Hugh T. Reid, of Keokuk, was the first Colonel of the 15th Iowa Volunteers. On October 14, 1861, he published a notice by hand-bill and otherwise, calling for volunteers and stating that the Regiment was then being raised by authority of general Fremont, and Governor Kirkwood, of Iowa, and that it would rendezvous and Keokuk.
He was a man of energy, determination, strong will and indomitable pluck, and a lawyer of great ability. The Regiment was raised and fought its first battle at Shiloh, under his command, where he was severely wounded on April 6, 1862.
Brave, determined, of strong will, and great physical and moral courage, he was in the midst of action without fear. Thoroughly devoted to the interest of his men, he was tireless in promoting their welfare, and his successful effort in procuring for them the best clothing, arms and rations was remarkable.
Stern and exacting at times, beneath all was an affection for his Regiment which showed itself whenever criticism came from others.
He was among the first to favor the enlistment of colored troops, and when some of his regiment objected, in vigorous words he spoke to them and reminded them in language which went to the mark: “ Remember that every colored soldier who stops a rebel bullet saves a white man’s life.”
Dangerously wounded at Shiloh in the presence of the writer of this, and stunned by the blow, he was apparently dead and was carried from the field, but recovering consciousness he remounted his horse, and with blood streaming from the wound rejoined the line. With great endurance he refused a sick leave and remained with the Regiment. But he never recovered from the effects of this wound, which finally was the cause of his death.
While Colonel he frequently commanded the Brigade of which the Regiment was a part, and was appointed Brigadier-General of Volunteers on March 13, 1863. He resigned his commission on April 4, 1864, and devoted himself to the interests of the Des Moines Valley Railroad Company, which owed its completion mainly to his efforts, the cars of that road being the first to enter Des Moines, the Capitol of Iowa.
But the wound received at Shiloh never ceased to trouble him and he died on August 21, 1874, at Keokuk, Iowa, leaving to his friends and comrades the memory of a gallant soldier and an able, upright man.
General Reid left a widow, formerly Miss Alexine LeRoy, of Vincennes, Iowa and three children – James Henry, who died in Nashville, Tennessee; Alan L., who is a banker in Newton, Kansas, and Hugh T., who is at Harvard University.
The Daily Gate City, of Keokuk, of Aug. 22nd, 1874, contained this obituary notice:
DEATH OF GEN. HUGH T. REIDGen. Hugh T. Reid died at his residence in this city, at 7:15 A.M. Friday, August 21st, 1874, of Brights Disease of the Kidneys, in the 63rd year of his age.
General Reid was born in Union county, Indiana, on the 18th of October, 1811; was of Scotch-Irish descent, his parents being natives of South Carolina. He graduated with high honors at Bloomington, (Indiana) College. Soon after studied law in the office of Judge Perry, and was admitted to practice by Judge Bigger, afterwards Governor. In the spring of 1839 came to Lee county, Iowa, and settled at Fort Madison, and in the spring of 1840 formed a co-partnership with Judge Edward Johnstone, which lasted near ten years, when he removed to Keokuk, retiring from law business, except in cases in which he was personally interested.
He had been a citizen of Lee county over thirty-five years at his death. He was Prosecuting Attorney for the counties of Lee, Des Moines, Henry, Jefferson and Van Buren in 1840-2, then the most populous counties in the State, and was a terror to criminals, rarely failing to convict.
As a land lawyer he stood in the front rank of his profession as one of the ablest lawyers in the West from adjoining States then coming here to practice in our Courts in suits growing out of the disputed title to the Half Breed Tract.
He was engaged as one of the builders of the Des Moines Valley Railroad to Fort Dodge, 250 miles, of which he was President four years. He was also President of our magnificent Railroad and Passenger Bridge over the Mississippi river, giving his services gratuitously until it was completed.
He entered the service as Colonel of the 15th Iowa Infantry in the war of 1861; had command of the Regiment in the battle of Shiloh, his Regiment losing nearly two hundred men in that battle in two hours and twenty minutes. Here he was severely wounded – shot through the neck and fell from his horse paralyzed, but in a few minutes recovered and remounted; continued in command, riding up and down the lines, covered with blood, exhorting the men to stand firm; being the last mounted field officer who remained on horseback to the close of the battle. He was engaged in many other important actions, and was made Brigadier-General in the spring of 1863, and commanded at the then important posts of Lake Providence, and Cairo, Ill., until he resigned near the close of the war in 1864.
He was twice married, his first wife dying in 1842, leaving no children. By his second wife, Mary Alexine LeRoy, he has three children, all boys. Untiring and energetic, he was always in active business, and with an iron will and persistency of purpose, he prosecuted every enterprise in which he was engaged with sleepless vigilance, traveling much on railroad at night, till disease prostrated his physical energies and death closed his career forever.
He had little time for social intercourse and made few confidents, and amongst the few in whom he did confide the most was Judge Edward Johnstone, his old law partner, in whose integrity and devoted friendship he placed the most deserved and implicit confidence.
For nearly two years before his death he was a member of the St. John’s Episcopal Church of this city, in which he was confirmed by Bishop Lee.
When his name was sent for confirmation to the Senate by President Lincoln as Brigadier-General, such was his high character for integrity and patriotism that he was at once unanimously confirmed without the usual reference to a Committee.
He was ever kind and generous without pretension. Those who understood him and knew him best, loved him most for his many sterling qualities of head and heart.
Ever indulgent toward his family, to them he was ever kind and affectionate; his goodness of heart being proverbial, for his heart was as tender and sympathetic as that of a child. In him they have lost their dearest friend and protector, and he has left them a name unsullied by the breath of scandal, and untarnished by the words of reproach. He knew that his recovery was beyond medical skill and he must die, and died in the full faith and hope of the Christian’s immortality, of which he was a firm believer, and the Crown of Glory is laid up for him in Heaven.
SOURCE: History of the Fifteenth Regiment, Iowa Veteran Volunteer Infantry, from October, 1861, to August, 1865, When Disbanded At the End of the War, p. 15-18