Roberts Family (Click for Family Tree)
Today’s Guest Post is by our cousin Jon Roberts, written 24 August 2015. John has provided all the recent Roberts pictures we have posted from the Lloyd Roberts Family Photo Collection, and we are so happy to have found another cousin and line of the family!
Jon’s line is from John S. Roberts (1805-1875) and Jane (Salyers) Roberts (1806-1880) through their son William Roberts (1827-1891); ‘our’ line is through William’s brother, John S. Roberts (1832-1922).
“Henry Clay Christie is my 3rd great uncle, the brother of my 2nd great grandmother, Sarah (Christie) Roberts, who is the grandmother of my paternal grandfather, Lloyd William Roberts.”
The seeds for formation of the 34th Regiment of the Iowa Infantry Volunteers were sown on June 28, 1862 with a message to President Lincoln from the Governors of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Michigan, Tennessee, Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, Minnesota, Illinois, and Wisconsin, and the President of the Military Board of Kentucky.
The undersigned, Governors of States of the Union, impressed with the belief that the citizens of the States which they respectively represent are of one accord in the hearty desire that the recent successes of the Federal arms may be followed up by measures which must insure the speedy restoration of the Union; and believing that in view of the present state of the important military movements now in progress and the reduced condition of our effective forces in the field, resulting from the usual and unavoidable casualties of the service, that the time has arrived for prompt and vigorous measures to be adopted by the people in support of the great interests committed to your charge, we respectfully request, if it meets with your entire approval, that you at once call upon the several States for such number of men as may be required to fill up all military organizations now in the field, and add to the armies heretofore organized such additional number of men as may in your judgment be necessary to garrison and hold all of the numerous cities and military positions that have been captured by our armies, and to speedily crush the rebellion that still exists in several of the Southern States, thus practically restoring to the civilized world our great and good Government. All believe that the decisive moment is near at hand, and to that end the people of the United States are desirous to aid promptly in furnishing all re-enforcements that you may deem needful to sustain our Government.
On July 1, 1862, President Lincoln responded by issuing an Executive Order to call an additional 300,000 troops into service.
To the Governors of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Michigan, Tennessee, Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, Minnesota, Illinois, and Wisconsin, and the President of the Military Board of Kentucky:
GENTLEMEN: Fully concurring in the wisdom of the views expressed to me in so patriotic a manner by you in the communication of the 28th day of June, I have decided to call into the service an additional force of 300,000 men. I suggest and recommend that the troops should be chiefly of infantry. The quota of your State would be ___________. I trust that they may be enrolled without delay, so as to bring this unnecessary and injurious civil war to a speedy and satisfactory conclusion. An order fixing the quotas of the respective States will be issued by the War Department to-morrow.
The 34th Iowa, primarily composed of men from the counties of Decatur, Lucas, Warren, and Wayne, began gathering at Camp Lauman in Burlington, Iowa in August 1862. Henry Clay Christie volunteered for service on August 12, 1862 and was assigned to Company G, which was mostly composed of men from Lucas County. When mustered into service on October 15, 1862, the 34th was composed of 941 men. Its commander was Colonel George W. Clark. During the two months between August and October 1862 when the troops were gathering at Camp Lauman, no less than 600 men were struck with measles and later, pneumonia was prevalent. As a result, many deaths occurred while numerous other men were unfit for duty during their entire time at Camp Lauman.
On November 22, 1862, the 34th was ordered to Helena, Arkansas where General William Tecumseh Sherman was gathering troops in preparation for the engagement against Vicksburg, Mississippi. They arrived December 5th and were assigned to the Third Brigade of the Fourth Division of the Sixteenth Army Corps, commanded by Brigadier General John M. Thayer. Soon after arrival, smallpox broke out among the Regiment. This, coupled with exposure from living in dog tents and weather conditions of heavy rain, numbing cold, and snow, caused many more deaths or rendered many men unfit for duty due to sickness.
Sometime between the 34th’s arrival at Helena, Arkansas on December 5th and the order to proceed toward Chickasaw Bayou on December 21st, Henry C. Christie was hospitalized. The muster roll for Company G of the 34th Iowa shows that Henry was hospitalized at Helena, Arkansas on December 21st; therefore, he was one of those unfit for duty and unable to participate in the upcoming battle.
The Battle of Chickasaw Bayou was the opening campaign to capture Vicksburg, the last Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River. On December 26th, three Union divisions under General Sherman disembarked at Johnson’s Plantation on the Yazoo River to approach the Vicksburg defenses from the northeast while a fourth landed farther upstream on the 27th. On the 27th, Sherman’s troops pushed their lines forward through the swamps toward Walnut Hills, which were strongly defended. On the 28th, several futile attempts were made to get around these defenses and on December 29th, Sherman ordered a frontal assault which was repulsed with heavy casualties. Sherman then withdrew. To make matters worse, the weather during this period was terrible. One morning, the troops awoke “drenched and almost overwhelmed with a terrific rainstorm, leaving us . . . lying midside deep in pools of cold water.” The Battle was a resounding Union defeat.
Colonel Clark described this defeat and the subsequent movement of the men of the 34th in this way:
The hardships and disasters of Sherman’s repulses at Chickasaw Bluffs can never be comprehended by any except the brave and hardy men who were there and survived them. The humiliation and misery, consequent upon a useless and senseless slaughter, were greatly aggravated by the inclemency of the weather. When these unfortunate operations on the Yazoo were ended, we moved out of this loathsome and poisonous stream . . .
After Chickasaw Bayou, the Arkansas River Expedition was organized and the 34th was ordered upriver to Arkansas Post, also known as Fort Hindman. This expedition was organized by Major General John Alexander McClernand because Confederate ships used the Fort as a base to launch raids on Union shipping, culminating in the capture of the Blue Wing, a supply ship of munitions meant for General Sherman. The 34th Iowa arrived in the vicinity of Arkansas Post on January 9, 1863. As previously noted, smallpox had broken out in the Regiment and that, along with other diseases that had broken out during the trip up the Mississippi River, had greatly reduced the effective force available for battle.
Naval forces commanded by Rear Admiral David D. Porter opened the battle at approximately 5:30 pm on January 10th by ordering three of his ironclads, Baron DeKalb, Louisville, and Cincinnati, to engage Fort Hindman’s guns. The bombardment did not cease until well after dark. The men of the 34th Iowa marched all night through the woods and swamps to reach their positions about 150 yards from the Fort the next morning, January 11th, where the guns of the Fort were unleashed on them. This artillery exchange continued until approximately noon when orders were issued to begin advancing on the Fort. As the infantry, which included the 34th Iowa, was moving toward the Fort, white flags of surrender appeared around 4:30 pm. After the surrender, nearly 4,800 Confederate soldiers were taken prisoner. The 34th Iowa, along with five companies of the 113th Illinois Regiment, were ordered to transport all prisoners, except commissioned officers, to Camp Douglas in Chicago, Illinois. The officers were transported to Johnson’s Island in Sandusky Bay, Ohio. One of the Confederate prisoners captured that day was my 2nd great grandfather, Private James Henry Owens who was with the 15th Regiment, Texas Cavalry. James was the grandfather of my maternal grandfather, James Roston Pollard.
The three weeks following the surrender of Fort Hindman were among the worst the 34th Iowa had endured up to that point. The first leg of the trip on the Mississippi River, from Arkansas Post to Benton Barracks in St. Louis, was a horrible ordeal as about 5,500 men (Union soldiers from the 34th Iowa and the 113th Illinois Regiments and their Confederate prisoners) were crammed onto the Sam Gaty, the John J. Row, and the Nebraska – “three of the poorest steamboats in the fleet” according to Colonel Clark. It took two weeks to get to St. Louis, where they were transferred to trains for the reminder of the trip. During that two week period, “the weather [was] colder than it had ever been known” and the men were crowded together “worse than a humane man would crowd cattle on a voyage to the shambles.” Union and Confederate soldiers lay side by side on the floors, sick with fevers, pneumonia, measles, smallpox, and chronic diarrhea. Excretion pails were overflowing and ran along the floors of the cabins. The stench was horrific. Sick men were left at stops in Memphis, Tennessee, Cairo, Illinois, and Arsenal Island, just south of St. Louis. According to Colonel Clark, “the human suffering during the trip exceeded anything I have ever witnessed in the same length of time.” This from a man who has seen plenty of suffering on many battlefields.
Based on muster rolls for the 34th, it appears Henry was picked up at Helena, Arkansas while the 34th was on the way to Benton Barracks with the POWs and was one of those left at Arsenal Island. One muster roll states he was “left sick at Small Pox Hospital, Arsenal Island, St Louis, MO, Jany 27, 63.” A hospital record notes that Henry was admitted to Small Pox U.S.A. General Hospital, St. Louis, MO on January 24, 1863 with complaints of varioloid and chronic diarrhea. Thus, for the portion of the trip described in the preceding paragraph, it appears both my 3rd great Uncle Henry and 2nd great grandfather James were together, though it cannot be established whether or not they were on the same steamboat.
Muster rolls then indicate Henry was discharged from the hospital on March 26, 1863 and discharged from military service in Saint Louis on March 30, 1863. He died in Jackson Township, Monroe County, Iowa less than a month later on April 25, 1863 and is buried at Evans Cemetery, Monroe County, Iowa, plot EVA019.
An additional note: Any soldier would much prefer to pass to the next world surrounded by his loving family, rather than in a horrible military hospital with strangers. Henry C. Christie was granted this, and his family was most likely very happy to have him for even that short month he survived his enlistment. He was buried where others in the family were later laid to rest. Had Henry been one of the 470 soldiers who died at the smallpox hospital on Arsenal Island, he would have been buried there. The wooden headboards used to mark the graves of those soldiers were washed away by floods over the years as the Mississippi River rose in its annual cycles. The bodies were reinterred later at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri. Sadly they could not be individually identified since their markers had washed away; they were buried as “Unknown Soldiers.”
It must have been a comfort to the Christie family to know that that their soldier, their boy, was instead ‘resting quietly’ in the cemetery near them in Iowa.
Notes, Sources, and References:
- Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, The Abraham Lincoln Association http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idxc=lincoln;rgn=div1;view=text;idno=lincoln5;node=lincoln5%3A657.
- “The American Presidency Project,” University of California – Santa Barbara http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=69811.
- Iowa and the Rebellion: History of the Troops Furnished by the State of Iowa to the Volunteer Armies of the Union, Which Conquered the Great Southern Rebellion of 1861-5, Lurton Dunham Ingersoll, author, 1867. (p624-639, available on GoogleBooks via https://books.google.com/books?id=oVs7AQAAMAAJ&pg=PA624&lpg=PA624&dq=camp+lauman+burlington&source=bl&ots=-N5MU0zmBs&sig=meRh5pcFZa-wJJ-DE12JcUfs2Ik&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiV4MuuyPrKAhUHgj4KHdzZCfIQ6AEIKzAC#v=onepage&q&f=false
- Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1866, Vol V, 32-48, Regiments, E 507.3, I64, Guy E. Logan, author, State Historical Society of Iowa.
- “Chickasaw Bayou,” National Park Service, American Battlefield Protection Program via http://www.nps.gov/abpp/battles/ms003.htm.
- The Thirty-Fourth Iowa Regiment: Brief History, 1892, J. S. Clark, Historian of the Regiment.
- Iowa Colonels and Regiments: Being a History of Iowa Regiments in the War of the Rebellion; and Containing a Description of the Battles in Which They Have Fought, 1865, Captain A. A. Stuart, Seventeenth Iowa Infantry.
- “Chickasaw Bayou” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Chickasaw_Bayou).
- “American Civil War: Major General John McClernand” via http://militaryhistory.about.com/od/UnionLeaders/p/American-Civil-War-Major-General-John-Mcclernand.htm
- “American Civil War: Battle of Arkansas Post” via http://militaryhistory.about.com/od/civilwar/p/arkansaspost.htm
- “The Battle of Arkansas Post: Stepping Stone to Vicksburg,” Civil War Trust via http://www.civilwar.org/education/history/navy-hub/navy-history/the-battle-of-arkansas-post.html
- GAR Index, CAR-C00, Pol-H-1216, Microfilm #1570123, State Historical Society of Iowa.
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