Linn County, IA Biographies
Civil War Memories
1841 --- Walter Gater --- 1924
Walter Gater was born of parents classed among the poor of the world’s largest city - London,
and the years of his early life were more o less affected by poverty. He received very little
schooling and being the oldest child of the family was required to do what he could toward the
family’s support. At the age of four with the family, he crossed to New Youk City, requiring six
weeks of passage. At the age of eleven he lived in Brooklyn and helped the family as a newsboy
selling Bennett’s "Herald" and Horace Greely’s "Tribune".
In 1857, at 16 he came with the family to Anamosa, Iowa and soon moved to a place about two
miles west of Prairieburg where he helpde his father construct a sod house. It was about the
only one ever built in that area. He lived in this until enlisting in the 24th Iowa Vol. Infantry,
which was mustered in August of 1862. At that time, he with several Prairieburg boys walked
to the Sand Ridge School north of Marion to volunteer their services to their country, his
After being mustered into the United States Army at Muscatine, and with some little time for
drill and other preparations, his regiment was placed on steam boats down the Mississippi. He
felt very serious about the matter and used to tell that just as the boat was passing out of sight
of Keokuk, the last point of Iowa, while standing on the deck with two other home boys, he
waved his hand back toward the city and said, "Goodbye Iowa, I never expect to see you
again." The other two laughed at him for being so serious. In less than six months they both
were dead of disease, and he returned home after his discharge to live sixty more years. With his
regiment, he moved to Helena Arkansas, where they camped on the river side of the Levee.
After an expedition up the White River, and other operations, they returned to Helena and
made camp on the other side of the levee because the river covered their former camp site.
Spring of 1863 found the 25th Iowa moved south and on May 1st was involved in the battle of
Port Gibson. This was Walter’s first real experience under fire. On May 16th the battle of
Champion’s Hill was fought, one of the battles to drive Pemberton back into Vicksburg. In this
battle Walter Gater was severely wounded by a rifle ball going through the right shoulder joint.
Walter had the experience of lying between the lines, being in the Rebel lines, and finding care
in a Confederate hospital. After some days he was taken by ambulance to the Yazoo River and
up the Mississippi to Memphis Tennessee where in a Government hospital he recovered from
his wounds sufficiently for furlough home. In later years, he attributed his recovery to having
lain on the battlefield and not rescued to an aid station which were so primitive. And as a result
was adequately helped by maggots cleaning his wound. After this he spent some time in
hospital at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri. 1st he was a patient then later as a cook. He was not
able to return to his regiment, becoming a civilian employee of the Army.
On returning to Iowa in 1867 he took up farming east of what is now Coggon, then Nugent’s
Grove, near the home of the young lady who had promised to become his wife - Susanna
Reynolds - and this promise was kept October 23rd, 1872. She was a teacher in the Linn
County rural schools.
After 20 years of living on farms east of Coggon, they moved into town where he lived as an
energetic and useful citizen. A development in the southwest part of Coggon bears his name,
showing he figured prominently in the growth of the town, including a brick and tile factory and
a large well built home. His land holdings in Canada were indicative of his connection to his
native England, as the Dominion of Canada was a part of the Crown.
On March 2nd, 1924, on arising he found himself partially paralyzed. From this he never fully
recovered and on July 11th died from a more severe apoplexy. Four months later, November
12th his wife Susanna died. Across Walter Gater’s discharge papers are wrtten the words of his
Commanding Officer, "He was a true and brave soldier." Enlisted August 1862, Company G,
24th Iowa Volunteer Infantry. He served until 1867, even though he was honorably discharged
on April 28th, 1864.
Eulogy submitted by Donald Cope on February 10th, 1998.
Copyright © 1998 by Donald Cope, All Rights Reserved.
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