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History of Iowa

Volume II

Chapter XXII


The Twenty-seventh Iowa Infantry


            This regiment was made up of companies recruited largely in the counties of Allamakee, Clayton, Delaware, Floyd, Buchanan, Mitchell and Chickasaw. The Twenty-seventh went into camp at Dubuque in August, 1862, and was there organized by the appointment of the following officers: Colonel James I. Gilbert, Lieutenant-Colonel Jed Lake, Major George W. Howard and Adjutant C. A. Comstock. Soon after the regiment entered the service it was ordered to Minnesota to assist in protecting the frontier from the terrible massacre there inaugurated by the Sioux Indians. General Pope was in command of that department. Colonel Gilbert was sent with his regiment to Fort Snelling, and was soon after sent, with six companies, one hundred twenty-five miles northwest to Mille Lac to superintend the payment of an annuity to a tribe of Indians. He returned to St. Paul on the 4th of November and learned that Major Howard with the four companies left at Fort Snelling had, during his absence been sent to Cairo, Illinois, where he was ordered to join him. The united command was soon after sent down the river to Memphis to join General Sherman’s army.

            Not long after the army moved into central Mississippi to operate against Vicksburg. The Twenty-seventh regiment was sent to the Tallahatchee River to guard the Mississippi Central Railway between that stream and Waterford. Parties of Confederate cavalry were hovering near the railroad and on the 20th of December one of them made a dash on the regimental hospital, captured eleven men of the Twenty-seventh, hurried off some fifteen miles and paroled them. The surrender of Holly Springs with its army stores, by Colonel Murphy, compelled the abandonment of the expedition against Vicksburg and the regiment was sent to Jackson, Tennessee. Soon after it joined General Lawler’s command to reinforce General Sullivan’s army beyond Lexington, making a hard march the first week in January amid mud and cold winds, camping at night in freezing weather without shelter. Early in the morning without breakfast and shivering with cold the army started in pursuit of the retreating enemy, but the Confederates escaped, and our troops returned toward Jackson. The weather was very severe, the army was without tents and many of the men had no blankets. To add to the suffering the command was without rations and had to subsist on corn meal obtained from the farmers along the line of march. The hardships and suffering of this midwinter march brought to the regiment an amount of sickness and death that surpassed its losses in any battle in which it was engaged. Each company buried many members and several officers were compelled to resign to escape a similar fate. The winter was a gloomy one, almost every day of which was saddened by the death of a comrade.

            The second campaign under General Grant against Vicksburg was now under way and many Iowa regiments were sharing in the marches, battles and victories which marked its onward progress. Others were performing important but less brilliant service in guarding lines of communication, and holding captured territory wrested from the enemy. Among these was the Twenty-seventh, now posted in detachments at points on the railroad in the vicinity of Jackson, where Colonel Gilbert was in command of the post. Early in June the regiment was sent to Moscow where it remained for two months guarding railroads and posts, occasionally having a brush with guerrilla bands to vary the monotony of camp life. As the news of great battles and victories in other parts of the country reached them, the officers and men longed for the time when they might share in the excitement and glory of more active service in the field. On the 20th of August, 1863, marching orders came, the regiment broke camp and passed through Memphis on the way to join General Steele’s army then moving on Little Rock, Arkansas, and participated in that campaign and the capture of the city, remaining near that place about two months on guard and picket duty, Colonel Gilbert being most of the time in command of the brigade. In November it moved to Memphis, remaining there until near the end of January, 1864. Although the Twenty-seventh did not take an active part in any battle during the year 1863 its losses from other causes were large; from death, discharge and transfer to invalid corps it lost one hundred eighty-eight men. When it left Memphis there were two hundred seventy less officers and men on its rolls than when it entered the service. Of these, sixty-four had died during the year 1863, and one hundred eight had been discharged for disability.

            On the 26th of January, 1864, the regiment embarked on transports and moved down the river to Vicksburg, where it became a part of a brigade commanded by Colonel W. T. Shaw of Iowa, made up with one exception of Iowa regiments. Soon after it was sent to join General Banks’ Red River expedition. The regiment participated in many of the skirmishes and general engagements of that disastrous campaign. In the Battle of Pleasant Hill, where Shaw’s brigade stood like a rock against the terrible onslaughts of the enemy and rolled back the tide of disaster that threatened to stampede the army, the Twenty-seventh regiment was long and heavily engaged. It lost four killed, seventy wounded and fourteen captured. Among the wounded were Colonel Gilbert, Captain J. M. Holbrook and Lieutenants Brush, Smith and Granger. In the retreat from Grand Ecore the Twenty-seventh was one of the regiments under General Smith which protected the rear of the army and had several engagements with the enemy. Near Alexandria there were several skirmishes before the city was evacuated and burned on the 13th of May. A severe battle was fought at Yellow Bayou, where the Confederates were defeated with heavy loss. The Twenty-seventh Iowa had four men killed and thirteen wounded. Soon after it moved to the mouth of Red River and was transported by steamer to Vicksburg and ten days later was in the expedition under General A. J. Smith which was sent to dislodge General Marmaduke, who was blockading the Mississippi at Greenville. On the 16th of June after a sharp engagement the enemy was defeated and the blockade raised. In the latter part of June the Twenty-seventh took part in the expedition against Tupelo and shared the hard marches and skirmishes of the campaign. The Battle of Tupelo began at six o’clock on the morning of July14th, lasting until noon, when the enemy was defeated with very heavy loss. Our regiment was here engaged and had one man killed and twenty-five wounded. It was also in the Oxford expedition under General Smith and returned to Memphis the latter part of August. The next service was under General Rosecrans in Missouri, who made a series of rapid marches in pursuits of Price into Arkansas, traveling nearly seven hundred miles in forty-seven days but accomplishing nothing of importance. Early in December General Smith’s forces were sent to Nashville to reinforce the army under General Thomas operating against Hood’s army. In the Battle of Nashville, fought on the 15th and 16th of December, where General Thomas won a great victory, Colonel Gilbert had command of a brigade in which were the Twenty-seventh and Thirty-second Iowa regiments, commanded respectively by Lieutenant-Colonel Jed Lake and Lieutenant-Colonel G. A. Eberhart. This brigade did excellent service in the engagement and joined in the pursuit of the defeated Confederates. Colonel Gilbert was soon after promoted to Brigadier-General. During the year 1864 many changes had taken place in the Twenty-seventh regiment; several officers had resigned, and the losses from death, discharges and transfers had been about eighty. On the other hand many recruits had been secured, so that there were about eight hundred names on the roll. In February the regiment was sent down the river to the Gulf of Mexico and to Dauphin Island, near Mobile Bay, and soon after joined General Canby’s army in a movement against Mobile. While on the march, to open communication with General Steele, General Gilbert had a narrow escape from death by a torpedo buried in the road which was exploded by his horse walking over it. After joining General Steele’s army the Twenty-seventh regiment did good service during the parallels by night, continually under fire. On the 9th of April under Major Howard it joined in the assault which resulted in the surrender of the fort and garrison. General Gilbert’s brigade captured six hundred prisoners and eight pieces of artillery. Soon after this victory the brigade joined the Sixteenth Corps marching upon Montgomery, where it remained more than two months. On the 16th of July, 1865, the Twenty-seventh regiment began the journey home by way of Selma, Jackson and Vicksburg and up the river by steamer to Clinton, where it was mustered out on the 8th of August. General Gilbert was brevetted Major-General, serving until he close of the war. Colonel Lake, in his farewell address to the regiment as it was disbanded, states that it had traveled since it entered the service a distance of more than 12,000 miles.

The Twenty-eighth Iowa Infantry

            This regiment was composed of Company A of Benton County, Company B of Iowa and Tama counties, Companies C and H of Poweshiek County, Company D of Benton County, Company E. of Johnson County, Company F of Tama County, Company G, Iowa County; Company I, Iowa County, Company K, Jasper County. It was organized in the autumn of 1862 with the following officers: Colonel William E. Miller, Lieutenant-Colonel John Connell, Major H. B. Lynch, Adjutant J. E. Pritchard. It went into camp at Iowa City, where several weeks were spent drilling. On the 10th of October the regiment was mustered into the United States service, numbering nine hundred fifty-six men. The regiment reached Helena, Arkansas, on the 20th of November, three hundred men under Major Lynch being sent to join General Hovey’s command in Mississippi, then marching to reinforce General Grant’s army operating against Vicksburg. The detachment was absent nearly two weeks, marching most of the time, losing one man killed by guerillas The men at Helena suffered greatly from sickness. The smallpox broke out in the army and many died before it was subdued.

            On the 11th of January, 1863, the regiment was sent with General Gorman’s expedition up the White River by steamer to Duvall’s Bluff. Heavy storms of rain, wind and snow drenched the men’s clothing, then froze, causing great suffering. The expedition accomplished nothing; many soldiers died from the effects of exposure and hardships encountered. Rude winter quarters were now built in which the men endured a gloomy existence with almost every form of discomfort imaginable. Fevers seized them, hospitals were crowded with the sick and dying, every day muffled drums were beating funeral marches. The troops were unpaid, their clothing was in rags, their shoes worn out, misery, homesickness and despair prevailed through out the desolate camp. In February the well men of the regiment were sent with General Washburn’s command to remove the obstructions from Yazoo Pass, where they worked in the water for a week clearing the channel for the passage of steamers. Soon after the return to camp Colonel Miller resigned and was succeeded by Lieutenant-Colonel Connell. On the 11th of April the regiment began the campaign that resulted in the capture of Vicksburg. IT was in a brigade with the Twenty-fourth Iowa, an Indiana and an Ohio regiment commanded by Colonel Slack. At the Battle of Port Gibson, for the first time under fire, it fought with the coolness and courage that had characterized all of the Iowa regiments. The loss was one killed and sixteen wounded. From this time until the 16th of May marching and skirmishing composed the daily movements of the army. At the Battle of Champion’s Hill the regiment won the commendation of its superior officers and in his report General Hovey says:

            “Of the Twenty-fourth and Twenty-eighth Iowa, in what language shall I speak! Scarcely more than six months in the service and yet no troops ever showed more bravery or fought with great valor. Of them and their commanders the State of Iowa may well be proud.”

            In this battle the Twenty-eighth had twenty-two men killed, sixty-five wounded and thirteen taken prisoners. Four companies came out of the fight without a commissioned officer. Captain B. F. Kirby and Lieutenant J. J. Legan were killed, Captain A. J. Staley was captured and Lieutenant John Buchanan was wounded. The regiment served through the siege of Vicksburg, having several killed and wounded. On the day of the surrender it was sent to join the army operating against Jackson with numbers now reduced by sickness, wounds and death to two hundred fifty men. Major Lynch had resigned on account of ill health and Captain John Meyer had been promoted to the vacancy. In August the regiment was transferred to the Department of the Gulf and went into camp at Carrollton, where it remained a month, the men meantime gaining in health and strength. In September the Twenty-eighth joined General Franklin’s army which mad an expedition into southwestern Louisiana to Brashier City, Vermillionville and Opelousas. Upon retiring it was followed by the enemy and several slight engagements took place. Nothing was accomplished by this expedition which cost our army many valuable lives. The regiment returned to New Orleans late in December and went into camp at Madisonville near the north shore of Lake Ponchartrain. Here was found a healthful location and strengthened by recruits and the return of many from the hospitals early in March the regiment went to Brashier on the way to join General Bank’s Red River expedition. Marching up Bayou Teche, through Opelousas and Washington to Alexandria, it united with General A. J. Smith’s command. The army left Alexandria late in March and began a slow movement toward Shreveport. When the enemy was encountered near Mansfield, our regiment was many miles in the rear. With other troops it hurried to reenforce those engaged and was soon in battle line. When the advance of our army was checked and soon after overwhelmed by superior numbers in a crushing defeat, Colonel Connell was severely wounded and captured and the regiment lost eighty officers and men, killed and wounded and prisoners. The next day at the Battle of Pleasant Hill, where several of the Iowa regiments in the brigades of Colonels Shaw and Hill made a most heroic stand and saved the army from destruction, the Twenty-fourth and Twenty-eighth were not engaged, as they had been sent toward Grand Ecore to guard the trains, General Banks having begun his retreat o the day previous. Notwithstanding the repulse of the Confederate attacks on our army at Pleasant Hill, our wounded were left on the field and the retreat was continued to Grand Ecore. Lieutenant-Colonel Wilson and Major Meyer were absent at this time securing recruits and after the capture of Colonel Connell the command of the regiment devolved upon Captain Thomas Diller of Company G. The army halted some time at Grand Ecore, where Lieutenant-Colonel Wilson joined his regiment with a number of recruits. In June it was at Carrollton, where Colonel Connell, who had lost an arm, had been exchanged and was able to again take command.

            On the 22d of July the regiment embarked on a steamer for Virginia, reaching Alexandria on the 2d of August. In camp, not far from the National Capital, it found the Twenty-second and Twenty-fourth Iowa regiments and with them was soon sent to join General Sheridan’s army then about to open the brilliant campaign which cleared the Shenandoah Valley of Confederate armies. In the Battle of Winchester the Twenty-eighth participated, doing gallant service and bringing additional honors to Iowa soldiers. This was the first battle in Virginia in which Iowa regiments were engaged and, side by side with the veterans of the eastern armies, they won additional fame for their State. No regiments engaged in this desperate conflict contributed more toward the brilliant victory won on this field than the tree from Iowa. The Twenty-eighth lost nearly ninety men in killed and wounded. Captain John E. Palmer was slain and Captain Scott Houseworth mortally wounded. Adjutant J. G. Strong, Captains J. B. Wilson and J. W. Carr and Lieutenants C. E. Haverly, D. S. Dean, J. C. Summers and M. O’Hair were among the wounded. The regiment joined in the pursuit and on the 22d took part in the Battle of Fisher’s Hill where Sheridan won his second victory over General Early’s army. It captured six guns and many prisoners here, and lost but four men. There was little more fighting until the 18th of October, when General Early made the unexpected assault at Cedar Creek, where the Twenty-eighth lost nearly one hundred men. Ingersoll says of the Twenty-eighth in this battle:

            “It was engaged early and late in the severe contests. By failure of a Maine regiment to connect on its right, it was left in an exposed position, but held it manfully until driven back by overwhelming numbers. Here it lost nearly fifty men killed and wounded. Falling back half a mile the regiment was rallied and again offered a stout resistance to the enemy. Here Lieutenant-Colonel Wilson was severely wounded and Captain Reimenschneider was slain. Major John Meyer, who led the regiment through the rest of the battle with great skill and courage, declares in his official report that no officers or soldiers ever fought better than those of his command on the field of Cedar Creek. As they had been among the last to retire, so they were among the first to press forward in the charge and pursuit when the tide of battle had turned.”

            The regiment remained in the vicinity of Cedar Creek, Martinsburg and Harper’s Ferry the remainder of the year and was transferred to the brigade of General Molineaux to which the Twenty-second Iowa had for many months been attached. In January, 1865, the Twenty-eighth was sent by water to Savannah, Georgia, and for several weeks formed a part of the garrison of that city. In March it was sent to Newbern, North Carolina, to re-enforce the army under General Schofield. After the surrender of General Johnston it returned to Savannah and on the last day of July was mustered out of the service. Owing to the loss of his arm Colonel Connell relinquished command of his regiment, and on the 20th of March had been honorably discharged. Wilson was commissioned colonel on the 15th of June, 1865. The regiment reached Davenport in August, where it received a cordial welcome and was disbanded. The Twenty-eighth had done service in nearly every State of the Confederacy and everywhere nobly performed the duties that will for all time reflect the highest honors upon the gallant men who marched and fought under its flag.


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