Lieutenant William T. Hays
Fifth Iowa Volunteer Cavalry
Every descendant of a veteran of the Fifth Iowa Volunteer Cavalry owes a debt of gratitude to First Lieutenant William T. Hays. It was he who composed the formal "Story of the Regiment" for the official Report of Adjutant General of Iowa. Without his efforts, understanding the history of the unit would be infinitely more difficult.
Hays was a forty year old resident of Bellevue, Iowa, when he was appointed first lieutenant of the unit which would become Company H of the Fifth Iowa. A detachment of twenty-seven men had been recruited by Lieutenant L. Millar, for the Fremont Hussars. The group was subsequently recruited to a total of fifty-five men, and, with Hays as First Lieutenant, was mustered into the service January 9, 1862 as a "half company." The company organization was completed at Fort Henry, Tennessee. On February 11, 1862, and it was assigned to the "Curtis Horse" Regiment which would eventually be redesignated the Fifth Iowa Volunteer Cavalry.
On July 30, 1864 he was captured by the Confederates in the violent battle at Newnan, Georgia. Initially, his situation was uncertain, but he was assumed to have been taken prisoner. Elsewhere on the Fifth Iowa Cavalry domain we are pleased to provide the texts of two letters written to inform his wife of his predicament. The first was composed by Webb Seavey, who was the company's first sergeant. The second was penned by the company's captain, Jeremiah Wilcox. It is certain that his wife, Mary, took much comfort in their words, and she was delighted when her husband was repatriated after two months in Confederate hands. However, her joy at that event was doubtless eclipsed by her emotions when her beloved husband mustered out of the regiment on January 9, 1865 and returned to their home.
The Fifth Iowa Cavalry site is deeply indebted to Hays' great-granddaughter, Laurie Hays Kleen, for his photograph and for the letters quoted elsewhere.