April 16, 2020
New book shows Butler County soldiers’ Civil War experiences
Butler County provided many of the soldiers in Company C of the 14th Iowa Infantry in the Civil War. A 28-year-old Clarksville carpenter, Valentine L. Spawr, kept a diary at Fort Halleck, Ky., from June to September 1863.
“Not Till Then Can the World Know” contains the diary and shows the action the regiment saw in Mississippi, Louisiana and Missouri the following year. The title comes from a report written by Col. John Scott of the 32nd Iowa after fighting beside the 14th in the battle of Pleasant Hill, La., in 1864.
“When the graves shall open, and the sea give up its dead, and the secrets of all hearts be revealed, then, and not till then, can the world know what the many thousands of brave lowans engaged in the service of their country have endured,” he wrote.
“My book is an attempt to show the world what some of the brave Iowans endured,” author L. Spencer Busch said. Spawr’s diary was handed down until it reached Busch, his great-great-granddaughter. “I had to give him credit as co-author,” she says. “He wrote a third of the text.”
In his daily entries Spawr listens to rumors, tracks the sick and dying, drills with the color guard, visits friends, checks out a steamboat disaster, describes how to make a bed out of tree branches, attends a service at a black church, explores the nearby countryside and witnesses the hanging of escaped slaves who were convicted of murdering a white family.
The rest of the book, written by Busch, follows the regiment’s fighting in the Trans-Mississippi theatre of the Civil War in 1864. It marched and fought in the Meridian Expedition in Mississippi, the Red River Campaign in Louisiana and battles at Tupelo, Miss., and Pilot Knob, Mo.
“Not Till Then Can the World Know” is available as an e-book or paperback from Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Till-Then-World-Know-Trans-Mississippi/dp/1734708611/.
Companies A, B and C of the 14th Iowa were replacement companies. While the regiment was being organized in 1861, its first three companies were sent to the Dakota Territory. The remaining seven companies entered the Civil War in 1862, but to be complete the regiment still had to recruit replacements for the first three. This regimental history focuses on the replacement companies and the regiment in 1863 and 1864.
Busch used primary sources as much as possible to show what the war was like for the men of the regiment in camp, on the march and in battle. She has incorporated letters from soldiers in the same regiment and brigade, newspaper articles and officers’ reports. Besides the diary, the book contains illustrations, a roster of the replacement companies, a bibliography and extensive notes. The paperback version has an index.
A semi-retired editor, Busch lives in Reno, Nev. For more information, including a copy of the index, visit her site at http://laurelbusch.com/.