Surgeon J.M. Kerlin

Fifth Iowa Volunteer Cavalry

On rare occasions, one comes across unexpected references to the members of our ancestor's regiments. One wonders how many more such references lie undiscovered in duty volumes. The information below, about one of the regiment's surgeons, reveals far more than the brief entry in the official roster:

M. Kerlin. Residence Rising Sun. Appointed Assistant Surgeon Sept. 17, 1862. Died. No further record found.

In 1869, Leonard Brown authored a book dedicated to veterans of two Iowa counties who perished during the war. The volume is entitled, American Patriotism or Memoirs of Common Men. While there is only a single reference to a Fifth Iowa veteran, it is a tragic one. Doctor Kerlin joined the regiment, but was laid low by an illness which claimed his life prior to his being able to serve in combat. Tragically, Brown's notes, which would have revealed much more about the surgeon, were lost. The complete entry reads as follows:

J.M. Kerlin, Surgeon of the Fifth Iowa Cavalry, was commissioned September 17, 1862, but never mustered in. He was taken sick and died shortly after receiving his commission. A very useful citizen and good man; he left many warm friends. A practicing physician of Rising Sun, Polk County, where he had resided several years. I am sorry that I have not more facts in reference to his history. The notes, which I had with much pains procured, were accidentally destroyed, and it is impossible for me now to replace them. Mrs. Kerlin, a very intelligent and amiable woman, is now a resident of Washington city, D.C.; daughter of Mr. Robinson, of Madison Township, an old resident, and wealthy and influential citizen of Polk County.

In his preface, Brown offered some somber and thought-provoking comments:

This book is, properly, a monument in memory of deceased soldiers of Des Moines and Polk County, Iowa. It will undoubtedly be considered a novelty, though it is not a novel. The tears and sorrows of our people during the years of war were real tears and real sorrows. The heroes of this war were real heroes. Do we delight to read of imaginary heroes, and weep if they are represented as having met with misfortune, when there are thousands who yielded up their lives fighting heroically in defense of our country, whom we are forgetting? They were our neighbors, and friends, and brothers, and sons. Let the tears of grateful memory moisten our cheeks for them. Let us annually strew flowers on their hallowed graves. Let us preserve a careful record of their deeds and patriotic words - a monument of their love of God, and home, and country

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