Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Tennessee Narrative Continues

Battle of Shiloh

Tennessee River

April the 1st finds the Iowa 3rd Infantry with 150,000 other troops quietly in camp on the Tennessee River, Hardin County Tennessee, but making preparations to act upon the defensive or aggressive in a very short time. The Rebel’s army at Corinth, Mississippi is being augmented daily by troops arriving by railway from different parts of the Confederacy.

Major General Grant arrived and commenced reviewing the troops at this point on the 2nd. He reviewed the 4th Division, of which we form a part, on Tuesday the 2nd inst. The review took place one mile from our camp in an open field, and was truly a grand scene. The division consists of 16 regiments of infantry, one of cavalry, and two batteries of artillery. The division is commanded by Acting-Major General Hurlbut.

The troops belonging to this division are mostly from Illinois and Ohio, a few from Iowa, the Iowa 3rd Infantry occupying the extreme right of the division. &c &c &c

A Terrible Battle

It appears to be a fact beyond doubt that the enemy is concentrating a large force at Corinth, Mississippi for the purpose of making one more bold stand against the federal army at this place. On Friday evening the 4th, our outposts were attacked by two regiments of the enemy. Quite a brisk engagement took place; wherein, several were killed and wounded on both sides. The enemy retreated toward Corinth.

This was a signal for a battle, which I think, will soon be forgot not and it would appear from this that the enemy will be the attacking force. Our army is still being augmented by the arrival of fresh troops. If a battle takes place here between the two majestic armies, the loss of life will be immense.

Saturday the 5th, everything is quiet in our division, but what is going on along our lines, I cannot tell, but I presume the commanding general is on the look out and will be ready for any emergency whatever. Our army here is very large, and no doubt the enemy is equally strong.

April 16th A.D., 62, what a change since I last took up my pen. A terrible battle has been fought and a great victory has been won by the great federal army at Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee.

Alas! We Soon Found Who Were to Fall

On the evening of the 5th, everything appeared to be quiet along our lines. Our regiment had dress parade at the usual hour (5 P.M.). A chaplain’s order was read announcing that we would assemble the next day (Sabbath) at 11 o’clock for divine service. The evening was pleasant and all appeared to be happy. Little did we think that the Sabbath, soon to dawn upon us, would be a day to be remembered by generations yet unborn; is the day on which began one of the greatest battle ever fought on the American continent up to that time.

The morning of the 6th was pleasant. We were preparing for morning inspection when volleys of musketry and the roaring of cannon louder than thunder grated our ears; informing us that a day of trial had come in which many were to fall. But who would bite the dust, we then knew not. Alas! We soon found who were to fall.

Our camps were alarmed. Our outposts driven in; no time was to be lost. The long roll was beat. ‘Fall in!’ was the cry that met every ear. In a moment companies were formed, and soon regiments were forming into their respective brigades, and brigades into divisions - thus forming the great army which fought the terrible battle on the 6th and 7th of April A.D., 1862 at Pittsburgh Landing, Tennessee River.

After forming our battalion, we took our position on the right of the 4th Division commanded by Acting-Major General [Stephen A.] Hurlbut. Colonel Williams of the 3rd Iowa, acting-brigadier general of the 1st Brigade. Our position was on the right of this brigade, our division occupying the center of the line of battle.

We met the enemy one mile from our camp, where a short engagement took place between our forces and the enemy, but we maintained our position driving the enemy back from their position, then we moved our position to the left a short distance where we again formed a line and lay down on the ground so that we might not expense ourselves unnecessarily to the shot and shell of the enemy, which was coming from the enemy’s batteries almost as thick as hail, but their range was too high to do much executions.

City Guards of New Orleans

The position of the 3rd Iowa Infantry was at the upper end of a large field. In the meantime our battery was brought to bear upon that of the enemy. The firing was terrible. The two batteries being in sight of each other, this lasted for one half hour when the enemy’s battery was silenced. The fighting was not up the center alone. Our lines, some six miles long, were engaged by the enemy. One continual blaze of fire and a roar of musketry and cannon was kept up from 6 o’clock in the morning till 3 P.M. - almost without cessation at any point along the entire line.

About 11 o’clock P.M. the City Guards of New Orleans, 17th Louisiana, charged in an open field upon our regiment. We remained lying in perfect silence until they approached within 150 yards of our line.

When we opened upon them with a volley of musketry, it appeared to me as though half of them fell the first fire, and it was but a moment when there was none to be seen on the field but the dead and dying. The ground was literally covered with bodies. In many places they were lying one upon the other, but few of them escaped with their lives. Such a sight I never before witnessed and may God grant another such may never be fought on this continent, by a civilized and enlightened people, is my prayer.

The enemy’s batteries threw shell and shot thick and fast, but many fell short, while others went far above us, some exploding high in the air making quite a flash followed by a loud report. Many struck among the trees tearing them to pieces killing birds and squirrels, which happened to be upon them.

At one time we heard a shell coming directly toward us; it passed over our company and exploded in a treetop a few rods to our rear, on which was a squirrel. Although I was in a place of extreme danger, men falling upon every hand, yet I had to laugh at the action of the poor little animal. It appears to be frightened almost to death, running and jumping from branch apparently not knowing what to do (I have heard quite a number of soldiers remarking since that birds and small animals became very tame as the battle raged. They would come so close that you could touch them).

Cutting Our Little Regiment Terribly

But during this time our batteries were not silent, their shot and shell with telling effect in the enemy’s ranks, making terrible destruction among them. On several occasions I saw our cannon balls strike trees cutting the tops of them and they [sic] falling upon the lines of the enemy making great havoc among them.

The battle continued to rage with great fury along the line, but the hardest fighting was on our left wing. The enemy appeared to be trying to outflank us and force back our left wing. This they failed to do, then, they rallied and made a desperate charge upon our center, apparently with a determination to brake through our lines; in this they failed also.

Never did men hold a position with more gallantry than did the brave troops on the center. The enemy again turned upon our left. The fighting on our left was terrible. The superior force of the enemy at this point compelled to give way under a heavy fire from the enemy, slowly and gradually did our men fall back but not without keeping up a brisk firing.

Soon our right began to give way (And I would say here that my position being in the center I could tell precisely how things were going judging from the sound of the firing I could tell just when we were gaining or losing ground). Still we maintained our position without losing ground until about 3 ½ o’clock P.M. when our right and left had given away so far that we were near being surrounded. (It was at this junction that the Iowa 3rd, 12th, and 11th Regiments were taken prisoners.)

An order was given to fall back; this we did for three hundred yards where we again made a stand. But finding that the enemy was fast flanking us, we were ordered to fall back double quick.

It was not until this moment that I saw our real danger. The enemy was in full view on both sides of us coming fast upon us pouring in a cross fire, and one from the rear cutting our little regiment terribly, surrounding and taking many prisoners, who were unable to make their escape. For ¾ of a mile we had to pass under a raking fire from our right, left and rear. We had done great executions during the day and lost but very few men in killed or wounded until this retreat began, when many of our brave little band fell on the field, where they remained till the next day.

Shiloh - A Requiem

Skimming lightly, wheeling still,
The swallows fly low
Over the field in clouded days,
The forest-field of Shiloh –
Over the field where April rain
Solaced the parched ones stretched in pain
Through the pause of night
That followed the Sunday fight
Around the church of Shiloh –
The church so lone, the log-built one,
That echoed to many a parting groan
And natural prayer
Of dying foemen mingled there –
Foemen at morn, but friends at eve –
Fame or country least their care:
(What like a bullet can undeceived!)
But now they lie low,
While over them the swallows skim,
And all is hushed at Shiloh –

Herman Melville

Saturday, October 6, 2012


[cannon image: ©cng]

We Shoved from Shore

On the 4th of March at 10 o’clock A.M., orders came for the 3rd Iowa to march, and at 12 o’clock the same day, we were on our way to St. Louis.

The journey was very unpleasant as the weather was remarkably cold. We arrived at St. Louis 9 o’clock P.M., the sixth. The next day was spent in moving from the cars to the steamboat intended to carry us down the river.

I procured a pass in the morning and visited Benton Barracks where I found the 4th Iowa Cavalry. Here I found a number of acquaintances, that I had not seen since enlistment.

The barracks looked almost like home, for I spent two months here last winter and not very pleasantly either. The day was spent very pleasantly with my former associates.

In the evening I returned to the landing and found my regiment aboard the steamer Iatan, all ready to open the way through the running ice down the Mississippi River. Starting time found not a few of the soldiers intoxicated for they had liberty to do as they saw fit during the day, privilege which a great many abused, bring trouble upon themselves as well as others. At 10 o’clock P.M. the 7th inst., all being in readiness, we shoved from shore, directing our course to the sunny South. Not far had we proceeded, until a member of our company by the name of Robert Blythe, being drunk, fell overboard and was drowned. He was a wicked wretch and prepared for any thing but death. The ice was running in abundance, which made it rather disagreeable traveling.

Sabbath morning March the 9th found us at Cairo, Ill.

A quantity of commissary stores, and coal sufficient to carry us a long distance, but where to, we then did not know, but very soon found out by experience. The town of Cairo was under water. The water in the Ohio River being ten feet above the streets of the town, we found but about 2,000 troops here, all having previously left for the field of active service.

At two o’clock P.M., being fully-equipped with hard bread and bacon, we launched steering our course up the Ohio River which we found remarkably high, overflowing the bottoms on either side, the water paying no attention to the farms or houses covering the former, washing away fences and everything of that nature, and in many instances, half of the first storey of the latter was under water. What had become of the inmates [citizens] is more than I can tell, for, but very few could be seen at any point along the river. In many places cattle and hogs could be seen standing upon dry spots of ground perhaps a rod [16.5 ft.] or two square, apparently waiting for the water to subside that they might once more enjoy themselves upon the land that gave them birth.

Some time during the night of the 9th inst., we arrived at Paducah [Kentucky] at the mouth of the Tennessee River. Starting quite early the next morning up the Tennessee River gave me no opportunity to see the town and therefore I can say nothing about it.

Confederate States of America

The Tennessee River, like the Ohio, was very high; the current ran very swift taking, as a matter of course, more power to carry us up the stream. How unlike the great Mississippi is the Tennessee River. What beautiful valleys, what fine farms and beautiful dwellings along the Mississippi River, everything presenting of industry and civilization. But upon entering the Tennessee River how wild and uncivilized everything appears to be. Yet, it is in the sunny South, the Confederate States of America. The land of Rebellion, containing a people that rebelled against the purest, the best and the freest government ever formed by mortal man.

Our journey up the Tennessee River at first was rather dull-nothing but dense forests of timber, and that covered with water. Once in a great while we would chance to pass an inferior log hut with but little or no improvements around it whatever, presenting an uncivilized appearance, the inmates (as is generally the case with the mass of the people of the Southern States) appeared to be very poor, at one place, where we hauled into repair some damage done the boat, the inhabitants had their shoes tied on their feet with bark. There appeared to be but very little furniture of any kind in their houses, this is the condition of the three fourths of the people so far as I could learn up the Tennessee River.

We traveled but little during the night owing to the high stage of water, also to secure ourselves from the fire of an enemy that might be concealed for that purpose. Care and foresight is the best policy in time of war.

At 12 o’clock March the 10th, we arrived at Fort Henry. Took a good view of the fortifications, the heavy guns about 30 in number, three of which were dismounted. The barracks, which the enemy had prepared for winter quarters, were built of round logs and just of a size, and perhaps two hundred in number.

The enemy went to a great deal of cost and labor in fortifying this place and then evacuated it after such a short engagement leaving everything behind them, no dwelling could be seen near the Fort, more the winter quarters.

Our stay at Fort Henry was but short. We had proceeded on our journey but a short distance after we left Fort Henry till we came up with a fleet of about 30 steamers loaded with troops, and every mile we traveled from this point the number of steamers increased to the number of about 150. Judging from the number of steamers in the fleet and from the number of troops on each that the entire expedition consisted of about 125,000 men. Such a sight never was witness before on the Tennessee or any other River in these United States.

Just here I would say that in almost every instance, through Kentucky and Tennessee the people presented the white flag, and at one time about 40 miles above Fort Henry, a company of horsemen, about thirty in number, hailed us from the shore with white flags, upon nearing the shore they informed us, that there was about 500 of them and that they wanted us to take them to Fort Henry where they desired to be armed that they might fight for the old Union. They were large able-bodied men and looked as though they might do their country good service had they an opportunity.

The fleet landed at Savannah, Tennessee [10 miles northeast of Shiloh N.M.P.] the 12th and remained for three days. Here men from the surrounding county flocked in by hundreds and joined our ranks, and I presume it would be the case all over Tennessee had they a chance to fight for the old Union. This is speaking well for Tennessee.

On the 13th, we were ordered to prepare three days’ rations and equip ourselves for duty. At 6 o’clock on the morning of the 14th, we left Savannah passing up the river some 10 miles. But the river, which had been raising [sic] for two or three days, was so high that a landing could not be effected.

General Sherman’s division landed 25 miles above Savannah [perhaps Peters Landing area] and marched eight miles from the river, but found the water so high that it was impossible to go further, and were compelled to return to the boats. We remained aboard the boat until the 17th, when a part of the expedition landed at Pittsburgh Landing, Hardin County, Tennessee, where we still remain in camp this the 26th of March.

We are at last brigaded. Colonel [Nelson G.] Williams is acting-brigadier general and has command of the First Brigade in the 4th Division, which gives our regiment the position of honor, which is on the extreme right of the division.

Overflowing With Troops

I should judge from appearances that there are 60,000 troops in camp here. Great preparations are being made for a move in some direction from this point, and that pretty soon. The weather here is rather cool for the time of year.

This part of Tennessee is anything but a fertile county. The country is hilly and stony. Some cotton is raised here, but the country or soil is too poor to be productive except in the bottoms. If what I have seen of Tennessee is a specimen of the state, I would not give one acre of land in Iowa for 50 in this state. That is taking the society, natural advantage of the country, and the quality of the soil into consideration.

The condition and position of the enemy in this part of the country, or whether there is any force at all is entirely unknown to me at present. Although rumor is in circulation that the enemy, 60,000 strong, are fortifying at Corinth, Mississippi, 15 miles from this place. This report I think is unfounded. My private opinion is that this expedition will move very shortly in the direction of Memphis or some point on the Mississippi River.

Not so much fighting has been done in the present month as in the last month (February). Yet, great advantages have been gained over the enemy the present month. Tennessee has been filled almost to overflowing with troops from the North. Columbus, the strongest position in the Confederacy, has been evacuated by the enemy, and occupied by our troops. New Madrid is in our position. The enemy, during the present month, has fled for before our forces, but we may meet with reverses yet before the end.
For the Cause of the Union

The month of March has passed into the future and what has been done in the past month for the cause of the Union, and the overthrow of the rebellion existing at the present time in these United States of America.

Let us look for a moment at the progress of our army during the past month. The amount of territory we have acquired, the number of battles fought with complete success to the arms of the Federal Troops.

Upon the 1st of March 1862, the Rebels were in full force at Columbus, Kentucky, one of the strongest positions that the enemy had on the Mississippi River. On the first of March, but little opening (except the taking of Fort Donelson) had been made in Tennessee. On the 1st of March, Price’s army was in the height of its glory, plundering and destroying the property of Union men in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas.

On the 1st of March, the great Rebel Army on the Potomac held their position and fortifications apparently defying the opposing army on the opposite side of the river of equal strength and with fortifications equally as formidable. But March closes with the following changes.

Columbus has been evacuated with great destruction of property and military stores and is now occupied by the federal army.

[US Brig.] General [Samuel R.] Curtis gave battle to the forces of Generals Price, [CS Brig. General Benjamin] McCulloch and [CS Major General] Earl Van Dorn in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas completely destroying and demoralizing the enemy’s army, taking a great number of prisoners and a large amount of baggage and commissary stores, also killing Generals McCulloch, [CS Brig. General James] McIntosh and others. Also, the Tennessee River has been opened as far as navigable and is held at the present time with a force of not less than 200,000 effective men.

The evacuation of Manassas [Junction] and the occupation of the same by our troops without the loss of life or a battle is a victory to our arms of the greatest value. Here the two Grand Armies of the Potomac, rested for months almost within gun shot of each other, while the people of the east and west expected every day to hear of a struggle between the giant armies. But, the enemy was compelled to evacuate their fortifications as a military necessity, thus saving the lives of thousands.

Other victories of less importance, though won by hard fighting in different parts of the field, might be recorded here, that of Brig. General James Shields, also Burnsides operations on the coast, the taking of Roanoke, South Carolina, also the possession of New Madrid by the federal troops.

In a word, every undertaking of our generals in the month, which has passed, was a complete success to the federal army - God for the right and the overthrow of the wicked.

May the coming month bring as many victories to the army as the past has done, and may it still bring greater victories, even to the end - overthrow of the rebel confederacy and the establishment of March, 1862 of law and order throughout the United States.

March 31st, 1862

Monday, October 1, 2012

Re-modeling the web-site

I worked most of yesterday removing content and photos, and then adding other content and photos to The job is far from over, though.

You may find it difficult to even get to the site right now; the path to it is somewhat broken.

My plan is to make the site more of a Civil War link resource. And, I'm getting rid of the ads. They took up a lot of space where content can be.

So, pardon the dust for now, if you will. I'll be working on it every spare moment I have.