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History of Iowa

Volume II

Chapter XXVI


The Thirty-fifth Iowa Infantry


Pictures included in this chapter are: Edmund L. Joy and General Francis M. Drake


            The county of Muscatine raised eight companies for this regiment and Cedar County furnished the other two. They went into camp on Muscatine Island late in the fall of 1862, numbering nine hundred fifty-seven men. Sylvester G. Hill was appointed colonel; James H. Rothrock, lieutenant-colonel; Henry O’Connor, major; and Frederick L. Dayton, adjutant. The regiment was sent to Cairo in November and during the winter performed duty at Columbus, Kentucky, Mound City and Island Number Ten. In 1863 the regiment joined the besieging army before Vicksburg. After the fall of that city it was with the army of observation on the Black River and moved with the army against Jackson, returning to Vicksburg. About this time Lieutenant-Colonel Rothrock and Major O’Connor resigned and were succeeded by Captains W. B. Keeler and Abraham John. In November the regiment moved to Memphis, and served in Tennessee during the remainder of the year. In March, 1864, it joined the army under General A. J. Smith in the Department of the Gulf, to take part in the Red River campaign. Colonel Hill was now in command of a brigade in General Mower’s Division and Lieutenant-Colonel Keeler commanded the regiment.

            On the 22d of March the Thirty-fifth Iowa and the Thirty-third Missouri regiments were sent to capture a post at Henderson’s Mill, forty miles from Alexandria. It was a cold stormy day of alternate rain and hail, the mud was deep and night found the troops a long distance from their destination. They pushed on, however, through the darkness and rain. Lieutenant-Colonel Keeler and his regiment making a detour of the place effected a complete surprise. There was a short, sharp struggle and the post was captured with three hundred fifty prisoners, four pieces of artillery, caissons, horses and other property. The captured guns were named “Keeler’s Battery” in honor of Lieutenant-Colonel Keeler then in command of the regiment.

            The regiment was heavily engaged at the Battle of Pleasant Hill on the 9th of April and met with heavy loss. Captain Henry Blank was killed and Lieutenant Dugan was mortally wounded. It fought with the greatest courage on that bloody field and retreated with reluctance by order of a demoralized commander-in-chief after a hard won victory. At the Battle of Yellow Bayou on the 18th of May the regiment was actively engaged and lost about forty men in killed and wounded. Here Captain Burmeister received a fatal wound and young Frederick Hill, the colonel’s son, a brave and generous youth, fell dead by his father’s side. Five days after the battle the regiment went into camp at Vicksburg, having lost on the Red River campaign, nearly one hundred officers and men in killed and wounded. On the 4th of June the troops were moved up the river on transports. Two days later was fought the Battle of Old Red River which was a short, severe, combat resulting in the defeat of the enemy. It was here that the Thirty-fifth won additional fame. Coming suddenly upon the enemy in strong force it never wavered for a moment, but stood like a wall to its position, losing twenty men in the short time the engagement lasted. Major Abraham J. John was mortally wounded and died the same evening; his death was mourned by the entire regiment. Captain William Dill was very severely injured. The Thirty-fifth next proceeded to Memphis and joined the column under Smith which soon after defeated Forrest at the Battle of Tupelo. In this engagement the Thirty-fifth lost in killed and wounded thirty-eight men. It returned to Memphis with the army and took part in the Oxford expedition. About the last of August the regiment was again in Memphis and early in September was moved to Brownsville in Arkansas, where it joined the army in the pursuit of Price, first in Arkansas and later in Missouri. In this campaign it marched several hundred miles. Many of the soldiers were without shoes and all of them destitute of sufficient food and clothing. The suffering of the army was very great in the long marches through the States of Arkansas and Missouri. Returning to St. Louis about the middle of November, on the 23d, the regiment with General Smith’s troops marched to reinforce the army of General Thomas in Tennessee.

The Battle of Nashville

           When the Confederate General Hood crossed the Tennessee River, General Thomas was but poorly prepared to meet him. The Battle of Franklin had been fought on the 30th of November and was practically a Union victory although General Schofield abandoned the field. It checked, however the advance of the Confederate army and dampened its ardor, but after a brief pause General Hood pushed on and threatening a wide extent of country, invested Nashville. General Thomas at once began to call in all of the garrisons from points within reach and put his cavalry in good fighting condition. There was great activity and often heavy skirmishing all along the lines from a short distance below Nashville to Chattanooga on the Tennessee River. At Nashville the Cumberland River makes a sharp bend north and within this bend on the south side the city stands. South of the city and two or three miles distant, General Thomas had posted his army behind strong earthworks. General Hood took a position on a range of hills about two miles beyond and extended his lines from the river on his right to the river on his left. Here he began to fortify, after making a slight demonstration, merely feeling our position and sending his cavalry to cut our lines of communication and harass our army.

            On the morning of the 14th Thomas issued orders for a general attack on the Confederate position. The flanks of the Union Army rested on the Cumberland and were covered by gunboats. The right was heavily supported by cavalry. A body of colored troops held the left under command of General Steadman. General Thomas’ plan was to demonstrate boldly on the left but to deliver his real attack from the right. Steadman moved a heavy force of white and black troops under General Cruft against the enemy on the morning of the 15th. They made an impetuous attack causing Hood to heavily re-enforce his left and the assailants were repulsed with heavy loss.

            Soon the plan of General Thomas began to develop. Smith advanced o the right, supported by Wood and covered by cavalry under Wilson; the whole right wing made a grand left wheel, sweeping like an avalanche over the enemy’s left wing. The first line was quickly crushed, the batteries stormed and carried, his position flanked and his whole line doubled up in the greatest confusion. Our cavalry dismounting joined in the charge and it was not long before the whole left wing was hopelessly broken. Hood saw the mistake he had made in sending his masses to the left and now hurried long lines of infantry and artillery from that part of his lines to support the center. He still held a strong position, protected by breastworks, fringed with rifle pits and abates and bristling with artillery that swept all approaches. Smith prudently halted to reconnoiter. Wood came up on his left, Schofield swing round to his right, the cavalry being still to the right of him and well on to the enemy’s rear.

            The army made a further advance, feeling the enemy’s position under a heavy fire of artillery and musketry and about nightfall Wood made a splendid dash against a battery, and carrying it, closed the battle for the day. Many guns and a large number of prisoners had been captured and so far Thomas had been successful. During the night both armies made a disposition for renewing the battle the next day. Hood drew back his right center and right wing so as to straighten the new line he had been forced to form. It was now about two miles in the rear of his original line and but half as long. He occupied the crests of closely wooded hills, with a line about three miles in length, and admirably adapted for defense.

            General Thomas pursued a plan similar to that which had proved so successful the day before. Steadman on the left and Wood in the center made strong demonstrations against the enemy and the roar of battle was continuous all the morning on the left of Thomas’ lines. On the right it was comparatively quiet. Wilson’s cavalry was sent to the rear of the enemy and about four o’clock the sharp rattle of carbines was heard on the enemy’s left. Simultaneously with ringing cheers and with leveled bayonets, the lines swept steadily forward up to and over the Confederate works while Wood and Steadman on their left pressed forward and in a general movement carried all before them. For a short time there was hot work, the whole Confederate line was ablaze with musketry and cannon. The shock was awful as the contending forces met, but in thirty minutes the conflict was over, as the Union army bore down all opposition and Hood’s army was broken into a mass of flying fugitives, pursued to the Tennessee River. The results of this great victory were the capture of 8,000 prisoners, including five major generals, fifty-six cannon and a large number of small arms.

            The State of Iowa was represented in this battle by the Second, Fifth and Eighth Cavalry, the Twelfth, Twenty-seventh, Thirty-second and Thirty-fifth Infantry and the Second Battery. The artillery and infantry fought under General Smith; the cavalry under Wilson on the extreme right. Of the cavalry General Hatch commanded a division which received the warm praise of General Thomas.

            The Twenty-seventh and Thirty-second Infantry were in a brigade commanded by Colonel Gilbert of the former regiment. This brigade did some of the most intrepid fighting of the battle. The Twelfth, Lieutenant-Colonel John H. Stibbs, and the Thirty-fifth, Major Dill commanding, were in the brigade commanded by Colonel Hill of the latter regiment. An eye witness thus describes a charge made by Hill’s Brigade:

            “Meanwhile Hill’s men, who had borne the brunt of the battle of Tupelo and had now witnessed the splendid charges of their comrades, were eager to emulate their heroism and storm the formidable redoubts far their front. As the corps continued wheeling to the left, an opportunity was soon presented. About six hundred yards in advance of the brigade, near the Hillsboro Pike, on a high and bastion-like ridge, was another strong redoubt where the Rebel guns redoubled their fire and seemed striving to make good the loss of the two first redoubts and hurl back our advancing columns. Shot and fragments of shell filled the air. The roar of artillery was incessant and the flashes of exploding shells quickly followed each other like vivid flashes of lightning. The guns must be silenced and the redoubt captured without delay. Colonel Hill saw that it could only be carried by direct assault in front and immediately ordered a charge. The boys welcomed the order with a battle cheer and fixed bayonets and under a terrific fire of shot and shell, with uniform step and steady columns, they descended a gentle slope, crossed a ravine and, on the double quick, moved in front of the enemy’s fire, up the hill to their works.

            “Sergeants Clark and Grannis of the Twelfth Iowa in advance of the charging line, first planted the regimental banner and the National colors upon the Rebel battlements. The brave Colonel Hill, mounted on horseback and gallantly leading his brigade to the assault, fell form his horse, shot through he head, just as the troops were carrying the breastworks of the enemy. The men rushed forward to avenge the death of their lamented commander. The enemy had hastily limbered up the guns of the fort, withdrawn them to a redoubt, distant about three hundred yards, and again opened grape, canister and musketry upon our men just as they entered the first redoubt. Continuing to advance, the brigade charged across the Hillsboro Pike, in the face of another torrent of fire up to the second redoubt, captured its guns, caissons, horses, one headquarters, thirteen baggage wagons and two hundred and fifty prisoners. The wings of the brigade in storming the redoubts had wheeled in toward the central point of attack, thus creating some confusion. Lieutenant-Colonel Stibbs, of the Twelfth Iowa, mounting a captured artillery horse, quickly reformed the brigade in line of battle and dispatched Sergeant-Major Burch forward to inform Colonel Marshall of the Seventh Minnesota, of the death of Colonel Hill. Colonel Marshall not stopping to look after captured property, nor even to receive the swords presented to him by the Confederate officers, and Adjutant Reed, of the Twelfth Iowa, with about one hundred men from each of their regiments, had not stopped in the second redoubt, but pressed on after the flying fugitives to a third redoubt in front of the right of the Fourth Corps. Adjutant Reed entered it from the rear; with him a few men of the Seventh and Twelfth just as those of the Fourth came over the works in front.”

            The Thirty-fifth marched in pursuit of the enemy as far as Pulaski. Soon after the command embarked for Eastport, Mississippi, and there encamped for the winter. Early in February, where it went into camp. From this historic ground the Thirty-fifth moved early in March to join in the Mobile campaign, where its last military duties were performed. In this expedition the regiment was under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Keeler. After the fall of mobile the regiment moved to Montgomery and from there to Selma, where it remained until the 21st of July. It was mustered out at Davenport on the 10th of August. When the regiment reached Muscatine the veterans met a most cordial welcome from old friends and neighbors. The ranks were sadly thinned by battle and disease and many comrades were sleeping in southern graves.

            The Thirty-fifth had traveled more than 10,000 miles, had unflinchingly fought in a dozen battles with honor to itself and credit to the State it represented.

The Thirty-sixth Iowa Infantry

            This regiment was made up largely of companies recruited in the counties of Monroe, Wapello, Appanoose, Marion, Lucas and Van Buren, and was organized at Camp Lincoln near Keokuk in September, 1862. While there a great amount of sickness from small-pox and measles prevailed, resulting in loss to the regiment of more than a hundred men. This was a gloomy beginning and had a depressing effect upon the troops from which they did not soon recover. From Keokuk they were sent to the  malarias swamps of the Yazoo River and from there to the deadly region about Helena. Disease reduced their ranks until but a fragment was left of the nine hundred seventy men who enlisted.

            The field officers were: Colonel Charles W. Kittredge of Wapello County, Lieutenant-Colonel Francis M. Drake of Appanoose, Major Thomas C. Woodward of Wapello, Adjutant A. G. Hamilton of the same county, and Moses Cousin of Monroe, surgeon.

            The regiment was sent to Benton Barracks on the 24th of November, from there to Helena where it was in camp the first of the year 1863. For a time the Thirty-sixth was the only regiment at this post where garrison duties were constant and severe. When the regiment joined the Yazoo Pass expedition on the 24th of February the ranks had been so depleted by sickness that but six hundred officers and men were fit for duty. The Twenty-ninth, Thirty-third and Thirty-sixth Iowa Infantry regiments accompanied this expedition, which started with a fleet consisting of thirty six transports, two iron-clads, several gunboats for musketry and mortar rafts. The object of the expedition was to clear the channel of trees and brush which obstructed the navigation of Yazoo Pass. When the channel was cleared the fleet entered the narrow pass and by means of steam, ropes and poles dragged its slow length along making but three or four miles progress a day. For five days the boats moved forward smashing the projecting limbs which often tore off their upper works, finally reaching Cold Water River. The entire country was flooded so that it was difficult to find landing places; the boats were densely crowded and the water was filthy and sickening. The voyage brought disease and death to hundreds of brave men. There were but few exciting incidents during the journey; guerrillas fired on the transports and a few men were wounded. The chase of a steamer loaded with cotton was one of the exciting events. Finding that she would be overtaken, the crew set her on fire and abandoned her. On the 11th of March the transports reached Hell Mound, three miles above Fort Pemberton. Here the troops were landed and the Thirty-sixth was immediately formed in line of battle and marched to the support of a brigade skirmishing with the enemy. They stayed at Shell Mound doing picket duty, scouting among the cane-brakes and sadly burying their dead a the base of a little hill until the morning of the 20th when the army, having failed to accomplish its purpose, embarked on the transports and retraced its way to the Mississippi. It returned to Shell mound debarking on the 22d, the gunboats moving down and engaging the fort. Cannon from the gunboats and from the batteries on shore hammered away at the fort till the morning of April 4th, the infantry standing picket, when not in camp, or assisting to plant land batteries, laboring always under fire of the enemy. On the morning of the 5th the expedition was finally abandoned and the retreat begun. The fleet, badly injured, reached the Mississippi on the afternoon of the 8th of April. The Thirty-sixth soon fell into the old routine of garrison duty, digging ditches and building breastworks. It was in the Battle of Helena on the 4th of July and remained at that place until the11th of August when began General Steele’s Arkansas expedition. Major Woodward had resigned on account of ill-health, Lieutenant-Colonel Drake was disabled by sickness, Colonel Kittredge had command of a brigade, and so in the emergency Captain Varner of Company A commanded the regiment until Lieutenant-Colonel Drake came up at Rock Rea Bayou and assumed command. Major Hamilton, who had been promoted from adjutant, rejoined the regiment at Duvall’s Bluff. Here Captains Varner and Webb and Lieutenant Spooner obtained leave of absence on account of illness but all died on the way home. Before reaching Little Rock Colonel Kittredge assumed command of the regiment which now marched in hourly expectation of a battle. The army, however, reached the capital unmolested and went into winter quarters on a beautiful hill not far from the arsenal.

            There had never before been a time since the organization when disease had not been thinning the ranks of the regiment. Sickness and death had followed it everywhere. Now the conditions changed and for the first time good health and corresponding goods spirits prevailed in the camp. The regiment now numbering six hundred thirteen men, toward the last of March accompanied the army of General Steele on its way to cooperate with General Banks then marching up the Red River. But learning of the defeat of Banks at Camden, Steele went no farther. In the campaign thus far the Thirty-sixth had taken part in a number of skirmishes and was engaged at the Battle of the Little Missouri, where it repelled an attack with coolness and courage. While at Camden, on the 22d of April, a detachment of the Twenty-sixth with other troops, under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Drake, was sent to escort a train of about three hundred wagons in which it was proposed to bring back supplies for the army. The road taken bore northwest crossing the Saline River near Mount Elba. On the third day out the command went into camp on the western border of Moro Bottom, a low marshy margin of a bayou of the same name.

 Battle of Mark’s Mill

            On the evening of the 23d the little army escorting the train heard heavy firing in the direction of Camden. On the morning of the 25th a body of one hundred cavalry was sent forward to reconnoiter the road. It pushed ahead five miles and reported no enemy in sight. Meantime the Forty-third Indiana and one section of the battery were sent forward across the bottom and the train put in motion. Receiving word from the cavalry in advance, Lieutenant-Colonel Drake immediately dispatched another body of cavalry to the rear, fearing the enemy might come in from the south on the Princeton road. The rest of the troops remained at the west side of the bottom till two-thirds of the train had passed, when they moved forward taking the sides of the road not to discommode the train and to occupy a position on the eastern side of the lowlands. Hardly had the advance reached this point when a courier rushed to the front and announced that the enemy was in force two miles ahead. The Thirty-sixth marched on double-quick to the field and hastily but coolly formed the line of battle on the right of the artillery, the cavalry now reinforced by about one hundred fifty horse and one howitzer from Pin Bluff, under command of Major Spellman, taking a position on the left. The other troops were being hurried as rapidly as possible. The troops in line were posted in a small narrow clearing with skirmishers thrown out about one hundred yards in advance. The country was rough, covered for the most part with dense woods and almost impenetrable undergrowth. No less than 5,000 Confederates under command of General Fagan had here concealed themselves from the view of our cavalry scouts and were now confronting our little army of 1,000 men. The Forty-third Indiana held the skirmish line and fought manfully till overpowered and driven back by superior numbers, when it retired through the thick underbrush in some confusion with each man, however, fighting bravely on his own account. The enemy now came on in heavy force against the main line and the action became general. Our troops kept up a constant fire for more than two hours without giving ground. The battery, having been deserted by its own men, tow companies of the Thirty-sixth Iowa manned the guns with great effect during the rest of the fight. The Confederates now extended their lines and surrounded our small force. Having lost about twenty killed and nearly one hundred wounded and being hemmed in on all sides, the Union army was forced to surrender. Lieutenant-Colonel Drake was severely wounded early in the action. Major Hamilton was cool and courageous throughout the struggle. When he saw there was no hope for the little army he advised his men to escape as best they could and many tried but few succeeded. The major with about three hundred forty of his regiment were taken prisoners, and at five o’clock the prisoners were started southward and marched fifty-two miles without rest or food. They were sent by way of Camden to the Confederate prison at Tyler in Texas, reaching that place on the 15th of May. From here Major Hamilton and Captains Lambert and Miller succeeded in making their escape in July and after enduring great hardships reached Little Rock on the 2d of September. Major Hamilton recovered from the effect of imprisonment, but Captains Miller and Lambert died soon after reaching home. On the evacuation of Camden the remnant of the Thirty-sixth, consisting of two officers and sixty men, accompanied the retreat. At the Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry thirty-nine of these men and Lieutenant and seven of his men were wounded. On their arrival at Little Rock they found a number of recruits for the regiment so that the rolls showed six officers and two hundred fifty men, including the sick. Colonel Kittredge soon after assumed command of the post and the regiment thus reduced by capture, disease and death remained there during the year, a sad remnant of the 1,000 strong men who left Keokuk tow years before. From this time to the close of the war the regiment was usually on post duty at Little Rock, St. Charles and Duvall’s Bluff. Lieutenant-Colonel Drake was brevetted a brigadier-General in February, 1865.

            In April the survivors of those captured at Mark’s Mill returned to the regiment at St. Charles. They had been released from imprisonment in Texas in February, where they had suffered great hardships and had been allowed to return home on furlough. It would be impossible to describe the joyous meeting of these old comrades after their long separation. The regiment was mustered out of the service on the 24th of August at Duvall’s Bluff. On the 2d of September, 1865, the survivors of the Thirty-sixth reached Davenport, where they received a most cordial welcome.


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