Private Isaac M. Phipps
Fifth Iowa Volunteer Cavalry
Private Isaac M. Phipps, a native of Illinois, was twenty-three when he enlisted on May 18, 1864. He was mustered the following month, on June 13th. The very next month, Phipps had the misfortune to be taken prisoner on July 31, 1864, during the skirmish at the Chattahoochee River, Georgia. We do not know the precise circumstances of his parole, but he presumably returned to the regiment and was mustered out of the Fifth Iowa Cavalry on June 5, 1865.
Up until 1864, Isaac had been homesteading near Glenwood, Iowa. With his enlistment, he left his unmarried youngest sisters Elvira and Henrietta to run the family farm. (These two sisters never did marry.) The Phipps family was a "clean living family" who read the Bible and prayed daily. A large tree had been cut down in front of the house and the stump was used as a table where the sisters could sit and read their Bible and do their fancy hand work. At the war's close, many veteran soldiers walked and rode the railroad, returning to their homes. The railway passed the farm, only a mile from the house. Every evening they would sit and offer their prayers, including of course prayers for Isaac's safekeeping. They would offer the traveling soldiers a meal and a place to sleep in their barn.
Apparently, when Phipps was captured, word mistakenly came to his family that he had been killed. His fiancÚ Mary, who had been awaiting his return, heard the report of his probable death and decided she would be better off to marry someone else rather than simply grieve. So when the war ended in 1865 she married Fletcher B. Pitzer, a pioneer Methodist minister.
Meanwhile, having survived his imprisonment, Phipps returned home. Elvira and Henrietta had nearly given up their vigil for their brother when they were sitting at their stump one evening and saw what looked like just another tramp walking along the rails. They checked to see that there were leftovers from dinner to feed him and prepared to do their service for the war effort. When the tramp got close enough for them to see his features they recognized him as Isaac.
Through an amazing set of circumstances, his former love Mary became a widow after bearing her pastor husband six children. As a widow she benefited from the gracious assistance of an anonymous benefactor who provider her struggling family with timely aid. Eventually she learned of just who was providing the gifts and their relationship was renewed. They were married in 1883 and Phipps became father to her six children, plus three more children that they had together.
We are grateful to John Grant Phipps, great-grandson of Private Phipps, for the information about this veteran's life before and after his service with the Fifth Iowa Cavalry.