William Johns

William Johns

Death 12 Jul 1895 (aged 55)
Burial Aurelia, Cherokee County, Iowa, USA
Plot Bloc 4 lot 31
Memorial ID 93898805 · View Source
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Aurelia – Sentinel
Aurelia, Iowa
Published 28 July 1895
Page #1

The following sketch of Mr. John’s honorable career and conspicuous service in behalf of his country, was prepared by a friend of the deceased;

Wm. Johns, of Pitcher Township, died July 12th, 1895, aged 56 years, 8 months and 4 days. A wife and eight children mourn his loss. Born in Canada, he came to the United States in 1843, and became a naturalized citizen September 13, 1869. He came to Iowa in 1860 and to Cherokee county in 1887. Wm. Johns was one of the veterans of the late war of the rebellion. Enlisted August 15, 1862. He was mustered in at Camp Franklin, Dubuque, in Company H of the 21st Regiment of Iowa. On September 16 he proceeded to Missouri, and at Hartville on the 11th of January 1863 he was one of the 700 who from 11 a.m. until night resisted Marmanduke’s entire command at 3,000 men, took possession of the battle field and thus ended the Missouri campaign.

On April 7th his division was reviewed by Grant near Vicksburg, and on the 30th on transports which had run the blockade, was landed thirty miles south of the city. Three days rations were issued, and the march to Port Gibson began. Guided by a Negro, “Bob”, the regiment marched all night and about 3 o’clock formed ---- of battle; at 4:30 am the battle opened and lasted until night. In this brilliant engagement Company H won distinguished honor, being the first in the field and the last to leave it.

On May 16th the company took part in the bloodiest battle of the Vicksburg Campaign at Champion Hill. On the 17th the regiment led the advance in pursuit of the enemy who were posted on both sides of the Black River Bridge. The enemy had constructed two rifle points’ right angels with a bayou in front to serve as a ditch. The regiment was formed to the left in columns of ours; as the columns appeared above the river bank it was met by a storm of shot and shell. “By the left flank charge” and across the silent river overflowed and poured on the plains flood of living, yelling, screaming, madmen leaping from tree to tree, thru mud and water, shaking their gleaming bayonets, the bayou was passed and the rifle pits taken. Among Grants reports of the battle we had: “The charge was gallantly and successfully made in a few minutes the entire garrison were the trophies of this daring movement.” Engaged until the 19th in burying the dead they took position in the Vicksburg-------. In the assault of the 22nd, the regiment marched fearlessly into the jaws of death. About 10 o’clock they formed in columns of divisions behind the 22ed Iowa. Over the hill they were received by a destructive fire, all organization was lost; every third man fell; repulsed from the ------ they planted their battle flags on the earthworks and remained all day in the ditch, for to return through the valley of death behind was impossible.

It was a boiling hot day and the ground was like a bake oven, every motion of the body brought them within range of the enemy and the aim of the hostile sharp shooters was tested by elevating caps on ramrods etc. From that time until the surrender of Vicksburg, Johns did duty in the rifle pits. After participating in the Jackson campaign he, on the 16th of August, arrived at New Orleans and with his regiment proceeded to the --- of Texas. Returning in December, 1864, to Mississippi he took part in the Mobile expedition and was at the siege of the Spanish Fort, and on the 9th of April assisted in the successful assault on Fort Blakely. On the 12th, debarking six miles below Mobile, the news of Lee’s surrender came, and that evening he, with his regiment marched into Mobile. At Spring Hill, six miles west of the city, the appalling news of Lincoln’s assassination was received.

Returning to the Mississippi on June 5th the regiment received news of the surrender of Kirby Smith, and on July 16, 1863, was mustered out at Baton Rouge, La.

I have thus with few words described the life of one of the bravest of Iowa’s adopted sons. In the fever swamps of the south serving his adopted country, he contracted the disease which after years of the most intense suffering carried him away in the afternoon of his life, and although his body is dust, his deeds will live in history. Future times will speak of the pioneers of Iowa and of her brave men who fought to preserve the Union and to free their fellow men from bondage.

From National Archive records, the history of the regiment, and numerous letters and diaries: Of those participating in the January 11, 1863, Battle of Hartville, 262 were from the 21st Iowa (25 volunteers + one officer from each of 10 companies + Lieutenant Colonel Cornelius Dunlap who led them + Colonel Sam Merrill who led the combined force.). Henry was one of the volunteers from his company. He was furloughed from March 9th to March 29th but was with the regiment at Milliken's Bend, Louisiana, on the west side of the Mississippi River where General Grant's army was divided into three corps. The 21st was assigned to a corps led by John McClernand. Grant hoped to cross the river at Grand Gulf but it proved too strong so, at the suggestion of a local slave, the army walked south on dirt roads and through swamps to Disharoon's Plantation and crossed to the Bruinsburg landing on April 30th. There they were designated as the point regiment for the entire army and started inland. On May 1, 1863, William participated with his regiment in the Battle of Port Gibson. Contrary to many reports, the regiment did not participate in the May 16th Battle of Champion Hill where they were held in reserve by General McClernand (although one man accidentally blew off two of his own fingers). They felt ashamed for having to stand idle while others were killed and William Crooke (later promoted to Major) wrote in his 1889 address to the surviving members of the regiment that he felt McClernand had been "spellbound by a show of opposition and the throwing of a few shells from the high ridge in his front, caused three of his own divisions and one of Sherman's to stand motionless while another division of his own corps was being slaughtered by wholesale if not quite within musket range, but hid from them by dense woods. Those who stood there that day will surely never forget the bands of humiliation and shame which bound them to the spot, while listening to the awful crashes of musketry and thunders of cannon close by." After the battle while Confederates were withdrawing, Companies A & B did engage in some skirmishing while others gathered arms and helped the wounded from other regiments. Having not participated on the 16th, they were rotated to the front of the army and on the 17th, with the 23d Iowa, led the assault at the Big Black River. William Johns is reported as having participated in the May 17th assault when he was slightly wounded - in his 1886 pension application he said he "received a wound of right wrist and left leg below the knee" - and the May 22nd assault at Vicksburg. During the Mobile Campaign the regiment did not participate in the assault on either Spanish Fort or Fort Blakely. On the 8th, they had "just got a bite" to eat when they started for Spanish Fort at 10:00 p.m. to support what was rumored to be a planned assault but after three miles, near the Bayou Minette crossing, they heard "a while cheer from the assaulting columns" announcing the success of the assault and, since their services were not needed, they headed back the way they had come and reached Fort Blakely about 3:00 a.m. on the 9th. Having been on duty almost 48 hours and undergone two hard marches, the 21st Iowa was excused and "not under arms at all" when other regiments assaulted the fort which soon surrendered. They were mustered out at Baton Rouge on July 15th by Captain Elbridge Hawk. That evening they turned in their tents and equipment and moved rations to the landing. The next morning they boarded the "Lady Gay" and started north. They were discharged from the military on July 24th at Clinton, Iowa.
Contributor: Carl Ingwalson (47990645) • CIngwalson@CFILaw.Com

Family Members

Gravesite Details Civil War Co. G. 21st Iowa - Husband of Ellen Matilda (Welch) Johns



  • Created by: Teresa Lister
  • Added: 19 Jul 2012
  • Find A Grave Memorial 93898805
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for William Johns (8 Nov 1839–12 Jul 1895), Find A Grave Memorial no. 93898805, citing Pleasant Hill Cemetery, Aurelia, Cherokee County, Iowa, USA ; Maintained by Teresa Lister (contributor 47051437) .