Leprelette Asa King (1828-1902?)
Learning the truth about the Civil War veterans buried in Stephens County, Oklahoma is not an easy task. Records that would be helpful are often lacking and where they do exist are sometimes contradictory. Perhaps no Civil War veteran buried there illustrates this point better than the case of L.A. King.
Aside from the fact that he was born in Providence, Rhode Island in August 1828 and that he is buried in one of the oldest cemeteries in Stephens County, Oklahoma, the Old Duncan Cemetery, I know little about L.A.’s life before or after the Civil War. There is some indication that L.A.’s mother died when he was quite young and that his grandparents raised him until he left home at the age of sixteen to join the Merchant Marine. Following the war Leprelette married “Labesta Jane Sloan” (b.1838; d.1923) in Pleasant Hill, Missouri in 1870 and that L.A. and Labesta Jane were blessed with at least three children: Eliza Louella (b.1871; d.1949), Edwin Luther (b.1873?; d.1893?), and Eber Leprelette (b.1875; d.1960). We know that their third son, Eber, in his adult years, was a member of the Church of Christ, but whether or not this reflected his father’s faith we don’t know. Eber was born in Denton County, Texas and the family shows up on the 1880 Census there in Denton County.
Living in Cedar County, Iowa at the time, L.A. was older than most when he enlisted in the Union Army at age 33 on June 24, 1861 and was mustered into Company C of the USA, 5th Iowa Infantry Regiment as a Private on July 15, 1861. Official records state that he entered the service as a Private and that he had that same rank when, due to disability, he was discharged on April 14, 1864 in Davenport, Iowa.
L.A. was afflicted with a first name prone to misunderstanding and misspelling. Various official military records record his name at least three different ways: “Lefrrelitte,” “Leprisette” and “Lepoelette.” His headstone, a VA marker erected some years after his death, is inscribed with yet a fourth spelling: “Leprelette,” the correct spelling. Interestingly, that same marker indicates L.A.’s rank as a Sergeant and that he served in Company A, neither of these points being supported in any official military records that I have yet to see. And a clear case of clerical error also exists in the city cemetery office records in that their records wrongly indicate not only a death date of “1863” for L.A., but list his rank as both Sergeant and Colonel.
As to what we know regarding L.A.’s service during the war, we know he served in a regiment that saw grueling service during the war and L.A. served in it from the day of its formation until just three months before its consolidation with the 5th Iowa Cavalry. According to Benjamin Gue’s multi-volume work entitled History of Iowa from the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the Twentieth Century (vol. 2, ch. 1, pp.153-160), the 5th Iowa Infantry “… marched on foot more than 2,000 miles, through Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia …” Just four months before the 5th Iowa Infantry was consolidated with the 5th Iowa Cavalry, Gue notes “there were scarcely two hundred of the original nine hundred and eighteen men remaining.” L.A. King was one of them.
The 5th Iowa Infantry was involved in a number of battles including Iuka, Corinth, Port Gibson, Raymond, Champion Hill, Vicksburg, and Chattanooga. The Battle of Iuka was the 5th’s first participation in a large, pitched battle and it was a baptism of fire for them. At some point during the war we know L.A. was wounded, losing his left thumb from a gunshot wound and suffering a broken leg that left him with a permanent limp.
Readers of this series on Civil War veterans might recall that the veteran I highlighted in my last post – John Haywood Proctor of the CSA, 4th Missouri Infantry – was also present at several of these same battles, including Champion Hill. According to various maps as well as the order of battle for Champion Hill, L.A. King and John Haywood Proctor were in the same section of the battlefield during some of the heaviest fighting – on opposite sides. That raises a number of questions which I’d like to have been able to ask of L.A. and John, the first of which being: “Did you two know each other after the War, when you both came to live and die in Stephens County, OK, and if so, what was your relationship like?” We’ll likely always be left to wonder, but a number of veterans buried in Stephens County, OK found themselves on opposite sides of the same battlefield.
Incidentally, you can read a personal account of the Battle of Champion Hill from the perspective of one of the men of the Co. B of the 5th Iowa, S.H.M. Byers, here. The 5th Iowa suffered nineteen killed and seventy-five wounded at Champion Hill and the author of this piece was one of those who was wounded. If you read this account, you’ll want to know that the regiment that goes unnamed that intervened to save the 5th Iowa in the nick of time was the 17th Iowa Infantry.