Iowa: Its History and Its Foremost Citizens - 1918 - W

1918 Index

Iowa: Its History and Its Foremost Citizens
Revised, Home and School Edition by Brigham Johnson.  2 Vols.  Des Moines, IA: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1918.


Unless otherwise noted, biographies submitted by Tamara Jorstad.

Clark Russell Wever, Hero of Resaca

Clark R. Wever

Brevet Brig.-Gen. Clark Russell Wever, like many another regimental officer in the war, is not as well remembered as he deserves to be. A New Yorker by birth, he came to Iowa in 1858, then twenty-three years of age, and located in Burlington. He was elected captain of Company D, Seventeenth Iowa, and served in several engagements with courage and ability. Promoted to lieutenant-colonel in 1862, on the resignation of Colonel Hillis, in 1863, he was given command of the regiment. He led his command in the Chattanooga campaign and was with Sherman on his March to the Sea. He especially distinguished himself at Resaca, October 12, 1864. He was brevetted brigadier-general February 9, 1865, and resigned his commission four months later.

Stuart describes General Wever as about six feet in height, slender and somewhat awkward; his complexion dark, his eyes a piercing black. His education was limited. He was "recklessly brave" and very ambitious. He aspired to be a full brigadier, but was obliged to content himself with a brevet.

The absence of data relative to the after-record of Iowa's war heroes is pathetic. The Des Moines Leader of August 27, 1898, regretfully refers to Clark Russell Wever as "the hero of Resaca" and again as "one of Iowa's almost forgotten heroes, one of the ablest soldiers who went from Iowa into the War of the Rebellion," adding its testimony that "his feats of arms reflected great honor upon the state." It notes the special commendation of Wever by Gen. S. A. Rice, for bravery at Helena, and quotes General Sherman's account of the colonel's daring approaching almost to audacity at Resaca. Turning to Sherman's Memoirs we find that Col. Clark R. "Weaver" (Wever) was in command at Resaca with a few hundred men when Hood's entire army appeared upon the scene. Hood sent him a note demanding immediate and unconditional surrender of his post and garrison and adding that should he accede to the demand, "all white officers and prisoners" would soon be paroled. But should the place be carried by assault, no prisoners would be taken -- in other words all would be slain. Colonel Wever promptly replied expressing himself as "somewhat surprised at the concluding paragraph," adding: "In my opinion, I can hold the post. If you want it, come and take it."

Major Byers, in his "Iowa in War Times," shows that the Iowa colonel was as resourceful as he was courageous. "Colonel Wever," says he, "always a competent and brave officer, disposed his little force in such a way as to mislead the enemy as to his numbers. He fired the same cannon from different embrasures, hung out flags at every point, and spread his garrison along many trenches. For hours the rebels kept up a constant fire of artillery and musketry, but feared to assault. The fight went on into the night and was renewed the next morning. But, as reinforcements had reached Wever, and as Sherman was rapidly approaching, the rebels sullenly withdrew . . . Colonel Wever justly received the warmest praise from the great commander for his noble defense of Resaca."

James Alexander Williamson, From Adjutant to Brevet Major-General – Railroad Builder and Man of Affairs

James Alexander Williamson

One of the large men whom the war developed in capacity for leadership and in ambition to lead was James Alexander Williamson. Entering the war as an adjutant, he retired at its close a brevet major-general.

Born in Columbia , Kentucky , February 8, 1829 , at the age of fifteen, he came with his family from a residence in Indiana , to Keokuk county, Iowa , where he engaged in farming, doing a man's work in the field. Later he sold a farm acquired by him and entered Knox College , in Illinois . Returning to Iowa he studied law in the town of Lancaster with the afterward famous Marcellus M. Crocker. Admitted to the bar, in 1855 he located at the new state capital. He was one of the syndicate of promoters who built the temporary capitol as an inducement for re-location. Prominent in democratic politics, he was chairman of the Democratic State Committee in 1860-1861. As such, in 1860, he called a convention of all persons who wished to avert a civil war. General Dodge, referring to this event says: “Few of the large number of persons attending this convention believed there was any danger of war . . . but, it was Williamson's firm belief that war was inevitable, and, from the hour when the first gun was fired at Sumter , no one doubted where he stood. He began to put this business affairs in order, and when the call came he recruited a few men at Des Moines and with a few others that were recruited by Judge Reed in Dallas County, they were sent to Council Bluffs and were made a part of what was known as the “Dodge Battery,” which I was raising at the time I raised the Fourth Iowa.” Williamson was mustered in as first lieutenant. On recommendation of Caleb Baldwin, Colonel Dodge appointed him adjutant. He had told Judge Baldwin that if he couldn't get a commission he would enlist as a private. His first experience was in Missouri . Sent by his colonel to procure equipments for his regiment, Adjutant Williamson finally secured them from the reluctant Frémont, though personally he was denied an audience with the general.

A movement was made among the officers of his regiment to procure the resignation of Williamson because of his lack of military experience; but his colonel would not let him go and afterward the prime-mover in this attempt regretted his part in the matter. Williamson's gallant part in the battle of Pea Ridge, so well established him in the good opinion of those same officers that early in 1862 he was unanimously elected lieutenant-colonel. Soon after, on the unanimous recommendation of the officers, Governor Kirkwood made him colonel.

In the winter of 1862-1863 the Fourth Iowa was with Sherman before Vicksburg . In the battle of Chickasaw Bayou, Colonel Williamson won from General Thayer these words of praise: “Colonel Williamson marched at the head of his column, and by his boldness and heroic courage won my unqualified admiration . . . He was struck by three balls, but not severely wounded, and remained on the field the balance of the day.”

At Arkansas Post, before Vicksburg and at Jackson , the Fourth Iowa, led by him, rendered distinguished service. In September, 1863, Williamson took command of the Second Brigade, known as the Iowa Brigade, under Sherman . At Lookout Mountain his brigade was the first to break through the enemy's lines. After the battles about Chattanooga , Sherman recommended Williamson as one of the colonels who deserved promotion.

The Fourth having re-enlisted, were furloughed, and on March 9, 1864, the citizens of Des Moines gave them a generous welcome.

Resaca, Dallas , Atlanta , Ezra Church , and other battles are names that have place in the record of Williamson's soldierly achievements. In January, 1865, the long deferred promotion came to him.

After marching to Savannah with Sherman , and taking part in several engagements thereabouts, General Williamson returned to Iowa , via New York . On March 13, 1865, he was brevetted major-general. 1 In June, 1865, General Dodge assigned him to the command of the District of Missouri. Thence he reported to his chief for duty in the Indian country. He was mustered out in November following. The government awarded Williamson a medal “for leading his regiment against a superior force strongly entrenched, and holding his ground when all support was withdrawn.”

“In 1866,” wrote General Dodge, 2 “General Williams returned to Des Moines and resumed his law practice. He removed that year to Forth Smith, Arkansas , and while residing there returned to Iowa soon after I was nominated for Congress, and upon his motion stumped my district with Governor Kirkwood.”

In 1867 Williamson was a receptive candidate for governor and Polk county sent a Williamson delegation to the Republican State Convention. He had previously declined a position in the regular army because, as he informed General Dodge, his large family were of an age to need him at home.

Through the influence of General Dodge, Williamson was placed in charge of the land and lot agency of the Union Pacific Railroad west of Green River , and was with Dodge until the completion of the road in 1869. Later, he went abroad to promote the sale of western lands and mines. In 1876 he accepted from President Grant the office of commissioner of the General Land Office, and during his five years' service in that capacity served as chairman of a public land commission to codify the laws for the disposal of public lands and to examine arid and arable, mining and timber lands; and his reports were regarded as of great value to the government.

In 1881 he became land commissioner of the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad, later its general solicitor and finally its president. In 1892 he retired from active service, taking up his residence in New York City .

He died at his summer home in Jamestown , Rhode Island , September 7, 1902 , and his remains were buried in Rock Creek Cemetery , Washington , D.C. His funeral brought together many of his old friends then widely scattered. The general left a widow, also four daughters by his first wife, Miss Haidee Williamson, Mrs. Warner B. Bayley, wife of Commander Bayley of the U. S. Navy, Mrs. George R. Stearns, of Augusta , Georgia , and Mrs. Roy Jones, of Santa Monica, California.

General Williamson is described by his friend, General Dodge, as “of fine, commanding appearance,” and one who “inspired confidence” – prompt action, a gallant soldier, a genial companion, a true friend, and a model citizen.

When Grant visited Des Moines , he spoke of this famous Iowa soldier as one who had received less reward for the work he had accomplished than any other officer of his rank in the service. A bronze medallion of General Williamson on the Iowa Soldiers' Monument is slight testimony of his adopted state's appreciation of his worth.


1 Roster VI, Fourth Iowa Infantry

2 In his sketch of General Williamson, in the Annals of Iowa, October 1903. Vol. 1-24

Ed Wright Brave Leader of Men and Trusted Public Servant

Ed Wright

A name inseparably connected with the new capitol of Iowa is that of General Wright. Back of the building of the capitol is a record of bravery in the War for the Union, and of faithful service in civil life. First as to his name. Judge Wright once remarked to Mr. Fleming that "the only weakness he, the general, had was so trifling as scarcely to be worth mentioning -- his insistence that his christian name was Ed" -- not Edward, Edwin or Edgar!

Ed Wright was born in Salem, Ohio, June 27, 1827. Educated in the schools and academies of his day he first became a teacher and then a carpenter. He came to Springdale, Cedar county, Iowa, in 1852. In 1856 he began a legislative career in the Iowa House. On August 16, 1862, Wright was appointed major of the Twenty-fourth Iowa Cavalry, and served with that regiment to the close of the war, coming out with a brevet as brigadier-general.

The Twenty-fourth had previously seen much service and suffered heavy losses in Arkansas, but its first important part in battle was at Port Gibson, May 1, 1863. At Champion's Hill, on the 16th of May, Colonel Slack, of Indiana, commanding the brigade, highly praised the Twenty-fourth and Twenty-eighth Iowa, and "the cool and gallant conduct of all the field and line officers." "During this terrific charge," says Colonel Slack, referring to the retaking of a battery, "Maj. Edward Wright, of the Twenty-eighth Iowa, was severely wounded, immediately after which he captured a stalwart rebel prisoner and made him carry him off the field." He was gratified to learn that Major Wright, "seriously wounded while gallantly leading his men, was rapidly recovering and would soon be able to take the field again."

At Sabine cross-roads, Arkansas, in April, 1864, Wright, then in command of his regiment, concluded his report of the battle with a severe criticism on the mismanagement of troops, closing with the inquiry, "Who is responsible?" The history of the Twenty-fourth, Iowa, in the Roster, says: "The correct answer to Major Wright's question is readily given. His was only one of a number of brave Iowa regiments which lost heavily on that fatal expedition, through the utter incapacity of the commanding general, Nathaniel P. Banks." The Roster adds: "Major Wright displayed great skill and ability in being able to extricate his command from its perilous situation, with a loss of little less than one-third of the number engaged." 

Wright's Twenty-fourth next distinguished itself with Sherman in the Shenandoah valley. His report of the battle of Winchester, September 19, 2864, modestly tells of the brave and effective service rendered by his regiment. At Cedar Creek, October 19, he was slightly wounded. The grand round-up found him with his regiment at Savannah, where on the 17th of July, 1865, he was mustered out, with the full rank of colonel and a brevet as brigadier-general.

Scarcely had he resumed his duties as a citizen when, in the fall of 1865, his neighbors elected him to the Iowa House. Before he had become accustomed to his seat he was chosen speaker. In 1866 he was elected secretary of state, and twice thereafter he was reelected. In 1873 he was chosen secretary of the board of capitol commissioners, and assistant superintendent in the construction of the building. He held these positions until the completion of the building, and then, as a further proof of confidence, Governor Sherman appointed him custodian of the capitol. In 1890 his custodianship was extended tot he capitol grounds. In 1895, General Wright was appointed a member of the Des Moines Board of Public Works. His death occurred on the 5th of December, 1895, at the age of sixty-eight. Though he was not at the time in the service of the state, an unusual honor was paid him by Governor Jackson in directing that his body lie in state in the rotunda of the capitol prior to the funeral. Here thousands who knew and loved the general paid their last tribute of respect to one of the purest-minded, best and most capable of men.

General Wright was in figure tall and spare and, in his last years, apparently in delicate health.