The Civil War

Private Alexander Anderson

The small town of Cottonville provided 52 soldiers to the Civil War. All 52 are represented here in detail at this source.

The Andersons of Cottonville were well represented in the Civil War. Alexander Anderson, his brother James Anderson, Alexander Anderson’s son Lt Robert Anderson and Alexander Anderson’s younger brother’s (John Anderson) son, Archibald Anderson all joined the 31st Iowa Infantry Regiment in 1862. Alexander Anderson’s 4th son, James Anderson (1842 to 1881) had joined the 5th Iowa Infantry Regiment the year before serving in various locations south of Iowa. In all five Anderson’s from Cottonville joined the Union Army by 1862.

Alexander Anderson with his son Robert and brother James joined the 31st Iowa Infantry in the Fall of 1862. Companies F, I and K, of 31st regiment, were from Jackson County, Iowa where Cottonville is located. Company I was composed of residents in and around Cottonville, Iowa whereas Company K was made up of men mostly from nearby Bellevue, Iowa. Apparently Alexander Anderson, as a Cottonville resident, was placed in the Bellevue Company K, mostly likely because his son Robert was the commanding officer of Company I.

Lt Robert Anderson

On July 25, 1862 Alexander Anderson at the age of 57 joined Company K, 31st Iowa Infantry as a Private. Records indicate Alexander Anderson was mustered out of Company K, 31st Infantry in July 18, 1863 because of disability and “old age” then died two months later on September 8, 1863, He died of chronic bronchitis contracted on the way to the Battle of Vicksburg. He is buried in the Cottonville, Iowa cemetery along with his son Robert. The 31st Iowa was part of the Union Army that attacked Vicksburg, MS and participated in the Siege of Vicksburg which lasted until July 4, 1963. Alexander was released from duty two weeks after the fall of Vicksburg. 

The maximum enlistment age for the Union Army in the Civil War was 45, so Alexander Anderson clearly falsified his age in order to fight in the Civil War. Alexander Anderson was a trained soldier having served as a Private in the Royal Regiment of the Scottish Army before immigrating to the United States in 1830. Alexander was 57 years old when he joined the Union Army in 1862. Alexander’s brother James Anderson who was mustered into the 31st Iowa, Company K on October 13, 1862 was 49 years old when he joined the Union Army, like Alexander he joined claiming he was under 45. James survived the Battle of Vicksburg and received a disability discharge from the 31st Iowa on January 4, 1864 at Woodville, AL.  James disability was later recorded as a back injury.

Robert Anderson (second son of Alexander Anderson) was mustered into Company I, 31st Iowa Infantry on October 13, 1862. The Iowa 31st regiment was mustered into the service by Captain Hendershott, at Davenport, Iowa on October 13, 1862 composed of 997 men. Company I and Company K of the 31st Infantry marched together, so based on the records father, son and brother went off to fight the Civil War together. Robert Anderson apparently received a battlefield commission from Private to 1st Lieutenant on December 12, 1862 in Helena, Philips County, Arkansas while enroute down the Mississippi. It is not clear how Robert earned this battlefield commission in the Union Army. Two years before entering the Army, Robert was listed as a laborer in the 1860 census on the farm of Porter Butler Jameson (Robert Anderson’s wife’s uncle) in Cottonville. There is no information why Robert and his wife Lydia were working on his uncle’s farm next door to the farm of his father. Based on the date (12 Dec 1862) of this battlefield commission it would have happened just after the Hovey Expedition into Mississippi and before the Sherman Yazoo Expedition beginning 22 December 1862.

The Iowa 31st was engaged at Chickasaw Bayou, Arkansas Post, Deer Creek raid, Vicksburg, Look out Mountain, Mission Ridge, Ringgold, with Sherman on his “march to the sea,” north through the Carolinas, and mustered out at Louisville on June 27, 1865. The losses killed in action in the Iowa 31st were small, only being twenty-five men, including both officers and men. Disease was more significant, claiming 271 by death, and 163 discharged for disability, many of whom died after discharge. Some of the latter were discharged on account of wounds. Lt Robert Anderson was the only officer lost in battle from the Iowa 31st during the Civil War.

Alexander Anderson’s 4th son, James Anderson, moved with the Iowa 5th Regiment which ultimately made it’s way down to Vicksburg to join Grant’s forces, including the Iowa 31st, for the Siege of Vicksburg. As the Siege of Vicksburg started on May 19, 1863, there were four Andersons from Cottonville in the battle, Alexander Anderson, his brother James Anderson, his second son Robert Anderson and his forth son James Anderson were all present in the area during the Siege of Vicksburg.

The 31st Iowa Infantry moved through the following locations in 1862 and 1863 as part of the XV Corps under the command of Major General William T Sherman:

The Fight Down to Vicksburg

The following is an account of the Iowa 31st from Iowa to the Battle of Vicksburg:

The regiment, commanded by Colonel William Smyth, took transport and moved down the river, on the 1st of November, 1862, and on the 20th arrived at Helena, Ark., and went into camp. On the 27th of the same month, started on an expedition to the Cold Water River in Mississippi, usually called the Hovey expedition. Arrived again at Helena on the 7th of December, 1862. Started down the Mississippi on the Yazoo River expedition December 22nd, arriving at the mouth of the Yazoo on the 25th of December. The forces under General Sherman engaged the enemy at Chickasaw Bayou, on the 27th, 28th, and 29th of December. The regiment was partially engaged on these days. 3 On the 2nd of January, 1863, it was transported down the Yazoo, and up the White River in Arkansas, thence through a bayou Into the Arkansas, and arrived near Arkansas Post on the 9th. On the night of the 10th marched through swamps and mire to the rear of the enemy’s works, and on the 11th was hotly engaged in the capture of the place.

The casualties are not included in this account of Lieutenant Colonel Jenkins but were subsequently reported to the Adjutant General of Iowa, and will be found noted in the subjoined roster, together with all casualties, from whatever cause, sustained by the regiment during its entire term of service.

Vicksburg Battle Field

On the 15th took transport again, and passed from the Arkansas into the Mississippi River, arriving at Young’s Point January 22d, where we went into camp near the Butler ditch, usually termed “canal,” and remained until the 2d of April. We then, with Steele’s whole division, and Steele In command, proceeded up the Mississippi River to Greenville. Miss., where we arrived on the 4th, went into the country, and had a skirmish with the enemy on the 7th, near Deer Creek. We remained here, capturing mules, cattle, horses, hogs, Negroes, etc., until the 26th, when the whole division returned to Young’s Point, La., arriving on the 26th, On the 27th crossed over to Milliken’s Bend, and, on the 1st day of May, with Grant’s whole army, we moved towards Grand Gulf, Miss., arriving at that place May 7th, and with the army moved towards Jackson, Miss.

The regiment was under fire at Raymond on the 12th, was engaged In the taking of Jackson on the 14th, and was more or less under fire at Black River on the 16th, followed up the enemy under fire every day, and, on the 18th, reached the rear of Vicksburg on the 22d. It engaged in a terrible but unsuccessful charge on the enemy’s works, and from this time was steadily under the enemy’s fire till the fall of Vicksburg, on the 4th day of July. The regiment started, under General Sherman, for Jackson, Miss., on the 5th of July, being under fire till the second evacuation of that place, when it moved to Canton, Miss.

Youngs Point, Louisana

The Iowa 31st arrived at Youngs Point, Louisiana in the middle of January 1863. Youngs Point was located on what is now a farmer’s field on the west bank of the Mississippi just upstream of Vicksburg on the Louisiana side of the river. The 31st stayed in camp at Youngs Point unitl April of 1863, making a few expeditions at the end of April 1963 out of camp then moved with Sherman’s forces south along the Louisiana side of the Mississippi to begin the assault on Vicksburg.

Thayer’s Approach

Alexander Anderson became ill with bronchitis while in camp at Youngs Point in March of 1863. He was to stay at Young’s Point remaining too ill to fight until mustered out of the 31st with a disability in July just after the fall of Vicksburg. His son Lt Robert Anderson continued with the 31st Iowa to join the seige at Vicksburg.

Alexander Anderson returned to Cottonville where he died of his lung disease contracted during the war on September 11, 1863.

The Battle of Vicksburg

Participation of the Iowa 31st in the Battle of Vicksburg can be pieced together by looking at several reports of the Order of Battle on May 22, 1863. The 31st Iowa was part of the Union Army at Vicksburg commanded by Major General Ulysses S Grant. The 31st Iowa was in the XV Corp commanded byMajor General William T Sherman, First Division commanded by Major General Frederick Steel, 2nd Brigade commanded by Col Charles R Woods, and finally the 31st Iowa commanded by Col William Smyth.

Thayer’s Approach

On May 22, 1863 the 31st Iowa was assigned to the area near Thayer’s Approach on the northern side of the City of Vicksburg. The assault on Thayer’s Approach was undertaken by Thayer’s Brigade and Wood’s Brigade (including the 31st Iowa) as part of Steele’s Division. The image to the right is Thayer’s Approach. The Union Army was staged at the bottom of this hill with the Confederate Army on top of the hill. On May 22, 1863 a major effort was made by the Union Army to advance up that hill.

Thayer’s Brigade, except for the 4th Iowa Infantry, took position the afternoon and evening of May 19th, under cover of the spur extending north from the Confederate line at this point. Wood’s Brigade (Iowa 31st included), except for the 76th Ohio were moved from the right and passed in the rear of Thayer’s on May 22. About 4:00PM on May 22nd, the advance was ordered by General Steel, and the three regiments of Thayer’s Brigade moved forward in line, followed by Wood’s Brigade in column by regiments, with the 12th Missouri leading.

Thayer’s regiments approached close to the Confederate line, the 12th Missouri of Wood’s Brigade climbed the north face of the spur and advanced in support of the leading brigade. The four right companies reaching a position near the Confederate line. The ground gained was held until after dark, when the division retired under orders. Wood’s and Manter’s Brigades returning to their respective positions on the right.

Another account of the battle recounts that Colonel Woods (Iowa 31st) and Mauer began an approach to the right of Thayer’s and near the river. After the work had been energetically pushed by these officers, it met a deep ravine, precluding farther progress. As this approach would not have been used in an assault, it has not been mentioned in the previous enumeration.

Thayer’s Approach Overhead

Thayer’s approach commenced near the crest of a ridge (see image to the right), ran down the slope which was toward the enemy, and then up the opposite slope of the ravine, toward the ridge on which the salient approached was situated. As it was difficult to defile this approach, blinding was resorted to. Fascines made of cane were used; these, being placed across the trench, which was about 6 feet deep, formed a roof which hid the movements of our men, and, where well constructed, was impenetrable to musket balls. Artillery, of course, would have soon destroyed it, but the enemy did not use this arm against it. This approach was sharply resisted by the enemy, who came Outside of their line, and had to be driven from the ground they occupied before the work could be pushed forward. When near the salient approached, the officer in charge of the approach thought he heard the enemy’s miners at work. Accordingly, work in the sap was stopped, and a mine begun, which was not yet complete when the place surrendered. This approach was under the superintendence of Captain [Herman] Klostermann, who commanded the efficient pioneer company of Steele’s division.

So based on these accounts it appears the Iowa 31st including, Lt Robert Anderson and Pvt James Anderson (Alexander’s brother) were involved in a battle to the right of the hill now called Thayer’s approach. 

Lt Robert Anderson’s Death

Lt Robert Anderson was wounded near Thayer’s approach on May 21, 1863 and died of those wounds on May 22, 1863. Historical reports of the battle suggest there was no organized battle in that area on May 21, 1863. It has been reported that there where volleys of artillery fire on both sides of the line during the day of May 21, 1863 without any organized battles. Dr. Horace W Gates was the Iowa 31st surgeon. Below is his statement submitted in support of Lydia Anderson’s application for a widow pension in 1864. This is the only firm documentation that exists about Lt Robert Anderson’s death at Vicksburg, Mississippi.

“I hereby certify that Robert Anderson, First Lieutenant of Company I, Thirty First Regiment, Iowa Volunteers, Col Willam Smyth commanding, was rendered incapable of performing his officer duties by reason of a mortal wound inflicted by the explosion of a shell while in the line of his duty as an officer and soldier. The said Robert Anderson being on the 21st day of May 1863 engaged in a battle in the Siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi and that the said Robert Anderson by reason of said wounds and the amputation of the wounded parts, died on the following day, to wit May 22, AD 1863.”

From the earliest memory of my grandfather (also named Robert Anderson) in the 1950’s, I recall him telling the story about how Robert Anderson died in the Civil War. The story passed down over time claimed Robert Anderson was actually killed by a shell in his tent while playing poker with other soldiers. Nothing in Dr. Gates affidavit is in conflict with this account and agrees with historical reports that the battlefield at Vicksburg was relatively quiet on May 21, 1863. Another report said Lt Robert Anderson experience a massive wound involving his lower extremities requiring amputation of one leg.

Lieutenant Anderson was not buried at the Vicksburg National Cemetery. The Battle of Vicksburg was over on July 4th, 1863. We know from the military records that Private Alexander Anderson (Robert’s) father was present across the Mississippi River at Young’s Point, La when his son was killed. Alexander was mustered out of the 31st Iowa on July 18, 1863 by reason of old age and lung disease. So it is entirely possible that Alexander Anderson returned up the Mississippi with Robert’s body for burial in the Cottonville Cemetery. 

Alexander Anderson died on September 8, 1863 only two months after returning from Vicksburg, MS with a disability discharge. Alexander died of “bronchitis” contracted on the trip to Vicksburg.

Alexander Anderson’s brother James Anderson was mustered out of Company I, 31st Iowa on January 4, 1864 in Woodville, Alabama. He returned to La Motte, Iowa a few miles north of Cottonville. He continued to live in the La Motte area until some time after 1885. On July 4, 1874 a local newspaper recorded that “James Anderson, of Lamotte, Iowa, was firing a small cannon on the 4th, when it burst, and a piece struck him in the leg, necessitating its amputation”. The last record available shows him to be a “Widowed County Charge” in La Motte in 1885. James Anderson is recorded to be buried in the Cottonville, Iowa Cemetery with date of death unknown. There is no record that his wife and children followed in to American from Scotland. I was not able to find his tomb stone in the Cottonville Cemetery.

Alexander Anderson’s fourth son (Lt Robert Anderson’s brother), James Anderson was mustered out of Company I, 5th Iowa Infantry on July 31, 1864 with a disability having served three years in the Civil War. James Anderson married a year later in Cottonvile and raised seven children in Cottonville and later in Bellevue, Iowa. James wife, Julia, died of pneumonia in 1879 just after giving birth to her seventh child, Frank Anderson. In 1879 James applies for and received a Civil War Pension (cert #158500) for an “inj. to back” amounting to $4 per month. James was listed as a grocier in Bellevue in 1880. James Anderson died in 1881, leaving seven Anderson children orphaned (Carrie, Lottie, Nellie, James, Charles, Julia and Frank). From recent records it appears the children found there way to Milwaukee, WI.

Civil War Letters

Three letters relating to Lt Robert Andersons family have been passed down through the Anderson family. The only written record we have from Lt Robert Anderson was a handwritten, undated note to his son Willis Anderson (my great grandfather). See images to the right.

On May 25, 1863, Lydia Anderson’s (Lt Robert Anderson’s wife) cousin Pvt Freeman Jameson wrote her a letter about her husband’s death three days earlier. Freeman Jameson was a Private in the Iowa 5th. He had joined the Army in 1861 from Cottonville and ultimately joined the Seige of Vicksburg. Freeman Jameson’s letter is headed with the title “Camp before Vicksburg, May 25th 1963”. The two page letter is to the right.

The Andersons Continue West

With the death of Robert Anderson at Vicksburg, his window Lydia Anderson continued living in Cottonville, Iowa until sometime after 1885 based on census records. Robert Anderson’s children Willis Eugene Anderson was born in Cottonville in 1857 and Minnie May Anderson his younger sister was born in Cottonville just six months before Lt Robert Anderson departed to the war.

Census records of 1870 indicate the Willis Eugene Anderson lived with his mother Lydia Anderson and his sister Minnie Mae Anderson. Also present in the home was Wasson Delia (40) listed as a school teacher. Real Estate value on the form was listed as $3,000 which suggests that Lydia was still living on the family farm. Based on an 1867 plat map of Richland Township, Jackson County, Iowa Lydia had 80 acres of land in Section 28 East of Cottonville on the Bellevue-Cascade Road. Willis Eugene my great grandfather would have been 13 years old in 1870.

The census of 1870 indicates Jane Taylor Anderson (Alexander Anderson’s widow) was living in a household headed by her son Peter Anderson. Also present in the house was Jane’s youngest child Phoebe Anderson. Jane Shaw (age 70) is in the household listed as “lives with sister” with a birthplace of Scotland, so Jane Shaw must of been Jane Taylor Anderson’s sister. However it would be odd to have two sisters with the same name. Also present in the household is George Hurd (age 6) listed as adopted. 

In 1880 Lydia Anderson was still in Cottonville living with her daughter Minnie Anderson and now with Jane Taylor Anderson, Alexander Anderson’s window. So by 1880 both civil war windows (my 2nd and 3rd great grandmothers) were living together in Cottonville. Minnie Anderson (Robert’s daughter) married George Hull and based on the census records Lydia Anderson lived with Minnie and George Hull in various locations the rest of her life until her death in 1928 in San Diego, CA.

Willis Eugene Anderson has little documentation available between 1870 living with his mother in Cottonville until 1885 when he married Anna Margaretha Engel in Columbus, Nebraska.

The family letters indicate than Willis Anderson left home in the late 1870’s for Atlantic, Iowa were he learned the harness making trade for a year then got a job in Columbus, Nebraska in 1880. In Columbus he was known to make horse harnesses, saddle and other decorations and trappings for Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Shows. Willis Eugene Anderson was 6 years old when his father died in 1863 but had no contact with his father since 1862. As Willis preceded west from Cottonville as a teenager he had little knowledge of his fater or grandfather to pass on to later family lines. This was evident in later generations who had no knowledge of the Anderson’s in Cottonville.

After marrying Ann Engel, Willis Anderson moved to Leigh, Nebraska where his three children were born, including my grandfather Robert Anderson. Next the family moved to Norfolk, Nebraska where Willis had an iron shop. They moved again to Hooper and then to Kennard, Nebraska. In Kennard, Nebraska Anna was injured in a tornado. The family moved again to Blair, Nebraska then back to Columbus, Nebraska where Willis died in 1905.

Anna Margaretha Engel was the daughter of one the German born settlers of Columbus, Nebraska. Columbus was formed by ten German born families that originally migrated from Germany to the area around Columbus, Ohio then moved on to Columbus, Nebraska to found that city. Thus the name for the city.

Willis and Anna Anderson had four children, Willis Eugene Anderson (born 1889, died 1908), Alexander D Anderson (born 1891), Robert Anderson (born 1893, died 1958) and Edwin George Anderson(born 1896, died 1953). Willis Anderson died in 1908 at the age of 51. Base on my grandfather and fathers knowledge of the family history before 1900, it is clear family activity in Cottonville was never discussed. This historical knowledge of the events at Cottonville likely flowed with Jane and Lydia Anderson who live together until there deaths in San Diego in 1928 and 1931, It is likely most Anderson family documentation stayed with Jand and Lydia Anderson who lived there last years in San Diego.

Robert Anderson (born 1889) is my grandfather. He lived in various cities in Nebraska working for Swift and Company as a salesman. Robert Anderson married Lillian Devlin (born 1897) in 1919. The 1920 US Census shows Robert and Lillian Anderson Living with Lillian’s parents in Columbus, Nebraska.

My father Robert Anderson (born 1920) was the first child of Robert and Lillian Anderson. Two more children James Anderson (born 1923) and Charles Anderson (born 1928)

In 1930 Robert and Lillian Anderson and their three sons moved to Hollywood, California. In 1942 my father Capt Robert Anderson married Constance Anderson. I was born in 1944 at Fort Sill Oklahoma where my father was stationed training for the battle of Japan, the fourth Robert Anderson since Robert Anderson of Cottonville, Iowa. After my birth I grew up in Hollywood, CA then move to the Detroit area of Michigan where I grew up. Little was know about the Anderson family histor as i grew up.

My son Robert Anderson born in 1974 is the fifth Robert Anderson in our family. My grandson Robert James Anderson (2011) is the 5th Robert Anderson descended from the orginal Robert Anderson of Cottonville, Iowa.

Alexander Anderson’s son Peter was one of the most productive of offspring giving life to 12 children all living near Cottonville. Many of Peter’s offspring still live in the Cottonville area.