Lieutenant Colonel Ezekiel Sampson

Fifth Iowa Volunteer Infanty

Barnes Publishing Company Photo Archives, Georgetown University Library, Special Collections Division, Washington, DC

With the formation of the Fifth Iowa Infantry, Ezekiel Silas Sampson was appointed captain of Company F. Due to his leadership skill, and the fortunes of war, he would rise to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel of the regiment.

Perhaps the most heated engagement in which Sampson participated was the famous conflict which raged on Missionary Ridge. In the chaos of Battle of Chattanooga, Colonel Jabez Banbury of the Fifth Iowa assumed command of the brigade when General Matthies was wounded. This made Sampson the de facto commander of the Fifth, and when they were directed to move to the front in the battle for Missionary Ridge, it was the Fifth Iowa which bore the brunt of Confederate counterattack.

General Patrick Cleburne, without doubt one of the finest commanders in the War Between the States, led his forces in a bayonet charge down the hillside. This caught the Union forces completely by surprise, and the results were disastrous. Although Lieutenant Colonel Sampson escaped capture himself, nearly a hundred members of the regiment were rounded up for transport to Rebel prisons. This, of course, was not due to Sampson's command of the regiment, but the heroic efforts of the besieged Confederates.

The Fifth Iowa Infantry was much more fortunate during the campaign to capture Vicksburg, Mississippi, where a monument a monument was erected to the regiment's honor. Lieutenant Colonel Sampson commanded the regiment at the Battle of Champion Hill where it distinguished itself once again. Union casualties during this fierce engagement were 410 killed, 1844 wounded and 187 missing. For the Confederates, casualties were even worse, being 380, 1018 and 2453 respectively.

Following the completion of the regiment's enlistment, Sampson was mustered out and returned home to practice law in Sigourney, Iowa. Before his death on October 7, 1892, he served as a judge, state senator and federal congressman. The Biographical Directory of the United States Congress includes the following entry in acknowledgment of his service to his nation:

SAMPSON, Ezekiel Silas, a Representative from Iowa; born in Huron County, Ohio, December 6, 1831; moved to Keokuk County, Iowa, in 1843; attended the public schools, Howe's Academy in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, and Knox College, Illinois; studied law; was admitted to the bar in 1856 and commenced practice in Sigourney, Keokuk County, Iowa; prosecuting attorney 1856-1858; enlisted in the Union Army as captain in the Fifth Regiment, Iowa Volunteer Infantry, in 1861 and was lieutenant colonel of the same regiment when mustered out in 1864; returned to the practice of law in Sigourney, Iowa; member of the State senate in 1866; judge of the sixth district of Iowa from January 1867 to January 1875; elected as a Republican to the Forty-fourth and Forty-fifth Congresses (March 4, 1875 - March 3, 1879); unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1878 to the Forty-sixth Congress; resumed the practice of his profession; died in Sigourney, Keokuk County, Iowa, October 7, 1892; interment in West Cemetery.

The following passage, from Past and Present of Jasper County Iowa which was published in 1912, includes a more personal assessment.

On January 1, 1867, Judge Loughridge was succeeded by Hon. E.S. Sampson. Judge Sampson was an ideal judge, very reserved in his manner, cool and deliberate, and was highly respected by all who knew him. During the Civil War he was lieutenant colonel of the Fifth Iowa Regiment of Volunteer Infantry. After his retirement from the bench, he was elected to Congress and served one term. Afterwards he engaged in the practice of law at Sigourney, Iowa, where he died October 7, 1892. Judge Sampson was succeeded on the district bench by Hon. H. S. Winslow, of Newton, January 1, 1875, and served until January 1, 1879.

The Fifth Iowa Volunteer Cavalry regimental site is grateful to Charlie Larimer, great-grandson of Lieutenant Colonel Sampson.

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