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Using Researching my Ancestors: Alonzo Bradley In The Civil War

Updated on August 3, 2013

My Great-Great-Great Grandfather, Alonzo W. Bradley

Thanks to genealogy websites like, researching your family tree and meeting your ancestors can been pretty easy for almost anyone.

If you don't know how to search your genealogy, there are loads of free tips and resources dedicated to help you with learning your genealogy, family tree and most importantly, family history.

Now if your search is related to researching your family in the Civil War, you probably, like me, are wondering about your family's life during the Civil War. Was my family in the Civil War? If so, what are their stories? How did the Civil War effect my family tree?

For my self, I've been able to answer some of those questions.

On January 19th, 1864, my Great-Great-Great Grandfather, Alonzo W. Bradley enlisted in the Union Army as a Private in E Company, 27th Regiment. He was 27 years old.

By this time in Alonzo's life, he had moved to Iowa from Ohio in the spring 1857. By the end of 1857 he marries Jane Shannon Bell on December 31st.

They live together in Garnavillo, Iowa and in 1859 have their first daughter Cara Bradley. Cara does not live long unfortunately as she will not be present in the 1870 Census or any state census thereafter.

Their second child, Effie is born on January 22nd 1864. Yes, three days after Alonzo enlisted. The question I have at this point are what does it take for a man to leave a severely pregnant wife and family to go fight in "The War Between The States?"

That there is my Great, Great, Great, Grand Pappy!
That there is my Great, Great, Great, Grand Pappy!

What was happening in Iowa?

Iowa had become a state in 1829 and since then, due to it's fertile land, had been attracting many settlers, both foreign and native. With the advancement of railroads throughout the country, Iowa became even more accessible and more importantly, the crops that Iowa produced became even more accessible to the Eastern States. By the time war broke out, Iowa was more like a supply state shipping food to the Union Army.

In the beginning of The Civil War, the Governor, Samuel J. Kirkwood began a campaign to gather volunteers for Federal service. The 1st Iowa Infantry was established for 3-months of service. From May until August 1861, these men would help secure the strategic Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad in northern Missouri. From there they marched across the state, where they wound up fighting in the Battle of Wilson's Creek.

Iowa sent large supplies of food to the armies as well as the eastern cities. Iowa also sent their men:

  • 76,242 Iowa men (out of a total population of 674,913 in 1860) served in the military, many in combat units attached to the western armies.
  • 13,001 died of wounds or disease.
  • 8,500 Iowa men were wounded.
  • Cemeteries throughout the South contain the remains of Iowa soldiers that fell during the war, with the largest concentration at Vicksburg National Cemetery.
  • A number also died in Confederate prison camps, including Andersonville prison.
  • Iowa contributed 48 regiments of state infantry,
  • 1 regiment of black infantry (the 1st Iowa Volunteer Infantry Regiment (African Descent)),
  • 9 regiments of cavalry,
  • 4 artillery batteries.

In addition to these Federally mustered troops, the state also raised a number of home guard or militia units, including the Northern Border Brigade and Southern Border Brigade, primarily for defense of the borders. Other local units included the Sioux City Cavalry.


Alonzo and the Family at the homestead
Alonzo and the Family at the homestead

What does this mean for Alonzo?

The Republican party was still in it's infancy. In Iowa, the Democrats of the day were struggling to fill the needs of it's citizens. Many Iowans began looking to the Republican party for leadership and support.

The Republican Party, by the 1860s with Abraham Lincoln at the helm, opposed slavery and promoted land ownership, banking, and railroads. Iowa voted heavily for Lincoln as well as other Republican politicians in 1860 and then throughout the course of the war.

I can't speak directly for Alonzo, but after looking closely at the views supported by the Republican party and considering Alonzo was a farmer who's lively hood and his ability to care and provide for his family was on the line, I'm starting to understand why he would make the commitment to serve.

Some Music To Go With...

Alonzo's Journey

According to, Alonzo started in Iowa which it's where he lived and when he mustered out, he was in Tennessee. So this leaves me with a couple questions.

  1. Was there any training at all or was it, "Here's a uniform and a rifle. If you see anyone in Grey, shoot him!"
  2. What did he do while in the Army?

So let's start with training. I found some sites that confirmed my suspicion. Compared to today, there really wasn't any. The majority of soldiers, especially from Iowa were farmers and they knew basic weaponry already. They knew how to shoot going in. The key to survival, was not getting shot and knowing how to reload fast.

What I found out about training was that on both sides, they based their training on French Army manuals, however, based on the commander, colonel or general, training could be varied and not at all uniform.

A soldier spent the majority of their training drilling and practicing maneuvers on the battlefield. They would work on how to form a battle line. They would practice in columns as well as rank and file.

Like I said, at the end of the day, a soldier wound up winging it.

When looking at the dates of Alonzo's service, we see that he joined on January 19th, 1864. The war at this point is at the beginning of the end. A year and half later he's transferred from the 27th Regiment to the 12th. That happens on June 26th, 1865. The war itself technically ends on June 22nd, 1965. Alone doesn't muster out until January 20th, 1866. Which puts him in the South for 6 months aiding in the Reconstruction.

When you hit his pension records we find that Alonzo injured his back loading a train. This injury would go on to haunt him the rest of his life and impair his ability to work his land when he gets home. We also see from his records that he suffered from heart problems.

Considering that Alonzo was 83 when he passed, I question the diagnosis. One account from his doctor says he gets heart palpitations when laying down at night. There's more but let me just skip ahead now and note that just because Post Traumatic Stress is a term from this era don't mean it didn't happen in the past. My thought is Alonzo also suffered from what he saw in the war and possible participated in. Combine that with the stress of having to care for his family with Lumbago and you got a bit of stress on you.

I have struggled to confirm what specific battles Alonzo was in or near, but it looks like he took part in the capture of Ft. De Russy in Louisiana on March 14th 1864.

He also participated from my research in the following:

  • MARKSVILLE AKA: Mansura, Smith's Place MAY 16, 1864
  • YELLOW BAYOU AKA Bayou De Glaize MAY 18, 1864
  • LAKE CHICOT AKA: Fish Bayou, Ditch Bayou, Lake Village, Furlough, Grand Lake, Old River Lake JUNE 6, 1864
  • TUPELO JULY 14, 1864
  • OLD TOWN CREEK JULY 15, 1864
  • NASHVILLE DECEMBER 15-16, 1864

Needless to say, Alonzo probably saw some "stuff." Returning to "normal" would not be easy or even possible if you ask me.

Alonzo, like so many before and after were pioneers of this great nation who suffered, fought and died for an ideal and a belief. And while even now this great nation is flawed, what we strive for as a nation, independence, prosperity, self rule and opportunity for every citizen is worth the strife that Alonzo and so many brave men and women bore in making this the great nation that it is.


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