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History of Iowa

Volume II

Chapter XIV


Picture included in this chapter is the Battle of Shiloh


Eleventh Iowa Infantry


            The Eleventh regiment was raised in September, 1861, in the counties of Muscatine,  Louisa, Cedar, Henry, Washington, Keokuk, Van Buren, Linn and Marshall. Going into camp at Davenport, it was organized by the appointment of the following field and staff officers: Colonel A. M. Hare, Lieutenant-Colonel William Hall, Major J. C. Abercrombie, Adjutant Cornelius Cadle, Quartermaster Richard Cadle, Surgeon William Watson, Chaplain J. S. Whittlesey. It numbered nine hundred and thirty-one men when mustered into service on the 1st of November. The Eleventh was the first regiment provided with United States uniforms before leaving the State, and its first sad duty was to escort to the grave the remains of Lieutenant-Colonel Wentz, of the Seventh Iowa, killed at Belmont. The regiment embarked for St. Louis on the 16th of November and in December was sent to Jefferson City. The winter was spent in that vicinity in various duties and in March the regiment joined General Grant’s army at Pittsburg Landing. In the great battle which soon followed, the regiment was commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Hall and was in a brigade under command of Colonel Hare until he was wounded, when Colonel Crocker took command. The Eleventh was in General McClernand’s Division which supported Sherman in the first day’s battle; this was its first engagement and was sustained with varying fortune during that bloody day, losing heavily. It was in front of this regiment that the Confederate General A. S. Johnston, while leading a charge, was mortally wounded, doubtless by an Iowa soldier. Lieutenant J. F. Compton was among the wounded. The regiment was in the march to Corinth, where it remained a part of the garrison for about three months, and was afterward in the fight at Bolivar under Crocker. In October, at Corinth, it participated in the battle of the 3d and 4th, meeting with slight loss. In January, 1863, the regiment was at Memphis and in February, with the Iowa Brigade, was at Lake Providence helping to dig the canal. IT was with Grant’s army through the Vicksburg campaign, but not engaged in the severe battles. AT the close of this campaign leave of absence was granted to many officers and men. About this time General J. D. Stevenson started on an expedition west of Vicksburg into a region of Louisiana that had not yet been invaded by a Union army. His command consisted of about 4,500 men and among them was the Eleventh Iowa, then under Major Charles Foster. The troops were transported by steamer to Goodrich’s Landing, and about the middle of August marched into the interior, subsisting on the products of the country through which they passed. Their route was nearly due west through a region low and marshy, covered with a dense growth of timber, almost impenetrable underbrush and rank tangle of vegetation which excluded the breeze. The August sun beat down so fiercely that men dropped by scores and hundreds along the line of march. Slimy, oozing bayous crossed their way and had to be bridged; pontoons and corduroy had to be laid in the stifling heat. The only water for use of the army in many places was stagnant, warm and steeped in filth and decaying vegetation. The men were harassed day and night by concealed and retreating enemies. The wagons and ambulances were loaded with sick and exhausted men. The enemy led them on day after day among swamps and bayous, retiring across the Washita River, destroying the pontoons and retreating into a wild region toward Shreveport. The army stopped at Monroe two days, gathering cattle and provisions, and finding immense stores of cotton which were neither taken nor destroyed. Here General Stevenson decided to turn back. The only results of this terrible march, intense suffering and sacrifice of life, was the collection of a large drove of cattle and the capture of one hundred and sixty sick Confederates in hospitals. The next expedition in which the Eleventh was engaged was that which was known as the Meridian raid, which occupied a month. Nearly all of the members of the regiment now reenlisted as veterans and were granted furloughs. They received a most enthusiastic welcome form their Iowa friends and neighbors and many recruits joined them on their return to the service. The Iowa Brigade joined Sherman at Ackworth on the 8th of June, 1864, after the invading army had marched flanked and fought its way there from Ringgold, near the north line of Alabama. A few days later the Confederate army was encountered, strongly posted on the ridges of Kenesaw Mountain. For nearly a month Sherman’s progress was here blocked and the time was occupied in skirmishes with the enemy. Our army was posted within range of Confederate sharpshooters and many fell victims to their deadly aim.(1) The Eleventh was not in the assault of the 27th, but lost several men killed and wounded in front of Kenesaw. As Johnston retreated, Sherman’s army followed toward the Chattahoochee River, where the Confederate army was found again strongly posted. Here the Union army was held in check for a week. There was frequent fighting along the line in which the Eleventh was at times engaged, always bravely doing its duty. Before Atlanta the regiment was often under fire, and in the great battle of the 22d of July was in the thickest of the fight. Lieutenant-Colonel Abercrombie, in his report of the action of the 22d, says:


            “Major Foster was wounded early in the action, faithful in discharge of his duty. Captain Neal was killed instantly by a grape shot. Captain Barr is missing. Captain Rose was wounded and captured. Lieutenant Caldwell was killed and Lieutenants Pfouts and Wylie wounded. I would make honorable mention of Sergeant J. G. Safeley who, with Sergeant Buck (afterwards killed) and a party of picked men to the number of thirty or forty, made a dash over the works held by the enemy, bringing over more than their own number as prisoners, among whom were a colonel and captain. During the action a Confederate flag was captured by private G. B. Haworth and a banner belonging to the Forty-fifth Alabama was captured by Private Edward Siberts.”


            Altogether the regiment captured ninety-three prisoners. Captain J. W. Anderson and Adjutant B. W. Prescott are mentioned for gallant conduct. Major Charles Foster died of his wounds and was greatly lamented by the regiment. He was an excellent and popular officer and had been a member of our State Senate. The loss of the Eleventh in this battle was one hundred and thirty-seven enlisted men. Colonel Abercrombie was mustered out in November, and Lieutenant-Colonel Benjamin Beach succeeded to the command of the regiment. John G. Safeley was promoted from sergeant-major to adjutant on the 15th of September. Chaplain Whittlesley died from over exertion in care of the wounded after the Battle of Shiloh. John G. Miller succeeded Watson, who resigned as surgeon on the 4th of March, 1863. The Eleventh marched with the army to Savannah, and early in 1865 sailed for Beaufort and not long after took up line of march for the North. It lost two men at the Battle of Bentonsville and soon after was present at the surrender of Johnston. At Washington it marched in the grand review, where Lieutenant-Colonel Beach commanded the Iowa Brigade. The Eleventh reached Davenport on the 19th of July, was warmly welcomed by the citizens and was there disbanded.


Twelfth Iowa Infantry


            The companies composing this regiment were made up largely of men enlisted in the following counties: Dubuque, Jackson, Delaware, Black Hawk, Hardin, Fayette, Winneshiek, Allamakee and Linn. They went into camp at Dubuque during the months of October and November the regiment numbered nine hundred and twenty-six men. The first field and staff officers were: J. J. Woods, colonel; J. P. Coulter, lieutenant-colonel; S. D. Brodtbeck, major; N. E. Duncan, adjutant; J. B. Dorr, quartermaster; C. C. Parker, surgeon; and A. G. Eberhart, chaplain. The regiment was sent to Benton Barracks, St. Louis, soon after its organization, and during two months’ stay suffered severely from sickness—measles and pneumonia prostrating nearly half the members, seventy-five of them dying while there. Among the dead was Captain Charles Tupper, of Company G, an officer of great promise. In February the regiment joined the army of General Grant, then starting on the campaign up the Tennessee River, and witnessed the capture of Fort Henry on the 6th, and on the 12th of February moved with the army against Fort Donelson. The regiment was in Colonel Cook’s Brigade of Smith’s Division, and did excellent service in the severe engagements that resulted in the brilliant victory. This was their first battle, and the officers and men sustained the high reputation already won by Iowa soldiers. Soon after the battle the Twelfth was sent by steamer, with the army, to Pittsburg Landing. While lying here Major Brodtbeck resigned on account of ill health, and Captain Edgington, of Company A, was promoted to the place. In the great battle of Shiloh, which opened early on the morning of April 6th, the Twelfth was in General W. L. Wallace’s Division and in the brigade commanded by Colonel Tuttle. This brigade consisted of the Second, Seventh, Twelfth and Fourteenth Iowa regiments, and no troops on the field fought with more stern determination. As the commands of Sherman and Prentiss were gradually driven from their positions they fell back to the line held by Hurlbut and Wallace. Here a terrific conflict ensued. In overwhelming numbers the Confederates charge again and again upon our lines and were met with continuous fire of musketry and artillery that has seldom been surpassed. So stubborn was the resistance that General A. S. Johnston, commander of the Confederate army, finding column after column driven back with shattered ranks, at last led another charge in person and in it fell mortally wounded. This part of the field has been appropriately named the “Hornet’s Nest,” to designate the spot where, for hours, the hottest fight of that bloody conflict raged. General Wallace was mortally wounded; Prentiss and most of his command were surrounded and captured after five hours of heroic fighting. Woods says in his report:


            “After receiving orders to fall back, seeing ourselves surrounded, we nevertheless opened fire on that portion of the enemy who blocked our passage to the landing, who after briskly returning our fire for a short time, fell back. A heavy fire from the enemy on our left was going on at the same time. Seeing the enemy in front falling back, we attempted a rapid movement to cut our way through; but the enemy on our left advanced rapidly, coming in behind us, pouring into our ranks a most destructive fire. The enemy in front now faced about, and opened on us at short range, the enemy in our rear still closing in on us rapidly. I received two wounds, disabling me from further duty. The command now devolved on Captain Edgington, acting as field officer. The enemy had, however, so closely surrounded us that their balls which missed our men took effect in their ranks beyond us. To have held out longer would have been to suffer annihilation. The regiment was therefore compelled to surrender. The officers and men stood bravely up to their work, and never did men behave better.”


            The killed and wounded numbered more than numbered more than one hundred and fifty and over four hundred were captured, eighty of whom died in southern prisons. Colonel Woods was recaptured in the next day’s battle. The prisoners were taken to Corinth and from there sent to various prisons. About half of the men were paroled in May and sent to St. Louis; the remainder, or those who survived, were paroled in November. Their sufferings had been great, and many were so disabled that they never regained health or strength.


            About one hundred and fifty members of the Twelfth, who were not in the Battle of Shiloh, escaped capture and were organized into the Union Brigade under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Coulter. The paroled men were exchanged in January, 1863, and returned to duty. Lieutenant-Colonel Coulter resigned in March and was succeeded by Major Edgington, and Captain J. H. Stibbs, of Company Dm was promoted to major. The regiment served under Sherman in the Jackson campaign and participated in the siege and capture of Vicksburg. After the fall of Vicksburg the Twelfth marched with Sherman’s army against Johnston. In the latter part of July the regiment went into camp at Bear Creek, fifteen miles east of Vicksburg, where it remained until October. Here Lieutenant-Colonel Edgington resigned and Major Stibbs assumed command of the regiment, as Colonel Woods was in command of a brigade. Captain Van Duzee, of Company I, was promoted to major. About the middle of November the regiment joined the command of General Hurlbut and was soon after placed in charge of Chewalla, and remained there until the close of January, 1864, the veterans of the regiment reenlisted as veterans. In March, 1864, the veterans of the regiment visited their homes on furlough, returning toward the last of April. The regiment was sent to Memphis and was engaged in guarding lines of railroad. On the 13th, 14, and 15th of July it was engaged in fights with the enemy in the vicinity of Tupelo. On the 12th, while guarding a train, it was attacked by a Confederate brigade, and after a desperate conflict defeated the enemy. On the 17th the Battle of Tupelo was fought, in which the Twelfth did excellent service. It was stationed behind a barricade constructed along an old fence, where it was repeatedly assailed by the enemy’s columns; enemy’s charges. Late in the day it joined several other regiments in a charge on the Confederates, which drove them from the field.


            On the next day the regiment was assigned a position on the Pontotoc road, protected by a breastwork of cotton bales, where it took an active part in the battle. Its loss during the three days was nine killed and fifty-five wounded. Lieutenant A. A. Burdick, a gallant young officer, was among the killed, and Captain C. L. Sumbardo was severely wounded. Lieutenant A. A. Burdick, a gallant young officer, was among the killed, and Captain C. L. Sumbardo was severely wounded. In August it was stationed at Holly Springs, where Lieutenant-Colonel Stibbs was placed in command. Companies A. and F, under command of Captain Hunter, were stationed at a post near the mouth of the White River, where they built a stockade. The little garrison,  consisting of less than fifty men, was, on the night of June 4th, attacked by nearly four hundred Confederates. A desperate fight ensued, in which the little band fought with unsurpassed heroism against overwhelming numbers. AT one time a number of the enemy entered the stockade, but was met by Sergeant Isaac Cottle and Corporal George D. Hunter with revolvers, who attacked them with such fury that they fled. The two brave men were, however, fatally wounded in the heroic encounter which saved the post from capture. After losing fifty men, including their leader, the Confederates were defeated, and retired leaving their wounded on the field. Early in September the Twelfth, under General Mower, embarked on a steamer with the army for White River. Landing at Duval’s Bluff the army started in pursuit of General Price, who was retreating toward Cape Girardeau. For nineteen days the men marched through rain, mud, swamps and rivers on short rations. On the 6th of October the army embarked for St. Louis, where a supply of clothing was procured and a fresh start made to join General A. J. Smith’s army in pursuit of Price. They followed the Confederate army to the Kansas line, but were not able to overtake it. On the 30th the army turned back and ended one of the hardest marches of the year, reaching St. Louis on the 15th of November. On the 22d, Colonel Woods left the service, his term having expired. The non-veterans were also here mustered out and the regiment was reduced to about two hundred men present for duty. The next service was under General Thomas in his Nashville campaign, where the Twelfth fought with its usual gallantry. In January, 1865, it was at Eastport, Mississippi, under command of Major Knee, who had been promoted from Captain of Company H. In February it joined General Canby in his expedition against Mobile, and did good service in that brilliant campaign. It continued in the service doing garrison duty until January, 1866, when finally it was mustered out at Louisville, Kentucky, on the 20th. Lieutenant-Colonel Stibbs had been promoted to colonel and Brevet Brigadier-General before being mustered out of the service.


End Note:

1—Lieutenant Alfred Carey was mortally wounded on the 15th of June, and died July 25th


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