Grand Army of the Republic
Ira Joy Chase
Department
Commander

1887 - 1888

 It has ever been the tendency of historians to award the main credit of successful wars and great victories to the leaders and officers of the victorious army. None know better than the leaders and officers themselves that a very large share, if not the main portion, of the credit and glory is due to the privates the men who carry the muskets and knapsacks, who make long, forced marches, who work in the trenches and do the fighting It is but just to say, that officers always seem willing and glad to accord the full measure of credit to the privates. A quote from General Ben Harrison during his campaign stated "Kings sometimes bestow upon those whom they desire to honor decorations. But the man is most highly decorated who has the regard and affection of his friends" This is a fitting profile of our subject today, Ira Joy Chase.

Among the vast number of those who composed the rank and file of the armies of the Union was Ira J. Chase. He was born in the village of Clarkson, Monroe County, New York, December 7, 1834. Three months later his parents removed to Medina, Orleans County, New York, where he was reared to the age of twenty. He had an honorable lineage. One of his ancestors, Samuel Chase, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, from the state of Maryland. Another, his great-grandfather, Rufus Chase, was one of twenty- four revolutionary patriots who stole after night into the British camp, captured General Prescott, and brought him into the American lines. It is said that General Washington, on hearing of this daring exploit, condemned it, on the ground that the chances of a fatal termination were ten to one against its successful execution. He tempered his disapproval, however, by adding that men of their heroic caliber were too scarce to be spared for such hazardous enterprises. Still another ancestor, his maternal grandfather, the Honorable Ira Mix after whom he was christened, twice represented the county of Rutland in the Vermont Legislature prior to the war of 1812. Benjamin Chase, the father of Ira J., died about 1877 was a man of sterling integrity, and highly esteemed by all that knew him. His mother, a lady of rare intelligence and most amiable character, made her home with the son.

Ira's early life had its full share of struggles and privations. While he was still a mere lad, the failure of his father's health threw the responsibility of supporting the family mainly upon his mother and himself. His aged mother spoke with affectionate enthusiasm of the heroic manner in which the boy grappled with his destiny'.

When he was twelve years of age the family moved to Milan, Stark County, Ohio, where Ira attended school three years under the direction of Rev. Lemuel Bissell, a Presbyterian minister, who is was later, missionary to India for thirty-eight years. The boy improved rapidly by the help of this good minister, who became greatly attached to him, often begging the parents to turn over their son to his care, and promising to adopt and educate him. But the mother would not yield, and at the expiration of three years the family returned to Medina. The youth continued his efforts to obtain an education, and, entering the Medina Academy, he worked his way through, under the encouragement and assistance of the principal, Major Thales Lindsley, a graduate of West Point, and a scholar of rare accomplishments.

 In 1855 the family removed to Illinois, locating first on a small farm near Barrington, Cook County, thirty miles from Chicago, where they struggled along with only tolerable success.

 In the mean time, Ira, after spending a year with his uncle, Ira, Mix, at Jefferson a suburb, now incorporated within the limits of Chicago, began teaching school, the delicate condition of his health forbidding manual labor. While engaged in this work, on March 24) 1859, he married Miss Rhoda J. Castle, of Palatine, Cook County, Illinois, who, like him, was engaged in teaching.They would have four children, Emma the oldest, Lecca, Frank and Benny.

 The beginning of the war found them as it found thousands of' other young couples and happy little families, and with like results. Though loath to leave his wife and home, the prompting of patriotism and duty was too strong to resist, and he enlisted in Company C, Nineteenth Illinois Volunteer Infantry, on the 17th of June 1861. The schoolmaster was the first citizen in Barrington to enlist. The regiment was commanded by Colonel J. B. Turcbin, later known better as General Turchin, by promotion.

The Nineteenth Infantry left Chicago oil July 12, 1861, for Quincy, where it arrived the next day. On the 14th it received orders from General Hurlburt to relieve the Twenty-first Illinois, commanded by Colonel U. S. Grant, posted on tile Hannibal and St. Joe Railroad, from Quincy to Palmyra. "During two weeks' stay in this locality," says the Adjutant-General's report, "besides guarding several important bridges, they chased the newly organized rebel companies out of the various plantations, destroyed their barracks and provisions, obliged the citizens to pledge their allegiance to the government, encouraged the formation of home-guard companies at Palmyra and Newark, and suppressed the secessionists."

 General Fremont was then in command of the Department of Missouri. " The concentration of a strong rebel force at New Madrid, Missouri, obliged Fremont to concentrate a sufficient force at Bird's Point, opposite Cairo, on the Missouri side. The Nineteenth joined this expedition at St. Louis, and embarked with 9,000 or 10,000 other troops on a large flotilla, arriving at Bird's Point about the first of August. The Nineteenth Regiment was immediately detailed to Norfolk, six miles below, is an advance guard, where its duties were quite difficult and arduous. A week or two later the regiment joined an expedition to intercept General Pillow, who was reported as moving toward Ironton. On the 14th it was ordered to move to Jackson as advance guard to General Prentiss' army, then expecting to meet the enemy at Dallas. No engagement occurred, and the Nineteenth (on the 8th of September) took boats again and returned to Cairo. After a series of other marches and maneuvers the regiment experienced a frightful disaster by which twenty-four men, including Captain B. B. Howard, were. instantly killed, and 105 wounded.

 The regiment had left, Cairo on five 16th of September, and was proceeding toward Cincinnati on the Ohio and. Mississippi Railroad. When forty-six miles east of Vincennes the second train, containing four companies and regimental staff, broke through the bridge over Beaver creek. The scene was appalling, and the loss of life (says the Roster of Illinois) "was nearly as great as the regiment suffered in any battle during its term of service." Private Chase barely escaped this disaster, having been detailed the day before to do recruiting duty.

 On the 25th of September the regiment went into camp at Lebanon Junction, thirty-five miles south of Louisville, relieving the Louisville Legion. Thus, says the report of the Adjutant-General, "after thousands of mile of traveling by river and by rail, the regiment at last got into a somewhat permanent camp, where it could drill, and improve itself in guard and picket duty, and in battalion movements."

 Among the officers and privates of the Nineteenth Infantry were a number of well-disciplined soldiers who had belonged to the original company of Ellsworth's Zouaves At all convenient seasons these efficient drill-masters employed the time acquainting the regiment with regulation tactics. Among other greatly enamored of the Zouave drill, and in order to become proficient therein he hired Corporal Bishop, of his company to give him private lesions. Within t year his progress had become so apparent that General Turchin recognized it so far as to appoint him Orderly Sergeant, and detail him to drill -raw recruits. His military aspirations were, however, destined to end in disappointment. His health, which had never been rugged, declined after his first year's service, and he was finally sent to the hospital for treatment. This occurred while he was with his regiment at, Huntsville Ala. While in the hospital there he was given up to die by his surgeon, Dr. R. G. Bogue, but he afterward recovered sufficiently to bear removal to Nashville. Here. He continued to improve, and at last because well enough to do hospital duty. He was appointed hospital clerk in the latter part of the summer of 1862.

 At this time Ira's wife Rhoda, hearing of her husband's illness came to Nashville with the couple's child. Army regulations did not permit women in camp with the exception of nurses. So Mrs. Chase became a wartime nurse and nursed her husband back to health again. Later in life she was honored for her service in July 1920, the Indiana General Assembly voted a pension of $100.00 a month to Rhoda Jane Chase.

 

When it became apparent that Private Chase was physically unfit for army service his surgeon advised him to retire from the army or he would soon be a dead man. Accepting the inevitable, he received his discharge papers November 7, 1862.

 Returning to Barrington, Illinois, he joined his wife, and as soon as he was able to attend to business stocked a hardware store and decided to try his hand at merchandising. A year or two later his wife was prostrated with smallpox, and as she was the only victim in the town their house was shunned by all their neighbors, and Mr. Chase's business was ruined. He attended upon his wife constantly, and after a terrible experience, lasting five months, she arose from the bed blind and crippled. One of her eyes has since been partially restored, but the other was totally lost.After this last-failure of Mr. Chase's business prospects, he determined to act upon the suggestion of friends and study for the ministry. He began preaching in the Christian Church, and has followed that profession with great credit to himself ever since. As a minister he is widely known throughout the West, His first charge was at Mishawaka, Indiana. Subsequently his appointments were as follows: 1867, La Porte, Indiana; 1869, Pittsburgh, Pa.; 1871, Peoria, Ill.; 1880, Wabash, Indiana; 1884 and after Danville, where he lived until his death. He was prominent in State evangelical work after his campaign against Matson for Congress.

 He moved to Danville, Hendricks County, Indiana, and took charge of the Christian Church there. In February 1886, he was unanimously chosen by his Grand Army comrades, assembled at Indianapolis as Chaplain of the Department of Indiana. Five months later he received the nomination as Republican candidate for Congress from the Fifth District of Indiana. He made a thorough canvass against Colonel C. C. Matson, and succeeded in reducing that gentleman's gerrymandered majority from 1,365 to 532.

 In February 1887, he was elected at the grand encampment of the G.A.R. as Department Commander, with a whirl of enthusiasm. While acting in this capacity he endeared himself more than ever to his comrades, and when his term expired, last February they reelected him to the position of Chaplain. This was a surprise to him, and the unanimity with which it was done was only surpassed by the action of the State convention, which gave him the nomination for Lieutenant Governor by acclamation and with great enthusiasm.

Private Chase possessed natural social qualities to a degree rarely found even in public men whose interest and business it is to cultivate them as an art. These traits were born in him, and hence never had to be acquired. He is kind-hearted, unsuspicious, and ready to believe every man as honest as himself He was only intolerant of wrong, abominating nothing more than insincerity. As a speaker, he was persuasive and eloquent. Candid to the point of simplicity, he sometimes excited the criticism of professional politicians as wanting art, but what he lacked inpolicy is more than made up in cordial frankness and genuine sincerity.

One gentleman who lived in Danville in 1943 stated "I still remember his campaign for governor with the torch light processions and glee clubs. The chorus of-one of the songs "This is our boom-de-a With Chase we'll win the day" But he didn't win the day.

 Mr. Chase received many congratulatory letters from old comrades and friends in Indiana and other State's after his nomination as Lieutenant Governor. As a specimen of comradeship, the following, from the Nineteenth Illinois Infantry Veteran Club, at Chicago, will serve. It is signed by the secretary of that organization, T. M. Beatty, and reads.

 

"The Nineteenth Illinois Veteran Club desires, through me, to tender their most hearty congratulations on your nomination to the honorable office of Lieutenant-Governor of Indiana. They sincerely hope the people of Indiana will do themselves the credit o f electing you to that office by a large majority, as ' we feel that, with you as the incumbent, the duties of the office will be performed with that ability, fidelity and patriotism which characterized your service in the regiment."

 General John B. Turchin, his old commander, wrote a congratulatory letter, in which he expressed the hope that Mr. Chase's nomination for Lieutenant Governor would be confirmed by the votes of the citizens of Indiana. " You belong to those patriotic men," the letter continued, C' who at the first call shouldered the musket to fight the country's cause and to preserve the Union. You have done fully your duty while in the army, and although being worthy of promotion, your own advancement like that of many other worthy comrades, was prevented by injudicious regulations adopted by the Governors of Western States. But shoulder-straps can not be considered as premiums on patriotism; the honor of saving the country belongs by right rather to the men of the ranks than to those who commanded them, as they had the heaviest load to carry Your industry, perseverance and worth as a citizen, since the late war, have put you forward ahead of many others who were your superiors in the army. Hence more honor to you and others like you. As for me I can not but be proud, seeing one of the boys of my own regiment get promoted by his fellow-citizens to the exalted position of Lieutenant Governor of the great State of Indiana."

 Chase was elected lieutenant governor in 1888 and became governor upon the death of Alvin P. Hovey in 1891. Ira Chase came into the office of Governor right at the time when, the Australian ballot system was first Inaugurate. It was a step in the direction for a more honest way of voting. It aimed to stop the buying of votes by politicians. Another law passed at that time changed the method of selecting textbooks for the schools. Also at this time the Soldiers' and Sailors Monument was being erected. So you can see that Governor Chase had, plenty to keep his mind occupied as he commuted to and fro from his home in Danville to the State house in Indianapolis ovary day.

 One gentleman who lived in Danville in 1943 stated "I still remember his campaign for governor with the torch light processions and glee clubs. The chorus of-one of the songs "This is our boom-de-a With Chase we'll win the day" Chase was defeated when he ran for governor in his own right in 1892.

 Ira Joy Chase in his last years was co-founder of the Crawfordsville, Indiana based "Supreme Tribe of Ben Hur and was it's first Supreme Chief.

 

Mr. Chase died in Lubec, Washington County, Maine on May 11 1895 and is buried in Crown Hill Cemetery, Section 9, Lot 39, Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana.

 

 

Notes:

Ira Joy Chase (1834-1895) November 23, 1891January 9, 1893 httv://www.statelib.hb.in.us/www/ihb/aovlist.html

Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis, Marion, Indiana Burial: 05/15/1895 Section: 9, Lot: 39

May 11, 1895. Interment at Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana

Ref: hftp://www.crownhiI1.org/cemetery/index.htmI

 

Chase, Ira Joy (1834-1895) Born December 7, 1834.

Candidate for U.S. Representative from Indiana, 1886;

Lieutenant Governor of Indiana, 1889-91; Governor of Indiana, 1891-93; defeated, 1892.

 

Hovey and Chase, Life of General Alvin P. Hovey, together with a sketch of Ira J. Chase, soldier, Preacher, Orator, and Commander of the G.A.R, Department of Indiana. By Charles M. Walker, Union Book Company, Indianapolis, Indiana, 1888.

 

Indianapolis Star Magazine, January 28,1962, Page 19

Indianapolis Star, April 11,1943, Part 5, Page 12, Column 1

Indianapolis News, February 17, 1964, Page 39, Column 4

 

Submitted December 27 2000 by:
Stephen Bruce Bauer


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