COUNCIL BLUFFS — “Tell the boys I die happy. I fell at the head of my regiment, doing my duty.”
Those were among the last words of Col. William Henry Kinsman as he lay dying on the field where the Battle of Big Black River Bridge, Miss., had been fought the previous day, according to “Silent Hills Speak: A History of Council Bluffs, Iowa,” by William Ramsey and Betty Dineen Schreier.
At 2 p.m. May 18 — 150 years after Kinsman’s death — the monument that honors him and other Civil War veterans will be rededicated at Fairview Cemetery, 308 Lafayette Ave.
Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War will host the event, which is being sponsored by Gov. Kirkwood Camp No. 4 of Council Bluffs and Col. Kinsman Camp No. 23 of Atlantic. The ceremony will begin with the firing of a Civil War cannon.
The keynote speaker will be Janet Glasgow Mulshine, great-great-granddaughter of Col. Samuel Glasgow, also a veteran of the 4th Iowa, Kinsman’s successor and distant relative.
Other guest speakers will include Mayor Tom Hanafan; Kori Nelson, director of the Historic General Dodge House; and Richard Grim, department commander of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.
There will be historic re-enactors from Sons of Union Veterans and the Dodge House. Ridgeway Snider and Danette Hein-Snider, both Dodge House volunteers, will portray Gen. Grenville Dodge and Amelia Bloomer.
Kinsman was born July 11, 1832, in Cornwallis, Nova Scotia, Canada. He moved to Council Bluffs in 1855 and worked as a teacher, lawyer and journalist. Dodge recruited him for the Council Bluffs Guards, Hein-Snider said.
The Battle of Big Black River Bridge, Miss., was fought on May 17, 1863 — less than two months before the pivotal battles at Gettysburg, Pa., and Vicksburg, Miss., according to Sons of Union Veterans. The battle was important in that it compelled the Confederates to abandon any hope of defeating Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, forcing them back into the Vicksburg fortifications.
Kinsman, one-time lieutenant in the 4th Iowa under Dodge, was commander of the 23rd Iowa at Big Black River Bridge and was shot twice while leading a charge of his men.
He died the following morning, and he and 18 others from his regiment were buried on the battlefield.
An attempt to locate the colonel’s grave in the 1880s was unsuccessful. In 1898, with Dodge’s support, Joseph A. Straight and Jesse Truitt, members of the Grand Army of the Republic, returned to the battlefield, recovered the colonel’s remains and brought them back to Council Bluffs.
Dodge raised money from veterans of the 4th and 23rd Iowa Infantry regiments and made arrangements for a monument to be built. The monument was dedicated on May 17, 1902, in a ceremony conducted by Dodge.
In 1997, the monument and area were renovated and a brick walkway was installed leading to the monument in a project organized by the Bluffs Arts Council.