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History of Iowa

Volume II

Chapter XV



Pictures included in this chapter are of General M. M. Crocker, Battle of Atlanta, and

Colonel William T. Shaw.



Thirteenth Iowa Infantry


            In this regiment were represented the counties of Linn, Jasper, Marion, Lucas, Keokuk, Scott, Polk, Benton, Marshall and Washington. It was organized in the months of September and October, 1861, and numbered eight hundred and ninety-nine men—the first field and staff officers being M. M. Crocker, colonel; M. M. Price, lieutenant-colonel; John Shane, major; W. T. Clark, adjutant; H. G. Barner, quartermaster; Joseph McKee, surgeon; John Steele, chaplain. The regiment was moved from Davenport to Benton Barracks, near St. Louis in November, and soon after was sent to join General Pope’s army at Jefferson City. Here the winter was spent in drilling and learning the art of war under the direction of Colonel Crocker. In March the regiment was sent to General Grant’s army then assembling at Pittsburg Landing, being placed in General McClernand’s Division, with the First Brigade commanded by Colonel R. J. Oglesby. At the Battle of Shiloh, on the 6th of April, the regiment was for the first time under fire, and for ten hours fought bravely, losing in killed, wounded and missing one hundred and seventy-two men. Among the wounded were Lieutenant-Colonel Price, Major Shane, Captain T. H. Miller, Lieutenants B. R. Sherman,(1) Elliott Shurtz and J. H. Watson. Lieutenant E. D. Duncan was killed. Soon after the battle the Thirteenth was placed in the Third Brigade of the Sixth Division, commanded by General McKean. The brigade was composed of the Eleventh, Thirteenth, Fifteenth and Sixteenth Iowa regiments, and was commanded by Colonel Crocker. Lieutenant-Colonel Price resigned on the 16th of April and was succeeded by Major Shane. Captain G. M. Van Hosen was promoted to major. The regiment was in the vicinity of Corinth most of the summer and was engaged in the two days’ battle at Corinth, on the 3d and 4th of October, meeting with slight loss. It was in General Grant’s Holly Springs campaign, and in January, 1863, was at Memphis. Major Van Hosen resigned  on the 21st of that month and Adjutant James Wilson became major. Adjutant W. T. Clark had been promoted to Assistant Adjutant-General and his connection with the regiment ceased. In 1864 he was promoted to Brigadier-General.


    During the winter the Thirteenth was moved to Milliken’s Bend and from there to Providence, where the men for some time assisted in work on the famous canal. Colonel Crocker was promoted to Brigadier-General, Shane to colonel of the regiment, Major Wilson to lieutenant-colonel; Captain W. A. Walker, of Company G, to major. The regiment was actively engaged in the closing campaign about Vicksburg and in Sherman’s movement against Johnston. Its losses in the various engagements were small, not exceeding forty men. During the remainder of the summer the Thirteenth was employed in various duties in the vicinity of Vicksburg. It was in the expedition to Monroe under General Stevenson, and in February, 1864, participated in the Meridian raid under General Sherman. The regiment had become reduced at this time to four hundred eighty-eight men. Of these three hundred and forty-three reenlisted as veterans. On the 16th of April they returned after a month’s furlough, and in June joined Sherman’s army in his march through Georgia. The Thirteenth lost several men on the picket lines and in various skirmishes. At Decatur, General Crocker, who was in command of the Fourth division, was compelled to relinquish his command on account of failing health.(2)


Battle Before Atlanta


            On the 21st of July Colonel Shane commanded the Iowa Brigade in which was the Thirteenth Regiment. To the left of this brigade was posted another under command of General Force. Immediately in front, on a high hill, the enemy in strong force held a fort. The Iowa Brigade moved to the assault and was to be supported by General Force’s Brigade on the left. At eight o’clock the line was formed, the Thirteenth under Major Walker, and the Fifteenth under Colonel Belknap in front, the Eleventh, Lieutenant-Colonel Abercrombie, and the Sixteenth, Lieutenant-Colonel Sanders, in the second line. The order to charge was given and the men rushed to the assault with loud shouts. A terrible volley from artillery and musketry smote them, thinning their ranks, but on they pushed firing rapidly as they advanced. When within fifty yard of the fort they encountered such a deadly fire that the order was given to lie down. Twenty feet in advance Sergeant Starkweather held aloft the flag amidst the cheers of the men. A steady fire was kept up on the enemy as Force’s Brigade took the outworks. The enemy retired to a strong line in the rear of the fort and kept up a deadly artillery fire on the Iowa Brigade. Finally the order was given to retire and the men retreated in good order to their line of works. The Iowa Brigade lost two hundred and twenty-six men in the charge, of which one hundred and thirteen belonged to the Thirteenth Regiment. In their reports the commanding officers speak in the highest terms of the conduct of the men, every one of whom bravely did his duty without flinching. In the terrible battle of the next day four companies of the Thirteenth were sent to reinforce the Eleventh and Sixteenth regiments at a critical time, and these were for the most part taken prisoners. The remainder of the regiment fought to the close of the battle. The losses were one hundred and forty-nine men, among whom were Major Walker killed, and Lieutenants Hunter, Huff and Hawkins wounded. In the battle of the 28th the Thirteenth fought with great bravery. Its losses in the campaign, up to the occupation of Atlanta, in killed, wounded and prisoners, were three hundred and thirty one.


            Captain Marshall, of Company H, was promoted to major in place of Walker, killed. In November, Colonel Shane, Adjutant Rood and Quartermaster Kennedy were mustered out at the expiration of their terms of service. The regiment shared in the marches and battles of the campaign, reaching Pocotalio, South Carolina, on the 15th of January, 1865. While her J. C. Wilson was promoted to colonel; Captain J. C. Kennedy, lieutenant-colonel; A. C. Meyers, adjutant; and N. C. Keyes, quartermaster.


            In the march through South Carolina Lieutenant-Colonel Kennedy, of the Thirteenth, led seventy-vive men over the Broad River on the 17th of February, took possession of Columbia and hoisted the Stars and Stripes over the State House. On the 20th of March the army reached Bentonsville, where the Thirteenth fought its last battle. On the 19th of May, Alexandria, Virginia, was reached, where the regiment remained until the grand review at the National Capitol.


            On the 28th and 29th of July the officers and men were again in Iowa, at Davenport, where the regiment was disbanded.


Fourteenth Iowa Infantry


            The organization of this regiment was somewhat peculiar, for, as a matter of fact, the original Companies A, B, and C never served with the regiment and were never under command of its colonel. These companies were, by order of the War Department, transferred to, and made a battalion of the Forty-first Iowa Infantry. They were sent to Fort Randall in Dakota Territory, and finally became a part of one of the cavalry regiments. During the first year of its existence the Fourteenth Regiment had but seven companies, D to K. These were largely recruited in the counties of Henry, Lee, Van Buren, Des Moines, Dubuque, Johnson, Jones, Linn, Iowa and Jasper. These companies assembled at Davenport, where the regiment was organized on the 6th of November, 1861, with the following officers: W. T. Shaw, colonel; E. W. Lucas, lieutenant-colonel; Hiram Leonard, major; N. H. Tyner, adjutant; C. C. Buel, quartermaster; G. M. Staples, surgeon; S. A. Benton, chaplain. Toward the last of November the regiment was sent to St. Louis and went into a camp of instruction. The men here suffered greatly from sickness and many died of pneumonia and measles. Early in February the regiment was ordered to join General Grant’s army, then about to move against Fort Donelson. In the battle it was in Lauman’s Brigade, which was one of the first to enter the Confederate works. The loss in this first engagement was three killed and twenty-one wounded. On the 18th of March the Thirteenth went with the army to Pittsburg Landing, where it was assigned to General Smith’s Division in a brigade composed of the Second, Seventh, Twelfth and Fourteenth Iowa regiments, under command of Colonel Tuttle. All of that long, terrible day of April 6th this brigade made a desperate fight against superior numbers, at the “Hornet’s Nest,” for hours, by heroic resistance, it stayed the progress of the enemy. Just as the sun went down, cut off from aid and surrounded, the gallant regiment was forced to surrender. The officers and men were held as prisoners until late in the following year, when, on the 19th of November, they were released in exchange and sent to St. Louis, where the regiment was reorganized during the winter. Two new companies, A, and B, had been enlisted and here joined the regiment in place of those sent to fort Randall. Many recruits were secured to fill the depleted ranks. Captain J. H. Newbold was promoted to lieutenant-colonel in place of Lucas, reigned, and Captain E. A. Warner was appointed major to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Kirkwood. On the 10th of April, 1863, Company C joined the regiment which was soon after sent to Columbus, Kentucky, were for a long time it remained, performing garrison duty and drilling recruits. In January, 1864, it was sent to Vicksburg and assigned to the Second Brigade of the Third Division of the Sixteenth Army Corps. Colonel Shaw had command of the brigade and Lieutenant-Colonel Shaw had command of the brigade and Lieutenant-Colonel Newbold commanded the regiment. It was with General Sherman in his Meridian expedition and soon after was sent to join General Banks in his disastrous Red River campaign. In March General Smith marched a portion of the army against Fort De Russey on the Red River, Shaw’s Brigade being a part of his force.


Capture of Fort De Russey


            Admiral Porter with a formidable fleet started up the Red River to clear it of obstructions, while Smith’s army marched overland on the 13th of March. Colonel Shaw’s Brigade was in the lead. At Bayou de Glaize the bridge had been burned and six hundred of the enemy on the west bank disrupted his passage. He opened on them with artillery and soon dislodged them, then rebuilding the bridge, crossed the river in pursuit. Shaw moved on to within eight hundred yards of the fort and, posting his artillery, sent his skirmishers forward to annoy the enemy’s gunners. The whole army had now come up and the batteries opened upon the fort. The enemy replied with shell and shrapnel, and it soon became evident that the fort could not soon be taken without a general assault. The columns were formed, and at the word of command moved forward with loud shouts. The fort was a formidable work, with bastions and bomb-proofs covered with railroad iron. Connected with the fort was a strong water battery, the casements of which were securely protected. After a short conflict the fort was captured with the cannon and a large quantity of small arms, ammunition and commissary stores. It was destroyed, and the fleet and army moved on up Red River to Alexandria, where Banks was concentrating his army. On the 8th of April the confederate army assailed the advance columns of the Union men near Mansfield. After a brave fight against superior numbers Ransom’s Division gave way in confusion, reinforcements coming up a division at a time only to be beaten in detail. The road was blockaded by miles of wagon trains, obstructing the reinforcing columns, and soon the advance of the Union army became a routed, fleeing mob—infantry, cavalry, artillery and wagon trains in utter confusion. Ten guns, two hundred and sixty-nine wagons and more than 1,000 prisoners fell into the hands of the enemy. General Emory in the rear, near Pleasant Grove, taking a strong position, finally checked the advance of the Confederates. Opening his ranks to let the retreating army pass through, the line closed again on the double-quick, and poured into the faces of the advancing enemy a terrific fire that mowed down hundreds and checked the pursuit. Again and again the Confederates charge on Emory’s lines only to be hurled back in confusion, when night at last put an end to the bloody conflict. General Smith’s veterans were in reserve, and on the next day at Pleasant hill made a vigorous stand. Colonel Shaw’s Brigade, composed of the Fourteenth, Twenty-seventh and Thirty-second Iowa and the Twenty-fourth Missouri was formed across the main road by which the enemy must advance to the attack. At four o’clock the Confederates again assailed the Union army and a desperate battle ensued. Not troops ever made a more heroic fight than Shaw’s “Iron Brigade.”


            Greeley’s American Conflict says:

           “Colonel Shaw, commanding the Second Brigade, deserves great credit for the able manner in which he repelled cavalry charges. The Texas cavalry undertook to break his lines; he ordered his men to reserve their fire until the rebels were within thirty yards. As the cavalry came on, each man selected his victim until the four hundred were close upon them, when a terrific fire emptied nearly every saddle. Of this cavalry regiment not more than ten men escaped.”


            The next morning General Banks continued to retreat, having lost in three days nearly 4,000 men, eighteen guns and many wagons, the whole campaign being a disastrous failure. At the Battle of Pleasant Hill, Lieutenant-Colonel Newbold, Lieutenants W. N. McMillen, Joseph Shanklin and G. H. Logan were among the killed. The entire loss of the Fourteenth Regiment was eighty-five.

            The Fourteenth was sent to Vicksburg soon after the Red River disaster, and in July was in the Battle of Tupelo, after which it was in Memphis for some time. In September it was sent into Missouri, and a portion under General Ewing was in the defense of Pilot Knob. In November, 1864, the regiment was sent to Davenport and there mustered out, as the term for which it enlisted had expired. About two hundred men had reenlisted as veterans, and they, under command of Captain Hoffbauer, were sent to Springfield, Illinois, and did duty in guarding prisoners until the close of the war.


            On the 4th of October, 1864, when Colonel Shaw was in command of the division, an order was procured form the War Department by request of General Banks, dismissing the gallant fighting commander of the “Iron Brigade” form the military service. After the Battle of Pleasant Hill, Colonel Shaw had written a private letter to a friend at home, in which he freely expressed his opinion of some of the officers high in command on the Red River expedition. The letter was published in the Anamosa Eureka and Dubuque Times. There is sufficient evidence that Colonel Shaw told the truth in this letter, but its publication over his signature was held to be a violation of army regulations, and his superiors were thus able to procure his dismissal from the service. The Iowa people and soldiers, who know of Colonel Shaw’s valuable services, his fine record as one of the most competent and fearless officers that our State sent into the service, are proud of his career. His dismissal, through the influence of a political general, who never won a battle, is a fitting victory for the incompetent commander of the Red River fiasco, who marched against the enemy with his baggage train at the front. When the order of dismissal came to General A. J. Smith, in whose army Colonel Shaw had served with distinguished ability, that officer refused to have it promulgated and relieved him of his command in the following language:


            “In relieving Colonel Shaw from command of the Third Division prior to his being mustered out, it is but an act of justice to an energetic, thorough and competent officer to say that for the last fifteen months he has been in this command as a post brigade and division commander, he has in every position performed the incumbent duties well and faithfully with an ability few can equal, with courage, patriotism and skill above question. The service loses an excellent officer when he is mustered out.”


By order of Major-General A. J. Smith


            Upon his retirement the officers of the division Colonel Shaw had commanded presented him with an elegant sword as a testimonial of their high regard.


End Notes

  1. Afterwards Governor of Iowa.

  2. General Crocker never recovered his health but died of consumption in August, 1865. He was universally esteemed as one of the ablest military commanders Iowa sent into the service.


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