Originally published November 13, 2013 at midnight, updated November 13, 2013 at midnight
As I was working on stories last week about Veterans Day, I had occasion to research the background of a Civil War veteran who’s buried in the old Riverview Cemetery near Omak.
That got me to thinking about the only family connection to the war of which I’m aware.
I’ve always been interested in the Civil War, and knew my great-grandfather was a veteran of that war. My grandmother kept a photo on her piano of her father and his brother in their Civil War uniforms.
As a child, I heard that Grandpa Jordan had served, but there were no details. Not much was written down — or so I thought.
When I was a teenager, my grandmother gave me a wonderful book about the 12th Regiment of Iowa Volunteers’ battles and campaigns. It’s undated, but was written by Maj. David W. Reed sometime after the war. I’m guessing each regiment member received a copy at a reunion event.
I vaguely remember looking through the book at the time, but I carefully put it away so as not to damage it. The book has stayed tucked away for more than 40 years, but last week I got it out and started looking through it.
I also spent several hours searching online for information about the regiment and some of the battles in which it fought.
There, in the book, I found the names of my grandfather, William H. Jordan, and his brother Isadore as part of Company C. I also found their names in a few places online, including civilwarnotebook.
blogspot.com and the National Park Service website.
So far, this is the story I’ve pieced together:
The brothers enlisted together on Sept. 19, 1861. William was 20; his brother was 18. Both were privates, although William was promoted to corporal before the war ended.
The 12th Regiment, as part of the Union Army, saw action in 18 battles, most notably the battles of Shiloh and Vicksburg, and a dozen skirmishes.
Gen. U.S. Grant, in his memoirs, wrote that Shiloh, in Tennessee, was “the severest battle fought in the west during the war, and but few in the east equaled it for hard, determined fighting.”
Although the North is credited with a victory in the April 6-7 battle, some 2,200 of its soldiers were captured by the Confederates. William and Isadore were among them.
“The prisoners were marched five miles to the rear, and halted in a cornfield, here they dressed the wounds of their comrades as best they could, performing some very difficult surgical operations with jackknives, and then lay down, supperless, to rest among the corn rows, with the rain pouring upon them from above and soaking them from beneath,” the book said.
But the worst part, the narrative continued, “was the knowledge that they were prisoners, and the belief, encouraged by their captors, that the whole army was utterly routed.”
Of 479 soldiers in the 12th Regiment, 419 were listed as missing after Shiloh and another 33 were listed as wounded and missing. Of those captured, nine died in prison of their wounds and another 65 died in prison of disease.
William and Isadore were among the lucky ones who were released later that year and apparently reunited with the regiment.
The war also took the regiment into Mississippi, Arkansas and Alabama. Isadore was wounded Dec. 15, 1864, at the Battle of Nashville.
The regiment mustered out Jan. 20, 1866.
Years later, William took his family by wagon across the plains, lived in a sod house in Nebraska for a time and eventually homesteaded near Cheney, where my grandmother and her twin sister were born in 1891.
The family moved to the Wenatchee Valley in 1904 and settled in Cashmere.
William died in December 1926 and is buried in Cashmere. Isadore, as close as I can figure from online sources, died Dec. 13, 1931.
I feel I’ve only scratched the surface of their story, and it may be a challenge to discover more since all the relatives who knew them are dead now, too.
The book, which I consider one of the best resources, doesn’t seem to mention to which prison the captured men were taken. It’s not entirely clear that all the prisoners rejoined the regiment, nor that either man was with the group until the war ended. The type of injury Isadore sustained is not mentioned.
I have so many questions. So far, the answers are eluding me.
Dee Camp is a reporter at The Chronicle. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.