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Iowa First Cav

Have you ever tracked an ancestor’s military service thru the various battles? I have to admit this is something that I have not done.

As I was working with the pension file for my ancestor, Noah W. Briles, I became curious about his unit’s service, particularly in Texas. Noah enlisted in Company I of the 1st Regiment of the Iowa Cavalry in June of 1861 for three years. When his time expired, he re-enlisted as a veteran volunteer on 1 January 1864. Noah was mustered out at Austin, Texas on 15 Feb 1866.

Since a document from the War Department indicates that Noah Briles took ill and was hospitalized on 17 Aug 1863 in Clarendon, Arkansas, I am trying to figure out where the unit was at that time along with how they ended up in Texas.

The Wikipedia article on the Iowa First Cavalry provides a synopsis of the military action of the unit. In August of 1862, the unit was in Arkansas.

On Aug. 18, 1862, the army crossed the White River at Clarendon, Ark., and on the 27th was fought the Battle of Bayou Meto, in which the regiment took a prominent part, driving the enemy across the bayou and making a dashing charge to save the only bridge across that deep and miry stream from destruction. In this charge the regiment lost 1 killed and 36 wounded, 1 mortally. The regiment then took the advance of the cavalry in the move on Little Rock.

Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1st_Iowa_Cavalry_Regiment

Unfortunately, the Wikipedia article leaves out most of 1863. Even though small text is used on their page, the National Parks page for the 1st Regiment, Iowa Calvary contains more detail

Expedition from Huntsville to Buffalo River January 9-12, 1863. At Lake Springs till April, 1863. Operations against Marmaduke in Southeastern Missouri April 17-May 3. Jackson, Mo., April 27. Castor River, near Bloomfield, April 29. Bloomfield April 30. Chalk Bluffs, St. Francis River, April 30-May 1. At Lake Springs till July. Expedition against Little Rock, Ark., July 1-September 10. Expedition from Greensborough to Helena, Ark., July (Detachment). Brownsville, Ark., August 25. Near Bayou Metoe August 26. Reed’s Bridge or Bayou Metoe August 27. Austin August 31. Ashley’s Mills September 7. Bayou Fourche and capture of Little Rock September 10. Elizabethtown October 1. Vance’s Store October 2. Expedition to Arkadelphia November 26-December 1. Reconnoissance from Little Rock December 5-13. Princeton December 6. Expedition to Camden December 15. Steele’s Expedition to Shreveport, La., March 23-May 3, 1864.

National Park Service. 1st Regiment Iowa Cavalry – https://www.nps.gov/civilwar/search-battle-units-detail.htm?battleUnitCode=UIA0001RC

Thus, the unit was in the vicinity of Little Rock, Arkansas when Noah Briles became ill. Recovering from his illness, Noah Briles was again with his unit when they were moved to Alexandria, Louisianna and then to Texas.

Moved to Alexandria, La., June 15-22; thence to Hemstead, Tex., August 8-26. Moved to Austin, Tex., October 20-November 4, and duty there till February, 1866. Mustered out February 15, 1866. Moved to Iowa February 19-March 12, and discharged March 16, 1866.

National Park Service. 1st Regiment Iowa Cavalr – https://www.nps.gov/civilwar/search-battle-units-detail.htm?battleUnitCode=UIA0001RC

Instead of being mustered out at the end of the war, the First Iowa Calvary joined other units at Alexandria, Louisiana to create the 2nd Cavalry Division.

Ultimately, the Iowans left Arkansas on February 12, 1865,
for Tennessee, where the troops anticipated operations against
Nathan Bedford Forrest’s mounted guerrillas. Just as they found
themselves in a position to acquire the national reputation that
they knew they deserved, the war ended. Unfortunately, the end
of the war did not mean the end of service for the First Iowa Cavalry.
Instead of being mustered home, the Hawkeye horsemen
were ordered to join the Twelfth and Fifth Illinois, Second Wisconsin,
and Seventh Indiana cavalries at Alexandria, Louisiana,
to create the Second Cavalry Division, Department of Texas, Division of the Gulf.
The weary regiment was not finally mustered
out of service until February 1866.

Crosson, David. The Martinet and the Mob. State Historical Society of Iowa. 1989. https://ir.uiowa.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=9349&context=annals-of-iowa

While in Texas, the commanding officer of the 2nd Cavalry Division was Major General George Armstrong Custer. While serving under Major General Custer, the Iowa troops felt that they were mistreated. After the 1st Iowa Cavalry was mustered out, the Iowa State House of Representatives passed a resolution condemning General Custer.

the committee concluded that the First Iowa Cavalry had “received from the hands
of Major-General Custer . .. such ill treatment as no other Iowa
soldiers have ever been called upon to endure; that such treatment
or punishment was dishonorable to the General inflicting
it, degrading to the name of American soldier, unworthy of the
cause in which they were engaged, and in direct and flagrant
violation of the laws, of Congress and the rules and articles of

For decades afterwards, the collective memory of the former
regiment remained embittered by the nightmare of service
under Custer in Texas, and the veterans toiled diligently to
expunge their record of this particularly unpleasant episode.

Crosson, David. The Martinet and the Mob. State Historical Society of Iowa. 1989. https://ir.uiowa.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=9349&context=annals-of-iowa

It was only by trying to learn more about my great-great grandfather’s service that I uncovered this information about the 1st Iowa Cavalry and General Custer. Unfortunately, I don’t have any letters, diaries or other documents to help understand Noah Briles’ role in this conflict between members of the 1st Iowa Cavalry and General George Armstrong Custer.