5th Minnesota Battle Flag Nicholas I. Lowthian

Name: Nicholas I. Lowthian
Company: C
  • Date: May or March 17, 1839 or 1840
  • Place: Princeton or Burford, Canada West (Ontario)
Mustered In
  • Date: March 9, 1862
  • Rank: Private
  • Age: 22
  • Residence prior to military service: Ontario; Iowa; Minnesota
  • Date: April 17, 1920
  • Place: Milbank, Grant County, South Dakota
  • Burial: Milbank Cemetery, Milbank, Grant County, South Dakota
Mustered Out
  • Date: March 9, 1865
  • Rank:
  • Age: age 25
  • Residence following military service: Freeman Township, Freeborn County, Minnesota; Milbank, Grant County, South Dakota
  • Vocation following military service: Farmer, State Senator

Nicholas I. Lowthian Biography and Civil War Narrative

Nicholas Irwin Lowthian was born May or March 17, 1839 or 1840, to Timothy and Dinah (Irwin) Lowthian in Princeton or Burford, Canada West (Ontario). He had a sister named Mary. In 1856 he moved to Iowa and later to Minnesota.

In 1859, Nicholas Lowthian married Susan Beighley, born about 1842 in Pennsylvania. The following year Nicholas and Susan had a son, William Irwin Lowthian, born in September 11, 1860, in Iowa.

Nicholas Lowthian enlisted in Company C of the 5th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment on March 9, 1862. That same month, Company C was sent for garrison duty to Fort Ripley, north of Little Falls, Minnesota. But on June 19, Lowthian left with a detachment of 50 men under the command of Lieutenant Timothy J. Sheehan to report to Fort Ridgely, near New Ulm, Minnesota.

Marching about 200 miles via Elk River and Henderson, they reached Fort Ridgely on the evening of June 28th, and reported to Captain John Marsh who commanded the post. On June 29th, the detachment was sent on to the Sioux Agency on the Yellow Medicine River to help preserve order during the annuity payment to the Sioux. They camped at the Lower Sioux Agency along the Minnesota River the night of June 30th, and arrived at the Upper Sioux Agency at Yellow Medicine on July 2nd, reporting to Major Thomas Galbraith, the Sioux agent at that place.

On August 4th, about 800 Sioux warriors surrounded the camp of the detachment and stormed a government supply warehouse, which Nicholas and the soldiers defended. After annuity goods were distributed to the Indians, the detachment marched back to Fort Ridgely, arriving on the evening of August 12th. Five days later (August 17th), Lieutenant Sheehan's detachment began marching back to Fort Ripley to join the rest of Company C who had remained there.

News that a massacre was taking place at the Lower Sioux Agency arrived at Fort Ridgely the next morning (Monday, August 18th) so Captain Marsh quickly sent a mounted messenger with orders for Lieutenant Sheehan and his detachment to return immediately to Fort Ridgely. Marsh left Fort Ridgely to lead the rescue team at the Lower Sioux Agency and left 2nd Lieutenant Thomas P. Gere in command at the fort. When the orders reached Sheehan on Monday evening, Nicholas Lowthian and the rest of the detachment had already marched 42 miles from Fort Ridgely and were setting up camp between New Auburn and Glencoe. They immediately began a forced march back to Fort Ridgely and arrived at the fort on Tuesday. Upon their arrival back at Fort Ridgely, Lieutenant Sheehan took command of the fort. Meanwhile, about 2 miles west of the fort, Indians under the leadership of Little Crow were congregated and planning their movements.

On Wednesday, August 20th, while Little Crow approached the fort from the west, a party of 500-600 Indians attacked from the northeast. Soon the fort was surrounded, and the Indians kept up their attack on the fort for five hours, the defenders responding with artillery and muskets. At nightfall the firing ceased and Little Crow withdrew his forces to the lower agency.

Two days later on Friday, August 22nd, Little Crow again attacked Fort Ridgely, this time with a force of 1200-1500 men. For six hours the battle continued, but once again the fort was successfully defended. In the following days, defensive works were strengthened. On Wednesday, August 27th, additional reinforcements arrived.

Nicholas Lowthian and Lieutenant Sheehan's detachment of Company C left Fort Ridgely on September 18th to join their companions at Fort Ripley. Company C joined the rest of the 5th Minnesota on December 12, 1862, near Oxford, Mississippi. Nicholas Lowthian continued to serve in Company C until he was discharged on March 9, 1865. He participated in numerous campaigns including the Siege of Vicksburg (May 18-July 4, 1863), the Red River Campaign (March 10-May 22, 1864) and the Battle of Nashville (December 15-16, 1864).

Following the war, Nicholas and Susan had four more children: son John Peter Lowthian (born August 1866 in Minnesota), son George Henry Lowthian (born 1870 in Minnesota), daughter Nina Lowthian (born about 1872), and daughter Katie Lowthian (born about 1874)

Old Soldiers Monument, Milbank, South DakotaNicholas and his family lived and farmed in Freeman Township, Freeborn County, Minnesota, in 1870 and in 1880. Then they moved to South Dakota. He was affiliated with the Methodist Church and was a member of the Grange. He was a delegate to South Dakota's Constitutional Conventions in 1883 and 1885. He also served as a state Senator for the 31st District from 1893 to 1897.

Nicholas Lowthian helped organize and belonged to the A. A. Humphrey Post of the Grand Army of the Republic. He held numerous positions in the G. A. R., representing the state of South Dakota at many national encampments. Lowthian was the principal promoter behind the erecting of the "Old Soldiers Monument" in 1904, originally located at Main Street & 4th Avenue, Milbank, but moved in 1917 to its present location near the Grant County Courthouse. In 1906, "N. I. Lothian" was a "prominent candidate" for commander of the G. A. R. of South Dakota, endorsed by the Humphrey post of Milbank. During the June 1906 encampment at Yankton, he was elected state commander. At the 1907 encampment in Huron, Commander Lowthian spoke to the veterans:

"You may search the pages of war history from beginning to end and you cannot find one principle in them that was involved in the late War of the Rebellion. Other wars were for conquest and glory; ours, for law and order. Our forefathers started out in the War of the Revolution to establish the right of no taxation without representation and ended in forming a Government founded in liberty, justice and equality for all. Comrades of the Grand Army, we enlisted to maintain freedom, justice and equality; to uphold the ensign of our country; to raise aloft the flag of the Union where it had been torn down; to establish law and order; to save the Union; and when all this was accomplished we laid down our arms, returned to our house and took up our domestic life again as if nothing had happened, thereby teaching the world the great blessing of a republican form of government—a Government of the people, by the people and for the people. Hence we say that the Grand Army cannot be perpetuated, but must die when the last soldier of the war for the Union of 1861-65 dies. The soldiers of the Spanish-American war cannot comprehend what the rebellion was. They fought no great battles. They were fighting a foreign foe; we were fighting our misguided brothers. They were fighting to retrieve a diplomatic insult and to end the reign of terror and murder on the Island of Cuba. We were fighting to put down treason at home, save the Union and establish law and order. The northern soldier fought to save the nation; the southern soldier fought to dismember it." [History of Dakota Territory, Volume 3,  By George Washington Kingsbury] N. Lowthian grave marker

Nicholas Irwin Lowthian died April 17, 1920,
at Milbank, Grant County, South Dakota, and was buried at Milbank Cemetery. Susan Lowthian died about four years later on February 16, 1924, and was buried near her husband at Milbank Cemetery.

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This page is maintained by Tim Bode (timbode@juno.com ). Page created 3/16/2009. Last modified on 8/28/2011.