Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Seventh Iowa Infantry - Battle of Belmont

General Ulysses S. Grant in 1865

The ten companies composing this regiment were raised largely in the counties of Muscatine, Washington, Chickasaw, Floyd, Cerro Gordo, Mahaska, Lee, Wapello, Henry, Iowa, Des Moines, Jefferson, in Iowa, and Hancock and Henderson counties, in Illinois. A majority of them were mustered into service at Burlington soon after the Battle of Bull Run, in July 1861. The regiment numbered nine hundred and two men, and so urgent was the need of troops at this time that the Seventh was sent to St. Louis before its organization was complete, and before clothing arms or equipment were furnished. Hurried into the field at Pilot Knob as soon as armed, it took the first lessons in drill and manual of arms at Ironton, Missouri. From here the regiment marched with General Prentiss’s army to Cape Girardeau and was transported by steamer from there to Cairo. Jacob G. Lauman had been appointed colonel, and Augustus Wentz now joined the regiment as lieutenant-colonel; Elliott W. Rice, a sergeant of Company C, was promoted to major; D. F. Bowler, a lieutenant of Company D, was promoted to adjutant; Dr. Amos Witter[1] was appointed surgeon; I. H. Clark, chaplain, and Lieutenant S. E. Forska, of Company D, quartermaster. The regiment had now become well instructed in military drill and duties and presented a soldierly appearance. 

General Grant, who was now in command of the District of Southeastern Missouri with headquarters at Cairo, was a man of action. On the 6th of November, 1861, he started with 3,000 men to make a reconnaissance toward Columbus to prevent the enemy from sending reinforcements to General Price, in Missouri. He also proposed to destroy a Confederate encampment on the Missouri side of the river. Among the colonels commanding regiments in this expedition were the following, who afterward became distinguished officers in the Union armies: John A. Logan, commanding a detachment of cavalry; Colonel N. B. Buford of the Thirtieth Illinois, and General J. A. McClernand, commanding a brigade. The Seventh Iowa, under Colonel Lauman, was in a brigade commanded by Colonel Dougherty of the Twenty-second Illinois. Early on the morning of the 7th, Grant moved his little army by steamer within three miles of Belmont. Up to the morning of the attack, the encampment consisted of three additional regiments, under Colonel Tappan, but General Pillow, at Columbus, hastened over early on that morning with three additional regiments and took command. General Grant moved on the enemy immediately, meeting with stubborn resistance, but after a sharp conflict, drove the Confederates down the river bank, capturing their artillery and setting fire to the camp and stores. While the men were destroying the camp, Generals Cheatham and Polk, with five fresh regiments, hastened across the river from Columbus, and with greatly superior numbers attempted to capture Grant’s small force. But, in spite of overwhelming numbers, the Union army charged with such gallantry as to cut its way through the enemy’s lines, taking two of the captured cannon, and gained the landing about five o’clock in the afternoon. Seven hours the little army under Grant had fought and the last part of the battle had been a conflict of the most desperate character. Step by step the retreating army cut its way through heavy ranks, while the Union gunboats opened a steady fire upon the enemy. At last the steamers were reached, and the army safely embarked. The object of the expedition had been attained, but at heavy cost, as our losses amounted to five hundred and forty-six in killed, wounded and missing. The Confederate loss in men was nearly 1,000, while a large amount of property was destroyed. It was near the beginning of the war and very few of the Union soldiers engaged had ever seen a battle, so that this conflict with superior numbers gave them great confidence in themselves, and proved again that there was no better material in either army than the volunteers from Iowa and Illinois. General Grant said in his order congratulating the men upon their coolness and courage in the battle:
“It has been my fortune to have taken part in all the battles fought in Mexico by Generals Scott and Taylor, save Buena Vista, and I never saw one more hotly contested, or where troops behaved with more gallantry.”
Battle of Belmont
The Seventh Iowa was in the thickest of the fight all through the battle and General Grant said, in his report that “it behaved with great gallantry and suffered more severely than any other of the troops.” Among the killed were Lieutenant-Colonel Wentz and Lieutenants Dodge, Ream and Gardner, while Colonel Lauman, Captains Gardner, Harper, Parrott and Kittrege were wounded. The total loss of the regiment in killed, wounded and missing was two hundred and twenty-seven. Lieutenant-Colonel Wentz was a promising officer, and his loss was greatly regretted. It was generally believed that he would have won high rank had he lived through the war. The Seventh went to St. Louis soon after, where Captain Parrott was promoted to lieutenant-colonel. Early in February 1862, the regiment was with General Grant’s army in the expedition against the forts on the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers. After the capture of Fort Henry, it proceeded with the army against Donelson. The Seventh bore an honorable part in the battle, serving in the brigade commanded by Colonel Lauman, losing thirty-nine men. In March Colonel Lauman was promoted to Brigadier-General and took command of a brigade in General Hurlbut’s Division. Major E. W. Rice succeeded to the command of the Seventh Regiment, and Captain J. W. McMullen, of Company C, became major. The regiment joined Grant’s army at Pittsburg Landing. It fought bravely at the Battle of Shiloh, serving in the Iowa Brigade commanded by Colonel J. M. Tuttle, and lost thirty-four men during the engagements. Moving with Halleck in his slow and cautious approach on Corinth, following in pursuit of the leisurely retreat of General Beauregard and returning to Corinth, the Seventh rested until the middle of September, when it was sent to Iuka, but was not engaged in the battle of the 19th. In the two days’ battle at Corinth on the 3d and 4th of October, the regiment took a conspicuous part, maintaining the reputation it had won at Belmont, Donelson, and Shiloh and losing nearly one-third of its number. Captain B. K. Smith was among the killed and Lieutenant-Colonel Parrott, Major McMullen, Captain Conn, and Lieutenants Bennett, Camp, Hope and Irvin were among the wounded. The regiment remained at Corinth during the winter of 1862-’63 and most of the season following was engaged in uneventful but necessary duties connected with guarding and occupying the vast regions wrested from the Confederacy in Mississippi and Tennessee. There were railroad lines to be held, bridges to be rebuilt and guarded, wagon trains to protected over long routes and frequent scouts and foraging parties to be sent out. At Pulaski, the Seventh remained some time and the men made themselves comfortable by erecting “shebangs,” as the army named the huts erected at various stopping places. Unoccupied buildings furnished the material and there was always skill among the western troops to enable them to construct comfortable houses to shelter them from sun, storms and chilling winds. In raids for provisions the men often picked up furnishings for their temporary homes, and where they remained several months, they had a way of making their “shebangs” quite comfortable. Some of them became ornamented with luxuries not altogether appropriate to camp life, but the boys were not discerning as to harmony and artistic effects. While at Pulaski, orders were received allowing the men, who had been two years in the service, to reenlist, thus becoming veterans, with the privilege of a month’s furlough. Three-fourths of the men in the service, fit for duty, reenlisted, and on the 20th of January, 1864, they started for Iowa. After a month at home, where every honor was bestowed upon them, they assembled at Keokuk and returned to the army on the 27th of April the Seventh started with Sherman’s army on the Atlanta campaign. In the march through Georgia and the Carolinas, the regiment participated in the numerous skirmishes and battles which marked the progress of the army, always doing its duty bravely, and winning the honor in every conflict. At the crossing of the Ostanaula River on the 15th of May, Colonel Rice, in command of a brigade, led the advance of the Army of the Tennessee. The day before, he had made a demonstration at a point higher up the stream. Early on the morning of the 15th he rapidly threw his brigade across Lay’s Ferry by means of a flatboat and pontoons. To engage the attention of the enemy he had first sent a detachment of sharp-shooters over on the flat boats, which, under cover of a heavy artillery fire, supported by the Sixty-sixth Indiana, drove the Confederates from their rifle pits, while the main body crossed. Hastily throwing up defense beyond view of the enemy, he awaited the crossing of the Third Brigade, which took position on his left. General Walker, with a whole division, now confronted the three brigades. The Seventh Iowa, Major McMullen commanding, supported by an Indiana regiment, was now sent forward against the enemy’s left flank. Charging, with loud shouts and great vigor, on the flank, the regiment surprised and threw the enemy into confusion. Two batteries now opened upon them, but they still advanced and after a sharp engagement, drove the enemy from position and opened the way for our entire army to advance. In this brilliant engagement, the Union loss was seventy-four men, of which sixty were in the Iowa regiment. While the regiment was at Rome the Presidential election took place. The Iowa Legislature had provided by law a method by which our soldiers could vote in the field.
General McClellan, having failed as a military commander, was now the candidate of the “peace” wing of the Democratic Party for President, against Lincoln, who was giving every energy of his grand character to the subjugation of the armed enemies of the Nation. Out of the three hundred and twenty-two votes cast by the gallant Seventh Iowa, Lincoln received three hundred and twenty and McClellan two. From Rome, our regiment marched to Atlanta and from there to Savannah, meeting with but slight loss. Colonel E. W. Rice had been promoted to Brigadier-General on the 20th of June, 1864, having entered the service in 1861 as a sergeant of Company C, in the Seventh. Lieutenant-Colonel J. C. Parrott was now in command of the regiment; Samuel Mahon, major, and W. W. Sapp, adjutant. The army moved from Savannah on the 28th of January, 1865, on its march through South Carolina, amid the storms of mid-winter, wading swamps, swollen creeks and rivers. For four hundred and eighty miles to Goldsboro, North Carolina, the Seventh bravely endured the hardships without complaint, losing but three men. The campaign ended here, where camp was made on the 24th of March. During this march, Sherman’s army had built thirty-nine miles of corduroy road through the otherwise impassable swamps. The regiment marched to Washington by way of Richmond and participated in the grand review. Soon after it was transported to Louisville, where it was mustered out as the war closed. The record of the Seventh Iowa, from the day it left its first camp to the end of the war, was one of which every member had reason to be proud. The people of the State will never cease to remember its deeds of valor.

Taken from - History of Iowa From Earliest Times.  1903

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this entry-Always wondered what role Iowans played in the Civil War-haven't heard much about them before. but, apparently my father remembered seeing Civil War Veterans march in Memorial day parades in Nashua, IA, when he was a young boy.