elizabeth Meredith; they had two daughters, Gertrude Meredith Boring (born 1869, who eventually married Charles Ehrmann) and Hortense Bonaparte Boring (born 1874). After the death of his first wife in 1902, Boring married Christina Elisabeth Noble on October 23, 1910. At the age of 79, Benjamin Boring died at his residence (Voorhees and Dilman streets) in Terre Haute on October 2, 1919.

The Vigo County Library has a large collection of letters and a diary kept be Boring in their holdings, and these documents are available online; they can be found here: https://www.vigo.lib.in.us/archives/inventories/wars/civilwar/boring.php. When I have time I plan to read through his correspondence, because to put it simply, the young man could write.

The Romance of a Sword

Not so long ago, my 12 year old daughter, Sarah, posed the question “Why do you keep all this old stuff” as she perused the Civil War artifacts I have displayed in my office at home.  I tried to explain to her that my “old stuff” were tangible reminders of a war that has excited my interest since I was just a child.

Among the many artifacts I have in my office is a sword hanger that I found while metal

sword hanger
Sword Hanger found on the Port Gibson battlefield by the Author.

detecting on the Port Gibson battlefield, June 18, 1995. I immediately thought of this small brass relic after reading the following article, which was published in The Vicksburg Herald on March 13, 1901:

ROMANCE OF A SWORD

A YOUNG LADY OF PORT GIBSON FINDS AN IOWA OFFICER’S SWORD.

On the first day of May, 1863, Lieut. I.B. Dutton of Company H, Twenty-Fourth Iowa Volunteer Infantry, while with his regiment at Port Gibson, or in the battle of Magnolia Church, lost his sword. How it was lost was never definitely known, though quite possibly it was drawn from its scabbard while the bearer was passing through a thicket or cane break.

Be that as it may, thirty-seven years later, the same sword was found by Miss Sadie Millsaps, daughter of Mr. F.P. Millsaps of Port Gibson. The story of the finding of the sword forms almost as romantic a feature of the history of that relic as is the story of its loss.

In a private letter to a gentleman well known in this city, from a relative at Port Gibson, the following interesting passage occurs:

“I obtained it (the sword) from Mr. F.P. Millsaps, father of Miss Sadie Millsaps, the young lady who found it on the Port Gibson battle field near the old Magnolia Church. The Millsaps family resided near that old church, and last spring, while the young lady was out in the woods near her residence gathering wild flowers, she found the sword. The scabbard was not found. About a foot of the blade projected above ground, the hilt end and most of the blade being underground.

“I satisfied myself as to its identity by getting several young men with good eyesight to decipher the name scratched on the shield of the hilt. As you hold up the sword in your hand you will notice the upper side of the hilt is wider on one side of the base of the blade than on the other. You will find the name of the wider side near the base of the blade and that it follows the curvature of the opening, through which the blade passes through the hilt.”

“I requested Mr. Millsaps to ask his daughter to write me a letter giving me the particulars of her finding the sword.

Your brother,

“__________”

RUSTY AND CORRODED BUT A SWORD STILL

The sword in question was sent by express to the addressee of the above mentioned letter,

Rigby
Post-war picture of Captain William T. Rigby, 24th Iowa Infantry (National Park Service)

who has turned it over to Capt. W.T. Rigby, of the park commission. It was seen yesterday at the office of the park commission, and corresponds faithfully with the graphic description contained in the letter from the Port Gibson gentleman. Owing to its long burial the blade had been almost entirely eaten away by rust, while the hilt had become loosened from the blade. The following letter tells the story as to how the sword came to Vicksburg and to Capt. Rigby:

War Department

V’burg National Military Park Com’n

Vicksburg, Miss., Feb. 26, 1901.

Philip M. Harding, Esq., City:

Dear Sir – I am informed that Miss or Mrs. Sadie Millsaps, Port Gibson, has in her possession an officer’s sword found on the battle field of Port Gibson and marked “I.B. Dutton.” Lieut. Dutton belonged to Company H of my regiment (Twenty-Fourth Iowa Infantry Volunteers.) He has been told of the finding of the sword and is anxious to purchase it of Miss. Millsaps. He is, however, to my certain knowledge, a poor man and unable to pay much money to get back his sword. As it is no value for any one else, perhaps Miss Millsaps may be willing to sell it for $10 which is the largest sum that Lieut. Dutton can possibly pay.

If you can assist me in securing, for Lieut. Dutton, the sword at this figure, it will be a much appreciated favor.

With regards I am,

Very cordially yours,

W.T. RIGBY.

Capt. Rigby will send the sword to Col. Milo P. Smith, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, who is a brother-in-law of Lieut. Dutton, who also resides in Iowa. It was from Col. Smith that Capt. Rigby received his first intimation about hearing of the sword by Miss. Millsaps.

It is likely Mr. Dutton will be pleased to receive his old companion back again after so long a separation.

The young lady who found the sword, Sadie Millsaps, was the daughter of Franklin and Martha Millsaps. On the 1900 United States Census for Claiborne County, 19 year-old Sadie was living with her parents and siblings. (1900 United States Census, Claiborne County, Mississippi, ED 154, page 21A.)

The owner of the sword was Isaac B. Dutton, who enlisted as a Lieutenant in Company H,

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Portion of a Letter written on G.A.R. stationary by I.B. Dutton while he was post commander. (Ancestry.com)

24th Iowa Infantry, in August 1862. Dutton only served one year, being discharged early on a surgeon’s certificate of disability. After the war he lived many years in Tonganoxie, Kansas, and was very active in Post #149 of the Grand Army of the Republic, serving at various times as chaplain and post commander of the organization. (Kansas, Grand Army of the Republic Post Reports, 1880 – 1940; accessed May 1, 2017 on Ancestry.com)

I was very curious to find out if Lieutenant Dutton every received his sword, so I went to Newspapers.com, and was very quickly rewarded with the following article from The Times Democrat (New Orleans), March 9, 1901:

Port Gibson, March 8 – Last spring Miss Sadie Millsaps, daughter of F.P. Millsaps, who resided on the old Port Gibson battlefield near Magnolia Church, found in the woods near her residence an officer’s sword, partly projecting above the ground, without the scabbard and with the name I.B. Dutton scratched on the hilt. The discovery was mentioned in the newspapers, and the original owner, Lieut. I.B. Dutton, of Company H, Twenty-Fourth Iowa Volunteer Infantry, heard of it and requested his friend and former fellow officer, Capt. William T. Rigby of the Vicksburg Park Commission, to recover the sword. Capt. Rigby in turn requested the assistance of P.M. Harding of Vicksburg, a former resident of this place. To-day Mr. Harding, acting through his brother, purchased the relic from the finder and will forward it to its original owner, who lost it in the battle of Port Gibson or Magnolia Church, as called by the Federal side, which was fought between Grant and Bowen on May 1, 1863.

I found a second article, written in the San Francisco Chronicle on March 4, 1906; the article has some of the details wrong, in particular changing the place where the sword was found from Port Gibson to Champion Hill. Also, this article makes it sound as if the sword had just been presented to Dutton, some five years after the previous article. I have no idea why it would take so long to get the sword to Dutton. Once nice thing about this article though, is that it included both a picture of Isaac Dutton and a photo of the sword as well:

SWORD LOST AT VICKSBURG IS DUG UP AND RESTORED AFTER FORTY YEARS

Within the past few days a sword has been restored to Captain Isaac B. Dutton which has been buried for more than forty years on the Vicksburg battlefield. And is still a good sword, requiring only a scouring and sharpening to be as good as ever. It was no ordinary weapon at the time it was lost at Champion Hills during Grant’s memorable siege of Vicksburg, and even now, in its coat of rust, the old weapon shows good temper and can be bent almost double.

Captain Dutton was elected to lead Company H of the Twenty-Fourth Iowa Volunteer

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Photo of Lieutenant Isaac B. Dutton from the San Francisco Chronicle, March 4, 1906

Infantry when the Civil War broke out, and he sent to Boston for the best sword that could be purchased. It reached him in good time and was worn by him on many a field. But at the Battle of Champion Hills, before Vicksburg, when Captain Dutton was busily engaged in looking after his company on the brushy field, his belt was broken and the sword dropped to the ground. It was not missed until he went into camp that night. He was compelled to rob a dead Confederate of his sword in order to continue the campaign with proper equipment.

 

A few days ago Captain Dutton, now a resident of Los Angeles, received a letter from the secretary of the Twenty-Fourth Iowa Association asking whether he had lost his sword in any of the battles about Vicksburg. It appears that a curio hunter, while digging on the old battlefield at Vicksburg, had unearthed a sword that bore the name of Captain Dutton. After scraping off the earth and rust the name was plainly discernible on the hilt.

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Lieutenant Dutton’s Sword – San Francisco Chronicle, March 4, 1906

A search of the records disclosed that the Twenty-Fourth Iowa Regiment had fought in that particular spot where the sword was found. Correspondence through the Grand Army of the Republic channels placed the curio hunter in touch with the original owner, with the result that the valuable relic was, a few days ago, received by Captain Dutton. He has presented it to his son, Harry A. Dutton of this city.

About 1885 Dutton moved to Los Angeles, California; I don’t know why he decided so late in life to move, but the old veteran had been to the state before. His obituary noted:

Captain Dutton was born at Waldo, Dover County, Ohio, September 24, 1827. When a boy of

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Lieutenant Dutton’s Grave (Findagrave.com)

22 he drove an ox team across the plains to the Yuba River in this state. This was before gold was discovered at Sutter Creek. He remained in California about a year and returned to the east by way of the isthmus. (Los Angeles Herald, January 10, 1910.)

Isaac B. Dutton died on January 9, 1910, and is buried in Angelus Rosedale Cemetery in Los Angeles. His grave is marked with a military marker that is slowly sinking into the earth.

I don’t know where Lieutenant Dutton’s sword is today, but I hope that it is displayed proudly in the home of one of his descendants. That worn and rusty blade is a tangible reminder of the sacrifices made by Dutton and thousands of other Union soldiers like him during the Civil War.