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1st Lt. Joseph Bartlett Dorr, Quartermaster, 12th Iowa Infantry

Dorr enlisted on 5 November 1861 and was commissioned as a 1st Lieutenant and Quartermaster as part of the Field and Staff of the 12th Iowa Infantry.  At the Battle of Shiloh, he was listed as Missing in Action on 6 April 1862.  He was later wounded on 6 March 1864 at Waverly, Tennessee.  He was wounded and captured on 29 July 1864 at Lovejoy Station, Georgia.

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Photo Information for 1st Lt. Joseph Bartlett Dorr, Quartermaster, 12th Iowa Infantry


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Joseph Dorr was a newspaper editor in Dubuque who decided to "make history, instead of just write about it," and joined the 12th Iowa Volunteer Infantry in November 1861. With so many senior members of the 12th Iowa down with illness, on the morning of April 6th Quartermaster Dorr opted to accompany his under-strength regiment to the front, and faced the enemy with the rest of his fellows. After a stand of seven hours along the Sunken Road, the 12th Iowa joined the rush north to avoid the encircling Rebels... but were too late. And along with everyone else in his regiment, Joseph Dorr was surrendered, and marched south into captivity. (It was QM Dorr who counted 1610 Federal soldiers, and secured rations for the prisoners during the march to Corinth.)

Eventually confined in the Cotton Shed Prison in Montgomery, Joseph Dorr witnessed the unjustified shooting of Lieutenant Bliss of Ross' Michigan Battery; and suffered weeks of half-rations of cornbread and improperly cured pork. At the end of May, the Confederate Leadership determined on a "noble gesture," and announced the release of all Federal privates in captivity; corporals and above were to be kept in confinement. Dorr and a fellow officer in the 12th Iowa, Lieutenant John Elwell, decided to escape. Trading uniforms and identities with two privates (who remained behind) Dorr and Elwell successfully passed themselves off, and joined the 1500 privates sent north to freedom.

Reaching Union-controlled Nashville on June 11th, Quartermaster Dorr wrote to Governor of Iowa Kirkwood and provided a full report of conditions endured in Confederate prisons. As well, Dorr told the story of Lieutenant Bliss (the first report of a war crime during the Civil War.) Joseph Dorr's Letter of June 11th, and subsequent letters and meetings, are credited with contributing to the adoption of the Dix-Hill Prisoner Exchange Cartel of July 22nd 1862.

[Comprehensive information IRT Joseph Dorr is to be found in A Perfect Picture of Hell: eyewitness accounts by Civil War Prisoners from the 12th Iowa, edited by Genoways & Genoways; University of Iowa Press (2001) pages 93 - 111 (thirteen pages of which is a diary maintained by Dorr during his captivity.)]

After being properly exchanged, Joseph Dorr helped raise, and became the Colonel of the 8th Iowa Cavalry. In the Spring of 1865, Colonel Dorr succumbed to illness and died at Macon, Georgia.

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