John Whitmore - Civil War Medal of Honor Recipient

John Whitmore - Civil War Medal of Honor Recipient


It wasn't usual for Privates to receive the Medal of Honor during the Civil War, but John Whitmore did!

John Whitmore Biography

  • Des Moines County, Iowa

John Whitmore served as a Private with the 119th Illinois Infantry, Company F in the Civil War. At the time of his enlistment he was living in Camden, Illinois. He enlisted on 15 August 1862, was mustered into service on 7 October 1862 and mustered out on 26 August 1865.

John W. Whitmore was a Medal of Honor recipient for his service during the Civil War. He is buried at the Shinar Cumberland Presbyterian Church cemetery, near the former town of Pleasant Grove, Des Moines County, IA. A new marker from the VA was placed on his grave in October of 1997 showing that he was a Medal of Honor recipient. There is an error on the marker though. It says that he died in 1918, when in fact he died in 1913.


One of the prominent and highly respected farmers of Pleasant Grove township, and who has accomplished much for the community, as well as one who has served his country in time of war, is John Whittmore. He is a son of John P. and Delilah ( Miller ) Whittmore, and was born in Brown County, Illinois, July 3, 1844. His father was born in Connecticut, and the mother in Wooster, Ohio. When the father was only nineteen years old he came to Illinois, and located near Springfield, where he remained for about eighteen months, In 1834 he moved to Fort Madison, Iowa, where he followed the trade of a millwright, and put up the old log jail--the first in that county. In 1844 he returned to Illinois and took up his residence in Brown County, during which time he was engaged at his trade. After removing to Keokuck county, Iowa, where he lived for five years, he was elected justice of the peace of that county, and had the honor of performing the first marriage ceremony in that place. In the year of 1850 he again returned to Illinois, and located on the home place, and there remained until his death, which occurred at the age of fifty-nine years. He is buried in Brown county, Illinois. He and his good wife were members of the Methodist church. Politically, he was a Democrat, and served his party well. He was a good man, and was honored by all for his many nobel traits of character. The mother of our subject outlived her husband some nine years, dying in 1878 at the age of seventy-two years, and is laid by the side of her husband. She was a woman of great strength of character, and beloved by all. They were the parents of eleven children, of whom John, of this review, was the third youngest and the only remaining one living.

Our subject was educated in Brown county, Illinois and assisted on the home place till 1862, when he enlisted in Company F, One Hundred and Nineteenth Illinois Volunteer Infantry, and served till the close of the war. He was in nine noted battles--Nashville; Pleasant Hill, La.; Yellow Bayou, La.; at the capture of Fort De Rusa, La.; Tupelo [sic], Miss.; and at the capture of the fort in Mobile, Ala.. after being honorably discharged in Mobile, he returned to his old home in Illinois. Remaining here but a short time, he came to Iowa and purchased a farm of seventy-five acres in Pleasant Grove township, Des Moines county, where he has resided ever since. Besides farming to a large extent, he raises some fine stock, and for a part of the time he is engaged in the erection of houses and barns, having learned the trade of a carpenter in his younger days. The house and other improvements on his farm are all his handiwork. During harvest time Mr. Whittmore operates a threshing machine in his neighborhood. He is a Republican, and has served as justice of the peace in Pleasant Grove township with great satisfaction to all.

Nov. 5, 1865, Mr. Whittmore was married to Miss Mary E. DeSpain, daughter of John and Maria [Mariah] (Perkins) DeSpain, who came to Iowa in 1882 [probably 1850's), and located in Pleasant Grove township, where they resided till their deaths. Mr. DeSpain's farm consisted of twenty-four acres of land, and it was on this place that his death occurred when he was seventy-two and a half years old. His widow lived to the age of eighty-three years, her death taking place about two years ago. They were the parents of five children, four of whom are living, of which Mrs. Whittmore is the second in age; Milton resides on the old home place in Pleasant Grove township; Belinda is the wife of Jacob Shepherd, of Pleasant Grove township; Silas resides in Henry county, Iowa; and Newton lives in Pleasant Grove township. Mr. DeSpain was an ardent Democrat, and a supporter of the Baptist church.

Unto Mr. and Mrs. Whittmore six children have been born, as follows: (1) Maria [Mariah] the wife of William H. Wilkinson [sic] (Wilkerson), and resides in Washington township. They have five children, Harrison, Maggie, Margaret, Wesley and Olive. (2) John M., married Miss Anna Perkins, a daughter of William J. Perkins who died at the old home place in Pleasant Grove township Jan. 11, 1905, aged fifty-six years, six months, and two days. He was born in Kentucky and came to Iowa with his father when a very small child. Mr. Perkins married Miss Sarah E. McNamee, July 10, 1869, who is still living on the home place in Pleasant Grove township, and whose birth occurred in Pennsylvania. (3) Mary, married William L. Perkins, a brother of Anna Perkins, who married her brother John Milton, has one child, Everett, and lives on a farm in Pleasant Grove township. (4) William N. died at the age of twenty-three years, soon after his marriage to Miss Stella Hale, daughter of George and Lena ( McCune) Hale. (5) Miss Mary Whittmore, at home. (6) Died while small.

Mrs. Whittmore passed away Nov.17, 1901, at the old home, and is buried in the cemetery in Pleasant Grove township. She was a devoted wife and a consistent Christian lady, being a member of the Cumberland Presbyterian church. Mr. Whittmore holds membership in the Methodist church. He has a record of which he may justly be proud--a man with a spotless name, a brave and gallant soldier, and one who has ever been active and progressive in all that would be of benefit to his community.

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