LYON COUNTY GENEALOGY
The following account is extracts from a letter written May 25, 1863, to Dr. Levi Fuller of West Union, Iowa, by my great-grandfather, Washington Walker Gardner.
(I believe the letter refers to the charge made in the battle of Vicksburg against the north face of Stockade Redan on the Grave Yard road. This portion of the letter was published in the West Union, IA. Gazette.)
About three o'clock P.M. our advance, to which I have the honor of being attached, suddenly came upon the enemy posted in their rifle pits and fortifications. We were immediately employed as skirmishers (as they say it) "went in on our nerve" to feel the gentlemen slightly, but finding them and their position too strong to attack, we were ordered to fall back and form our lines of battle to make an attack the next day. The next day (19th) at precisely 2 o'clock, our men moved forward to where our pickets were posted on the top of a high hill commanding their works. Here we remained but a few minutes when the order was given to charge. In an instant our brave boys moved over the hill at the double quick through a most deadly cross fire of grape, canister shot, and shell but we heeded it not. Onward to the charge was the motto, and most gallantly did we charge.
Our comrades were now falling around us at every step, some killed instantly, others having an arm or a leg shot off, and wounds of all descriptions. As we were crossing a deep ravine we received a most terrible cross fire, the balls coming like a dense hail storm. It was here that Captain Washington fell mortally wounded while cheering on his men. Here too, fell our brave color sergeant; Sergeant James E. Brown of Howard County, he fell dead pierced by a ball through the head, no sooner had he fallen than the colors were hoisted by another who met with the same fate, until five different men were either killed or wounded with the colors. The fire at this moment being so terrible our men almost began to falter, but thank God they did not fall back an inch, but pressed forward to within 50 yards of the fort, here they had to take shelter behind fallen trees and stumps, to keep from being annihilated. We were now under fire from our own batteries, and infantry in our rear.
But ten of our men got to the fort in safety, and I was one of that number; Our ten men could do nothing in such a place as this. While lying in the ditch that surrounds the fort, I expected every minute would be our last. The fire from our own men behind us was so terrible, that we dare not move for fear of being shot by them. Here we lay with our bayonets fixed and our guns at a ready expecting that the rebels would discover our retreat and raise up over their breastworks to shoot us. But fortunately for us they did not see us. We remained here until sundown when we made good our exit from our almost living grave. Had we remained there until dark we would have been taken prisoners. We now returned to our regiment which was lying on the side of the hill and at dark made our way off the battle field as best we could. Just after dark the rebels set a house on fire to keep us from getting our killed and wounded off the battlefield; the light from this house illuminated the field so much that we dare not try to get them away. Every Sergeant in our Company but myself was killed or wounded. 12 out of 33 were either killed or wounded, being more than one third. Men never stood a hotter fire since the year one.
The 9th Iowa, I have been told, lost 110 men, none of the West Union boys were hurt. We lay all night near the battlefield and next morning, fell back to our original position. Their position is strong but it is bound to fall before one month rolls away. I am well and never got a scratch for which I am truly thankful to Almighty God. We lost nearly all our officers, we have not more than one officer for each Company left. Two Companies have none. I must close (Our flag had 55 bullet holes in it.)
Submitted by Don Gardner
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