A Brief History of the 50th Iowa Volunteer Infantry

By Patrick McSherry
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The 50th Iowa Volunteer Infantry Field and Staff
The Field and Staff officers of the 50th Iowa Volunteer Infantry


The 50st Iowa Volunteer Infantry served its term of service within the continental U.S.

Unit History:

The Fiftieth Iowa Volunteer Infantry was mustered into service from May 17 to 18, 1898 in Des Moines, Iowa. At the time of mustering in the regiment consisted of fifty officers and 751 enlisted men under the command of Colonel Douglass V. Jackson.  The core of the regiment consisted of troops from the 2nd Iowa National Guard with additional troops being recruited to bring the regiment up to the required strength.

In Des Moines, the men were encamped at Camp McKinley. The regiment had orders to proceed to Florida on May 21. On the eve of their departure there was a tremendous excitement in the camp, but it was not caused by the impending departure. A gambler had entered camp and took advantage of several men in a crap game by using loaded dice. This was found out and an estimated five hundred men chased the man from camp. The man was beaten several times before some officers stopped the mob. One officer chased the man and force him to surrender the trick dice. The gambler was then allowed to move on…but not before a small group of men from camp again found him and gave him yet another beating.

The regiment departed for Jacksonville, Florida the following day aboard the Wabash, Rock Island and Northwest railway, with the men entraining at the Rock Island Fair Grounds train station. The regiment arrived at Jacksonville’s Camp Cuba Libre on May 24, and was assigned to the Second Brigade, Second Division of the Seventh Army Corps. Col. Jackson commanded the brigade, which also included the First Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry.

Though the incident with the gambler was the closest to action that the regiment came, it continued to drill in case the decision was made to send the regiment to the front. Drilling was no easy task in the warm Florida sun. During one skirmish drill it was reported that one hundred men of the regiment went down due to the heat. Also, while in Florida, the regiment found it one of the few regiments without a band. Word was sent back home to the regiment’s recruiters to enlist a band. The recruiters were successful. In fact, they recruited bandleader and composer Thornton Barnes Boyer of Keokuk, Iowa to be the regiment’s band leader.  By July 27, the new band was ready to head south. The new band consisted of Bandleader Boyer, Drum Major Kellogg and twenty bandsmen.

The regiment remained in Jacksonville until September 13, 1898. While the regiment was at Jacksonville, an armistice was agreed to between the U.S. and Spain ending the war’s fighting on August 12. The regiment returned to Des Moines, Iowa, arriving on September 17. The regiment was granted a thirty day furlough on September 20. The furlough must have been extended as the regiment reunited to be mustered out on November 30. At the time of muster out, the regiment consisted of 48 officers, and 1,223 enlisted men. The war officially ended less than two weeks later with the signing of the Treaty of Paris on December 10, 1898.

During its term of enlistment, the regiment lost 32 enlisted men to disease and had two men desert.

August Busch, 50th Iowa Volunteer Infantry
August Busch (above) was a native of Germany who had emigrated to the U.S.
At the age of 24, he joined Company B of the 50th Iowa Volunteer Infantry.
Busch was 5'-11" tall with "flaxen" hair, and light blue eyes, and was a
butcher by trade. He had
married Anna Johannne Auguste and had two
sons - August and Wilhelm. In 1906 he and his family emigrated from the U.S.
to Denmark where he lived the remainder of his life. In Denmark he and Anna had
two more children, Irma and Alfred (who passed away as an infant).  In the photo above
he is believed to be wearing much of his wartime uniform

Busch, Birger - Photo of August Busch and associated data.

Correspondence relating to the War with Spain And Conditions Growing Out of the Same Including the Insurrection in the Philippine Island and the China Relief Expedition
. Vol. 1 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1902) 592 - 593.

“Fiftieth Band Off To The Front,” Daily Leader (Davenport, Iowa). July 27, 1898, 3.

“Heat Didn’t Down Him,” The Sedalia Democrat (Sedalia, Missouri). July 31, 1898, 8.

“In Camp at Jacksonville,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat (St. Louis, Missouri). June 28, 1898, 4.

“The Band Leader,” The Davenport Democrat (Davenport, Iowa). July 15, 1898, 1.

“Troops Formed into Corps,” The Canebrake Herald (Uniontown, Alabama). June 1, 1898, 1.

“Will Leave Saturday,” The Des Moines Register. May 20, 1898, 5.

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