“Dixie Bill” had Five Riders Shot from His Saddle

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John Hartwell

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Enough of these officers bragging about how many horses were shot out from under them. “Dixie Bill” is staking his counter-claim.

Dixie Bill’s story begins, as far as is recorded, at the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, on August 10, 1861. The 11*-year-old bay stallion, whose name at the time we do not know, was the mount of an equally unknown Tennessee Confederate cavalryman. Although he might have been thought past his prime, surely he was prized, perhaps cherished by his rider, but that story we will never know, for “The rebel that rode him in the charge on the hospital train … was shot off him by Jeffrey Lucas of Company A, 1st Iowa infantry.”[1] At the same time,the horse suffered the first of his 4 wounds: a musket ball through the neck. He was run through the lines with several other horses, and captured “by Henry Bankes of the Iowa Hundred Day men.”[2]

[NOTE: there is about a year missing in our story. From Bill's 'capture' in the summer of '61, to the formation of the 35th Iowa, in the summer of '62. No source mentions what transpired therein, though all agree on the rest of the story.]

After treating his wound, he was sent, with other captured horses, to Muscatine, Iowa, there to be purchased by Col. Sylvester G. Hill, of the newly formed 35th Iowa Infantry. His new owner dubbed him “Dixie Bill,” and rode him for over a year and a half, and all through the siege of Vicksburg, and into the Red River campaign. Col. Hill was wounded at Pleasant Hill, and again at Yellow Bayou, both times while riding Dixie Bill.
Colonel_Sylvester_G_Hill_USA.jpeg

Col. S. G. Hill​
When Hill went home on furlough to recover, the horse was ridden by Major Abraham John, in the skirmish at Old River Lake, Ark. (June 6, 1864), where John was fatally shot out of the saddle.

Col. Hill returned to command, and to Dixie Bill’s precarious saddle, for the Battle of Tupelo, and rode him later during Price’s Raid. Finally, at the Battle of Nashville (Dec. 15, 1864), leading his brigade against Redoubt No. 2, Col. Hill was killed instantly, and Dixie Bill was wounded.

Next, we are told, Dixie Bill was bought by “an adjutant of the 33rd Missouri,”[3] who, learning of the horse’s record for officers shot from his saddle, soon was offering him for sale again … cheap! Dixie Bill, it seems, “had become a hoodoo, and no staff officer could be found who would ride him.”[1]

This is when Chaplain William Bagley of the 35th Iowa came to the rescue. He decided to give the old war horse a home. As he was just about to leave the service, he bought Dixie Bill, and brought him to his home in DesMoines, safely away from any battlefield. He would be Rev Bagley’s favorite saddle-horse for many years to come. Just before a 4th of July parade in 1878, “the old horse broke away … and pranced through the streets like a colt, and to judge from his appearance, would be good for another campaign.[3]

Dixie Bill passed away on October 15, 1881. His obituary says:
“For years he has been one of the most respected inhabitants of Des Moines, and his grave, [with full military honors] has now been made on Mr Bagley’s lawn in that city. Dixie Bill was in his 32nd* year when he died, and besides that title to distinction, he carried four scars of honorable service. The Stars and Stripes were buried with him,and another flag flies over his grave.”​
I wonder where William Bagley lived in Des Moines … if his lawn is still there … if there is any sign or memory of Dixie Bill’s last resting-place.

[1] Muscatine News Tribune, 12 Oct. 1906
[2] Ypsilanti Commercial, 18 Oct. 1881
[3] Muscatine Weekly, July 14, 1878
wikipedia.org/wiki/Sylvester_G._Hill
https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/62028830/william-h_-bagley
* When he died in 1881, Dixie Bill's age is given variously as 30, 32, or 34.
 
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lelliott19

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I wonder where William Bagley lived in Des Moines … if his lawn is still there … if there is any sign or memory of Dixie Bill’s last resting-place.
Great story John. According to this newspaper article, Mr. Bagley lived at 1514 11th Street DesMoines Iowa.
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[Algona Republican (Algona, Iowa), October 5, 1881, page 6.]

The addresses may have been renumbered since 1881. According to Google maps, this is 1514 11th Street
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And when you zoom in with Google Street view, there's a circle of rocks in the yard. Hard to tell if they are modern or 1880's rocks, but I like to think they are marking the grave of "Dixie Bill"
1563036912240.png
 
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JPK Huson 1863

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There have been a number of posts recently about brave horses. But I haven't seen any about brave mules. Apparently, mules didn't like being shot at and were not reliable as cavalry mounts, pulling artillery, or pulling ambulances. They were willing to do the heavy pulling and leave the glory to horses.

Oh, it's probably because mules weren't ridden by men who could tell their stories. Mules genuinely are as notoriously argumentative as legend claims and awfully smart ( which could be why they disliked being shot at...) . I'm not sure the fact we don't seem to have famous mules of the war has anything to do with whether or not they were brave- they've just been overlooked. Louisa May Alcott memorialized them but I haven't seen any other mentions of the poor things as ' individuals '.
 
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John Hartwell

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Oh, it's probably because mules weren't ridden by men who could tell their stories. Mules genuinely are as notoriously argumentative as legend claims and awfully smart ( which could be why they disliked being shot at...) . I'm not sure the fact we don't seem to have famous mules of the war has anything to do with whether or not they were brave- they've just been overlooked. Louisa May Alcott memorialized them but I haven't seen any other mentions of the poor things as ' individuals '.
True, we hear little of individual mules, by name, probably, as you suggest, because they weren't ridden by famous generals and great heroes. But, there are LOTS of nameless "mulish anecdotes." Just about everybody had one, each celebrating the critter's anonymous individuality.
 
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