The Civil War for Appanoose County remained a time of great struggle and turmoil in the summer of 1863. The federal North or Union states, including Iowa, remained pitted against the South or Confederate states. Missouri remained a border slave state and as such remained embattled over the questions of slavery and states’ rights. Many battles were fought nearby in Missouri for control of the state. Missouri had both Union and Confederate forces in the fight. By the summer of 1863, 150 years ago, the struggle remained slow and uneven despite the Union superiority in men and firepower.
Appanoose County remained keenly patriotic and constantly on edge throughout because of its proximity to the Great Struggle. With a population of 12,000, Appanoose County ultimately contributed around 800 men in a continual process of recruitment of volunteers. Appanoose County men contributed to many volunteer units, including the 6th Iowa Infantry, the 17th Iowa Infantry, the 3rd Iowa Cavalry and the 7th and 8th Iowa Cavalry along with many other infantry and cavalry units.
Over half of all Appanoose county volunteers had joined the 36th Iowa Infantry Regiment in the Fall of 1862. Francis Marion Drake of Unionville had been commissioned Lieutenant-Colonel by the Iowa Governor. Other leaders included attorney Thomas M. Fee, who was elected captain of Company G. Joseph Gedney, a farmer from south of Numa was elected captain of Company I. William F. Vermilion, a physician from Iconium was elected captain of Company F. Dr. Sylvester H. Sawyer of Unionville was commissioned as regimental surgeon. In all, about 400 Appanoose County men helped fill the ranks of the 36th Iowa Volunteer Infantry. The remainders of the ranks were filled out with men from Monroe County and Wapello County under the command of Colonel Charles W. Kittredge of Ottumwa.
In the spring of 1863 the 36th Iowa had taken part in the ill-fated Yazoo Pass or Fort Pemberton Expedition. The unit was 600 strong at the time because of illnesses in camp. They had embarked down the Mississippi River in an effort to open up an alternate route near Moon Lake in Mississippi. The goal was an attempt to encircle the Confederate stronghold at Vicksburg, Miss. from the north. After seeing action at Shell Mound, Miss., they spent 40 days of wading in the Coldwater River before abandoning the expedition. Fort Pemberton proved to be too well fortified and it was deemed too risky to proceed. After suffering greatly from freezing rain and high winds, cold, flu and fever, they finally turned back to camp at Helena, Ark. in April 1863.