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Leonidas Mahlon Godley - Iowa Medal of Honor - Civil War By: Sue Eckhoff, Grundy County Heritage Museum

June 10, 2011
Northern-Sun Print
Leonidas Godley enlisted as a Sergeant, Company E, 22nd Iowa Infantry Regiment on August 28, 1862. The regiment was sent to St. Louis for training and then to Rolla, Missouri for four months of garrison duty. Life in Missouri was miserable, impassable roads, rain and intense cold, worn out shoes, inadequate clothes, limited rations, and near epidemic illness. On March 9, 1863, the 21st, 22nd, and 23rd Iowa Regiments were ordered to join General Grant for the Vicksburg campaign. Moving towards Vicksburg, they were ordered to engage the rebels at Richmond and Port Gibson, Louisiana. Two smaller battles. On May 21, 1863, Godley and his comrades enjoyed a rare day of rest when they were selected to spearhead a major assault on a Rebel fortification known as “Railroad Redoubt”. The place covered a half acre of ground, with walls 15 foot high and surrounded by a 10 foot wide ditch. On May 23, the 22nd Iowa Infantry was ordered into three lines facing the crest of the hill where the works were located. At command the entire 22nd advanced towards the works. Godley crossed a bridge, continuing towards the hill, but was oblivious to the predicament he was in. He had failed to hear the command to halt beyond the range of Rebel rifles. Godley continued to press forward, almost reaching the Rebel fort when he was brought down by a canister shot in the left leg, halfway between the knee and ankle. He fell to the ground in agonizing pain, not knowing that the shot had removed part of his leg bone. Looking around, he realized he was well in advance of his regiment and as he lay on the ground he knew he would bleed to death without medical attention. When he sat up to administer to himself, he received another Rebel ball in the right breast, passing through his chest and out the shoulder blade. Another ball hit him in the right knee. He laid here until midnight when he hailed a rebel picket, who immediately took him as a confederate prisoner. He was examined by a battlefield surgeon, and subsequently carried into a leaf filled hole, where two men held him down while a surgeon removed his leg without anesthetic! Following that he was removed to a field hospital, which was soon abandoned by Rebels, leaving Godley behind. Eventually Godley reached Union lines and ended up in a hospital in St. Louis. The 22nd Iowa’s losses at Railroad Redoubt were heavy - 27 killed, 118 wounded and 19 missing. Theirs was the highest toll suffered in any regiment of Grant’s army in the siege of Vicksburg. Godley’s wife eventually made her way to St. Louis and when Godley could travel they departed for their home in Ashland, Iowa on September 7, 1863. After several weeks of intense pain, Godley had an additional 3 inches of severely infected bone removed. Leonidas Mahlon Godley waited 34 years before his valor at Vicksburg was recognized by the War Department. A review of hundreds of acts during the battle for Vicksburg resulted in the delayed Medal of Honors for these soldiers. He proudly wore his medal, but was always humbled by his selection as one of the nations chosen few. Godley died on May 23, 1904, exactly 41 years to the day of receiving his debilitating wounds at Vicksburg. He is interred at the Ottumwa Iowa Cemetery.



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