Sunday, October 4, 2015

Elijah Busby: Civil War Veteran (52 Ancestors #23)

Elijah Busby was born Nov 17, 1831 in Carroll Co, Ohio to John Wisner Busby and Anna Merriman. One of 14 children born to this couple.

Elijah grew up a farmer's son, working in the fields of his father's Ohio farm in the spring, summer and autumn, while attending public school during the winter months.

In the spring of 1852 at the age of 20, Elijah struck out on his own and headed West to Iowa. Finding himself in Mahaska County he hired on as a farm hand earning ten dollars a month.

He worked the farm for several years, saving what he could and dreaming of something better. By 1857 Elijah had met Eliza Ann Bass, daughter of William L. Bass and Margaret Roberts. The couple married on April 30, 1857. That same year the couple began farming their own rented piece of land.

Their first child, a son they named William, was born in March 1859. Soon after that Elijah purchased his own land, two adjoining tracts of 80 acres each in Madison County, Iowa. In August of 1861 their second child, a daughter whom they named Laura Alice, was born. The couple happily set about building a home and a life when the rumblings of unrest began to stir in the country.

In October of 1861 Elijah felt the call of duty and enlisted with the Union Army as a private in Company F, 4th Iowa Cavalry. I can't begin to imagine what toll this decision took on the family, or the hours of discussion leading up to Elijah's commitment, knowing that in doing so he would very well not see his family for the next three years, if ever again.  He was sent to Springfield, MO and then on to Arkansas, where he was involved in the battle of Cotton Plant in July of 1862.

Elijah's regiment was then involved in the battle of Vicksburg in Mississippi in May 1863.

On June 22nd, 1863 the regiment was engaged at Bear Creek (Jones Plantation) near Vicksburg, Mississippi, where Elijah was taken prisoner and held in Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia for the next four months. The conditions at Libby were notorious. Overcrowded conditions lead to disease, famine and death. Over one thousand prisoners were crowded into large open rooms with barred windows, leaving them exposed to the harshest of weather conditions. Mortality was high.
Libby Prison - Richmond VA
Elijah was exchanged on September 6th 1863, and returned to his regiment at Vicksburg, where he re enlisted as a veteran and was promoted to 2nd corporal.

In October 1863 Elijah was granted a furlough and he returned home to spend a month with his young family. He had not seen his wife or children in just over 2 years. What must it have been like, returning to the ordinary after witnessing such violence and terror? Was it even ordinary any more?

During his month at home Elijah sold the 160 acres in Madison County and purchased 80 acres in Adams Township, Mahaska Co, Iowa. Why? One can only speculate that 160 acres was a lot to manage for his wife, left alone with two small children for the past two years.

On the expiration of his furlough Elijah returned to the army and remained with his regiment until the close of the war.

He mustered out at Atlanta with the rank of commissary sergeant and received an honorable discharge in Davenport in July of 1865. Elijah had participated in ten skirmishes and had been promoted 6 times throughout his time of service.


Back in civilian life, in a newly reunited America, Elijah set about building his farm and his home. He worked the land, improved the existing buildings and built new ones. He and Eliza had four more children; Emma, born in 1867, John in 1869, Homer in 1873 and Lena in 1877. He would make his living and his home on this farm in Adams Twp. for 17 years.

Around 1880, when Elijah felt he had developed his property sufficiently, he sold his 80 acres to purchase a 200 acre farm in Monroe Twp. Iowa.

For the next 17 years Elijah, with the help of his sons, continued to build and develop the farm, creating fenced fields and pastures. Building barns, silos and other out buildings. Working the land, creating wealth to support a family of six.

Elijah remained active in the affairs of the day. He was a staunch Republican for many years, later giving his support to the Greenback party and the Roosevelt Populists. He was a frequent delegate to the conventions of his party. He served as justice of the peace, a township trustee and sat on the school board.

About 1897, when Elijah was 65 or 66 years old and looking to retire from the farming life, he purchased a small tract of 8 acres in Rose Hill, IA containing a fine house and garden. He rented out the large farm, which afforded him a comfortable retirement.

Elijah and Eliza spent many golden years together, living into their 8th decade enjoying the fruits of their labor; surrounded by their family, all of whom stayed close, and over a dozen grandchildren. In his lifetime his children prospered and grew and became successful citizens in their own right.

Sadly, in July of 1917 the couple buried their oldest son, Dr. Wm. Busby. Elijah and his wife would soon follow. The couple died within 2 days of one another, Elijah on the 14th of December 1917, Eliza followed two days later. They are buried side by side in Rose Hill Cemetery.


Beginning as a young farm boy from Ohio with not a penny in his pocket; nor friend or family in Iowa; Elijah managed to build himself a fine empire and a successful life and family despite, or perhaps because of, the hardships and horrors of war early on in his adult life.

He was a strong, courageous, loyal and determined man.