Sunday, May 29, 2011

Memorial Day, 2011

On this Memorial Day it seems fitting to honor a specific group of soldiers of WWI, the 168th Infantry. You see, my Grandfather, 1st Lt. Clarence Green, was among this group to serve, and not to return…

To the Glorious Dead of the 168th Infantry

Blow out, you bugles, over the rich Dead!
There’s none of these so lonely and poor of old,
But, dying, has made us rarer gifts than gold.
These laid the world away; poured out the red
Sweet wine of youth; gave up the years to be
Of work and joy, and that unhoped serene
That men call age; and those who would have been,
Their sons, they gave, their immortality.[1]
                Rupert Brooke (1887-1915)

     The entire nation was behind the president in April 1917 – send troops to aid our European allies. No state was more ready to do what was needed than Iowa. Among the organizations thus called into service was the Third Iowa Infantry. From Mexican border duty the Third was re-assembled and outfitted. Other units were brought in to strengthen its ranks.

     Early in August 1917 the War Department announced the organization of a purely National Guard division, to be named the Rainbow Division by Col. Douglas McArthur, which was to include the Third Iowa as one of its four infantry regiments. This division would not be known as the Third Iowa, for from now on it was to be called the 168th U.S. Infantry.[2]

Honoring the Fallen,

[1]  John H. Taber, The Story of the 168th Infantry, Vol I. (Iowa City, IA: State Historical Society of Iowa), 1925, v.

[2]   Ibid, pp. 1-3

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Letters of a Nation

          I've downloaded over a half-dozen samples of Andrew Jackson biographies on my Kindle over the past couple of weeks. From that group I made my selections and I'm now half way through reading my second biography of Andrew Jackson.

        While we're in the throes of commemorating the firing on Ft. Sumter and the events following it, I wanted to go back 50 years or so and refresh my recollection of the years 1800 to 1850. What were many of the salient events and key decisions that led us to the great conflict.  I'll be posting my favorite biography on my website: shortly.

         And so, my recent flurry of interest in the Jacksonian era also prompted me to pull my copy of Letters of a Nation (Andrew Carroll, ed, Broadway Books, New York, 1997)  from my book shelf and to turn to pp 92-93. Here we read a letter written by President Jackson to his Secretary of War Lewis Cass. On these pages we learn of the 7th president's early forebodings of a possible civil war. I hope you enjoy reading this letter.


Monday, May 9, 2011

Battle of Blue Mills Landing, Liberty, MO

          There have been several accounts of this battle over the years. Here is Will's recollection of it soon after the last shot was fired. A Missouri Civil War aquaintance of mine, Jay Jackson, is in the process of writing a book about the battle with new and fresh insight into it, I trust.
          We've all heard of the WWI American vet who recently died, Mr. Buckles. Well, after Will's account below I'm including an LA Times obit of the last WWI combat vet to die, Mr. Claude Choules.

Chap 5      Battle of Liberty

Close to the Enemy
It rained a little the after part of the night. I did not sleep much, being very tired; this is my first march.
At we took up a line of march to Waynesville, 10 miles distance where we took dinner. After dinner we resumed our march south to Centerville [present-day Kearney], Clay County, where we camped for the night. See page 143.
from page 89
Tonight we are within 10 miles of the enemy. We received information that 4000 of them had stopped at Liberty, 10 miles distance, the place of our destination.
We expected to cut off their retreat, but they are a little too fast. The Illinois 16th & the Ohio 39th with the St. Louis Artillery are after them down the river and others coming up the river from St. Louis to meet them.
I think perhaps we will march upon them tonight. They have two field pieces. We want to capture them, if possible, for that is all we have to fear. For their small arms, which we don’t fear in the least, are nothing but shotguns and common rifles.
Apples and peaches are plenty along the road so we live fine having all we can eat and cook, which are very nice.
Liberty, Clay Co.
This morning we were aroused at ; took up a line of march to Liberty, supposing the enemy to be there. We arrived at Liberty, a distance of 10 miles, at . Found that the enemy had marched ­on toward the river. See page 144.
From page 89
Here we stopped and took breakfast; rested till The scouts returned [they] reported that the enemy were [sic] entrenched, 4 miles distance, and that the scouts had four men killed and wounded by the rebel pickets. They all killed several of the rebels.
Our column, consisting of 600 Iowa 3rd, 200 Home Guards, marched to attack them. They were 4000 strong with three cannons, well fortified with cordwood as breastworks.
In a heavy body of timber, we marched upon them. Our company was deploying as skirmishers at the head and on the right of the column.
We captured one rifle, one double-barrel shotgun & several hats, which the rebels had lost, and captured a heavy pistol & a hat where one had been shot.
Soon after, our company was called in and another company was sent out in our place. We were then in front of the column.
We had but marched over half a mile when we suddenly came upon the enemy in a heavy body of timber lying in ambush with strong fortifications. We were close upon them before we knew they were there.

Bullets as Thick as Hail

They opened a fire upon us with three cannons and small arms. They had their cannons planted so as to command the road where our column was marching. On our right was an open marsh; on our left was a heavy body of timber. Here we were, in this position, no chance to flank them, for they were on our right and on our left.
We turned our cannons upon them as they were flanking. The first shot mowed them down like a hurricane. Our artillerymen only succeeded in giving them three shots with the cannon when they were all killed and wounded but three, and that silenced the gun. During this time we kept up a volley of musketry.
Company G (our co) [and] I were in the front of the battle and suffered more than any company. I was in the front of the column. Men and horses fell on all sides of me, bullets whistling around me as thick as hail. A cannon ball struck a tree about a rod [16.5 feet] from me, and cut it square off. Yet, I escaped unharmed. Three, of our company, are wounded, not dangerously.
This Wednesday morning, five of our co are yet missing. Whether killed, wounded, or taken prisoner I do not know. Among the missing is my friend, McClaughy; I hope he is unharmed. The last time I saw him, he was very tired and almost unable to walk. In fact, we were all very much fatigued.
We kept up a constant firing for one hour & a half. Still in the heat of the battle, [Lt.] Colonel [John] Scott, seeing our position was a critical one, and, that the enemy had the advantage and we none, he ordered a retreat.
The artillery horses were most all killed, so we run [sic] the cannon off the field by hand, but had to leave the artillery wagon with ammunition. We succeeded in swinging the cannon.
We retreated back to Liberty where our baggage was left. A flag of truce went back to the battlefield after the killed, and returned with 12 bodies, 7 of the 3rd Regiment, the remainder of the Home Guards, the captain of which was killed. The majority of our officers were wounded, one killed. It was a terrible battle, 800 against 4000. The slaughter of the enemy must be great.
After we had retreated about 3 miles, we were reinforced by the Ill. 10th, only 2 companies of cavalry. Quite a cheering took place. We retreated back to the hill above town. About dark the remainder of the Illinois 16th, and part of the Ohio 39th came and reinforced us with four cannons.
After the first fire the enemy cheered very loud. After the second fire we cheered and kept cheering all the while after the order to retreat. The enemy started to follow us. We rallied; gave them a charge. Oh, how they ran; they broke back to the breastworks as fast as possible.

A Visit to the Battlefield
Liberty, Mo
This morning I arose from my slumber after the great battle of yesterday. Very sore, I was very sore & tired last night, so much so, that I couldn’t sleep.
Today we are resting in camp and living off the fruit of the land. This is the greatest fruit country I ever saw, apples & peaches in abundance.
Scouts are out all through the county. A number of the missing returned to camp through the day, giving various accounts of things. See page 148.
From page 89
The enemy, as soon as they found we were reinforced, commenced to retreat across the river, as fast as possible. They were crossing all night, as fast as possible, with one steamer ferry and two flat boats. They were all night crossing and part of this forenoon.
They had nine of our wounded men. They took them across the river; left them at a warehouse. After they had left they sent back word that if we would send a wagon and four or five unarmed men, we could have them. This we did, and from them [the wounded] we got a good deal of information.
They could not tell how many were killed or wounded, for the citizens came in with wagons from the county, and hauled them away in good number. Their loss must have been great. All of our company has returned to camp, but three. One of the missing is McClaughy; I hope to see him.

This morning I visited the battlefield. I had been deceived about the position of the enemy. They occupied at a position behind a natural bank, forming a complete breastwork. And their ground was covered with heavy timber, large logs lying upon the bank, forming a complete breastwork. To look at the position of the enemy & our position, it is almost a miracle that we killed any of them, and that we were not half killed. But it was a providential act that we did as well as we did. See page 149.
The ferryman told Col. Scott the next day that he ferried over the river 200 killed & wounded, besides what the citizens took away to their houses.
We found where three of our men had been buried. We raised them to find out who they were, and then dug new graves and buried them again.
We returned back to camp where we found the column ready to move northwest. So we took up a line of march to Centreville [sic], a distance of 10 miles.
When we arrived at , all very tired, we soon found ourselves wrapped in our blankets for rest and slumber. But, before the morning, we were aroused by a drenching rain.
The report of the killed and wounded are 13 killed and 84 wounded, all totaled, rebels over 200. Terrible Battle.