Sunday, March 8, 2009



Nathaniel Bradley Baker, Iowa's able and eccentric Adjutant-General, was born on the 29th of September, 1818, in Hennika, Merrimack county, (then Hillsborough) New Hampshire. His education is liberal. He pursued his preparatory course at the Phillip's Exeter Academy, New Hampshire, and graduated at Harvard College—the Oxford of American universities, and the alma mater of a large per cent of the distinguished jurists, statesmen, clergy and literary savans of the country.

I am unacquainted with the history of General Baker's college days, but I venture the assertion that he was not a hard worker, and that, if in passing a difficult ascent in Horace or the Iliad a pony would help him, he would not hesitate to mount one. A half-hour would suffice him in preparing for a recitation; and, during that time, I imagine I can see him lounging on his bed and smoking a cigar. His active mind would enable him to grasp principles without eternally plodding, and his text-books would lack sufficient charms to engross his entire attention. He could never have been a book-worm. He graduated in the year 1839, with fair standing in his class, and had the credit of possessing much general information.

After leaving Harvard, he studied law in the office of Ex-President Franklin Pierce, and later in that of Asa Fowler and Charles H. Peaslee. In 1842, he was admitted to the Merrimack county Bar, but did not enter the practice. He became editor of the New Hampshire "Patriot," a half-interest in which he had purchased prior to 1842. In 1845, he disposed of his interest in that paper, and received the appointment of Clerk of the Court of Common Pleas for Merrimack county. Five years later he was elected to the New Hampshire Legislature, as representative from the city of Concord, and the following year was re-elected. During both sessions, he served as Speaker of the House. In 1851, he was only thirty-three years of age, and there was not a more popular man in the State of New Hampshire.

Having received the Democratic nomination for Governor of New Hampshire, he was, in 1854, triumphantly elected. This result was hardly looked for by his party, and demonstrated his unbounded popularity in the State. It was unlooked for, since the change of its national policy had weakened his party in the State; and, in addition to that, there were three aspirants in the field, and it required a majority—not a plurality to elect.

As Governor of New Hampshire, General Baker's administration was characterized with his usual promptness and energy; but his name in some way got mixed up with the Know-Nothing Party, which ruined his popularity in the State. His term expired in 1855, and in the following year he came to Iowa, and settled in Clinton, which has since been the residence of his family. In Clinton, he practiced his profession till the fall of 1860, when, not yet cured of his political aspirations, he consented to become a candidate for the State Legislature from Clinton county. He was elected and served the following session in that body.

On the 25th of July, 1861, he was appointed by Governor Kirkwood Adjutant-General of Iowa, and, in 1864, was re-appointed by Governor Stone; and, in his fitness for the position, I believe he has no equal in the State. The skill and ability which he has shown, in the discharge of his duties, would do credit to one of extensive military experience and education. His promptness and energy, and the systematic manner in which he has conducted the business of his office have elicited flattering compliments from the public press in nearly every loyal State. Indeed, his services as Adjutant-General of Iowa, tone well with those of the Iowa troops in the field. Iowa may well be proud of him. That I am impartial in my judgment, the following, from one of the leading papers of Chicago, Illinois, is evidence:

" Almost simultaneously with the close of 1864, the State of Iowa gives to the public its Adjutant-General's Report for the year. The fact that Iowa is the only State which has an excess over all calls for men, attaches a peculiar interest to its military operations, and the same circumstance will warrant more than a mere passing allusion to the prominent share this gallant young State has taken in the contest.

"In looking over the full and handsomely printed report of Iowa, a citizen of Illinois will be mortified at the contrast, as he compares it with those of his own State. The Iowa Report is most creditable to the State. Iowa has a voting population of from one hundred and twelve, to one hundred and fifteen thousand, and, of this sparse number, nearly or quite sixty thousand have been put into the field. To-day a number equal to one-half the voters of the Hawk-Eye State are under arms. Nor are the men who have been sent to the field canaille— bought in the social kennels of Europe, or refuse negroes, picked up among the camps.

"To the general reader, the most interesting portion of General Baker's Report is that which contains a record of the operations of every Iowa regiment. Fully one-half of the volume is devoted to the history of the regiments in the field; and it gives, either in an official or narrative form, the performances of each regiment, during the year. By the employment of this plan, a record of the troops is kept. The regiments are encouraged, by knowing that their labors all reach the public; and furthermore, a condensed account is preserved, which only needs the amplification of the author to become history."

The following, which needs no explanation, shows how General Baker's services arc appreciated by the War Department at Washington:

"General Orders, No. 6.

"Head-Quarters Sixth Division, Cavalry Corps, M. D. M.,
Edgefield, Tennessee, Dec. 28, 1864.

" It has come to the knowledge of the General commanding, that in the Iowa regiments serving in this division, and perhaps in those from other States, it has been customary, under the supposed authority of some regulation or order from Headquarters of the so-called 'Army of Iowa,' or other authority of like character, to furnish to the Adjutant-General of the State of Iowa, and other States, copies of the monthly returns, lists of casualties, reports of operations and other reports.

"Not only military propriety, but the danger of such papers falling into the hands of improper persons, forbids this practice.

"It is therefore ordered, that in future no such reports, returns, or others of like character, or copies thereof be furnished to the Adjutant-General of the State of Iowa, or any other State, or any person, persons, or authority except as now required, or as may be hereafter required by orders from the War Department, or Department Head-quarters.

"The time of the officers of this command is too precious to be devoted to the preparation of official documents for the satisfaction or curiosity of civilians at home. This must be left to the newspaper correspondents.

"Officers will understand that they and their troops are in the service of the United States, and in their military capacity have no relations whatever to the States from which they come, or the Executive thereof.

"By command of Brigadier-General Johnson.
"E. T. Wells, Assistant Adjutant-General.

"Official copy for the information of the Adjutant-General of Iowa.
"E. T. Wells, Assistant Adjutant-General."

General Baker forwarded the letter to the Secretary of War, with the following endorsement:

"General Johnson:

"The Adjutant-General of the State of Iowa, acknowledges the receipt of the extraordinary 'General Orders.'

"The State Officials have asked nothing improper, and the Adjutant-General cannot comprehend the motives of Brigadier General Johnson in issuing the 'General Orders,' of which the within is a copy.

"The State wishes to keep up the records of the volunteers sent from this State.

"No other General, that this department is aware of, has heretofore attempted to prevent the completion of said records.

"These records are absolutely essential for the protection of soldiers and their families here at home.

"(Signed) N. B. Baker,
"Adjutant-General of Iowa."

"Special Orders No. .53.
"War Department, Adjutant-General's Office,
Washington, February 2,1865.


* * * * *
40. So much of General Orders No. 6, December 28, 1864, from Head-quarters 6th Division, Cavalry Corps, Military Division of the Mississippi, as forbids the rendition of certain returns and reports called for by the Adjutant-General of Iowa, is hereby revoked, it being improper in its tone, and disrespectful to the State authorities.

* * * * *

"By order of the Secretary of War.
"E. D. Townsend. "

General Baker has not only secured merited distinction for the accurate, systematic and elaborate manner with which he has conducted every thing properly connected with his office, but he has manifested an interest in the Iowa soldier, beyond the limits of the State and outside of his legitimate duties, which has won him the lasting gratitude of many. One of the many instances that might be cited is the case of the railroad disaster in Indiana; where, by a public order, he gave notice to the friends of all Iowa soldiers, murdered or maimed by the criminal negligence of the railroad, not to settle with the corporators, or their agents, pledging his official word that justice should be obtained for the injured parties.

General Baker is a large man, being six feet and one inch in hight [sic], and weighing about one hundred and ninety pounds. He has a fine, well formed person, intelligent, gray eyes, and a large prominent forehead. In person, he is prepossessing, and he would be in manners and conversation, were he less rough and unguarded in his language. He has Puritanic blood in his veins, and, like the old Puritans, is plain-spoken and earnest; but, if he inherited all their virtues, one of the cardinal ones he has squandered. Iowa would give him anything he could ask if he would only become a teetotaler. He has no secretiveness, and never talks in a whisper; and in his walk, which is another index of his character, he has none of that creeping, cat-like gait that stamps all sinister two-sided men.

General Baker is a man of much ability. He has large concentrativeness, a masterly memory, and, for the amount of business he is able to accomplish in a given time, he has few equals.

SOURCE: Stuart, A. A., Iowa Colonels and Regiments, p. 16-21

1 comment:

Jennie W said...

Come visit the Military History Carnival - you've been included!