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History of Iowa

Volume II

Chapter XXV


The Thirty-third Iowa Infantry


Pictures included in this chapter are: General G. W. Clark, General John Edwards,

General S. L. Glasgow, Colonel J. A. Garrett


            Samuel A. Rice, formerly Attorney-General of Iowa, was largely instrumental in securing the enlistment of the men who formed the Thirty-third regiment. Companies A, G and I were raised in Marion County, B, F and H in Keokuk County, and C, D, E and K in Mahaska County. The regiment was organized in August, 1862, and went into camp at Oskaloosa, numbering nine hundred eighty men. Samuel A. Rice was commissioned colonel; Cyrus H. Mackay, lieutenant-colonel; Hiram D. Gibson, major, and F. F. Burlock, adjutant. On the 20th of November the regiment started south, stopping at St. Louis, where it remained until December 21 when sent to Columbus, Kentucky. On the 1st of January, 1863, the Thirty-third was sent to assist in defending Union City which was threatened, but no attack was made and it returned to Columbus. On the 8th the command went down the river to Helena, Arkansas, where it suffered the misery of that unhealthful camp until February 9, when joining the expedition to the Yazoo Pass, for two weeks it assisted in clearing the channel, then went with the army to Fort Pemberton. Upon the return to Helena, Colonel Rice on the 11th of June, was placed in charge of a brigade composed of the Twenty-ninth, Thirty-third, Thirty-sixth Iowa regiments and the Thirty-third Missouri and never after returned to his regiment, which was led by Lieutenant-Colonel Mackay from that time.


The Battle of Helena


          Lieutenant-General Homes had succeeded in assembling a Confederate army over 15,000 strong for the purpose of capturing Helena. Under his command were the troops of Price, Marmaduke, Parsons and Shelby. Helena is situated on low level ground and on the west is a ridge of hills a quarter of a mile distant broken by deep ravines into numerous elevations. The valleys open toward the town and all of these approaches were commanded by guns of Fort Curtis. But beyond the fort was still higher ground upon which were four batteries of light artillery, each on a commanding elevation from which the guns could sweep in all directions and connected by rifle pits for infantry. The low ground on both flanks of this line of fortifications was protected by rifle pits and batteries of ten-pound Parrotts and six and twelve-pound brass cannon. The public roads leading into the town had been obstructed by fallen trees. The effective force of the garrison was aroused at two o’clock on the 4th of July, 1863, by the approach of the Confederate army and the various commands were assigned to positions. The battle was opened by artillery upon both flanks of our army at about half-past four and both wings were soon engaged. It soon became evident that the plan of the Confederate commander was to concentrate his main assault on the center of the Union defenses, break through the line, then taking the two wings in turn throw them into confusion. Holmes and Price directed the attacks upon batteries D and C simultaneously, but were met with a fire which hurled them back with broken ranks. These were reformed, heavily reinforced and again pressed forward for the assault. Again they were repulsed with heavy loss and sought shelter in the ravines and among the fallen trees. A dense fog now settled over the field and for an hour the conflict was suspended. As the mist cleared away, three regiments were seen advancing upon battery C, the bayonets glistening in the sunlight as they moved over the low ridges. The artillery opened upon them doing great execution but not checking their progress; on they came with the fierce “Rebel yet” and captured the battery. The artillerymen and infantry fell back in some confusion but rallied at the foot of the hill and acted as sharpshooters to protect the gunners of the principal work, Fort Curtis. Against this fort now came the exultant enemy, shouting and cheering, confident of victory. Five twenty-four pounder siege guns and one thirty-two pounder columbiad now opened upon the black mass of men as it swept up the hill. The broadside of the gunboat “Tyler” sent a storm of bursting shells into the moving column. The vast surging crowd was riddled and torn with the unceasing shower of death-dealing missiles. At last horror-stricken with the sight of heads, limbs and mangled bodies left, torn and bleeding on every side by the storm of iron, the Confederates turned and fled. In front the officers attempted to rally the men but th4e roar of cannon and the deadly fire of our sharpshooters made it impossible. Our infantry and dismounted cavalry now swept over the hills driving the enemy and capturing many prisoners. At eleven o’clock the battle was won and the Confederate army in full retreat toward Little Rock. This brilliant defense of Helena under the direction of General Salomon of Wisconsin, was overshadowed by the great victories of Vicksburg and Gettysburg coming at the same time and did not receive the attention it deserved. The Iowa troops who fought here were the Third Battery, Captain Hayden; Twenty-ninth Regiment, Colonel Benton; Thirty-third, Colonel Mackay; Thirty-sixth, Colonel Kittridge; Colonel Rice commanded a brigade. No regiment did better service during the engagement than the Thirty-third. It had the most exposed position and suffered the greatest loss of any in the battle. The next service in the field was with the expedition against Little Rock, where after the capture of the city, the regiment remained until March, 1864. It was in the campaign against Camden, sharing in its hardships and battles, in Rice’s Brigade. As an account of this fruitless and disastrous expedition has been given in another place it is not necessary to follow our regiment through the long march, though it may be said that it never shirked a duty and in all respects did honor to the State it represented. At the Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry where the beloved brigade commander received his fatal wound, the soldiers of his old regiment fought bravely, winning new honors. The loss in killed, wounded and missing was one hundred twenty nine. Among the severely wounded was Colonel Mackay who was obliged to relinquish the command to Captain Bydston. Captain P. T. Totten and Lieutenant T. R. Connor were mortally wounded and Captain Comstock, Lieutenant De Garmo and Kindig were severely injured. Major Gibson resigned on the 22d of April while at Camden and, returning with the command which was defeated at Mark’s Mills, was there captured and suffered great hardships in captivity.


            During the retreat of the army to Little Rock the Thirty-third suffered severely. It remained there during the summer under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel John Loffland who was on the 18th of August, 1863, promoted from captain of Company D. In February, 1865, it left Little Rock and was transferred to the Department of the Gulf and participated in that last brilliant campaign which closed with the capture of Mobile. From there it was sent to New Orleans, and there on the 17th of July, 1865, was mustered out of the service. Through the fortunes of war it did far more than its share of irksome garrison duty, so distasteful to young and active soldiers, and was deprived of participation in many brilliant campaigns and glorious victories, which fell to the lot of other Iowa regiments. But in almost three years of faithful service it made a record that reflects honor upon the State which sent it into the field; and left hundreds of its brave men in Southern graves.


The Thirty-fourth Iowa Infantry


            This regiment was raised in August, 1862, in response to the call of the President for volunteers, issued July 2 of that year, immediately after the disastrous defeat of McClellan’s army in the Richmond campaign. A long and terrible civil war was now seen to be inevitable and 300,000 more soldiers must reinforce our defeated armies in the field. It was the supreme test of patriotism and nobly did the loyal citizens respond. This Iowa regiment was full and in camp I less than sixty days from the date of the President’s proclamation. Companies A and I were from Decatur County, Companies B, C, D and H, from Warren, Companies E, G and K, from Lucas, Clark and Marion and Company F from Wayne County. They went into camp at Burlington numbering nine hundred fifty-three men, where the regiment was organized in September by the appointment of George W. Clark of Warren County, colonel; W. S. Dungan of Lucas, lieutenant-colonel; R. D. Kellogg of Decatur, major; and W. W. Bryant of Warren, adjutant. While at Camp Lauman the measles broke out among the men and not less than six hundred of them were afflicted with the disease. On the 22d of November the regiment embarked on a steamer and going down the Mississippi arrived at that desolate and unhealthy rendezvous Helena, Arkansas. Soon after landing the smallpox appeared and before it was subdued several men died. The regiment was assigned to Thayer’s Brigade of Steele’s Division and joined General Sherman’s army which was about to enter upon the Vicksburg campaign. In that expedition the Thirty-fourth bore its full share. The bloody repulse at Chickasaw Bluff proved that Vicksburg was far too strong to be taken by assault and further operations against it were abandoned. The hardships of the campaign and the great amount of sickness that afflicted the regiment had sadly thinned the ranks by death and discharge for and cast a shadow over the spirits of the survivors. These were among the darkest days of its history when the grave was closing over the forms of so many comrades who left their homes in robust health but a few months before. They were realizing that the terrible ravages of war were not confined to battle-fields and loathsome prisons. But the gloom soon gave way to the excitement of the coming conflict. General McClernand was marshaling his army for the capture of Arkansas Post and this regiment was among those who took an active part in the operations which brought a brilliant victory. Soon after the Thirty-fourth was sent on an expedition attended with great suffering. Colonel Clark was ordered with his own regiment and five companies of the One Hundred and Thirteenth Illinois, to guard and convey to Chicago 5,000 prisoners taken in the recent battles. But three poorly equipped steamboats were provided and into them were crowded 6,500 human beings. Ingersoll says of this trip:


            “Fuel had to be collected along the river as it could be found. The voyage from Arkansas Post to St. Louis occupied two weeks, every moment of which was miserable beyond expression to every man on the more than crowded boats. As if to bring our devoted command to the very depth of misery, smallpox in its most loathsome form attacked the prisoners. When the little fleet at last reached St. Louis the men had suffered all the horrors of the ‘middle passage.’”


            General McClernand, responsible for crowding men worse than a humane man would crowd cattle on a voyage to the shambles, was scarcely less blameworthy than those who tortured our prisoners at Andersonville. Colonel Clark, who had seen suffering on many battlefields, declared that the human suffering during this trip exceeded anything he had ever witnessed. Leaving his sick at St. Louis, Colonel Clark proceeded by rail with the prisoners to Chicago. When his command returned to Benton Barracks, it was utterly prostrated. Colonel Clark said “We were the most sickly, depressed and melancholy set of soldiers I ever saw. During the following month the mortality in the regiment was frightful.” Many were discharge for disability and the regiment was but a wreck of its original strength. During the stay at St. Louis Captain Gardner, Lieutenants Dilley and Rockwell, with seventy men, escorted several hundred prisoners to City Point, Virginia. At this time the number of men fit for duty in the regiment did not exceed three hundred out of nine hundred fifty three—its original strength. Late in April the Thirty-fourth was moved to Pilot Knob, where Colonel Clark took command of the post and Lieutenant-Colonel Dungan commanded the regiment. Here in a healthful and pleasant camp, the sick began to recover and it was not long before the number fit for duty reached four hundred. On the 3d of June the regiment was ordered to embark to join General Grant’s army then besieging Vicksburg. It was placed on the extreme left of the line of investment and remained on duty until the surrender of the Confederate army. Its loss during the siege was four killed and six wounded. In July the Thirty-fourth accompanied General Herron’s Division on an expedition to Yazoo City—fifty miles from the mouth of the river. On the morning of the 16th General Herron began a march across the country in the direction of Canton to protect the rear and flank of General Sherman’s army then besieging Jackson. He crossed the Big Black River at Moore’s Ferry and found that General Johnston had evacuated the city the night previous. Herron returned to Vicksburg on the 21st, having captured during his absence three hundred prisoners, six pieces of heavy artillery, 1,000 horses and mules, 2,000 bales of cotton and one steamer, while causing the destruction of five others. The heat was intense on the march and many soldiers of the Thirty-fourth were prostrated by sun-stroke. The next movement was down the Mississippi to Port Hudson, where the regiment remained three weeks, from there proceeding to the beautiful and healthful encampment among the grand live-oaks of Carrollton, just above New Orleans, where the Thirteenth Corps was waiting. While here the army was reviewed by Generals Grant and Banks. On the 7th of September the regiment was sent to Morganza, a small town above Port Hudson, where it remained a month. At the engagement near Sterling Farm on the 29th of September, which resulted in the defeat and capture of the Nineteenth Iowa, the Twenty-sixth Indiana and other troops under Lieutenant-Colonel Leake, the Thirty-fourth lost Lieutenant Walton, five men captured and one mortally wounded. On the 25th of October the regiment embarked with the army for Brazos Santiago, Texas, and after moving form place to place finally joined General Washburn’s expedition against Fort Esperanza. The fort was attacked on the last day of November and, after several hours’ defense, the enemy at night spiked the guns, blew up the magazine and escaped. The regiment remained in that vicinity for nearly five months. On the 20th of April, 1864, the army embarked for new Orleans and was at once sent to reinforce General Banks at Alexandria. It joined in the retreat and was in camp at Baton Rouge for six weeks. In July orders came to Colonel Clark directing him to join the army ordered to Virginia. But when the regiment reached Algiers its destination was changed and it joined General Granger’s expedition against the forts at Mobile Bay. There were three forts protecting the city of mobile from attack by our naval fleet under Admiral Farragut. Fort Gaines on the east end of Dauphin Island, Fort Morgan three miles east of Gaines on the western extremity of Mobile Point, a peninsula from the main land of Alabama. These two forts completely commanded the channel through which ships must pass to enter the bay and reach the city. The channel west of Dauphin Island could only be used for vessels of light draft and this was commanded by Fort Powell.


Capture of Forts Gaines and Morgan


            Admiral Farragut, with a fleet of fourteen wooden vessels and four iron clads, on the morning of August 5th, ran by the forts into Mobile Bay and attacking the Confederate fleet, soon vanquished the ram “Tennessee,” captured the gunboat “Selma,” drove the “Gaines” ashore and drove the “Morgan” into shallow water where it could not be followed. In the meantime the land forces under Granger were steadily pushing their earthworks within short range of Fort Gaines, which on the morning of the 8th was forced to surrender. The Union army now moved from Dauphin Island and formed across the peninsula three miles in the rear of Fort Morgan. This fort had been constructed under the direction of the best engineers in the army, was exceedingly strong, and mounted forty-six guns. General Page, its commander, had boasted that he could hold out six months against any force that could be brought against it. Fort Powell had been destroyed but Fort Morgan proved to be so formidable that General Granger was obliged to send to New Orleans for heavier artillery and begin a regular siege. On the 20th of August he had thirty-four heavy guns in position and all preparations completed for bombardment. The army gradually approached the fort until within five hundred yards of the works and on the morning of the 22d at daylight opened fire. The squadron three miles out in the Gulf threw solid shot and shell with great accuracy. The fire from the ships and monitors and the captured ram “Tennessee” within the bay was constant and terrible, while the mortars and heavy guns on land poured in a steady storm of missiles. Solid shot went crashing through earth and masonry, followed by shell bursting open and tearing wide the fractures they had made; the terrible work continued all day with unabated fury. At night the fleet retired but the army kept up a continuous fire. About ten o’clock flames burst from the citadel which had been fired by our shells. At midnight on the 23d a signal of surrender appeared on the fort and the firing at once ceased. Negotiations were opened with the commander of the fort and at two o’clock in the afternoon the formal surrender took place, in the presence of the Thirty-fourth Iowa. This regiment under Colonel Clark marched up to the front of the fort, the band playing “Hail Columbia,” formed in line of battle, as the Confederates marched out, stacked arms, the officers surrendering their swords. The Confederate flag was hauled down and the Stars and Stripes run up. It was just three weeks from the time the army had first landed on Dauphin Island that the fort surrendered. In that time it had with the aid of the navy captured three forts, nearly a hundred heavy guns, 1,500 prisoners and destroyed a formidable fleet of the enemy. On the 16th of September the Thirty-fourth regiment was sent to New Orleans and from there to Morganza, where it remained for about three weeks. Colonel Clark and Lieutenant-Colonel Dungan being absent on other duties, Major Kern was left in command of the regiment. During a skirmish with the enemy in this vicinity Lieutenant Walton was severely wounded. On the 12th of November, 1864, an order was issued reducing the regiment, now numbering less than half the maximum, to a battalion of five companies. The major, adjutant, and several other officers were consequently mustered out. On the 12th of December this battalion was consolidated with the Thirty-eighth and the regiment thus formed was called the Thirty-fourth, Colonel Clark and Lieutenant-Colonel Dungan remained in their offices. It now numbered nine hundred fifty men. The next important duty of the regiment was with the army of General Canby against Mobile. It participated in the siege and assault of Blakely and lost three killed and nine wounded, was afterward sent to Galveston and Houston, in Texas, and mustered out of service at the latter place on the 15th of August, 1865, reaching Davenport on the 29th where it met with a most cordial reception. During the term of service this regiment had traveled more than 15,000 miles


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