LYON COUNTY, IOWA
Capt. Washington W. Gardner, an honored and much respected resident of Rock Rapids, Iowa, was born October 2, 1839, at Howard, Center county, Pennsylvania, a son of Samuel and Nancy (Tipton) Gardner. The father, who was a native of Pennsylvania, followed the vocation of lumberman, and was also a farmer and miller. He came of German ancestry, and died at the age of fifty-nine years. (note: WW Gardners GGrandparents are said to have come from Ireland)
Washington W. Gardner lived at home until May, 1855, when he accompanied his father and family in their removal to West Union, Iowa, and there assisted his father in the cultivation of the homestead until the breaking out of the Civil war in 1861. He attended the West Union high school, and taught school for a time. At school he had for instructors Principals J. P. Wallace and S.S. Ainsworth, noted teachers of their day, and when he graduated from the high school stood at the head of his class.
He was just ready to enter the Upper Iowa University, at Fayette, when his country called him, and he enlisted in Company C, First Battalion Thirteenth United States Regular Infantry, with headquarters then at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri. He enlisted at Dubuque, and was appointed company clerk. After several months drilling, the regiment was sent to Alton, Illinois, to guard prisoners, then confined in the old state prison, and the result of General Grant's operations at Fort Henry and Fort Donelson. He was made corporal of his company March 19,1862. The regiment was ordered August 1, 1862, to go forward to Newport, Kentucky, to meet a threatened attack by General Marmaduke.
October 14, 1862, Corporal Gardner became First Sergeant Gardner. Soon after this the command joined General Sherman at Memphis, and was stationed at Fort Pickering, soon taking part in the campaign known in history as the Tallahatchie march. The first of the following December the regiment was assigned to the First Brigade, Second Division, Fifteenth Army Corps, and on the 20th day of that month started for Vicksburg under command of General Sherman, being transported on board the steamer "Forest Queen." It participated in the battle of Haines Bluff, on the Yazoo Bayou, fought December 28th and 29th, and assisted in the capture of Arkansas Post, January 10, 1863. After this battle the regiment went into camp at Millikin's Bend, Louisiana, but was sent into action in the Steel's Bayou, and had a hand in certain fierce fighting at that time.
The regiment was again camped at Milliken's Bend, but took part in the running of the Vicksburg batteries by gunboats and transports, and in the demonstration again made against Haines' and Drumgolds Bluffs by way of the Yazoo river, made about the first of May. This was a movement made for the purpose of detaining the rebel troops in Vicksburg while General Grant was crossing the Mississippi river bellow Grand Gulf. Mr. Gardner was again under fire at the battle of Champion's Hill, May 17th, and at Black River the same day. On the next day he met the enemy outside the Vicksburg entrenchments, and the following day, May 19, 1863, was in that deadly charge made against the north face of Stockade Redan on the Grave Yard road. In this charge the regiment lost forty-four percent of the men in line, its colors being struck fifty-five times and the flag-staff being nearly shot off in two places, there being seventeen men killed and wounded with the colors. Sergeant Gardner was the only sergeant left alive in his company. He was one of a few who reached and entered the ditch on the outside of the rebel works.
After this the military experiences of Sergeant Gardner were somewhat quiet until the surrender of the rebel army July 4, 1863, "Though something was always doing." On the day following the fall of Vicksburg Captain Gardner's regiment was sent to meet the rebel army that under General Johnson had been threatening to attack from Jackson, Mississippi. He was in a skirmishing that lasted from July 10th to the 17th, when Johnson retreated to the south and the strain was over. During the engagement on the 17th Sergeant Gardner personally captured four rebels, soldiers of the command known as the New Orleans "Tigers." For some weeks the regiment was in camp at Fox's Plantation, but September 27th was ordered to Vicksburg, and from there to Memphis, to reinforce General Grant at Chattanooga. While on the way the command was attacked by General Chalmers, with not less than 3,500 troops, while the entire Union force did not exceed 600 men, without artillery, of which the enemy had five pieces. The rebels were held off four hours by fierce fighting when reinforcements arrived from Germantown, and the day was saved, though at an expense of one hundred and twenty killed and wounded. The regiment reached Corinth October 12th, and continued its line of march across the Tennessee river, and over the mountains to Chattanooga, reaching there November 20th. After three days of rest in camp the regiment moved with three days cooked rations and a hundred rounds of ammunition, the brigade crossing the Tennessee river in one hundred and sixteen pontoon boats. After crossing the river it captured the entire rebel picket line, one man only getting away, who cried out "Yanks! Yanks! My God the river is full of Yanks."
The regiment took a gallant part in the battle of Mission Ridge, and in the pursuit of General Bragg and his beaten army to Greysville, Georgia. The next duty of this emphatically fighting regiment was to march to the relief of General Burnside at Knoxville, Tennessee. After the retreat of General Longstreet, the regiment went into winter quarters at Huntsville, Alabama, where it remained until the last of April, 1864, when it received orders to march to Nashville.
Sergeant Gardner was made first Lieutenant, May 26, 1864, and was assigned
One Hundredth Colored Infantry as senior First Lieutenant, at once reporting for duty at Camp Foster, where he was assigned to the command of Company A. Until the 10th of August he was actively and laboriously engaged in fitting his men for the field. They were then pronounced fit for active service, and were detailed to guard the railroad from Nashville to Johnstonville. Company A had in its special care a long trestle work and bridge, and here a strong block house was built, in which the company was stationed until the near approach of General Forest called in all near by forces to protect Nashville from a threatened attack at his hands.
Captain Gardner and his colored troops took part in the battle of Nashville, fought December 15th and 16th, 1864, having charge of the skirmish line in front of his brigade. His regiment lost one hundred and thirty-three men, and the brigade four hundred and sixty-eight, fifty per cent, more than was sustained by any other brigade on this bloody field. He assisted in the pursuit of the retreating rebels, and ended with a battle at Decatur, Alabama, with the rebel General Roddy. After this engagement Mr. Gardner and his command returned to Nashville, where he resumed his former occupation of guarding the railroad at the old station.
He was promoted captain of the One Hundredth United States Colored Infantry, July 18, 1865, and was mustered out of service with his regiment December 26, 1865, rounding out a service of four years, two months and twenty-four days, without a wound or a day in the hospital. This is a record of which he may justly be proud, covering as it does a period of long and bloody warfare, in which he was an active participant most of the time, always being found among the "bravest of the brave." The pen of the historian lingers lovingly over such a story, and is reluctant to dismiss it.
After his return from the army Captain Gardner engaged in the milling business at Auburn, Fayette county, Iowa, where he remained until 1873 when he removed to Elgin, to engage in the grain business. In August, 1877, he set up in the same line at West Union, to which he added stock buying. In August, 1880, he left West Union and located at Rock Rapids, Lyon county, where he built the first grain warehouse on the line of the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha railroad, and soon became a prominent dealer in all kinds of grain, fuel and farm machinery. He built elevators at Doon, Ash Creek, Lester and Larchwood. For years he has been an active member of the Grand Army of the Republic, and is a past commander of Dunlap Post, No.147, Department of Iowa. He has been quartermaster general of this department, and was aide de camp on the staff of Governor Larrabee with the rank of lieutenant colonel.
Captain Gardner was married April 8, 1866, to Miss Emma Celestia Simar, "the girl he left behind when he went forward to fight the battles of his country." She was a daughter of Ephraim and Lurinda (Sweet) Simar. Her grandfather was born in Saxony, Germany, where he was educated as a priest, but not liking the profession, and disbelieving the creed, he refused to be ordained. This stand upon his part compelled him to leave his native land. He fled to the United States, where he lived and died in peace. He excelled as a musician.
The thirteenth regiment of the regular army has a long and brilliant history. At one time General Sherman was its commanding colonel, and General Sheridan was a captain of one of its companies. Captain Gardner and his wife are members of the Christian church at Rock Rapids, Iowa, and have been for years.