John C. McCrary
Priscilla Boswell

From the Portrait and Biographical Album of Jefferson and Van Buren Counties – 1890 County
Maj. John C. McCrary of Keosauqua, Iowa was a faithful soldier during the struggle for the preservation of the Union, is
numbered among the pioneer settlers of Van Buren County and yet ranks among her leading and influential citizens. Two
brothers, A.H. and J.C. McCrary came to Iowa when it formed a part of the Territory of Wisconsin. Few whom they
found at that day still survive those who yet remain have but a few years in all probability before them, and for the
purpose of perpetuating their memory and the deeds which they performed we write this volume. Theirs has been a
noble work well done, and to them we owe an unbounded debt of gratitude, which can be paid in no other way that by
thus perpetuating their lives and sacredly cherishing their memories.
The Major is a native of Indian and a son of Rev. John and Ruth Wasson McCrary. He was born on June 7, 1817, and
at the age of eighteen years accompanied his parents to McDonough County Illinois, but remained in that region for only
about twelve months. In the winter of 1836-37, in company with his brother, he came to Van Buren County and made a
claim which he purchased at the land sale and which today he still has in his possession. Obtaining it from the
government, it was consequently wholly unimproved, not a furrow had been turned or the work of development
commenced. With zeal and energy he began the arduous task of transforming the wild prairie into a fertile farm and
zealously continued his agricultural pursuits until 1861, in which year other interests claimed his time and attention.
The firing upon Ft Sumter was to Mr. McCrary a call to arms, and in the first year of the struggle he became a member
of Company G, of the Third Iowa Cavalry. He was tendered the Captaincy of the company but thinking himself unfit for
that position through inexperience, he contented himself with the office of First Lieutenant and with his company was
mustered into service at Keokuk. The regiment was divided into two battalions, with one of which Mr. McCrary was
sent to Kirksville Missouri. At that place Captain Maine was killed and he was promoted to fill the vacancy. The
regiment was soon afterwards attached to Davidson’s Division under Gen. Steele, at Little Rock, and in September of
1863, the brigade was moved south to Benton Arkansas, where Captain McCrary was appointed Provost Marshall of
that district, in which capacity he served about four months. During the time the other battalions joined the forces there
encamped and were then ordered back to Little Rock where a portion of the regiment, including our subject, being
veterans, received a thirty-day furlough. At the expiration of that time they again assembled at Keokuk. Shortly
afterwards Maj. Caldwell of the Third Iowa Cavalry, was promoted to be Lieutenant Colonel of the regiment and a
vacancy thus caused was to be supplied. The choice fell upon Capt. McCrary but by a noble sacrifice he surrendered
the honor. At that time there was but one original Captains left in the regiment—Capt Muggett, of whom Mr. McCrary
was a warm personal friend. Realizing that his friend might feel offended by his promotion, he went to him stated that the
offer was not of his own seeking and told him that he would resign the honor to him. The Captain replied that he disliked
the idea of accepting the favor, yet as he had entered the service wearing the Captain’s stripes he did not like to return
bearing the same. Through the generosity of Mr. McCrary it was arranged that Capt. Muggett should be appointed
Major, while he himself should take charge of the company thus left without a leader. Not long afterwards, however,
Maj. Muggett resigned and our subject was promoted to the position. As the Colonel and Lieutenant colonel was then
detailed for special service, he was left in command of the regiment, which has previously participated in the hard fought
battle of Guntown, and also the engagement at Tupelo, Mississippi. They afterwards returned to Memphis and were
stationed in that city when Gen. Forrest made his raid during which the Third Iowa Cavalry succeeded in capturing some
of the convalescents. In Memphis Maj. McCrary was badly injured by being thrown from a vicious horse, which unfitted
him for duty for some time. While convalescing he returned home but as soon as possible rejoined his regiment at
Memphis where he tendered his resignation, which, however was not accepted. At Louisville he again wished to resign
and by the advice of the surgeon was discharged on January 28, 1865, being physically unable to continue in command.
From the time of his enlistment until mustered out, Maj. McCrary proved a faithful soldier and was ever found at his post
discharging his duties with all promptness. He won alike the respect and confidence of his superior officers and the
soldiers under him.
On August 15, 1839, in Van Buren County, Maj. McCrary wedded Miss Keren Leach, a native of Virginian and by
their union were born six children, four of whom are now living—Margaret A., wife of William B. Hamilton of Dakota;
Abner N., who served through the war in the same regiment with his father; Amanda, wife of William H. Thatcher of
Topeka Kansas; John L. who died in November of 1864; Oscar a resident of Van Buren County; and Orrin who is
living in Nebraska.
The Major is a pronounced Republican unswerving in his support to the party principles and was honored by an election
to the office of Sheriff, in which position he served two terms with credit to himself and satisfaction to his constituents.