Rare Regimental History—P.O.W. at Camp Ford & Service in Brownsville
121. [CIVIL WAR]. DUNGAN, J[ames] Irvine. History of the Nineteenth Regiment, Iowa Volunteer Infantry, by J. Irvine Dungan. Davenport, Iowa: Publishing House of Luse & Griggs, 1865. [i-v] vi-viii, [ix], 10-187 [1, blank] pp., folded lithograph map of region of the Battle of Bayou Fordoche: Plan of Sterling Farm and Vicinity. Lith. by A. Hageboeck, Davenport, Iowa. [above neat line at right] Luse & Griggs, Binders, Davenport (neat to neat line: 16.5 x 21.9 cm). 8vo (19.5 x 13 cm), original three-quarter black leather with black leather label on upper cover with title, author, and publisher lettered in blind. Binding shaken, worn, and rubbed (portions of paper covering boards and leather missing, corners worn and rounded, lower board bent), interior foxed and several pages stained (especially pages 51, 118-119), old paper repair on pp. 14-15. Map slightly wrinkled and with a few stains, trimmed short at left margin with slight loss of border. Contemporary ink and pencil notes at front and scattered throughout book, relating to the Adell family, with some additions and corrections to printed text and with elucidating information on some men in the regiment—at times grim (“shot through lung”) or somewhat poignant (“married my girlfriend”). This copy belonged to Howell G. Adell, who is listed in the printed roster at the front. The roster at the front lists another family member, John T. Adell, who died in a hospital at New Orleans on August 22, 1863 (noted in register at rear of book listing “Death, Discharge or Transfer” of each man). Author Dungan is listed in Company C with occupation of “student.” Tipped in is an article with photograph about General T.H. Stanton, who served as Captain of Company C. Very rare copy of a much sought Iowa regimental with excellent content on Texas.
First edition. Alice Marple, Iowa Authors and Their Works, (Des Moines: Historical Department of Iowa, 1918), p. 80. Not in Coulter (Travels in the Confederate States), Howes, Nevins (Civil War Books), Sabin, and other sources. Rare in commerce (we trace only three copies in commerce, none at auction): (Copy 1) 1944: Midland 20:84: “For a time this regiment was stationed at Brownsville, Texas. Contains a fine account of the travels of escaped prisoners, who made their way from a point about 40 miles South of the Sabine River to the Indian Territory”; (Copy 2) 1945: Goodspeed 381:1112; (Copy 3) 1960: Midland 78:24 (referring to the copy they sold in 1944): “We got eleven orders for the book. This is the second copy we have seen.”
In 1862 the Civil War began to involve the Trans-Mississippi states in a serious way. In July President Lincoln called for 300,000 new volunteers. The Nineteenth Regiment Iowa Volunteer Infantry was the first unit formed in Iowa after the President’s call. For the most part, the men were from Washington County and enrolled in Company C, ensuring that some of the recruits were personally acquainted. The regiment was activated in Keokuk in August, 1862. In the regimental roster printed in this book, the author’s stated occupation was student, he joined at age eighteen, and he became the historian of the Nineteenth Regiment in Davenport in 1865. A register at the back of the book tells what happened to each man in the regiment (many entries with additional ink notes).
Within three months of the end of the war, Dungan wrote this rare regimental history, giving it an immediacy and freshness not always found in regimental histories written long after the events described. Dungan’s account is especially valuable for his eye-witness accounts in the South and Texas: guarding Vicksburg after its fall; the Battle of Sterling’s Plantation in Louisiana, gruesome conditions at Camp Ford when Dungan was a prisoner of war in Texas (includes valuable accounts by fellow prisoners); Dungan’s escape from prison and traveling from Texas to Indian Territory and transfer to Arkansas; his involvement in prisoner exchange in New Orleans; his sailing the Gulf with a flotilla of over twenty ships led by Banks’ naval and land invasion launched from New Orleans to Brazos de Santiago on the Texas coast; his experiences during Union occupation of Brownsville; 1864 operations on sea and land in the South (Fort Barrancas and Fort Gaines in Florida, Mobile and other areas in Alabama, New Orleans, Mississippi, etc.).
Dungan captures in horrifying detail man’s inhumanity to man in describing the shocking and brutal conditions (“Rebel cruelty”) at Camp Ford near Tyler, Texas, the largest Confederate prison camp west of the Mississippi River:
Our weary waiting again ended in disappointment, for we were marched back to Tyler, where we found between four and five thousand prisoners, most of them without even huts. Men of every tribe and tongue and nation, from every State of the Union, or out, old and young, and Indians of every tribe were assembled here; ragged many of them, while many were not blessed with a rag,—a blanket thrown over their shoulders protected them from the heat of mid-day and the chill dews of the night. There were men literally swarming with body-lice,—“greybacks”—and sick men lying on their backs in the hot sand under a burning sun, breathing out their life in all this squalor and misery. Instead of the last kind word or prayers, fell on his ear curses and rough jests. Idiocy, and as heart-sickening as any thing, was the passive indifference with which these things came to be regarded. Men standing by laughed at some drivelling wretch praying for something to eat. When one was sick the stomach refused the coarse corn dodger, and in his way came starvation,—not to the strong men who could have endured scanty fare, but to those who were sick and weak,—to those who would lie near the sinks day and night, their clothes stiffening with their own filth, maggots and lice crawling over them till they died.
And at the gate of our pen lay a pile of rough pine coffins, constantly diminishing, constantly replenished while on an opposite slope, each day fresh mounds were made.
The pen for the hounds was in sight of the stockade, and many times we have seen the pack take the scent of some of our number, and rarely fail to bring them back.
One morning near our breakfast hour, we were aroused by a great outcry from a crowd assembled near the centre of the stockade, and repairing to the spot, beheld a sight that rises before my mind’s eye every time I hear the word “pardon” or Jeff Davis. A negro woman is being whipped,—a young, likely woman, standing on the opposite side-hill, in plain sight, with clothes held high up, exposing her body from her shoulders downward, is writhing and shrieking under the cruel strokes of the whip in the hands of a young man near her age. As stroke after stroke falls upon the quivering flesh, we could hear the sharp blow of the whip and see it curl around her back, hips and legs, and each moment seemed to add to the burning anger of the northern men, compelled to look on, as much as to the agony of the helpless victim; and the maledictions of our crowd upon the hill, were hurled at the brute in human form, and were heard too. Besides our five thousand, there were scores of southern chivalry lounging around enjoying both the suffering of the woman and the discomfiture of the Yankees….
Dungan’s sojourn in Brownsville is filled with sparkling observations on both sides of the multi-cultural border, at times reflecting the prejudices of his time:
Brownsville was reached and some large warehouses taken for quarters. Here we were as far away from home as we could get and stay in the United States. Just across the river was the city of Matamoras, in Mexico. We were on the very outskirts of Uncle Sam’s wide-spread domain.
Brownsville contains a population of seven or eight thousand, and many fine buildings both public and private, and five or six churches of different denominations. Many of the people are Mexicans, who though very wealthy are a miserable looking set…. The Spanish ladies justify fully the descriptions given in novels,—all that charming grace is theirs. Most of the ladies wear the Serape—a sort of scarf, over the head and shoulders. Every evening the brass band discoursed sweet music, and the natives of every age, sex, shade of color, condition and dress, assembled to hear it….
The objects of interest in Matamoras were many to an American. The Mexican people are anomalous—they are a human paradox, for they are squalid, untidy, quarrelsome and thievish, yet they love music and perform well on various instruments, and are fond of paintings, exhibiting a degree of artistic skill in many of their productions…. Their dress is varied and fantastic,—they love gaud and glitter…. Gens. Ord and Herron, on visiting Matamoras today…were met with great eclat, receiving a salute of thirty guns and two hundred bottles of champagne.
Dungan’s account of the Battle of Bayou Fordoche or Sterling’s Plantation, near Morganza, Louisiana, on September 29, 1863, differs from others of the time and later. The account is accompanied by a detailed area map of the battle. In this battle, General Thomas Green’s tenacious Texas troops routed the Federals, and Dungan and many of his companions were taken prisoner. Dungan refutes the contention that his regiment was surprised by the Texans:
Gen. Green himself, riding up to Leake asked “Why don’t you stop this firing?”—the men, many of them from fence corners and odd places of concealment, continuing to fire till their guns were wrenched from their hands. It seems to be the impression that we were surprised is to be taken off your guard, when unprepared and unexpected. It means a want of vigilance and fore-sight; it means that duty has been neglected in some particular, and in none of these things were we surprised.
Our pickets first saw the advancing skirmish line of the enemy; our pickets fired the first shots, and the rebels had only replied by a few shots, when the 19th was in line; and our regiment delivered the first volley of the fight.
Then we were not surprised in the attack, but there was that to surprise in the defense, that four hundred and fifty men should hold at bay over five thousand for two hours and ten minutes by the watch, was surprising. To learn afterward that the killed and wounded of the rebels were equal to our whole number engaged, was surprising….
In the introduction the author apologizes for his “rude and disconnected” style and his “uncouth language,” chalking it up to his being “fresh from rough camp life, and in the first excitement of reaching home,” yet his descriptions are excellent, capture colorful detail, add to our knowledge of Civil War history, and often are wise beyond his green years. On March in Missouri, he observes Native Americans:
Here a party of Indians passed us on their way to Gen. Blunt’s Army. Some were on foot—some on horseback and others—wee ones—swinging in baskets from the saddle—both sexes, old and young, in no kind of order, enjoying life too, apparently,—on the principle, I suppose that “ignorance is bliss.”
Dungan (May 29, 1844-December 28, 1931) is listed in several biographical dictionaries, but none of those sources mentions the present book, which was probably written and published primarily for the members of the regiment (the few surviving copies are usually author’s presentation copy or have association interest, such as the present copy). After the adventures and rigors described in this work, Dungan went on to lead an active life of public service. Biographical Directory of the United States Congress:
James Irvine Dungan, a Representative from Ohio; born in Canonsburg, Washington County, Pa., May 29, 1844; attended the common schools; received an academic education at the local academy at Denmark, Iowa, and at the college at Washington, Iowa; studied law; was admitted to the bar in 1868 and commenced practice in Jackson, Jackson County, Ohio; during the Civil War served as color sergeant in the Nineteenth Regiment, Iowa Volunteer Infantry; superintendent of schools of Jackson, Ohio, and city and county school examiner, 1867 and 1868; mayor of Jackson, 1869; member of the State senate, 1877-1879; delegate to the Democratic National Convention, 1880; elected as a Democrat to the Fifty-second Congress (March 4, 1891-March 3, 1893); unsuccessful candidate for reelection to the Fifty-third Congress in 1892; attorney in the Interior Department, 1893-1895; returned to Jackson, Ohio, and resumed the practice of law; city solicitor, 1913; engaged in the practice of his profession until his death in Jackson, Ohio, on December 28, 1931.