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History of Iowa

Volume II

Chapter XVI


Fifteenth Iowa Infantry


            The companies making up this regiment were recruited in many counties, principally Clinton, Linn, Polk, Mahaska, Wapello, Van Buren, Fremont, Mills, Marion, Warren, Harrison and Pottawattamie. The companies began to assemble at Keokuk as early as September, 1861, but the regiment was not organized until February, 1862. The field and staff officers were: H. T. Reid, colonel; William Dewey, lieutenant-colonel; W. W. Belknap, major; George Pomutz, adjutant; J. M. Hedrick, quartermaster; S. B. Davis, surgeon; and W. W. Eastbrook, chaplain.


            On the 19th of March the regiment embarked for the seat of war and landed at St. Louis, where arms and equipments were received. On the 1st of April it started to join General Grant’s army at Pittsburg Landing, and reached that place amid the roar of cannon, the fierce crashes of musketry and the bursting of shells of the first day’s battle. It was a trying ordeal as the regiment landed from the steamer and witnessed the panic stricken hundreds who were fleeing from the field. Colonel Reid was ordered to the front, taking a position on McClernand’s line. Here the Fifteenth made a good stand for a new regiment until the order came to retreat, when it fell back in confusion. A portion of the men wee rallied and took part in the battle later in the day and on Monday. Colonel Reid had been severely wounded, and Major Belknap, Adjutant Pomutz and many of the company officers behaved with great coolness and courage in this their first battle. The loss of the regiment was one hundred eighty-eight in killed, wounded and missing. Captain Hedrick was severely wounded and captured while leading his company in a charge. Among the wounded officers were Major Belknap, Adjutant Pomutz, Captains Hutchcroft, Blackner, Day, Lieutenants Porter, Goode, Ring, and Reid. Soon after the battle the Iowa Brigade was formed, in which the Fifteenth was one of the regiments left to occupy the place, and Major Belknap was made provost marshal. In the Battle of Corinth, on the 3d of October, Colonel Reid was ill. Lieutenant-Colonel Dewey had been transferred to the Twenty-third, leaving Major Belknap in command of the Fifteenth. The regiment was handled with skill and fought with conspicuous bravery. Among the killed were Lieutenants J. D. Kinsman, William Cathcart and R. H. Eldridge, while Major W. T. Cunningham, Captain R. L. Hanks and lieutenant Logan Crawford were wounded. The loss to the regiment in killed, wounded and missing was eighty-five. During the next four months the Fifteenth was employed in various expeditions in Tennessee and Mississippi. In January, 1863, it joined the army operating against Vicksburg. In April, Captain Hedrick, after a long captivity, rejoined the regiment and was promoted to major in place of Cunningham, resigned. On the 21st of April the Fifteenth was sent to Milliken’s Bend; Colonel Reid was in command of a brigade and the Fifteenth, under Lieutenant-Colonel Belknap, was in the Iowa Brigade, then commanded by Colonel Chambers of the Sixteenth. From this time until the close of the campaign, the Fifteenth was engaged in active service, but fortunately met with no losses. In June, Belknap was promoted to colonel, Hedrick to lieutenant-colonel, and Pomutz to major of the regiment and Lieutenant E. H. King became adjutant. The regiment remained in Vicksburg until August, then accompanied General Stephenson’s expedition to Monroe, and, returning from that unfortunate and disastrous raid, exhausted by hardships, remained in Vicksburg until February, 1864. A portion of the regiment reenlisted as veterans in January and accompanied Sherman on his Meridian raid. The non-veterans of the brigade were organized into the Iowa Battalion under command of Major Pomutz. The veterans visited their homes in March and returned to duty in April. In May the Iowa Brigade joined Sherman on his march to the sea. The Fifteenth participated in the battles of Kenesaw Mountain, Nickajack Creek and before Atlanta on the 21st of July, losing in killed and wounded nearly one hundred men.


Battle of Atlanta, July 22


            On the 20th of July, General Sherman was closing his army corps around Atlanta. General Hood was now in command of the Confederate army and assuming the offensive. On the 20th he had made a vigorous attack upon our advancing forces and a bloody battle ensued. On the 21st the enemy occupied a strong position on a range of hills and was well intrenched in lines which overlooked the valley of Peach Tree Creek, about four miles from Atlanta.


            General Dodge with the Sixteenth Corps became warmly engaged. General McPherson had been killed and was succeeded by General Logan. The enemy had broken through our lines and a heavy fire in the rear created a panic, some of our regiment flying in confusion. Wood’s Division of the Fifteenth Corps, in which were several Iowa regiments and an Iowa brigade, charged on the advancing enemy with great fury and regained the broken line, recapturing several guns that had been taken. Generals Dodge and Blair were making a gallant fight against the desperate assaults of the enemy from various points. The Iowa Brigade in General Smith’s Division was warmly engaged. General Smith speaks as follows of the battle in that quarter:


            “Another and still more desperate assault was now made from the east side in the rear of Colonel Hall’s brigade. The men sprung over the works and the most desperate fight of the day now took place. The enemy under cover of the woods could approach within twenty yards of our woks without discovery. The Confederates would frequently occupy one side of the works and our men the other. Many individual acts of heroism here occurred. Men  were bayoneted across the works and officers with swords fought hand-to-hand with men with bayonets. Colonel Belknap, of the Fifteenth Iowa, took prisoner Colonel Lampley of the Forty-fifth Alabama, by pulling him over the works by his coat collar, being several times fired at by men at his side. The colors of his regiment were captured at the same time. This combat lasted three-quarters of an hour, when the enemy slowly retired. The battle lasted seven hours with few pauses. The fury of the charges has seldom been equaled during the war. Again and again the Confederate regiments were hurled against our lines with reckless fury, only to meet a wall of fire which swept them down by the hundreds.”


            There were thirteen Iowa regiments in this great battle. The Second and Seventh in General Dodge’s command fought with their usual valor; the remnant of the Third was almost annihilated. The Fourth, Ninth, Twenty-fifth, Twenty-sixth and Thirtieth, in General Wood’s Division, fought bravely. The Eleventh, Thirteenth, Fifteenth and Sixteenth of the Iowa Brigade were among the bravest. The Fifteenth lost one hundred thirty-two men, of whom ten were killed, forty wounded and eighty-two captured. Lieutenant-Colonel Hedrick was severely wounded. On the 28th another severed battle was fought in which the Fifteenth participated. Soon after Colonel Belknap was promoted to Brigadier-General. As Colonel Hedrick was permanently disabled by his wounds Major Pomutz, who was promoted to lieutenant-colonel, took command of the regiment. After the evacuation of Atlanta the Fifteenth went into camp at Eastport. In October it joined in pursuit of Hood’s army and was in the march to Savannah. In the Battle of Pocataligo Captain R. B. Kellogg, a brave young officer, was mortally wounded. The regiment marched to Goldsboro, Raleigh and Washington. On the 24th of July, 1865, it was mustered out and returned to Iowa, at this time numbering seven hundred twelve men. Colonel Hedrick was Brevet Brigadier-General, and Captain J. S. Porter was promoted to major.


Sixteenth Iowa Infantry


            The Sixteenth was the last infantry regiment raised in Iowa under the President’s proclamation calling for volunteers during the first year of the war. The failure of General McClellan’s campaign had greatly depressed the people at the North, and it became difficult to procure volunteers for this regiment. The first company went into quarters in September, 1861, and the last company was not ready until March 24, 1862. Two companies were recruited in Muscatine County and the others were enlisted from various parts. The regiment numbered nine hundred ten men, and its first field and staff officers were: Alexander Chambers, colonel; A. H. Sanders, lieutenant-colonel; William Purcell, major; George E. McCosh, adjutant; C. W. Fracker, quartermaster; J. H. Camburn, surgeon. As soon as the organization was completed the regiment joined Grant’s army at Pittsburg Landing and went into the battle with but little drilling. IT was a trying ordeal, placed in an exposed position on that fearful Sunday, but the men never flinched, though many of their number were killed or injured. Among the killed were: Captain John Ruehl and Lieutenant F. N. Doyle, while Colonel Chambers, Captains A. Palmer, E. S. Frazier, E. M. Newcomb and M. Zettler, and Lieutenant J. H. Lucas, G. H. Holcomb, Peter Miller and Henry Meyer were among the wounded. At one time the regiment was thrown into confusion, but soon rallied and did good service. Upon the organization of the Iowa Brigade, soon after the Battle of Shiloh, the Sixteenth was placed in it and served as a part of the Brigade from that time. After the march to Corinth the regiment was for two months in camp near that place suffering severely from sickness. Fro several months it served in the region about Corinth, Bolivar, Tennessee, and Somerville. At the Battle of Iuka the regiment did excellent service. General Rosecrans in his official report says:


            “The Sixteenth Iowa, amid the roar of battle, the rush of wounded artillery horses, the charges of a Rebel brigade, a storm of grape, canister and musketry, stood like a rock holding the center, while the glorious Fifth Iowa, under the brave Matthies, sustained by Boomer with the noble Twenty-sixty Missouri, bore the thrice repeated charges and cross-fires of the Rebel left and center, with a valor and determination seldom equaled and never excelled by veteran soldiers.”


            When Colonel Chambers was wounded and captured the command of the regiment devolved on the gallant Lieutenant-Colonel Sanders. Adjutant Lawrence, a brave young officer, was killed, while Captain Palmer, Lieutenants Lucas, Alcorn and Williams were severely wounded. This was the second battle for the Sixteenth, and it won high honors, losing, however sixty-five men. In the Battle of Corinth, two weeks later, the Sixteenth was hotly engaged, and its commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Sanders, was severely wounded in the first day’s fight. General Crocker says in his report:


            “Lieutenant-Colonel A. H. Sanders rode along the line of his regiment amid a storm of bullets, encouraging his brave boys, who had so lately suffered at Iuka, to remember their duty, and although severely wounded remained with his regiment until it marched off the field.”


            In the next day’s battle Major Purcell, who was in command, was wounded, and Captain Williams was taken prisoner. After the battle the Sixteenth was one of the regiments that pursued the retreating enemy. For several months the regiment was employed in Mississippi and Tennessee, and early in January, 1863, Captain Heavener died of smallpox. Soon after, the regiment marched to Memphis, where it joined Grant’s army in the Vicksburg campaign and bore an honorable part in the brilliant marches, battles and final great victory. When General Crocker took command of the Seventh Division, Colonel Chambers succeeded to the command of the Iowa Brigade. The first medal of honor for the Seventeenth Corps in this campaign, was awarded to Lieutenant Samuel Duffin,(1) of Company K, Sixteenth Iowa. The regiment was in the Monroe expedition in August and September, and was with Sherman in the raid to Meridian in February, 1864. The members of the regiment reenlisted during the winter, and the veterans visited their homes before joining Sherman on his march through Georgia. The Sixteenth was often under fire in the marches and skirmishes as the campaign progressed and in the severe engagement in which the Sixteenth lost about fifty men, among whom were Lieutenant G. H. Holcomb killed, and Captain Hugh Shilling wounded. In the battle on the next day the Sixteenth, after a heroic fight, was surrounded and captured. The regiment was posted on the left of the Eleventh Iowa, in front of the Thirteenth Iowa. The ground occupied by the Iowa Brigade was covered with underbrush, but no timber. Just before noon General Smith had directed Colonel Sanders to have his regiment ready to fall back at a minutes notice, but adding, “you must hold your works to the last, as the safety of the division may depend on the delay occasioned the enemy at this point.” This was the last order given Colonel Sanders that day. Soon heavy firing on the skirmish line indicated the advance of the enemy in strong force. In a short time the skirmish line was driven in and heavy bodies of the enemy followed closely after them. The Sixteenth in the trenches awaited with muskets ready the close approach of the advancing enemy with fixed bayonets, when Colonel Sanders gave the order to fire. Volley after volley smote the enemy at close range, and their lines were soon shattered, those not injured falling to the ground to escape the murderous fire which decimated their ranks. Another strong line of the enemy came to their aid and was repulsed with great slaughter. Heavy bodies of Confederates were also hurled against the Eleventh and Fifteenth regiments at the same time and they were finally forced from their positions by overwhelming numbers. No orders came to retire and the Sixteenth was soon surrounded and compelled to surrender. Further resistance would only have resulted in the slaughter of the entire regiment. During the campaign, up to this time the entire loss of the regiment in killed and wounded had been one hundred twenty-six. Nearly two hundred members of the regiment, many of whom were absent, sick, or wounded escaped capture. The officers captured were first sent to Macon and later to Charleston and Columbia. The men were doomed to undergo the tortures of Andersonville stockade, where every form of suffering was endured. For nearly two months men were crowded in this most loathsome prison pen known in modern times, where many died and others were disabled for life. On the 22d of September the survivors were released by exchange and returned to the regiment. The officers were detained longer, but a few of them managed to escape, among whom was Captain J. H. Smith. The regiment was with Sherman until Johnston’s surrender, when it proceeded to Washington and joined in the grand review. In July it was sent to Louisville, where Lieutenant-Colonel Smith resigned. The regiment was soon after sent to Davenport and there disbanded. The field officers at this time were Lieutenant-Colonel J. T. Herbert, Major Peter Miller, Adjutant Oliver Anderson, Surgeon J. L. Philips, Quartermaster Smith Spoor. Colonel Sanders, who was Brevet Brigadier-General, had been compelled to leave the service in April, 1865, on account of disability incurred in Confederate prisons.


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