When the Civil War began everyone hoped it would end quickly with little blood shed. Volunteers enlisted for 90 days. But when it became clear it was going to be alonger harder fight, President Lincoln called for volunteers to fully commit themselves to three full years to finish the job. Among some of the first young men from Story County, Iowa to pledge themselves to this much longer much more serious commitment was JOSEPH J ALLDREDGE who enlisted from Nevada, Iowa into Company G of the 14th Iowa Infantry.
Joseph was the nineteen year old son of John Calvin ( J C )and Nancy Alldredge who farmed near Nevada. He enlisted in October 1861 and went with a group of other men from Story County to the State military camp in Davenport. They drilled, learned military routines, and were issued their uniforms and weapons through November. In December these Iowa "boys" were then sent to the US Army barracks in St. Louis to be fully integrated into the national war effort.
For many of these young men from very small rural communities, St. Louis was the largest city they had ever seen. Soldiers from all over the Midwest were concentrated there. It was close to the front and served as the starting point for the western campaigns of the War.
But the heavy concentration of men also exposed many of them for the first time to contagious diseases like measles and mumps, very serious, frequently fatal, diseases in those days. They spread through the drafty winter barracks with astonishing speed. Men first brought down by measles often developed even more dangerous secondary conditions like extremely high favers and pneumonia which they commonly called "lung fever". Soldiers were dying literally by the dozens.
Company G of the 14th Iowa lost three men in three weeks and many more were very very ill. It left a lasting impression on them and they wrote in their diaries and in letters home to their families about the companions who had died. The second to die in their Company was Joseph Alldredge. He died of "lung fever" on December 29 1861, only two months after he had enlisted, without seeing combat and before his family knew there was any danger. It was a shock to his fellow soldiers and to the Alldredge family.
Here is his brief entry in the Company roster:
Alldredge, Joseph J. Age 19. Residence Nevada, Story County, nativity Indiana. Enlisted October 9, 1861. Mustered November 2, 1861. Died of lung fever December 29, 1861, Benton Barracks, Missouri. Buried in National Cemetery, Jefferson Barracks, St. Louis Missouri, Section 51, Grave 135.
Joseph's companions in the 14th Iowa went on to distinguish themselves in combat in important battles like Fort Donelson and Shiloh, where they were part of the famous Hornets' Nest.
The men who fell in those places, including Joseph's own friends from Story County, like Thomas Snelling who was killed at Donelson, and Samuel Jenks who gave his life at Shiloh, are remembered on monuments to their bravery, but Joseph had just as bravely volunteered to put his life on those front lines with them. His death was just as tragic but is not remembered on the monuments.
To anyone who wants to know more about Joseph's death, The Traer Iowa museum has recently published a book of letters and a diary from some of Alldredge's fellow soldiers and his name is recalled by them writing from the barracks after his burial.
Alldredge family members or anyone who seeks well written first hand accounts of the Civil War from the ordinary front-line soldier might be interested in this book which the museum published as a memorial to these forgotten soldiers who sacrificed so much in the hour of our country's greatest need.
The book is called "Soldier Life - Many Must Fall" and can be seen at the museum website www.traermuseum.com.
Anyone who wishes to know more about Alldredge's large family, to give him an identity as a family member, not just a name on a roster, here is the obituary of his father, a very well known man in early Story County Iowa pioneer days.
John Calvin Alldredge (1814-1901) Obituary :
THE MAXWELL TRIBUNE, Maxwell, Iowa, Thursday, March 14, 1901, page 8, column 4. "Death of J. C. Alldredge. - The following announcement of the death of Mr. J. C. Alldredge will be of interest to many of the early settlers who knew "Uncle Cal" when he was one of the prominent citizens of Story county. He has many relatives in this neighborhood and in the Mullen settlement. "Uncle Cal," as Brother J. C. Alldredge was usually and lovingly called, had a long and eventful life. He was born in Knox county, Tennessee, May 8, 1814, and was therefore at the time of his departure nearing the eighty-seventy mile stone in the journey of life. He had witnessed the issues and conflicts of one century and had entered into another -a rare privilege.
His estimable wife, who is now bereft of her life-long, faithful, tender and affectionate companion, was born in the same county, April 4, 1821. May God tenderly sustain her as she nears the end of life's pilgrimage. They were married in Carroll county, Indiana, December 10, 1839. Of this union ten children were born - nine boys and one girl. One boy, Joseph J., died in the Civil War, being in the 14th Iowa volunteers. Some of those living are professional men, but the most of them are industrious and prosperous farmers; all of them reverence their father's and mother's God and Saviour and as they have loved one another upon earth, they will doubtless be an unbroken family in heaven - happy family, blessed destiny.
Those of the children present at the funeral service were:
Christian K., Siloam Springs, Arkansas; John G., Whitesville, Missouri; Amariah M., Mohaska, Kansas; Clement W., Terre Haute, Indiana; Park M., King City. Those absent were: William E., Esborn Kansas and Mrs. Mary C. Bates, White Horse, Oklahoma. How soon and widely our families become scattered. May we all answer "When the roll is called up yonder."
Father Alldredge moved to Iowa in the autumn of 1853, where he spent twenty-three years; he moved from Story county, Iowa, to DeKalb county, Missouri, in 1876. For the last four years he has been a quiet, honored and beloved citizen of King City. He had but few, if any enemies, but many friends who mourn his death, yet rejoice in his good life and happy destiny. When Father Alldredge cast his first vote for president, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, Henry Clay and John Quincy Adams were the great statesmen of our country. The Mexican war had not been fought by almost a decade, and railroads, telegraphing and sowing machines were a wonder; he saw this western country a wilderness, but subdued, cultivated and beautified by American civilization. Like the prophet, he saw the desert bloom and blossom as the rose; truly a great land-mark has passed away.
When the erroneous and destructive doctrines of French infidelity had almost flooded our western territories and the church feebly and mistakenly opposed these dangerous doctrines by those of fatality, the Cumberland Presbyterians and Methodists unfurled the banner of Christ, originated camp-meetings and preached a full and free salvation; hundreds of thousands were converted and this country saved from infidelity; in these stirring, religious times, Brother Alldredge was converted and for sixty-seven years lived for God, and honored the church. He loved the sacred Word of God and studied its teachings; he love the songs of Zion and the services of the church; he humbly walked with God, and is not, for God hath taken him. His death was very sudden but peaceful, he did not linger in pain and suffering, his hour had come, like a faithful soldier he laid down his armor and entered on the rest and reward of a well spent life.
He intended to go to church last Sunday, but while the church bells were ringing for Sunday school, his spirit passed away; he had joined the choir immortal and invisible; he was done with the church militant; he had gained the church triumphant, he had departed to be with Christ, which is far better. "Thanks to God who giveth us the victory!" The funeral service was conducted by the pastor at the Cumberland Presbyterian church, Tuesday at 11 o'clock a. m. The remains were laid to rest in the King City cemetery. Many friends of the deceased and family were present to pay their last respects. - King City (Gentry County Missouri) Democrat."