biography from Portrait & Biographical Album of Mahaska Co., Iowa, 1887
GEN. SAMUEL ALLEN RICE was of Scotch- Irish descent, and the sixth child of Allen and Melinda (Chapman) Rice, their family consisting of two girls and six boys, only two of whom are living, Mrs. H. B. Rice, the eldest, and Gen. Elliott W. Rice, both residing at Sioux City, Iowa. Our subject was born in Cattaraugus County, N. Y., Jan. 27, 1828. When he was ten years old his parents removed to Martin's Ferry, Belmont Co., Ohio, where they lived for many years, and are now at rest in the old cemetery at that place. While living at Martin's Ferry, his father engaged in merchandising, and also owned a large boat, on which he and his sons made a num- ber of trips down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to New Orleans, and it was on those journeys that Gen. Rice obtained a knowledge of the river and boating, that served him to such good purpose dur- ing the war, while assisting in clearing the Yazoo Pass of obstructions in that celebrated expedition of the southwest. Gen. Rice early displayed an aptness for study and thought that afterward so distinguished him in civil and military life. His first instructor was his sister Angeline (Mrs. H. B. Rice), who taught him to read, and with her assistance he completed the reading of the whole Bible when only seven years old. She took great pains in teaching him in early years, and thereby created in his mind a love for study which he always retained. His mother and sister were zealous Christian women, refined and cultured, and they did all in their power to stimulate that genius in him that, after- ward developed, made him so eminent at the bar and on the field. After attending the public schools at home and the Academy in Wheeling, Va., he entered Franklin College, at Athens, Ohio, and from there went to Union College, New York, where he completed the classical course and grad- uated in the class of 1849. He spent one year in the law department of that institution, and then came West, first stopping at Fairfield, Iowa, where he entered the office of Slagle & Atchison, and re- mained one year. In the fall of 1851 he located in Oskaloosa, Iowa, and actively began the prac- tice of his chosen profession with zeal and a deter- mination to win. In the fall of 1853 hewn elected Prosecuting Attorney of Mahaska County, which was the first office held by him. Having firmly established himself in business, Mr. Rice returned to Martin's Ferry and married Miss Louisa M. Alexander, the eldest daughter of Rev. James Alexander, D. D., of Virginia, a Christ- ian lady of strong mind and great force of char- acter, and with his bride at once returned to Oska- loosa, and built the home in which the widow and family still reside. As a fruit of that marriage five children were born, four of whom are now livingÄ James A., Emory C., Frank S. and Nettle L. The youngest, Lua, joined her father eleven months after his decease. Gen. Rice so ably filled the position of County Attorney that in the fall of 1856 the people called him to the more exalted position of Attorney Gen- eral of the State of Iowa, to which position he was re-elected in 1858, and retained the office until the spring of 1860. During the summer of 1862 he organized the 33d Iowa Infantry, of which Gov. Samuel J. Kirkwood commissioned him Colonel, Aug. 10, 1862, and in November of that year he took his regiment to St. Louis. In the spring of 1863 he went with his command to Helena, Ark., and immediately began to clear the Yazoo Pass of obstructions and open it up for navigation. This required a month of arduous and very dangerous service. July 4, 1863, the battle of Helena was fought, in which Col. Rice and his regiment bore a conspicuous part. This was a most important en- gagement, because Helena, with its Government stores, was saved to the Union, and the rebels were very much discouraged in not regaining their lost territory on the west side of the river. Gen. Rice's command saved that place from capture, and he displayed a coolness, courage and tact during the engagement that gave him a star upon his shoulder. This battle lasted from early morning until 11 o'clock A. M., when the rebels precipitately re- treated, leaving many dead and wounded upon the field. In August, 1863. he received his commis- sion as Brigadier General of Volunteers. He was with Gen. Fred Steele when he captured Little Rock, and his command assisted in the construction of the fortification around that city. He also ac- companied Gen. Steele on his campaign into South- western Arkansas. During that campaign his com- mand met the rebels at Terre Noir Creek, Elkin's Ford, Prairie D'Anne and Camden. In the en- gagement on the Little Missouri, Gen. Rice re- ceived a severe scalp wound, a minie ball passing- through his hat. He remarked that he feared his hat was spoiled. The expedition from the time it left Little Rock, until it reached the Saline River, was one continuous engagement, and April 30, 1864, it culminated in the desperate and bloody battle at Jenkins' Ferry, which can truthfully be called the great battle of Arkansas. Gen. Steele's army, on their retreat, reached the Saline River bottom on the afternoon of April 29, 1864, with Gens. Kirby, Smith, Price and Marma- duke close in pursuit, with over 20,000 Confeder- ate soldiers flushed with their recent victory over Gen. Banks, on the Red River. They were deter- mined to crush Gen. Steele's army and again place Arkansas in possession of the rebel forces. Gen. Steele laid his pontoon bridge across the Saline River, and began crossing his train in the afternoon, but on account of a heavy rain which set in soon after, his progress was greatly impeded, and though they continued to cross all night, morning found yet a large portion of the train on the south side of the river, the rain-pouring in torrents, and the entire river bottom submerged. His army was weary, hungry and short of rations. About 2 o'clock on the morning of April 30, Gen. Steele sent for Gen. Rice to meet him at the Widow Jen- kin's cabin. (God bless the old lady, she still lives, and the writer saw and conversed with her about the battle last April.) Here Gen. Steele said, "The enemy will attack us in force at daylight, and I look to you, Gen. Rice, to hold them in check until the remainder of the army can get across on the pontoon." This Gen. Rice cheerfully consented to do, and with a force of 4,000 as brave men as ever wore the blue, held Gen. Kirby Smith in check, with his army of over 20,000 as determined and resolute men as ever wore the gray, from 6 o'clock in the morning until noon, when, after making three desperate charges, the last one with the fresh troops of Walker's division of Texans, who arrived at 11 o'clock, the enemy retreated, Steele's army crossed the Saline River, and Arkansas was saved. It was a dearly won victory, for over 500 of that little force lay dead or dying upon that field of carnage, their bodies intermingled with 2,000 Confederate dead. Three confederate Generals, Wall, Randal and Scurry, were among the slain on that memor- able field. Our boys held the field in a drenching rain, many of them standing in water waist deep, and all of them had been without food since the day before. Some of them fired 200 rounds of ammunition. When we consider the number en- gaged, this was one of the most sanguinary battles of the war. Gen. Solomon, who commanded a division in Steele's army, in his report of this bat- tle, gives the Union loss as 521 and Confederate loss about 2,000. In speaking of this battle, a Con- federate Captain of Walker's division says: " Our laurels, if we wore any from that field, were crim- soned with the blood of over 1,500 of our bravest men. No more destructive battle is recorded in the bloody pages of our country's history." Gen. Rice had command of the field that day, and his coolness and good judgment in selecting the battle-ground flanked by Coze's Creek, a deep and rapid stream, on the right, and a then impen- etrable swamp and morass (made so by the inces- sant rain) on his left, together with the heroic bravery of the men who fought that battle, saved Steele's army and the State of Arkansas to the Union cause. The battles of Helena and Jenkins' Ferry have never had the place in history that their importance entitled them to, because, as be- fore stated, they were overshadowed at the time by the great battles of the Eastern army, where the casualties were greater in number, but not in pro- portion to the number engaged, nor more import- ant in results. During the last charge of the rebels, about 11:45 A. M., Gen. Rice received the wound which caused his death. A minie ball passed through his right ankle, carrying into the wound the rim of a brass spur buckle, from the effects of which he died at his home, July 6, 1864, in full possession of all his faculties to the last moment, surrounded by his family and friends, and with the bright hope of a glorious immortality beyond this life. Gen. Solomon, in his official report of the battle says: "Brig. Gen. S. A. Rice merits special men- tion, not only for conspicuous gallantry, and cool and correct judgment in action, but also for his continual personal attention to his command. During the entire expedition his services have been invaluable, and it is not without reluctance that I am obliged to part with him, even temporarily." Gallant Maj. John F. Lacey, Gen. Rice's Adju- tant General, whose rapid and accurate transmis- sion of orders that day won the confidence and ad- miration of all, in speaking of the battle says: "Without deducting from the glory of the other commanders, we may properly say that to Gen. S. A. Rice, more than to anyone else, was due the re- sults of this day. A victory was dearly won that cost the nation a life as noble as his." Gen. Rice's genius was not confined to military life alone, for in civil life, he was even more dis- tinguished as a lawyer, and respected and honored as a citizen. When his death was announced at Des Moines, the Supreme Court of Iowa, then in session, passed touching resolutions and ordered them spread upon the records. Among other eminent lawyers, Hon. Chief Jus- tice George G. Wright, Hon. Thomas F. Withrow and Hon. William H. Seevers delivered touching eulogies upon his life and public services. Gen. Rice's remains lie at rest in Forest Cemetery just beyond the city limits of Oskaloosa, and over his grave the gallant 29th and 33d Iowa Regiments of "Rice's Brigade," have erected a beautiful marble shaft, thirty feet in height, upon which is inscribed the names of the battles he fought. Perched upon the top is an American eagle, looking away toward the sunny South, where Gen. Rice poured out his life blood that the nation might have a new birth of liberty and freedom. Camp No. 48, Sons of Veterans, at Oskaloosa, bears the name of this dis- tinguished soldier and citizen. The chief characteristics of Gen. Rice were cool- ness, courage, sound judgment, good common sense and great integrity and purity of character. To these virtues he united courtesy and kindness, which made him greatly beloved and respected by all who knew him, so much so that in the thirty- six years he lived on earth he made for himself a reputation that is imperishable, and which the touch of time will scarcely efface.
Portrait & Biographical Album of Mahaska Co., Iowa, 1887
Mahaska County, Iowa Genealogy