April 1864, 150 years ago marked the beginning of the fourth year of the Great Conflict, the American Civil War. What had begun ostensibly as a conflict over states’ rights had by this time evolved into a sacred and determined mission to forever end slavery in the South. Everyone was weary of the endless struggle between governments, brothers, fathers and sons. But following President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, the ultimate subjugation of the South and the end to slavery was being pursued with ever stronger military determination by the North.
Appanoose County had already had many men killed, wounded and captured, but 1864 would prove to be deadly indeed to the normally peaceful county population. Company D, 6th Iowa Infantry Regiment had started with 112 Appanoose County men under Centerville schoolmaster Madison Matthew Walden. Ultimately they would lose 30 killed and 47 wounded or disabled. By the spring of 1864, they were preparing to leave Scottsboro, Ala., as part of Union Gen. Tecumseh Sherman’s army advancing over the summer as part of his Atlanta Campaign. This would include battles at Resaca, Ga. and Kennesaw Mountain, Ga., en route to the siege and Battle of Atlanta and march to the sea.
Company F, 17th Iowa Infantry had started with 47 volunteers from Appanoose County under Capt. John F. Walden and Lt. Evan Swearingen. After wintering in Florence, Ala., nearly all remaining men had reenlisted on April 1, 1864. They too then became part of Gen. Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign, advancing with his large army through northern Georgia toward Atlanta.
Company I, 3rd Iowa Cavalry with Appanoose County men had spent much of the war in detached smaller groups involved in various campaigns. After wintering in Little Rock, Ark. they were re-equipped in St. Louis, Mo., and then headed in April to Memphis, Tenn. Capt. Cornelius Stanton’s company would soon be involved in the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads on June 10, 1864, following which he would be promoted to the rank of Major despite the loss of an arm at LaGrange, Ark.