The battle of Elkins Ford will be reenacted at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Appanoose County Fairgrounds as part of the weekend-long Centerville Civil Wars Day. Centerville’s Gen. Francis Marion Drake, who was also a state governor and for whom the Des Moines University is named after, took part in the Arkansas battle as a lieutenant colonel.

Many other Appanoose County residents also fought in the war between the states. This is a condensed story about one of them.


Part 1

My great-great-grandfather, David Barrett, was born April 27, 1845 in Belmont, Ohio. David was the second oldest of 10 children in the James Stephen Barrett family.

Sometime between 1845 and 1860 the Barrett family migrated to the recently formed state of Iowa, where farm land could be purchased from the federal government for $1.25 per acre. The Barretts settled on a farm located in Appanoose County in the small community of Cincinnati which is located five miles north of the Missouri state border and about equal distance between Illinois and Nebraska.

On April 12, 1861, the Confederates attacked Fort Sumter and the Civil War began. All over the Northern States, armies were being organized. Many of the units of the U.S. Army consisted of militia groups formed in rural areas. One such group was the Southern Border Brigade of Iowa Volunteer Cavalry that was formed in Appanoose County, Iowa. On Oct. 7, 1862, James S. Barrett, David's father enlisted in Company B of the Southern Border Brigade. On Feb. 3, 1863, David Barrett at age 17 also enlisted in Company B of the Southern Border Brigade.

At the time it was a common practice for a soldier to be able to pay a bounty for someone to take his place in the military, so it is possible, although not proven that David took his father's place in the Border Brigade. David's discharge and muster-out records do show that he received a $25 bounty payment but the records do not indicate what the bounty was for. In light of the fact that David's brother John, who was two years older, was already in the military and that their father still had a farm to maintain and a wife and eight children to provide for, it is likely that James S. Barrett was not with the Brigade on the 6th of April 1863, when it was placed under the jurisdiction of the U.S. War Department.

At Camp Roberts, Davenport, on Sept. 30, 1863, 12 companies of Iowa Volunteer Cavalry, including the Southern Border Brigade were mustered into the United States Army and became known as the Eighth Regiment of Iowa Cavalry. An additional 10 companies were added to bring the Eighth to full strength at more than two thousand troops.

While at Camp Roberts, the Eighth underwent training until Oct. 17, when they were loaded on trains and transported to Louisville, Kentucky, arriving there on Oct. 22. After a few more days of training, the unit made a 12-day march to Nashville, Tennessee, arriving there on Nov. 16, 1863. Military records obtained from the National Archives show that from October 31st until Nov. 12, 1863, David was confined to the hospital with some sort of fever, so apparently his unit had proceeded to Nashville without him and after his release from the hospital he then rejoined the Eighth in Nashville.

On Dec. 1, 1863, the regiment under the command of a Colonel Dorr was assigned the task of protecting the railroads west of Nashville from Rebel guerrilla bands. With headquarters at Waverly, Tenn., the Eighth protected the Nashville and Northwestern Railroad until March 13, 1864, at which time Colonel Dorr was ordered to return the regiment to Nashville. Arriving at Nashville on March 17, the regiment was reequipped and supplied with new mounts where needed.

On the 1st of April with 1,050 enlisted men in the saddle and a full complement of officers, the Eighth commenced its march to Chattanooga and then on to Cleveland, Tennessee where on April 13 it joined the First Brigade, First Division of Cavalry, commanded by Brigadier General E.M.McCook.

As a part of the First Brigade, the Eighth remained in camp at Cleveland until May 3, at which time the entire Division departed for the front lines and the real war. The First Division of Cavalry was only a small part of the huge army that had been assembled at Cleveland, Tennessee under the leadership of General William Tecumseh Sherman. This was the staging area for the largest campaign of the Civil War, known as Sherman's March to the Sea.


To be continued, with accounts of Barretts’ gruesome ordeal at the infamous Andersonville prison.

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