Thursday, June 12, 2014

Battle of Davis Bridge, 5 Oct 1862

Chap 10    Battle of Davis Bridge [1]

Camp near Bolivar, Tennessee
Thursday, 2nd Oct., 1862
     Had a good sleep last night. Aroused this morn by drops of heavy rain falling upon our tent, which continued the greater portion of the day. I spent the day in writing letters, one to Miss Phebe J. Newlon. The first I ever wrote to her.
     We had an alarm this morning. Made preparations to resist an attack, but no enemy has as yet made his appearance, maybe false alarm.
     The sky is dark and still threatens rain. My health moderate &c &c                                                   W.C.Newlon

Camp near Bolivar
Friday, 3rd Oct., 1862
     Fine cool morning, company drill from 9 to 10 A.M. battalion drill from 3 to 4 P.M.
     Have orders to march at [with] three days’ rations tomorrow morning with three days’ cooked rations [sic]. No one but the powers that be can tell where we are going. In for a fight, I presume. Am ready.

Dec. 31st, 1862
General Hospital, Jackson, Tennessee[2]
It was at the hour of midnight on the 4th of Oct., 1862 that the 3rd Iowa Infantry and her associates in division were aroused from slumber for the purpose of preparing for a hard and wearisome march to attack the enemy or to the aid of our Brother Soldiers who were besieged at Corinth.
By three o’clock A.M., breakfast was over; tents struck; baggage and all loaded in the wagons and we were on our march, through the darkness of the morning.
     The morning was beautiful, very calm, cool and pleasant. The stars in the heavens appeared musing sublime. Yet there was no moon to light us on our way that long to be remembered morning. The music from the bands appeared more melodious than common.
     The songs of mirth arising from the ranks of the old Fourth echoed and re-echoed through the [hallowed?] hills and valleys of old Tennessee. Day dawn found us some miles from our starting place (Bolivar).
     After halting a few moments for rest, we continued our march in a southeast direction, over a very rough and desolate county. We marched with great rapidity until within four miles of Pocahontas, twenty-five miles from Bolivar where our advance met the advance of the enemy. Here we camped for the night in the face of the enemy.

Deadly Wall of Steel

     The two armies camped for the night on separate plantations with but a narrow skirt of timber between the two hostile armies.
     Scarcely had we halted, when a large body of Rebel Cavalry came dashing in the direction of our encampment. General Lauman first decried the charging foe. Quick as thought he mounted his noble steed and, dashing in the direction of our line, cried in a deep low voice that signalized his earnest.

“3rd Iowa fall in!”

     We were laying [sic] on the ground taking a soldier’s rest, after a march of 25 miles. Scarcely had the sound of our commander’s voice died away in the distance when every man was in ranks, and in an instant, a deadly wall of steel was presented to the advancing foe. Finding us prepared for their reception, they quietly [perhaps Will meant quickly] fell back to their former position. Again, all was quiet.
     Taking from our haversacks a portion of the food prepared the day previous for the journey, we ate our evening meal. And let me say here that none but a weary soldier can enjoy such a meal. How delicious to our taste was that hard bread and rusty bacon after that day of fasting and hard marching.
     Our cold and scanty meal being devoured, we lay ourselves upon Mother Earth for night’s repose with nothing to cover us but the high Heavens and its guardian Angel to protect us.
     Already had dark clouds begun to gather in the distant west. Soon the lightning began to flash. And the peals of thunder became louder and louder. Presently the surging billows tossed with fury in the dark Heavens, threatening the Earth and its inhabitants with utter and immediate destruction. Heavy drops of rain began to fall carelessly to the Earth, soon to be followed by torrents of rain. Yet all this failed to disturb the quiet and pleasant slumbers of many weary soldiers.
     Morning dawned and found us awaiting its arrival not to assume another long and wearisome journey but to enter into a deadly strife with a formidable foe. The morning meal was soon dispatched. All were ready, artillery, infantry and cavalry were in position.
     The attack was made by the 2nd Brigade driving in the enemy’s advance. Soon the fighting commenced in earnest, we presented a wall of fire and steel to our daring foe. The chosen troops of Price and Van Dorn could not stand the deadly fire of our advancing columns. Position after position was swept and held by the serious advance of Hurlbut's Command.

Bridge Across the Hatchie

     The foe gradually fell back until he came to the Bridge across the Hatchie River. Here the fighting commenced in earnest. Men & horses were falling thick and fast until it seemed as though we were all to be slaughtered on the ground.
     Just at this stage of the action General [Edward O.] Ord (who had arrived a few hours previous and took command, he being the senior officer) was wounded and the command again devolved upon our old commander General Hurlbut. A change was made, we were ordered to charge the bridge across the Hatchie. The command was given –

“Charge Bayonets, Forward, Double Quick, March!”

Such a sight I never before witnessed. The deadly messenger shot through the air like demands. The sky was darkened with shot and shell. The Earth trembled as though it would be sent in twain with the “roar of musketry and the booming of cannon”.[3] The branches of trees were severed from the body by cannon balls. The wounded, dead and dying covered the ground; yet not a murmur was heard.

“Onward, Charge, over the bodies of your dead Comrades”

was the cry of our brave generals. We did charge and pressed the foe until he fled from before our advance. And our “Unconquered Banner” proudly waved over his strong position, over his dead and wounded.
We had already captured eleven pieces of artillery, 500 prisoners & 1,000 stands of small arms. Also, a great amount of baggage and stores.

My “Fatal” Shot

It was not until we were charging upon the enemy’s last battery that I received my fatal shot. The man by my side was instantly killed a second before me, and I fell upon him.
     I thought for an instant that it might be possible that the Rebels might drive us back across the river knowing their force to be 20,000 and ours only 4,500. This conclusion arrived to; I crawled to the bank of the river (some six rods) fell in; swam across and floated down some 200 yards. By this time the battle was over. And I was taken out of the river by Corporal [John] Van Hyning & [James] Matt Boyd.[4]

This was about 3 o’clock P.M. on the 5th of October. We lay upon the field until the next evening Oct 6th. At which time, we were put in ambulances and wagons, and conveyed to Bolivar thirty-five miles distant.
On the evening of the eighth, my leg was amputated[5] by Surgeon Carle of the 41st Illinois Infantry.[6] Four days after the operation of amputation, the main artery broke and bled profusely. This reduced me very much. And it was with the greatest care and attention that I recovered at all. For this good care I am indebted to Surgeon Keables, Hospital Stewart Fry, and Geo Blakely, Nurse.[7]
     I have lived through all and expect to live many more days if I don’t die sooner.
Will C. Newlon

Marker at Davis Bridge Site

[1] This battle is referred to as: Battle of Metamora, Battle of Hatchie Bridge, Battle of Hatchie River, Battle of Davis Bridge, and the third day of the battle of Corinth. Randy Bishop, Tennessee’s Civil War Battlefields. (Bloomington, IN: Authorhouse, 2007), 96; Frances H. Kennedy, Editor. The Civil War Battlefield Guide, 2nd Ed. (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998), 132.
[2]  Jackson Hospital – The second largest city in West Tennessee stands on land acquired by treaty from the Chickasaws on 19 October 1818. The town of Alexandria was designated as the county seat, and in 1822 the name was changed to Jackson to honor Andrew Jackson, who had negotiated the secession treaty with the Chickasaws.
In 1844 West Tennessee College began operations as the city's first institution of higher education.
West Tennessee College, north of Jackson, operated until the Civil War, when both Confederate and Union troops used its facilities as a military hospital.
Hospital records, in general, have not been located and very little has been written on the subject according to Jack D. Wood, Tennessee Room Librarian, Jackson-Madison County Library.

[3] Twain: two: Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Ed (2003), s. v. “twain”.
[4] John Van Hyning, age 23, residence of Indianola, Iowa, né New York, enlisted 21 May 1861, mustered 8 June 1861, promoted Third Corporal 22 May 1861, fourth Sergeant 4 May 1863, re-enlisted and re-mustered 4 Jan 1864. See Company G, 3rd Infantry Consolidated Battalion. James M. Boyd, age 20, residence Palmyra, Missouri, né Ohio, enlisted 21 May 1861, mustered 8 June 1861, mustered out 18 June 1864, Davenport, Iowa, expiration of term of service. See Company G, 3rd Infantry Consolidated Battalion.

[5] “Amputation was most effective if performed immediately after a wound occurred. Mortality rate for soldiers who received an amputation within twenty-four hours of being wounded was 25 percent, a rate that doubled to 50 percent for soldiers who received an amputation more than a day after being wounded.” Michael J. Varhola, Everyday Life During the Civil War. (Cincinnati, Ohio: Writer’s Digest Books, 1999), 174-175.

[6] Charles Carle, Surgeon, residence Tamaroa, Ill, enlisted 29 March 1862, mustered out 20 Aug 1864. The Illinois USGenWeb Project©1997-2000 The ILGenWeb Project All Rights Reserved.

[7] Benjamin F. Keables, age 29, residence Pella, né New York, appointed Assistant Surgeon 8 April 1862, promoted Surgeon 5 Sept 1862, mustered out 17 June 1864, Davenport, Iowa, expiration of term of service. George H. Blakely, age 23, residence Winterset, Iowa, né Massachusetts, enlisted 21 May 1861, mustered 8 June 1861, re-enlisted and re-mustered 4  Jan 1864. See Company B, 3rd Infantry Consolidated Battalion. civilwar/regiment/infantry/03rd/co-go.htm