Remley Family Papers

Before enlisting into the 22nd Iowa Infantry, George and Lycurgus Remley lived with their parents, Reverend James and Jane, and six other siblings on a farm in Oxford, Iowa. The brothers enlisted in August 1862 and became part of Company F. The boys traveled to Rolla, Missouri in September were they were stationed at Camp Sigel until January 27, 1863.1

Life in the camp was monotonous as daily activities included drilling in the morning and evening and different companies taking turns every few days escorting supply trains from Waynesville, MO to Springfield, MO.2 While Lycurgus and George were usually in fine spirits when writing to their family, both brothers were constantly plagued with bouts of illness and George describes in a letter back to his mother Jane, the medical care that was given to him when he was sick.

Dr [Oren] Peabody, who attends to the sick here at the regiment. He pronounced my disease to be “Portal congestion” and prescribed for it a large dose of calomel, mixed with a little rheubarb & aloes I believe giving the whole mixture the euphoneous title of “Cathartic Powders”. I presume he thought by so doing he would deceive me in regard to the true character of the medicine. Instead of taking the “Cathartic Powders” as desired I threw them into the fire where I thought they would do as much good and less harm than if I had taken them and took in place a dose of “Ayers Cathartic Pills” which had the desired effect.

The Doctor told me the next morning that my head-ache was beginning to assume a neuralgic form and gave me four powders, containing about equal portions of quinine, opium and ipecac, which he thought would relieve me. I went to the Hospital several times after this, but did not get any more medicine, except a dose of castor oil. The Dr says that all that is required to make me all right is good beef, chicken and other wholesome food. I feel as well now as I did before I was taken sick only I am not quite so strong but am getting better in that respect every day. Capt Wilcox said that throwing Peabody’s medicine into the fire was the best thing I could have done with it and thought that if I had staid at Rolla, White would have had me in the hospital, sick with a fever.
George Remley Letter to Jane C. Alderson Remley. Dec. 25, 1862

The medical establishments within the U.S. Army and the nascent Confederate Army were almost totally unprepared for either the scope or duration of the conflict. The peacetime U.S. Army possessed only 113 physicians to care for more than 16,000 personnel scattered across the country. The Army’s Surgeon General, Dr. Thomas Lawson, was unable to think beyond the needs of small, frontier post hospitals. Fortunately for the Union, the Medical Department entered a new era under a relatively junior physician, Dr. William A. Hammond, on April 25, 1862. The Confederate Medical department had to begin from scratch.3 Although more than a thousand military engagements occurred in Missouri, disease killed over twice as many men as bullets. Infections spread rapidly in overcrowded camps. Measles, mumps, rubella, and chicken pox ran rampant, particularly among newly-enlisted soldiers from rural areas who lacked immunities from prior exposure. But even more fatalities resulted from dysentery and diarrhea contracted due to unsanitary conditions.

Early in February 1862 Company F moved from Rolla to West Plains, MO and helped maintain peace and provided protection for the local civilians from Bushwhackers.4 While George and Lycurgus reported that their regiment maintained high numbers the Union army in general was in desperate need of more soldiers and Lycurgus tells his younger brother Howard in a letter that, “There has been no call for more men yet that I have heard of – Congress having merely authorized the President to draft 600,000 of the militia should he consider it necessary – but should a draft be made and resistance offered as would probably be the case in certain parts of the North. I think there are certainly enough loyal men left to put down any such disturbance.”5

George and Lycurgus wrote not only to their immediate family back in Iowa but their other relatives as well, including their Uncle William Zoll who lived in Warrensburg, MO. Zoll was a very strong unionist and reports to his nephews the tense situation in Warrensburg between civilians and Rebel bushwhackers.

Citizens & Soldiers are gathering in the street, preparing to go some 8 miles from here, in search of Bushwhacker’s, who burnt some unions men’s Houses last night & Committed other depredations. That class of desperadoes are becomeing numerous in our County. I have some fears that this summer is to be a hard season to live Through. My own impression is, That very much depends upon getting Vicksburg it will be a terrible back set to the Rebels and when we once get full possession of the Missippi River, Rebel prospects will be gloomy indeed.
William Zoll Letter to Lycurgus Remley. Jun. 28, 1863

As Uncle Zoll and other civilians in Missouri continued to struggle to survive through the conflict, the 22nd Iowa Infantry was on the move and headed south to Dixie. On April 18, 1863 Company F set up camp in New Carthage, Louisiana in preparation for the siege on Vicksburg, Mississippi. Before fighting at Vicksburg, George and Lycurgus saw combat at the Battle of Port Gibson along the Gulf Coast.6 George describes to his family back home the aftermath of the battle,

The loss of the enemy is said to be 3700 killed & wounded. We buried a great many of their dead. Seven guns were captured from the rebels and a good many disabled that they took with them. We took 500 prisoners, at least, and 1300 stand of arms. These figures may not be correct but they are as near the truth as I can find out. May 2nd – we marched over part of the Battle ground and on to Port Gibson, about four miles distant. On the scene of action yet lay many of the dead, with their ghastly upturned faces. Dead horses also lay around in many places All along the road to Port Gibson were scattered rebel guns blankets, haversacks & articles of clothing which the threw away in their retreat – or rather flight.
George Remley to James Remley. May 7, 1863

While fighting at Vicksburg, Mississippi Lycurgus is taken ill again and dies from his illness in June 1863. George continued his service in the army until he was killed at the Battle of Opquan in Winchester, Virginia on September 19, 1964. The Remley collection is a large assembly of correspondence, financial and legal records, photographic and printed materials written by James and Jane Remley and six of their eight children, other family members, and friends that span the antebellum era through the twentieth century. Only a portion of the collection has been digitized and placed online. The digitized documents include the letters of Lycurgus and George Remley from June 1861 through September 1863. The letters written by both brothers provided insight to the daily routine of union soldiers and the harsh physical conditions of their transient lifestyle.

Contributed by the Pearce Civil War Collection, Navarro College

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  1. “22nd Regiment, Iowa Infantry”, National Parks Service Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Systems,
  2. George Remley Letter to James Remley. Dec. 3, 1862. Remley Family Papers, 1856-1863, 1997.052, Pearce Civil War Collection, Navarro College, Corsicana, Texas. 5, pg 1.
  3. George Worthington Adams, Doctors in Blue: The Medical History of the Union Army in the Civil War (Dayton, Ohio: Morningside House, Inc., 1985), 4-5.
  4. George Remely Letter to James Remley. Feb. 4, 1862. Remley Family Papers, 1856-1863, 1997.052, Pearce Civil War Collection, Navarro College, Corsicana, Texas.
  5. Lycurgus Remely Letter to Howard Remley, Mar. 19, 1863. Remley Family Papers, 1856-1863, 1997.052, Pearce Civil War Collection, Navarro College, Corsicana, Texas.
  6. George Remley to James Remley. May 7, 1863. Remley Family Papers, 1856-1863, 1997.052, Pearce Civil War Collection, Navarro College, Corsicana, Texas 34, pg 2.