Thomas Epps was born in December of 1843 in Illinois. He was half Indian. He moved with his parents to Iowa in 1851.
He enlisted in the 16th Iowa Infantry as a substitute for Jesse Brooks on October 13th, 1864. It was very common for someone who was drafted to hire a substitute to take his place. In fact, only 6% of all the men drafted ever went to war. At the time of his enlistment, Thomas Epps was 20 years old, 5 feet 8 inches tall, with dark hair, dark eyes, and a dark complexion.
In 1864, the 16th Iowa needed the extra manpower. The regiment had left Davenport, Iowa in 1861 with 910 men. By 1864, less than 100 men were still standing. In November of 1864, Private Epps and the rest of the 16th Iowa embarked on one of the greatest campaigns in military history, Sherman’s March to the Sea. At the conclusion of the war, Private Epps and the 16th Iowa marched in the Grand Review in Washington, D.C. From Washington the regiment moved to Louisville, Kentucky, where they were mustered out of service on July 19th, 1865. Private Epps took his rifle and his uniform with him upon leaving the army, and had $27.38 deducted from his final pay for them.
Private Epps returned to Iowa and married Sarah Gothard in January of 1866. They had 9 children, 4 of whom lived to adulthood. His postwar occupation was as a farmer in Iowa and Kansas. He moved to Los Angeles in 1911 and to Garden Grove in 1916. He died in Garden Grove on March 30th, 1920, from pulmonary tuberculosis. His obituary called him “ an industrious man, a kind husband and loving father.” He is buried in Magnolia Memorial Park.