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Col. William Tuckerman Shaw
Born September 22, 1822


COL. WILLIAM T. SHAW, Anamosa. William Tuckerman Shaw, a native of Maine, was born in Stenben, Washington Co., on the 22d of September, 1822; his parents were William Nicholas Shaw and Nancy D. (Stevens) Shaw; his paternal grandfather was a distinguished officer in the Revolutionary army; was aid-de-camp to Gen. Knox; was promoted to the rank of Captain of artillery in 1780, and served until the close of the war. Young Shaw was educated in the common schools of his native town and the Wesleyan Seminary at Readfield, attending the latter institution two or three years; at 19, he started for the West, spending one year in teaching a private school in Greencastle, Ind.; he then went to Harrodsburg, Ky., and continued teaching until the Mexican war broke out; in 1848, Mr. Shaw strayed into Arkansas and the Indian Territory, among the Cherokees, Choctaws and other tribes, and, the next year, found his way into California; he remained there, digging in the mines, until 1851, when he returned as far eastward as Anamosa, then little more than a four-corners, on the banks of the Wapsipinicon River; in 1855, he returned to the Golden State again, by the overland route; two years later, he returned to Anamosa and speculated in real estate, being fortunate in many of his investments; he built the Dubuque & Southwestern Railroad from Farley to Anamosa, and was at work on this road when the rebellion broke out; for the last ten or twelve years he has been engaged in banking, real estate and the building of brick blocks in Anamosa, and railroads to help the town; the Iowa Midland road, running from Clinton to Anamosa, is the work of his hands; he is of the banking firm of Shaw, Schoonover & Co. In 1846, he enlisted as private in the 2d Ky.V.I., and remained with it until the close of the Mexican war; he was in the battle of Buena Vista, where both the Colonel and Lieutenant Colonel were killed; Mr. Shaw returned as a non-commissioned officer. On the 24th of October, 1861, he was commissioned Colonel of the 14th I.V.I., and served the full three years for which he enlisted; his regiment was in the Second Brigade, Third Division, Sixteenth Army Corps: and, after being fearfully cut up at Pittsburg Landing, it composed, for a time, part of the "Iron Brigade," which consisted of the 8th, 12th and 14th Iowa and the 58th Illinois Regiments; no better fighting regiment went from Iowa than the 14th, and no braver, more daring officer than Col. Shaw; for awhile, he commanded the Third Division of the Sixteenth Army Corps, and when finally retired at the end of the three years, on the 29th of October, 1864, Maj. Gen. A. J. Smith paid a high compliment to him for his "courage, patriotism and skill" during the fifteen months that he had its command; when about to leave the division which he had so bravely commanded, the officers made him a present of a beautiful sword and scabbard, as a token of their kindly regard, which he cherishes highly. The Shaws are a patriotic family; a cousin of the Colonel, Robert G. Shaw, commanded the 1st Colored Regiment, and was killed at Port Wagner. Col. Shaw was elected to the State Legislature, and, during the session in which he served, was one of the leading members of that body. Col. Shaw has had three wives; in 1854, he married Miss Helen A. Crane, of Jones Co; she had two children, and died in 1865; one child survives her. His second wife was Rhetta Harmon, who lived only one short year. His present wife was Mrs. Elizabeth Higby, of Kalamazoo Co., Mich.

Source: History of Jones County, Iowa, Western Historical Company, Chicago, 1879, page 576.

Colonel William Tuckerman Shaw for many years occupied a central place on the stage of public activities in Jones county and won distinguished honors in military fields, rendering valuable aid to his country in the Mexican and again in the Civil wars. Identified with the banking and agricultural interests of the state, his record is that of an honorable business man who recognizes and uses his opportunities. In every relation of life he held to high standards of conduct and without invidious distinction he may be termed one of the foremost men that Jones county has numbered in its citizenship.
Colonel Shaw was born in Steuben, Maine, September 22, 1822, and came of one of the oldest New England families whose members were valorous, industrious and chivalrous. The Shaws were of Scotch descent. The earliest record is of Thomas Shaw, who married Sarah Gyles in Boston in 1716. Their son, Francis, was prominent in Boston and with his son, Francis, Jr., and others, received from the king a large grant of land in what is now Washington county, Maine. This grant included many islands, some of which were owned until recently by the family as a part of the land still is.
Of this family Samuel Shaw won distinguished honors through his military service in the Revolutionary war and also as a diplomat and statesman in later life. He was born in Boston, Massachusetts, October 2, 1754. His father, a man distinguished for intelligence and enterprise, conducted an extensive business as a merchant, and in training for life's practical duties sent his son, Samuel Shaw, to one of the public schools of Boston at the usual age. He continued his studies in a Latin school, coming under the instruction of James Lovell, one of the leading educators of that day. He manifested special aptitude in his studies and the knowledge of Latin which he acquired enabled him in after life, in the leisure of the camp and on his voyage to India and China, to become familiar with the most popular and admired Latin poets and historians.
Being destined for commercial pursuits, Samuel Shaw soon quitted the school for the counting room, but the political exigencies of the age interfered with his plans of mercantile life. He had not attained his majority when his patriotism was aroused by the oppressive measures of the mother country—and the restriction of American rights. Moreover, the northern part of Boston, where he resided was the abode of some of the most active and ardent spirits who gave character and impulse to the first movements of the Revolutionary war. Troops were sent from England to hold the colonies in subjection and paraded the streets of Boston. This continually excited and angered the colonists and intense feeling was everywhere manifest. Boston at that time was regarded by the British as a garrison town and the troops took possession thereof. The house of Francis Shaw was assigned for quarters to Lieutenant Wragg and Major Pitcairn. In the meantime excitement grew and on the 2d of October, 1775, when Samuel Shaw reached his majority, he received the assent of his father to his plan of becoming enrolled in the American army, which was then collecting at Cambridge. He was thereafter an interested eye witness or an active participant in the events which finally brought about American independence. As a member of the military family of General Knox, in the ensuing November, he accompanied General Washington when he and Governor Clinton took possession of New York after its evacuation by the British. On the 4th of December of that year he was present when Washington bade farewell to the officers of the American army, among whom there was hardly a dry eye, so greatly had his comrades and fellow officers become attached to him during the eight years of sanguinary struggle that resulted in the establishment of the republic. Through the war Colonel Shaw had remained as an active advocate of the American cause, suffered the hardships and privations of the American soldier and had conscientiously performed every duty, making a military record of which his descendants have every reason to be proud.
In May, 1783, he received from General Washington a testimonial of his services in the army, which reads:

    "By his Excellency, George Washington, Esq., general and commander-in-chief of the forces of the United States of America: This certifies that Captain Samuel Shaw was appointed a lieutenant of artillery in the army of the United States of America in 1775; the year following he was appointed adjutant and in 1777 was promoted to the rank of captain, lieutenant and brigade major in the corps of artillery, in which capacity he served until August, 1779, when he was appointed aide-de-camp to Major General Knox, commanding the artillery, with whom he remained until the close of the war, having been promoted to the rank of captain of artillery in 1780. From the testimony of the superior officers under whom Captain Shaw has served, as well as from my own observation, I am enabled to certify that throughout the whole of his service he has greatly distinguished himself in everything which could entitle him to the character of an intelligent, active and brave officer.
    "Given under my hand and seal, this third day of November, 1783.
    Signed, General Washington,
    by his Excellency's command,
    Ben Walker, aide-de-camp."
On the 5th of January, 1784, Major Shaw took final leave of the family of General Knox, from whom he received in his own hand writing the following certificate concerning his excellence as an officer:
    "This is to certify that the possessor of this letter, Captain Samuel Shaw, has borne a commission in the artillery in the United States of America upwards of eight years, more than seven of which he has been particularly attached to the subscriber in the capacities of adjutant, brigade major and aide-de-camp. In the varied and arduous duties of his several stations he has in every incident evinced himself as an intelligent, active and gallant 'Officer and, as such, he has particularly' endeared himself to his numerous acquaintances.
    "This testimony is given unsolicited on his part. It is dictated by the pure principles of affection and gratitude inspired by an unequivocal attachment during a long and trying period in the American war.
    "Given under my hand and seal at West Point, upon the Hudson river, this fifth day of January, 1784.
    Signed, H. Knox, M. General."
Following the close of the war and organization of the republic, Capt. Samuel Shaw was the first to receive the appointment of consul of the United States at Canton from the American congress in 1786, an appointment which President Washington renewed in 1700. Captain Shaw resided in that city for several years and for a considerable period was actively engaged in the commerce on, the China and Indian seas. He made trade relations between this country, China and India a special object of study and furnished much valuable information upon the subject. His death occurred in 1794.
The Shaw family founded a settlement called Goldsboro just before the Revolutionary war and in sustaining settlers during the war much of the family fortune was spent. Francis Shaw, Sr., and Francis Shaw, Jr., the great-grand-father and grandfather of our subject, respectively, died in the same year. The latter left a widow and two sons. Robert Gould Shaw, the elder son, became a millionaire philanthropist and it was to his grandson, Colonel Robert G. Shaw, that the beautiful monument by St. Gaudens was erected on Boston Commons. The younger son was William Nickels Shaw, the father of Colonel William T. Shaw. He remained in Maine, a most generous kindly gentleman, and there married Nancy Davis Stevens, a daughter of Jonathan Stevens, of English descent, who in early life was a member of the English army but afterward joined the American forces in the Revolutionary war. Jonathan Stevens wedded Mary Tracy, a descendant of Lieutenant Thomas Tracy, of the Anglo-Norman family whose ancestor Sire de Traci fought at Hastings under William the Conqueror.
The family of William N. and Nancy Shaw numbered twelve children. Hannah Townsley, who was born October 14, 1814, lived in Steuben, Maine, and died in 1891. Mary Stevens, born April 19, 1816, died September 11, 1831. Francis R. G., born April 23, 1818, wedded Mary E. Moore January 26, 1843. He was captain of a bark which sailed from New York for Barbadoes and was drowned on the passage out January 19, 1846. John, born May 8, 1820, became extensively engaged in shipbuilding at Machias, Maine. He wedded Relief Antoinette Babcock April 14, 1850. William T. is the next of the family. Eliza Willard, born July 16, 1824, was married May 18, 1851, to Seamore Leighton and died February 23,1890. George Nickels, born September II, 1826, went to California, was married there and died December 11, 1861. Edward Blake, born August 30, 1828, lived in Steuben, Maine, until a year or two before his death, when he removed to Massachusetts and afterward to California, where the died July 17, 1850. Judith T., born April 4, 1831, died September 9, 1834. Henry Coffin, born November 9, 1833, went to California. Mary Judith, born May 8, 1836, was married October 8, 1854, to William R. H. Dutton, of Ellsworth, and they became residents of Steuben, Maine. Sarah Russell, born December 13, 1839, made her home in Steuben, Maine.
Colonel William T. Shaw was educated at Kent's Hill, a well known Methodist school. At an early age he went to Indiana, where he engaged in teaching in a private school, which was the institution that proved the nucleus of De Pauw University. He afterward went to Kentucky, where he engaged in teaching and in studying law. At the time of the Mexican war Colonel W. T. Shaw, then a young man of twenty-three years, enlisted at Harrodsburg, Kentucky, whither he had emigrated from Indiana. At the battle of Buena Vista all of the commissioned officers of his regiment were killed. Something of his experiences in Mexico may best be leaned from the following letters which he wrote home to his mother.
    "Camp Agua, Nueva, February 8, 1846.
    Dear Mother:
    Here I am 3000 miles from home and 100 miles from nowhere, fat and hearty and could eat a Mexican with as much gusto as I ever did a piece of roast beef. We are now 25 miles beyond Saltillo, where Gen. Taylor has established his headquarters. What our next movement will be I cannot tell, but it is believed here that our next movement will be San Luis Potosi. We have had considerable excitement in camp lately. We were turned out every night for about a week to have a fight but nobody came to fight us and so we failed to get it. Although we have had no fighting we have had some hard service. For example, your humble servant, after having been on duty three days and nights without sleep, on the fourth night had laid him-self down on his blanket to get a little sleep. When I had got into a deep sound sleep, I was awakened by the cry of 'turn out, turn out!' and we turned and marched 15 miles that night to defend a pass where the Mexicans were supposed to be about to get into our rear. After having arrived there, and seeing no signs of the enemy we turned about and marched back making about 30 miles in 10 hours, which is doing very well, considering we had to carry our guns, cartridge boxes and knapsacks making in all a good load for a jack. I stand marching very well, which I was rather fearful I should not account of the lameness in my ankles. If you cannot read this letter, wait till I come home and I will read it for you.
    Your aff. son,
    Wm. T. Shaw.
    Superscription,
    Mrs. N. D. Shaw,
    Stueben, Maine."

    Headquarters Agua, Nueva, February 28th, 1846.
    Dear Mother:
    We have had a big fight and I suppose you will be pleased to hear from me and that I am safe. The battle was fought on the 22 and 23 inst. Our reg. was not engaged with the enemy until the 23d, where after running us ¾ of a mile in 5 minutes we charged upon about 5 times our number of Mexicans amidst a shower of musket balls and grape shot, but we soon made them show their backs, and the way we laid the yellow scoundrels out was the right way. We killed about 150 in less than 10 minutes, not however, without considerable loss on our side. But I have not time to give you a detailed account of the fight. But you may conclude we did some hard fighting for our company lost, killed and wounded, one third the number we took into the field. Our last charge was a desperate one. Our regiment with four companies from the Second 111 regiment, making us about 500 men, worn down by the fatigue of the day, charged upon a large body of Mexican Infantry, when we were attacked on our flank by 3000 or 4000 cavalry, which compelled us to retreat and a most bloody retreat it proved to us. I never knew until then, what it was to be where it rained bullets. I thought I had a chance to be hit by about 1000, but by good luck, but two hit me, and those scarcely drew blood. One grazed the skin over my eye and the other hit me in the thumb. But I thank God, I have escaped. We have been almost continually on foot for 8 days, yet I scarcely feel fatigued, and am in good spirits and health.
    Your aff. son,
    Wm. T. Shaw.
    Superscription,
    Mrs. N. D. Shaw,
    Steuben, Maine."

After the Mexican war, in 1849, a company of thirty men was formed of which he was elected captain, to cross the plains of California. They went by the southern Santa Fe route, passing through Fort Smith and Santa Fe, etc. In California he engaged in mining until his health failed. Later he engaged in the lumber business. About 1851 he returned to the east via Nicaragua. Later he came to Iowa in about 1852. He did not remain here long but again passed overland, this time by the northern route described by Colonel Robert Evans in his book. Colonel Shaw returned east via Panama and came to Iowa, where he entered land in Jones county and married May 4, 1854, Helen A. Crane, daughter of Pauline and Roswell Crane, descendants of old Connecticut families. Mr. Crane was a descendant of Jasper Crane, one of the founders of the New Haven colony about 1636, and later of the Newark, New Jersey, colony.
Mr. and Mrs. Shaw had two children, Helen L. and Nancy A. "Nannie" died during the Colonel's imprisonment after Shiloh. Mrs. Shaw died May 2, 1867. Colonel Shaw married for his second wife, Retta Harmon, who died eleven months after her marriage. His third wife, Mrs. Elizabeth Crane Higby, was a widow with two children, George Higby and Mrs. Frances Higby Dutton. Mrs. Shaw died eight years ago. From that time until his death, which occurred April 29, 1909, Colonel Shaw and his daughter Helen, resided at the family home. Before an accident, which he had sustained five years previous to his death, they made yearly visits to the old home in Maine, now owned by his nephew, Dr. Frank L. Shaw, of Machias, Maine.
Among the first of the many building enterprises in which Colonel Shaw engaged in Anamosa was the erection of the Fisher house, now the Hotel Gillen. J. H. Fisher & Son were connected with it but the colonel was the active man and hired and paid the workmen. This hotel structure was built in 1855 and 1856 and the first landlord was Amos H. Peaslee, of Dubuque, his brother Cornelius, being associated with him. This hotel was the first public building erected in this vicinity, all the business houses being in the west end of town, and it was a good deal of a venture for the investors to locate so far away from the business section. This was the beginning of Colonel Shaw's construction work in Anamosa and further details will appear later.
Colonel Shaw was largely instrumental in 1857 in the building of the Dubuque Southwestern from Farley to Anamosa, now a part of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul system, and had a contract for a portion of the line. He also assisted in pushing the line on to Marion. At this point we may also state that the colonel was president of the Midland road, now a branch of the Chicago & North Western, and through his efforts it was completed to Anamosa in 1871.
In the spring of 1861 Colonel Shaw went on a visit to Pittsburg when, hearing of the attack on Fort Sumter, he at once telegraphed Governor Kirkwood offering his service. This offer was promptly accepted and after a short visit in Maine he returned and, organized the Fourteenth Iowa Volunteers, which was mustered in November 6, 1861, Colonel Shaw later becoming commander of the Second Brigade and Third Division, Sixteenth Army Corps. He led his troops numbering twenty-two hundred men, at the battles of Fort Donelson and Shiloh, and six months were passed at Mobile, Chalsa, Selma, Talladega, Madison, Macon and Libby.
The regiment was reorganized in January, 1863, and General Curtis assigned Colonel Shaw to a commission to investigate the loyalty of certain prominent St. Louis citizens, with the result that a number were sent south. In April, 1863, the Fourteenth Iowa was ordered to Vicksburg to rejoin the old brigade with the Second, Seventh, Eighth and Twelfth Iowa Regiments, but when they reached Cairo, where a large number of troops were received, including three companies of new recruits of the Fourteenth, the Thirty-fifth Iowa Regiment was sent south in its place. In June, 1863, the Fourteenth went to Columbus, Kentucky, and Colonel Shaw was detached and appointed president of a court martial and later given command of the post. On the 2d of February, following, this regiment left Vicksburg on the Meridian campaign and returned on the 1st of March, remaining at Vicksburg until April, 1864.
Colonel Shaw was in command of the brigade in the battle of Fort de Russey. They marched twenty-eight miles in one day, built two bridges and at nightfall captured the fort. Joining General Banks, the brigade took active part in the battle of Pleasant Hill, Colonel Shaw bearing the brunt of the conflict and losing heavily. Though a victory was achieved by the Union arms, General Banks ordered a retreat and Colonel Shaw's brigade covered it almost the entire distance to the mouth of the Red river. In July the Sixteenth was reorganized and Colonel Shaw was made commander of the Third Division and held that important post until the muster out, the last service being the chase of Price's army out of Missouri. At Davenport, Iowa, November 16, 1864, the Fourteenth Iowa was mustered out, on which occasion the following order was issued:
    "Headquarters Right Wing, Sixteenth Army Corps,
    Harrisonville, Mo., October 29, 1864.
    Special Order No. 132.
    Colonel William T. Shaw, Fourteenth Iowa Volunteers is relieved from command of the Third Division Sixteenth Army Corps and will forthwith join his regiment at Davenport, Iowa. The quartermaster, will furnish transportation for himself and authorized servants. In relieving Col. Shaw from the command of the Third Division, prior to being mustered out, it is an act of justice to an energetic, thorough, competent officer, to say that for the last fifteen months he has been in this command as commanding a post, brigade and division. In every position he has ever performed the incumbent duties faithfully and well, with an ability that few can equal, with courage, patriotism and skill above question. The service loses an excellent officer when he is mustered out.
    By order of
    Major General A. J. Smith.
    J. Haugh, A. A. G."
Possibly no single event of Colonel Shaw's military record compares in significance to the "Hornet's Nest." Historians now agree that the bravery and strategy displayed by him at this time saved Grant's army from demoralization and ultimately won for the Union one of its main objects. In making special mention of this it does not detract from the glory of others, but tardy justice is not without its reward. We quote from his message to his comrades at the dedication of the Shiloh monument these significant words:
    "I am the only surviving colonel of the eleven who commanded the Iowa troops at Shiloh. For the kind interposition of Divine Providence, I trust I have due regard, and today in the quiet of my home, far removed from Shiloh field, I speak to you of the Fourteenth. It is fit and proper that you and I remember our fallen comrades. It is fit and proper that our great commonwealth should erect these monuments to their memory to commemorate the valor of the Iowa regiments which upheld the flag of their country and the reputation of their state upon this battlefield."
Colonel Shaw resumed the duties of citizenship on the expiration of his term of service and his name was connected with many of the enterprises of Anamosa afterward. He was the first mayor in 1856, was on the school board for many years, a member of the legislature in 1875-6, built the old Congregational and Methodist churches, Shaw's block, where are located the county offices and court room, several of the blocks east of the hotel, nearly all the blocks between Niles & Watters' Savings Bank and Huber Street, one or two on the opposite side, the schoolhouse on Strawberry Hill and a number of residences in various parts of town. Included among the latter was his own spacious, handsome home on a slightly eminence, a half mile southeast of town, from whose picturesque grounds one may gaze with enchanted vision on the broad expanse of prairie farms, groves and woodland that meet the eye at different points of the compass.
For something over thirty-five years he was the senior member of the Shaw & Schoonover Bank, now the Anamosa National Bank, and had more to do with the material growth and development of the town than any other citizen during his residence of fifty-six years. Partial blindness for a prolonged period, followed by practically total extinction of his eyesight during the last few years, made very active participation in business impossible, but the colonel thus gradually withdrawing from care, mellowed down very perceptibly from the rugged and sometimes imperious manner of address for which he was noted. But behind all of this his kindness of heart was proverbial in the care of his men in the army and was illustrated by benefactions of every conceivable kind during nearly sixty years of home life. The diamond of generous giving to the needy and helpfulness to many a man in need of help had a rough covering but it was a diamond just the same.
Colonel Shaw detested the tobacco habit, was a stalwart worker in the prohibitory amendment campaign of 1882, contributed a large sum in the building of the Welch factory, was a helper in a multitude of enterprises for the benefit of the community, and, as the Cedar Rapids Republican well says: "he was a typical pioneer and we shall not soon look upon his like again."
In his declining years Colonel Shaw was blessed with the comfort and cheer afforded by the companionship and devotion of his daughter, Helen L. Shaw. During the months in which his strength gradually failed, and long sickness was his, she was continually by her father's side to note his every want and to minister to his comfort, giving him every possible attention that a loving daughter could bestow. A contemporary biographer has said of him:
    "In his personal character Colonel Shaw was modest in the extreme, readily yielding to others more credit for accomplished results than he cared to ascribe to himself. A close observer of events and a rare judge of men, through a long and eventful life, in which he had come in familiar contact with the greatest actors in a wondrous era, he was an entertaining person to meet, showing in his discourse the knowledge and discrimination of the critic and the well tempered judgment of the philosopher. Owing to his true friendship in which confidence was never lost or debased, his name is deeply engraved upon the hearts of thousands of men and women, who have known him in his early struggles, trials and triumphs. He was ever highly esteemed by all who knew him as an honest, sympathetic and public-spirited citizen. His every-day life was simple, unpretending and democratic, bringing him in close touch with all classes, whose feelings and aspirations he understood better than those who stood aloof.
    "Philosopher, scholar, thinker, philanthropist, his trained mind worked with the precision of a splendid piece of machinery. Indissolubly connected with Anamosa, its rise, progress and destiny, his public services and private virtues belong to the nation, as one of its great historical characters, and upon whom the town of Anamosa has long since conferred the enduring title of 'First Citizen.'
    "Statesman, patriot, soldier, friend. He died as he had lived and in a brave battle with the grim reaper he yielded at last to his first and only surrender.
    "Somewhere in eternity, within some golden palace walls, where old battle scarred banners float, and Union jacks keep guard, and Grants and Shermans reign, and all the patriot heroes dwell, the old and fearless warrior has joined the armies of the ages. Amid the dawning light of a new born century, in an age of iron, and steam, and armies, and in a world of peace, weary with the weight of years, death touched his tired heart and he was borne across the great divide that separates man from immortality. Free at last from all the turmoil's and struggles of a long and busy life, the old veteran is at rest."

Source: History of Jones County, Iowa, Past and Present, R. M. Corbitt, S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., Chicago, 1910, p. 5-12.

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