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Iowa History Daily: March 31 - John H. Peters

Iowa History Daily: On March 31, 1865, Colonel John H. Peters of Delaware County, Iowa, led his American regiment to a victory over a brigade of Confederate soldiers near Montebello, Georgia. Initially appointed a Captain of Company B, 4th Iowa Cavalry by Governor Samuel J. Kirkwood upon his enlistment at the outbreak of the American Civil War, Peters rose to Major on June 20, 1863, and then to Colonel on September 2, 1863. During his service he engaged in at least forty battles before mustering out of the military at Atlanta, Georgia, in August of 1865.

Born in Connecticut, Peters struggled with health issues which led him to spend several years in Cuba in the hopes of improving his physical condition. While there, he also studied law. Feeling better by 1852, he headed back to the United States and eventually wound up in Freeport, Illinois working in a law practice with American Congressman Thomas J. Turner. He also met and married his wife, Helen Kneeland, while in Freeport. During February of the following year, Peters headed further west, eventually settling in Delaware County’s Delhi to open a law office. Peters participated in the Iowa Constitutional Convention of 1857, representing Dubuque and Delaware counties.

A compatriot of General Ulysses S. Grant prior to the onset of the Civil War, Peters initially served under his old friend in the western theater. Peters led a significant movement when Grant thrust his cavalry unit between those of Confederate Generals John C. Pemberton and Albert Sidney Johnson in the rising action before Vicksburg. Peters’s men prevented the two Confederate forces from joining together, an important strategic victory for the United States during the battle for control of the Mississippi River.

Peters’s military service lasted a total of four years and eight days, and had his horse shot out from under him during a battle on July 18, 1865. He significantly injured his leg when he was pinned beneath the horse, and his soldiers carried him off the field on a stretcher. Peters refused amputation of a badly damaged right leg. After his discharge, Peters still needed the use of crutches for support for at least two years after returning to his law practice. A widely-traveled man for the time-period, Peters visited every state in the Union before his death in 1921. #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryCalendar


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