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History of Iowa

Volume II

Chapter XXIII


The Twenty-ninth Iowa Infantry


Pictures included in this chapter are: Col. J. A. McDowell, Col. C. W. Kittredge,

Col. J. W. Rankin,

 Col. T. H. Benton, Chattanooga Battle Fields



         Of the companies composing this regiment A was raised in Pottawattamie County, B in Mills County, C in Harrison County, D in Adams and Adair counties, E in Fremont County, F in Taylor County, G in Ringgold County, H in Union County, I in Guthrie County, K was made up of men from all of these counties. Thomas H. Benton, Jr., a well-known Democratic politician and educator, was commissioned colonel; R. F. Patterson, lieutenant-colonel; C. B. Shoemaker, major; and Joseph Lyman, adjutant. The regiment was mustered into the service at Council Bluffs on the 1st of December, 1862, with nine hundred men. Soon after, marching by detachments to St. Joseph, Missouri, it was transported by rail to St. Louis and from there was sent down the river to join General Gorman’s expedition the about to start for the White River. The expedition then about to start for the White River. The expedition to Duvall’s Bluff and return resulted only in the suffering of the men, which was very severe, causing a great amount of sickness. Upon the return to Helena more than four hundred members of the regiment were on the sick list, three hundred of whom were permanently disabled and lost to the regiment.


            While at Helena, in March, Captain J. J. Hafer of Company H was attacked with smallpox and died. The regiment was next sent on the Yazoo expedition to Fort Pemberton, aiding in removing the obstructions from the Pass, after which, returning to Helena, was engaged for the first time in a fight with the enemy. It bore a glorious part in the Battle of Helena on the Fourth of July, 1863, capturing many prisoners and losing thirty-one men, killed and wounded. The regiment was in a division under command of General Samuel A. Rice of Iowa, while Colonel Benton commanded the brigade to which it belonged during the march under General Steele from Helena to Little Rock. The start was made on the 11th of August, when the weather was very hot and dry. From Duvall’s Bluff to Brownsville the route was over a beautiful prairie country at that time entirely destitute of water. Each man had to carry a supply in his canteen. The heat was so great that many were prostrated by sun-stroke. There were not enough ambulances to carry all who were stricken and they were obliged to travel on a few miles, leave the sick by the wayside and return for others. This was repeated for two days while the disabled and sick had to suffer for hours unsheltered from the broiling sun. As the army approached Little Rock General Steele caused a pontoon bridge to be thrown across the river, over which General Davidson’s Division of Cavalry and artillery passed to the south side, where his march was stubbornly resisted. Btu soon after dark his cavalry entered the city and found that the main body of General Price’s army had retreated in haste, leaving the arsenal and much public property unharmed. The Union army went into camp around the city.


            General Marmaduke made an attack upon our army at Pine Bluff, sixty miles below Little Rock, but was defeated with heavy loss. General Rice was sent with two brigades to intercept him. The Twenty-ninth Iowa was in one of the brigades but did not succeed in overtaking the Confederates. This ended the active service of the regiment for the year 1863 and it remained at Little Rock until near the last of March. The year had been one of hard service in the long marches through mud, swamps and bayous, amid cold storms and excessive heat, often on short rations, frequent skirmishing by day and night; heavy labor in removing obstructions, building bridges and making roads through marshes as well as fighting battles, had converted the men of the Twenty-ninth Iowa into well-seasoned, thoroughly disciplined veteran soldiers. On the 2d of April, General Steele’s army was on the march from Arkadelphia to Washington. As the country was destitute of provisions the Union army had to transport its supplies. The train, consisting of four hundred wagons when passing along the ordinary road was four miles in length.


            A large body of Confederate cavalry hovered around the marching columns watching for a favorable chance to make a dash upon the long wagon train. On this day when the main body of the army crossed the bayou of Terre Noir, the train was several miles in the rear.


Battle of Terre Noir


          Here was the long-looked-for opportunity to attack the line of wagons. About eleven o’clock Shelby’s Brigade of cavalry suddenly fell upon the train in a wild rush with loud shouts, pouring in a volley from their carbines and charging with drawn sabers. The Twenty-ninth Iowa with a section of artillery made up the rear guard and met the charge with a well directed fire, which emptied many saddles. Three times the Confederate brigade charged upon the single regiment before the line was broken. The odds were, however, too great to be longer successfully resisted. The left wing of the regiment was overwhelmed by superior numbers and forced back in confusion onto the main body. Just at this critical moment General Rice with reinforcements came upon the field and charged the enemy, driving the cavalry back with heavy loss. Soon after Shelby was re-enforced by a brigade under Cabell and the attack was renewed. The Ninth Wisconsin now reached the field of conflict and opened a heavy fire on the enemy. The battle continued until after dark. While our troops were repelling an attack the train would close up and move on. Then the march in fighting order would be resumed and continued until the next attack. Just at dark the Confederates made a most determined assault in an effort to capture the artillery. Our men held their fire until the cavalry had come within thirty yards of the line, when artillery and musketry opened with such a terrible hail of lead and iron that the troopers were driven back in confusion, leaving scores of men and horses on the field. The battle had continued for a distance of eight miles and at nine o’clock the rear guard marched into Okalona with drums beating and colors flying to find the long train parked with not a wagon missing. The Union loss was sixty killed and wounded, twenty-seven of whom belonged to the Twenty-ninth Iowa.


            The regiment was under fire three hours at he Battle of Little Missouri at Elkin’s Ferry. IT was in the front during the march of the 15th when our army entered Camden, where it remained until the 16th, when the retreat toward Little Rock began. On the evening of April 29th the army reached the Saline River. The rear guard was attacked by the combined armies of Price and Kirby Smith. The battle was sure to be renewed in the morning. The night was stormy and dismal, the rain was falling in torrents and with full banks the river was flooding the low lands. Behind was a confident enemy, in front a river that must be bridged by pontoons to enable our army to cross. But few slept that night as the preparations went on to meet the emergencies of the critical situation.  General Rice with the Twenty-ninth and Thirty-third Iowa, the Fiftieth Indiana, the Ninth and Twenty-eighth Wisconsin, was in command to protect the army as it crossed the swollen river on a single pontoon bridge. With the dawn of day the attack began, and hour after hour the conflict went on. Assault after assault was hurled against the Union lines which stood like a granite wall between the retreating army and destruction by a superior foe. Nothing could move the gallant command of General Rice from its position, and about noon the enemy withdrew defeated. AT two o’clock the last regiment had crossed and the bridge been destroyed, while the army resumed its march toward Little Rock. The army was saved by a fearful sacrifice of noble men; eight hundred had fallen in the battle including the gallant General Rice, who was mortally wounded. Captain George S. Bacon of Company C and fifty-nine men of the Twenty-ninth Iowa were left wounded on the field and fell into the hands of the enemy.


            The regiment remained at Little Rock nearly a year. On the 9th of February, 1865, it was sent down the river to New Orleans and soon after joined the expedition being fitted out for the capture of Mobile. It took an active part in that campaign and won additional honors in the siege and battles which resulted in the surrender of the city and defensive works. The losses were one killed, seventeen wounded and four captured. On the 13th of April the regiment was sent to Mount Vernon Arsenal and on the way engaged in a running fight with a party of the enemy, one of the last combats of war. On the 1st of June it was sent to Brazos Santiago, in Texas, and remained until, on the 10th of August, 1865, it was mustered out of the service. When the regiment reached Davenport on the 19th it numbered seven hundred sixty-five officers and men, of whom four hundred fifteen only had been originally attached to it. The others were recruits of regiments which had been previously disbanded. The efficiency of the Twenty-ninth was largely due to thorough drill an discipline bestowed upon it by Lieutenant-Colonel Patterson, who had few superiors as an accomplished soldier and commander. Colonel Benton was not a brilliant military man but he was intelligent, brave and highly esteemed by his regiment.


The Thirtieth Iowa Infantry


          This regiment was made up of two companies each from the counties of Lee, Davis, Jefferson and Washington and one each from Lee, Davis, Jefferson and Washington and one each from Des Moines and Van Buren. They assembled at Keokuk late in the summer of 1862 and were organized into a regiment with the following officers: Colonel Charles H. Abbott, Lieutenant-Colonel W. M. G. Torrence, Major Lauren Dewey, Adjutant Edwin Reiner. The regiment, numbering nine hundred seventy officers and privates, was mustered into the service on the 23rd of September, 1862. After a few weeks drilling in camp it was sent down the river to Helena and, like many previous regiments suffered from sickness in that unhealthy region. The Thirtieth was attached to the Third Brigade of Steele’s Division of the Fifteenth Army Corps. This brigade consisted of the Fourth, Ninth, Twenty-sixth, Thirtieth and Thirty-fourth Iowa regiments under the command of General John M. Thayer and was a part of General Sherman’s army that moved against Vicksburg and was engaged in the Battle of Chickasaw Bayou on the 28th and 29th of December. The Thirtieth was not in the disastrous assault and lost but four men wounded during the engagement. Failing in his campaign against Vicksburg General Sherman moved his army down the river and united with General McClernand in the expedition against Arkansas Post. Before the attack Colonel Abbott was taken seriously ill and Lieutenant-Colonel Torrence was in command of the regiment during the engagement. It took a prominent part in the severe fighting and was warmly commended for coolness and courage. Five men were killed and forty wounded, among whom were Captains Creamer and Burk and Lieutenants Creighton and Alexander. Private James W. Smith of Company C acted as adjutant and received the special commendation of Colonel Torrence. The regiment returned with the army to the vicinity of Vicksburg and in April was in the Greenville expedition, about a month later returning to Milliken’s Bend. It joined the corps near Jackson and participated in the capture of that city and the destruction of the railroad in the vicinity. Soon after it joined the army engaged in the siege of Vicksburg. In the assaults of the 19th and 22d of May the Thirtieth bore an active and prominent part. Colonel Abbott led his regiment in the desperate attack of May 22d on the enemy’s works, making a most heroic effort to pierce the strongly entrenched lines. He was slain with many of his brave men, a superb officer of undaunted courage highly esteemed by his command and associates. All through the investment the regiment rendered valuable service and after the surrender took part in the Jackson campaign, returning to Black River where it went into camp. Late in September the Thirtieth, now under Colonel Torrence, was sent to Corinth and later to Iuka to assist in repairing the damaged lines of railroad. While at the latter place Colonel Torrence sent home to Iowa the tattered remnants of the regimental flags which had been carried in all of the marches and battles in which the Thirtieth had participated.


            On the 18th of October it started with the army for Cherokee, Alabama, where on the 21st it met the enemy in battle. The morning was dark and gloomy, with a dense fog, when General Osterhaus moved against the enemy. The mist was so heavy that it was very difficult to distinguish friend from foe. The Third Brigade led the advance and soon met a large force of Confederates under Lee and Roddy. A steady fire of musketry was opened on both sides lasting for an hour, when the enemy was driven back with heavy loss. The Union army lost about one hundred men, among whom was the gallant Colonel Torrence, who was killed in the thickest of the fight, his body falling into the hands of the Confederates. Soon after his regiment made a fierce charge, driving the enemy in confusion and recovering the body of their colonel. He was a brave and skillful officer who had served in the Mexican War and at the beginning of the Rebellion had raised a company for the First Iowa Cavalry. Captain W. H. Randall was also slain, and Captains H. C. Hall, Joseph Smith, Mathew Clark and Adjutant J. H. Clendening were severely wounded. The loss of the regiment was thirty officers and men. Soon after this battle the division marched to Chattanooga to reinforce the Army of the Cumberland. Here the Confederate army occupied a strong position on Missionary Ridge under command of General Braxton Bragg. The Union army under General Grant fought a series of brilliant engagements in this vicinity known as


The Battle of Chattanooga


          General Rosecrans had been defeated at the Battle of Chickamauga and his army saved from disaster by the skill and firmness of General Thomas, who held his position on the battle-field immovable as the granite rocks, while the commander-in-chief fled with a shattered wreck of the army to Chattanooga for safety. Rosecrans was superseded by General Thomas, and General Grant, who had been appointed to the command of the Department of the Mississippi, which embraced the region about Chattanooga, proceeded in person to that place on the 23d of October. The Confederate lines extended for six miles from south of Chickamauga River, along Missionary Ridge across Chattanooga Valley and Lookout Mountain to Lookout Creek on the left. The position was one of great natural strength and was fortified on the sides and summit o the mountains by lines of rifle pits and elaborate earthworks. Early on the morning of November 23d Generals Thomas and Howard moved against the enemy in front of Chattanooga, seizing the first line of works and a range of hills south of them. During the night the position was strongly fortified and artillery planted to sweep the approaches. General Sherman began operations on the left by crossing the river on pontoon boats with 8,000 men and fortifying his position with trenches and rifle-pits. Before noon a pontoon bridge was laid across the river over which the remainder of Sherman’s troops crossed and occupied the northern extremity of Missionary Ridge. General Hooker was now fighting one of the most brilliant battle on record among the clouds on Lookout Mountain. Forcing a way among the rocks of the rugged ascent, step by step the men climbed the mountain side, drove the Confederates from their trenches and seized the summit of Lookout.


            On the morning of the 25th of November Sherman moved against the enemy’s right, General John M. Corse of Iowa leading the assaulting column. His command was soon heavily engaged in a most desperate conflict with varying success. General Matthies of Iowa, with two brigades, was sent to reinforce him and the battle raged with great fury. Corse and Matthies were shot down and borne from the field. General Thomas advanced from the center steadily pushing his lines of veterans up the sides of Missionary Ridge in the face of a most terrific fire of artillery and musketry. Before midnight our army had been successful at all points. The great battle was won and the Confederate army was in full retreat. In many respects this was the most remarkable victory of the war and one of the most brilliant in history. The Confederate army held a much stronger position than General Meade with the Union army occupied at Gettysburg. The ground over which Hooker, Thomas and Sherman made their assaults was infinitely more difficult to approach than that at Gettysburg, where the veterans of Longstreet and Pickett made their famous charge. How different the results! On these two famous battle-fields of the war, the superior military ability of Grant over Lee is most clearly demonstrated. Grant planned and won a campaign beset with almost insurmountable obstacles. Lee failed where all of the conditions favored his success. Iowa was largely represented in the Chattanooga campaign. Our Fifth, Sixth, Tenth and Seventeenth regiments fought under Sherman on the left; and no more desperate fighting was done anywhere on the filed. The Fifth, under Colonel Banbury, lost more than one hundred men. Among the wounded were Major Marshall and Adjutant S. H. M. Byers, the latter being captured. Lieutenant-Colonel Archer of the Seventeenth was also taken prisoner. Major Ennis of the Sixth was wounded. The Fourth, Ninth, Twenty-fifth, Twenty-sixth, Thirtieth and Thirty-first regiments fought under Hooker on the right. All of these with the exception of the Twenty-fifth and Twenty-sixth were warmly engaged on Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge.


            At the Battle of Ringgold, fought on the 27th of November, the Thirtieth and several other Iowa regiments lost more heavily than at the battles before Chattanooga. In that engagement Colonel Williamson’s Iowa Brigade took a prominent part and contributed largely to the victory after other troops had given way in a disorderly retreat. Major S. D. Nichols of the Fourth was especially distinguished on that occasion for coolness and courage. The Thirtieth went into camp at Woodville, Alabama, toward the close of the year and remained until the opening of the campaign in the spring of 1864. It took a full share of the hard marching and fighting which marked Sherman’s advance upon Atlanta and in September went into camp at East Point. Since the death of Colonel Torrence the regiment had been under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Aurelius Roberts, with Robert D. Creamer of Company G promoted to major and James N. Smith, adjutant. The Thirtieth joined in the pursuit of Hood and in Sherman’s march to the sea. Early in the spring of 1865 it went with the army through the Carolinas and was in the last battle at Bentonsport. It marched with Sherman’s victorious legions to Washington and took part I the grand review. On the 6th of June, 1865, the Thirtieth started for Iowa, having been mustered out the day before. On the way home the train was thrown from the track and Sergeant Charles C. Bradshaw of Company H was killed and several men were severely injured. The regiment was disbanded at Davenport.


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