Mention has been made of the organization of the Harrison Rangers, on August 3d, after the disastrous battle of Bull Run, this command while parading the streets of Vinton, was ordered to rendezvous at Davenport, as soon as its ranks were full. Soon afterward the Rangers went to that city and were incorporated into the Eighth infantry as Company D. The regiment was organized in September, Frederick Steele being appointed colonel, and James L. Geddes, a brave Scotchman of Benton county, was made lieutenant colonel. Soon afterward the Fifth was ordered to St. Louis and thence to Syracuse, where it joined General Fremont's army in pursuit of Price, in southwestern Missouri. This campaign was particularly hard on unexperienced troops such as the Eighth regiment. and many died from exhaustion and exposure. The Eighth Iowa lost heavily in this regard and returned to Sedalia, Missouri near the middle of November.
In February, 1862, Colonel Steele was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers and Lieutenant Colonel Geddes became colonel of the regiment. In the meantime the regiment had joined General Grant's forces in Tennessee, and on the 12th of March, 1862, embarked at St. Louis for Pittsburg Landing, arriving five days afterwards with a loss of three men killed and five wounded, while steaming up the Tennessee river. At Shiloh, April 6th, both of the regiments fought heroically for ten consecutive hours, the Eighth being overpowered by the enemy and captured as a body. The few who were not made prisoners were incorporated in the "Union Brigade" and distingiushed themselves at the battle of Corinth. Early in 1863 the regiment was reorganized in St. Louis, and left the first week in April to participate in the siege of Vicksburg under Grant. It participated in the terrific assault on the 22nd and in the stubborn siege of thirty days. The Eighth was with Sherman in his movements against Jackson and during the operations of this campaign Colonel Geddes commanded the brigade. Returning to Vicksburg, for a period of rest, the regiment suffered the loss of Lieutenant Colonel Ferguson, who died of disease at that place.
GRAND HOME RECEPTION
A short while after its return to Vicksburg a large portion of the command had reenlisted, and the regiment went home on veteran furlough, Company D arriving at Vinton on March 25, 1864. The surviving heroes were accorded a grand ovation at the court house, which was packed to its utmost. Judge C. H. Conklin made the address of welcome, which was feelingly responded to by Colonels Geddes and Shaw. Music was furnished by Professor Price and his band, and the following song given by Mr. Chapin, was heartily rendered:
Roll the drum, fire the gun, Make the welkin ring; Set the bonfires burning, For the soldiers returning Home, sweet home. See, they come ! mothers run, Wives and sweethearts all; Oh ! how the heart goes throbbing To see the blue-coats bobbing Home, sweet home. Welcome, boys ! welcome, boys ! Welcome back tQ your home ! Long have we waited to meet you And we are happy to greet you Home, sweet home. Rally all, great and small, Give our brave boys a cheer, Who for the Union are fighting, And sending the rebels a-kiting, Home, dismal home. Drop a tear, comrades dear, For our brothers absent now; Who have gone from the din of battle, Where the loud cannons rattle, Home, heavenly home. When in peace wars shall cease, And Freedom take her stand, With the Star-Spangled Banner 0'er us, We'll sing that happy old chorus, "Home, sweet home."
It is said that nearly every township in the county contributed to the elaborate banquet which was served to the returned Union boys at the Tremont House, and nearly five hundred persons sat down to the feast. The last hour of the reunion and welcome was marred by a sad accident, for by a premature discharge of a cannon Alexander Shields lost the sight of both eyes.
At the expiration of their furlough, members of Company D and others of the Eighth Infantry again joined the Union army above Memphis, where the regiment was stationed as provost guard during the remainder of 1864 and the first two months of 1865. On the 21st of August, 1864, Forrest, the Confederate cavalry officer, was repulsed from Memphis, the salvation of the city being largely credited to Colonel Geddes and his brave command. The regiment lost forty men in this affair, and early in March, 1865, was ordered to New Orleans. Thence it was sent to Dauphin Island, where it soon joined in the last general campaign. of the war, that against Mobile. In these operations the Eighth distinguished itself in the assault on Spanish Fort, where it captured several hundred prisoners.