Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Young Union Soldier

On 28 May 1861, in Indianola, Iowa, the twenty-four-year-old Will Newlon from Winterset, Iowa, enlisted into a small group of Volunteers called the “Union Zouaves of Winterset.”[1] On 8 June 1861 at Keokuk, Iowa, he writes:

Today we were sworn into United States service for three years; I felt the present occasion.

Will was mustered into Company G, 3rd Infantry Regiment, Iowa Volunteers, as a private.[2] Two years later, 7 April 1863, as a Third Sergeant, he received a medical discharge at Jackson, Tennessee.
The war veteran then returned to Winterset, Iowa, and married his sweetheart, Lydia Philbrick.[3] The couple farmed in Madison County, Iowa, and surrounding counties, while Will sold real estate and worked in local government.[4] He later served as editor and publisher of the Winterset Sun in the late 1800s.[5]
Will and Lydia raised a large family, of which nine survived. Mary, a middle child, was my grandmother. She married Army 1st Lt. Clarence Roy Green, who was killed in the First World War,[6] and bore a son by him, Willard Newlon, my father.

An Account of Will’s Passing
Will died suddenly at the age of 65 in 1902 riding home after work one day. The following quote from a newspaper article gives a poignant account.

Wm. Newlon Dies of Heart Failure
While Driving to his Barn

...Wednesday evening he had eaten his supper and drove up town after his mail. He went to his office for a few minutes, and then drove home, stopped at the barn...
...Mary Newlon, the fourteen-year old daughter of Wm. Newlon, saw her father drive into the yard...after supper. She always helped her father put the horse away, and called to him that she would be with him in a moment. Getting no answer she ran to the buggy and saw her father leaning backward. She called her mother, and when Mrs. Newlon reached the buggy she saw at once that her husband was dead.[7]

Letter to a Friend
Headquarters, Keokuk
3rd Regiment, Iowa Volunteers
Company G, Captain Ogg[8]
June 31st, 1861
Dear Lydia,
After drilling six hours beneath a scorching sun, yet gently fanned by the welcomed breeze from off the rolling tide of the Mississippi, from whose surface the soldier’s ear is ever & anon saluted with the arousing whistle of the gliding steamer. I, with willingness of heart & surrounded by a host of gabbering ducks, will exert my power to concentrate my thoughts for a few moments to this communication.
I received your kind response of June 16th with the greatest of pleasure. I was glad to hear that you ladies enjoyed yourselves so well since we left. For the Boys, in their communications, say that it is the loneliest place they ever saw.
I anticipate you had a grand time at the festival. At least if you did not, it was not my fault. Ice cream and strawberries are luxuries, indeed. Yet, we have those with many other things daily.
I wish Susan knew the wonderful secret and I doubtless will tell her, if she will remind me of it, on my return from the war.
The steamer Jeanie Dean arrived a few minutes ago & brought intelligence to the effect that there had been a fight both in Missouri & Virginia in which a member of our Boys was killed.
Terrible indeed that the patriot should be killed by the traitor. Oh! How my blood boils to think that I am not there to pour out my vengeance upon the villainous traitor in the way of buckshot & bayonet. Oh! How eager we are to meet the enemy on the field of contest, that we may determine our future destiny. Every setting of the sun beneath the western horizon only increases our anxieties to hasten the conflict, which will tell the tale forever.
I go not upon the field of battle in my own strength, but I go trusting in Him who guided the armies of Israel, knowing that “The righteous shall inherit the land & that the wicked shall be cut off forever.”
A difficulty arose here last night in which a man drew a pistol; fired it at his antagonist, missing him & shooting an innocent man in the head.
We drill 8 hours per day. I think, at this rate, by the time our three years are up, we will understand all about soldiering, don’t you think so?
Remember the address, Keokuk, 3rd Regiment, Company G, Captain Ogg.

[1] History of Madison County Iowa, Dr. M. R. Tidrick et al, editors, Union Historical Company, Des Moines, 1879.
[2] “...and the state [Iowa] sent a larger proportion of its men to fight in the Civil War than any other state except Massachusetts – nearly eighty thousand of them.” Varhola, Michael J. Everyday Life During the Civil War. Cincinnati, Ohio: Writer’s Digest Books, 1999. p.220. 
[3] Lydia Ann was born 25 April 1845 in Wabash County, Ill., to Dr. David and Mrs. Drusilla Knight Philbrick.
[4] Clerk of the District Court, Winterset, Iowa, 1881-85.
[5] The Sun was later bought by Jacob Morgan and changed to the News, from an undated, assumed to be 1902, newspaper article. Dates of Will’s tenure not determined.
[6] Near Badonviller, France, 27 May 1918.
[7] From an old newspaper clipping in transcriber’s library. N.p., n.d. Someone had written in the margin “1902, Died at age of 65 yrs & 5 days” It is presumed then that this news article was dated 25 June 1902, since Will’s birthday is the 20th. 
[8] A.S. Ogg, as a member of the Society of the Army of the Tennessee, Captain Ogg was instrumental in establishing the Shiloh National Military Park, Charles E. Shedd, Jr., “History of Shiloh National Military Park”, United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 1954. Available from