Friday, July 13, 2012

Eighth Iowa Infantry in Civil War - Shiloh & Vicksburg

by Harry E. Downe.

Running the Batteries at Vicksburg
The Eighth Iowa infantry was mustered into the service September 23, 1861.  It was soon sent to the front and took part in several engagements during its first year of service.  From the report of Colonel Geddes of the part of the regiment in the battle of Shiloh, the following is taken:

"About 8 o'clock on the morning of the 6th, I ordered the regiment under arms and formed line of battle in front.  At this time the firing on our advance line had become general and it appeared to me evident that we were being attacked in force by the rebel general.  After remaining under arms for about half an hour, during which time I had ordered the baggage belonging to the regiment to be loaded on the wagons, and an extra supply of ammunition to be issued to the men, I was ordered by Colonel Sweeney, Fifty-second Illinois brigade commander, to proceed to the front.

"On arriving at our advance line, I was ordered by Colonel Sweeney to take my position on the left of the brigade to which I was attached, for the purpose of protecting a battery immediately in front.  Here the regiment remained about one hour, exposed to a severe fire from artillery of shell and grape, killing and wounding several of my men.  About 11 o'clock I was ordered by Colonel Sweeney, through his aid, Lieutenant McCullough, of the Eighth Iowa, to leave my position and take ground on my left and front.

"This change of position brought my regiment on the extreme right of General Prentiss' division and left of General Smith's, the latter being the division to which my regiment belonged.  I was thus entirely detached from my brigade, nor did I receive any order from my brigade or division commander during the remainder of that day.  On arriving at the point I was ordered to defend, I found my regiment in line of battle with my center resting on a road leading from Corinth to Pittsburg Landing, and at right angles to my line.  Here I immediately engaged a battalion of the enemy, and after a severe conflict of nearly an hour's duration, in which I lost many of my men, the enemy was driven back with heavy loss.  At this time Captain Hogin, Company F, was shot dead, and Captain Palmer, Company H, severely wounded.  In this desperate struggle, my regiment lost 100 men in killed and wounded.

General Grant at Vicksburg
"The conspicuous gallantry and coolness of my company commanders, Captains Cleveland, Stubbs and Benson on the left, Captains McCormic and Bell in the center, Captains Kelsey, Geddes and Lieutenant Muhs on the right, by reserving the fire of their respective companies until the proper time for its delivery with effect, and the determined courage of my men, saved the battery from capture, and I had the satisfaction of sending the guns in safety to the rear.  In this attack, I was wounded in the leg and Major Andrews severely in the head, and I do here take pleasure in acknowledging the courage and coolness displayed by my field officers, Lieutenant-Colonel J. C. Ferguson and Major J. Andrews, and the able assistance rendered by them on that occasion.

"About 3:00 o'clock p. m., all communication with the river ceased, and it became evident to me that the enemy were turning the right and left flanks of our army and were rapidly closing behind us.  I could at this time have retreated and most likely would have saved my command from being captured had I, at this time, been ordered back, but I received no such order and I considered it my duty to hold the position I was assigned to defend at all hazards.

"General Prentiss' division having been thrown back from the original line, I changed front by my left flank, conforming to his movement, and at right angles with my former base, which was immediately occupied and retained for some time by the Fourteenth Iowa, Colonel Shaw.  In this position I ordered my regiment to charge a battalion of the enemy, I think the Fourth Mississippi, which was done, in good order, completely routing them.  We were now attacked on three sides by the rebel force, which was closing fast around us.  The shells from our gunboats in their transit severing the limbs of the trees hurled them on our ranks.  To prevent annihilation it became absolutely necessary to leave a position which my regiment had held for nearly ten consecutive hours of severe fighting, successfully resisting and driving back the enemy in every attempt to take the position I was ordered to hold and defend, with a loss of men near 200 killed and wounded, so ordered my regiment to retire.  On retiring about 300 yards I found a division of the rebels under General Polk, thrown completely across my line of retreat.  I perceived that further resistance was useless, as we were now completely surrounded.  Myself and the major portion of my command were captured at 6:00 o'clock p. m. and I claim the honor for my regiment of being the last to leave the advance line of our army on the battlefield of Shiloh, on Sunday, April 6, 1862."

The Eighth took part in the campaign in Mississippi in 1863, the following account of which was given by Colonel Geddes:

"On the 2d of May, 1863, my regiment was ordered to leave Duckport, Louisiana, with the division to which it was attached, namely, the Third Division, Fifteenth Army corps, under the command of Brigadier General J. M. Tuttle, and march to Hard Times Landing, opposite Grand Gulf, Mississippi, sixty miles distant.

"On the 7th of May, it crossed the river with the advance of the army and took up the line or march toward Jackson, Mississippi.  It took part in the storming of that place on the 14th of May and assisted in the destruction of railroads in the vicinity.  Ordered from Jackson on the 16th of May, by forced marches, it followed on the rebel retreat from Champion's Hill to their entrenchments at Vicksburg, assisted in the charge made on the rebel works on the 22d and operated with the army of investment for thirty-four days, during which time it assisted in clearing obstructions, making roads, constructing field works, mounting guns and projecting approaches to within twenty yards of the rebel works, under an almost incessant fire.

Crockett's charge
"On the 22d of June, it was ordered to operate on our line of circumvallation under command of Major General W. T. Sherman, where it remained until the surrender of Vicksburg.  It was ordered on the 4th of July to join the expeditionary army under Major General Sherman, was sent in pursuit of the rebel forces commanded by General Johnston and was present during the seven days' siege of Jackson, and final occupation of that city, which took place on the 17th of July, 1863.

"After the evacuation of Jackson by the rebels the regiment composed part of a force under Major General Frederick Steel, which was ordered to Brandon, Mississippi, and was attached to a brigade under my command that engaged the enemy for two hours, repulsing them with loss and capturing Brandon.

"It also assisted in destroying the Meridian railroad fifteen miles east of Jackson and finally on the 23d of July 1863, retired with the expeditionary army to its present position on the right bank of Big Black River, fifteen miles from Vicksburg.

"From the 2d of May to the 25th of July the regiment, without tents or transportation, marched over 300 miles, engaged the enemy at Vicksburg, twice at Jackson and at Brandon, and although during the operations of this ever memorable campaign both the officers and men of the regiment suffered much exposure and hardships of a very trying character, they endured all without a murmur and with a fortitude which elicited on several occasions the unreserved commendation of the commanding general."

The regiments participated in many campaigns and battles, including a fight with Forrest at Memphis, August 21, 1864.  The last principal engagement was the capture of Spanish Fort, Alabama, April 8, 1865.  It was mustered out at the close of the war with due honors.

Taken from - History of Davenport and Scott County by Harry E. Downe.

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