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The Wolf Creek Rangers By: Sue Eckhoff, Grundy County Heritage Museum

June 7, 2013
Northern-Sun Print

Shiloh, Tennessee. April 6-7, 1862. It was the bloodiest of the Civil War to date. (It was eventually surpassed by Antietam). A bunch of farm boys from Iowa were caught right in the middle. The 14th Iowa Infantry was also known as the Wolf Creek Rangers of Tama County, Iowa. During the battle, the 2nd, 7th, 12th, 14th, and 8th Iowa were all positioned along the Sunken Road, known as the Hornet's Nest, with orders from General Grant to hold the line at all costs. The Rangers were among those captured by the Confederates the evening of the 1st day.

Today at the Shiloh National Cemetery, there is a memorial to the 14th Iowa Regiment Volunteers commandeered by Colonel W.T. Shaw. It reads "this regiment (seven companies) held this position against repeated attacks from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. April 6, 1862."

"In attempting to follow the rest of the brigade which was being withdrawn it became hotly engaged about 200 yards east of this position. Repulsing this attack it continued to retire towards the Hamburg Road fighting heavily. Reaching the camp of the 32nd Illinois infantry, it found itself entirely surrounded by the junction of the confederate right and left wings. It was captured about 6 p.m. Present for duty including musicians, teamsters, etc 442. Its loss waskilled and wounded 2 officers and 37 men, captured 15 officers and men total 272. Of the wounded five died of their wounds. Of the captured - 15 died in Prison".

Three of the Wolf Creek Rangers from the Traer area were Benjamin Franklin Thomas, Peter Wilson, and Dr. Wesley Daniel. Benjamin Franklin Thomas was 24 when he enlisted along with his good friend Peter Wilson. Thomas was dark complected, blue eyed, and dark haired. Frank as he was called by his friends was born in Ohio. His father ran a pottery shop, which he established in Iowa upon leaving Ohio. Frank's older brother also enlisted in the 14th Iowa the year after Frank. When the war was over, Frank came home to marry Sarah Stokes, younger sister to his fellow soldier Elizar Stokes. They became parents to seven children. B.F. Thomas died in 1912, five years after publishing his Civil War memoir "Soldier Life."

Peter Wilson also enlisted when he was 24. He enlisted in the village schoolhouse in Buckingham. Wilson was born in Scotland, coming to the United States as a boy. Peter's older brother was James "Tama Jim" Wilson, who later became the longest serving United States Secretary of Agriculture. Both James and Peter wanted to serve their country during the war, but one was needed to remain behind to take care of the farm they had begun together. Peter was the one who enlisted in Company G of the 14th Iowa Infantry. He survived the Hornets' Nest at Shiloh and while he survived the battle h was taken prisoner. After the war he suffered from poor health and died of pneumonia in 1887.

Dr. Wesley Daniel joined in December 1864 at the age of 39. He enlisted and was commissioned as a surgeon with the 24th Iowa. He saw action from New Orleans to Augusta, Sabine Cross Roads and the Shenandoah Valley campaigns.

On June 20, 2013, the stories of Wilson, Thomas and Dr. Daniels will be reenacted by Don Stansberry, Tom Wicks and Reverend Brice Hoyt in a special program on the Wolf Creek Rangers. The program will be held at the Traer Museum at 7:00 p.m.

"I had my curiosity about battle quickly satisfied and had no wish to be in another, but Fort Donelson was only the beginning." (Peter Wilson)



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