Tuesday, December 8, 2009



William Dewey, the original colonel of the 23d Iowa Infantry, and a son of the late Hon. Charles Dewey, a former Judge of the Supreme Bench of Indiana, was born on the 26th day of March, 1811, in the town of Sheffield, Massachusetts. He was educated at the West Point Military Academy, but was not, I think, a graduate of the Institution. After leaving West Point, he studied law in the office of his father, and was admitted to the bar in Indiana, in about the year 1836. He practiced the law for a few years, and then abandoned that profession for medicine, which he studied at the St. Louis Medical College. He completed his medical studies in about the year 1842, and soon after came to Iowa, and settled in Wapello county.

In 1850 Colonel Dewey served as one of the commissioners, who were appointed from Iowa to settle the boundary line between Missouri and this State; after which he removed to Sidney, Fremont County. He practiced medicine in Sidney, till the summer of 1861, when, in connection with Colonel H. T. Reid, he assisted in recruiting and organizing the 15th Iowa Infantry. He was made lieutenant-colonel of that regiment, on the 6th of November, 1861, and, early in the following Spring, accompanied it to Pittsburg Landing. The 15th Iowa reached the Landing on Sunday morning, the 6th of April, just as the battle was opening, and was ordered to report to General Prentiss. All order however was lost before it reached the front, and, really, the regiment fought on its own account and independently of the orders of General officers.

Lieutenant-Colonel Dewey served with the 15th Iowa during the siege of Corinth, and until the 1st of August, 1862, when he was commissioned colonel of the 23d Iowa Infantry. He soon joined his regiment at its rendezvous in Des Moines.

The 23d Iowa was first stationed at Patterson, Missouri: indeed, that was the only point at which it served during the life of Colonel Dewey; for he died at that place on the 30th of November, 1862, of erysipelas. His affair at Pittman's Ferry, on Currant River, is the only one that approached to any thing like an engagement during his colonelcy of the 23d Iowa, and that resulted in little more than a long, fatiguing march.

The colonel was a tall, slender man, with gray eyes and spare features. He was not at first popular with his regiment. He was strict and exacting in his discipline, which did not accord with the democratic notions of his men.

SOURCE: Addison A. Stuart, Iowa Colonels and Regiments, p. 381-2

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