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7th Iowa Cavalry - Historical Sketch

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Roster and Record of IOWA SOLDIERS in the War of the Rebellion
together with historical sketches of Volunteer Organizations 1861-1866.  VOL. IV

transcribed by Sharon D. Franklin

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The Seventh Iowa Cavalry was organized under special authority of the War Department, for the purpose of assisting in the defense of the western and northern frontier settlements against the hostile Indian tribes. The Government had previously employed the troops of the Regular Army for that purpose, but the greater part of those troops wee then engaged with the armies in the South, in contending against the armed forces of treason and rebellion. Therefore, in addition to the large number of regiments which the State of Iowa had already sent into the field, her loyal sons were called upon to volunteer for the protection of the pioneer settlers upon the frontiers. The organization of the regiment proceeded slowly. The first company was ordered into quarters by the Governor on November 5, 1862. Davenport, Iowa was designated as the rendezvous of the regiment and there, on dates ranging from April 27, to July 13, 1863, eight companies - A to H inclusive - were mustered into the service of the United States, by Lieutenant Colonel William N. Grier, of the Regular Army. Company I was added, by transfer of the Sioux City Cavalry, an independent company, which had been mustered into the service at Sioux City, November 14, 1861, and had been long engaged in service on the frontier, and were in garrison at Fort Randall, Dakota Territory, at the time of their transfer to the Seventh Cavalry. The organization of the regiment was thus completed on July 25, 1863. The four companies transferred were a valuable acquisition, on account of their long experience on the frontier and their knowledge of the character of the Indians and their methods of warfare.

On the 27th of July 1863, six companies of the regiment, under command of Major H. H. Heath, marched from the rendezvous at Davenport, under orders to report to General McKean, commanding the District of Nebraska, Department of Missouri, with headquarters at Omaha. Upon their arrival at Omaha, these companies were assigned to different posts in Nebraska Territory. On the 5th of September the remaining companies marched to Omaha, where the headquarters of the regiment were established. The principal operations of the regiment were performed by detachments, scattered over a wide extend of territory, and for that reason a connected history of the regiment as a whole cannot be given. From historical memoranda furnished the Adjutant General of Iowa, by Major George M. O'Brien, and from official reports of battles with the Indians, which will heareafter be referred to, the compiler will endeavor to give a condensed account of the leading events which marked the long period of service covered by the regiment.

The Seventh Iowa Cavalry had at the completion of its organization an aggregate strength of 1,096 men. Subsequent enlistment's increased the number to the total enrollment as shown at the close of this historical sketch. All casualties are noted in the subjoined roster, together with the personal record of service of each officer and enlisted man. From the time regimental headquarters were established and the companies were assigned to their various posts, they were engaged in escorting trains, protecting emigrants, guarding lines of travel, scouting through the country and watching the movements of the Indians. They had numerous conflicts with the Indians. Portions of the regiment were engaged in the battles of Horse Creek, White Stone, Hill, Tahkahokutah, Bad, Lands, Little Blue, Julesburg, Mud Springs and Rush Creek, besides several less important affairs. Limitation of space will not permit quotation of the official reports of all these engagements, but as typical of the treacherous character of the Indians and the desperate situation in which these small detachments were frequently placed; the entire report of Captain John Wilcox is here given:


CAPTAIN: - I have the honor to report that, in compliance with special orders from Major Mackey, commanding post at Fort Laramie, Captain W. D. Fouts, Seventh Iowa Cavalry, in command of his Company (D) and small detachments of Companies A and B, of the same regiment, in all four commissioned officers and one hundred and thirty-five enlisted men, left Fort Laramie on the 11th day of June, 1865, enroute to Julesburg, in charge of one hundred and eighty-five lodges of Sioux Indians, numbering in the aggregate from fifteen hundred to two thousand persons. Among them was an organized company, uniformed by Government, and under the command of Charles Ellison, who had for some time been intrusted with the supervision of the entire Indian encampments near Fort Laramie, and who was intrusted with seventy thousand rations for these Indians on the march to Julesburg. The Indians were all well armed with bows and arrows and most of them with firearms, also. They were ostensibly quite friendly, and expressed themselves as being pleased with their removal. Nothing of interest transpired during the first three days of the march, except signal smokes by Indians north of the Platte by day, and reputed conferences by night between them and the Indians in charge of Captain Fouts. On the evening of the 13h Captain Fouts and command encamped for the night on the east bank of Horse Creek, and the Indians pitched their teepees on the west. Late in the evening the Indians had a dog feast, and three hundred and eighty-two warriors sat in secret council on the morning of the 14th, reveille was sounded at three o'clock A.M. and the order of march announced to be at five. At sunrise I was ordered by Captain Fouts to proceed with the advance guards (detachments of Companies A and B) two miles on the route of march, them halt and wait until the wagon train closed up on the rear of the advance guard, and the Indians in the rear of the wagon train; then to move forward in this order and column of march. Just as the wagons were closing up, I heard the rapid report of firearms to the rear. Believing it to be a revolt and attack by the Indians, and know the great disparity in numbers against us, as well as the fact that Captain Fouts and family, the family of Lieutenant Triggs, and Mrs. Enbanks and child (late rescued Indian captives) were with us, I determined to first prepare for defensive warfare, and had the wagons corralled in the best possible shape, the teams unhitched from the wagons and put inside the corral, and the men in line outside ready for action. In this condition I awaited orders from Captain Fouts. A messenger, coming up shortly after reported that captain Fouts had gone across the creek to hurry up the Indians and was shot and killed by them; and that the Indians wee there fighting among themselves. I immediately dispatched a messenger on the fleetest horse, to communicate with Fort Mitchell and the telegraph office, distant eighteen miles. The messenger was closely pursued by Indians. The rear guard (Company D) coming up, I demanded of Lieutenant Haywood why he did not stand and fight the Indians. He replied that his men had no cartridges, and that his Captain (Fouts) had refused to issue them. Stating that they would not be needed. Ordering him to have his men fill their cartridge boxes immediately I ordered Lieutenants Smith and Triggs, in command of sixty-five men, to hold the corral, keep the stock securely hitched within, keep the men in line outside, and dig rifle pits near the corral, in a manner defensible from all approach, while Lieutenant Heywood and I with seventy men, mounted on our best horses, (the horses were all very poor from hard service without forage, and few were serviceable,) and repaired with all possible dispatch to the scene of the action. Passing over the late Indian encampment, we saw the body of Captain Fouts, dead, stripped and mutilated. The Indians had fled two or three miles to the Platte, the squaws and papooses were swimming the river on ponies, and the warriors, on their war horses, were circling and maneuvering in hostile array. Supposing that a part of the Indians were really friendly, and would join us in subduing the rest, I charged on after them. We overtook and passed a few squaws and papooses, whom I forbade my men to injure or molest. These returned. When within six hundred yards of the enemy, I halted my command in line, and sent the interpreter (Ellison) to the front to signal and tell all who were friends to return and they should not be harmed; but all were hostile and with hideous yells charged upon us. I dismounted my men, and deployed a line of skirmishers to the front, with long range arms, to receive them. When within three hundred yards, the Indians opened fire upon us. My men answered them promptly with a volley that repulsed them in front, but more than a hundred were dashing by each flank, and closing in the rear, while, from the hills to our left, they were bearing down like an avalanche upon us. Seeing that we were assailed by more that five hundred warriors, (they had evidently been largely reinforced during the previous night,) equally armed and better mounted than my little squad, I thought that to stand, be surrounded, and cut off from our defenses and ammunition, would involved the entire command in indiscriminate massacre, as well as the capture of the train and animals. Deeming "prudence the better part of valor", I remounted my men and fell back to our defenses, by skirmishing to rear and flanks and only returned by desperate skirmish fighting, for a distance of over four miles many of my men having entirely emptied their cartridge boxes of ammunition during engagement. The Indian flankers were in advance of my command from the time we fell back, till the opening fire from our rifle pits sent them howling to the rear. After the Indians would not fight us behind our defenses, I, with Lieutenant Smith and fifty men (all I could mount on serviceable horses), went after them again hoping to detain them until we could be re-enforced; but, after following them nearly three miles, we saw them in vastly superior numbers forming in front and coming over the hills, to our left and rear, evidently intending to entrap and overwhelm us a way from our defenses. Not being strong enough to whip them in open field, we again retired, taking with us our scalped and mutilated dead on the battlefield. Captain Shuman, Eleventh Ohio Cavalry, arriving promptly with re-enforcement's at about nine o'clock, I mounted every serviceable horse and mule and went for the Indians again, with sanguine hopes, but the re-enforcement's were too late. Their families having got across the river, we had the mortification of seeing the warriors, in following them, ascend the opposite hills and tauntingly beckon us to follow, which was impossible, in face of a superior enemy, at the swimming stage of the river. In their flight the Indians abandoned all their lodges and loose plunder, which I ordered burned or destroyed. On the battlefield was a powder keg, which had been recently broken open by the Indians and a few pounds of powder, still remained? The supposition is that it was brought into camp the previous night by Indians allies. From the number of Indians known to be killed in the engagement, we estimated their loss from twenty to thirty, most of whom they threw into the river, in accordance with their superstitious notions of their dead falling into the hands of the enemy.

Our loss was four killed and four-wounded viz.: Captain W. D. Fouts, Company D. Killed. Private Edward McMahon, Company D. killed. Private Richard Grogen, Company D. Killed. Private Phillip Alder, Company B. killed. Private Samuel Kersey, Company B. wounded. Private Lewis Tuttle, Company B, wounded. Private James May, Company D. wounded. Private John Trout, Company D, wounded.

In the fight a very few enlisted men I cannot name acted badly, but most of them behaved nobly and some with daring bravery. The officers under my command behaved well. After interring our dead, (except Captain Fouts, afterwards interred at Fort Mitchell), and repairing the telegraph line, broken by the Indians during the engagement, we took up our line of march and arrived at Fort Mitchell after nightfall. Receiving a dispatch from Colonel Moonlight to cross the river and join him in pursuit of the Indians, I attempted the crossing at two different points on the 15th but, the river being wide and coursed with alternate channels that swam, and bars of quicksand's that mired, I abandoned the crossing as impracticable, after the drowning of two horses and a mule, and the dragging to shore of two men (one of them Captain Shuman), nearly drowned in attempting to cross. Receiving a telegram from General Conner, on the 16th, to report immediately with my command to Julesburg, I respectfully report his order obeyed.

Very truly and respectfully, your obedient servant,
JOHN WILCOX, Captain Company B,
Seventh Iowa Cavalry, Commanding Detachment2

2 Report of Adjutant General of Iowa, 1866, pages 150, 151 and 152

The battle described in the foregoing report was officially designated as "Horse Creek," on account of the name of the stream near which it was fought. It was very evident that Captain Fouts was the victim of misplaced confidence in the good faith of the Indians in his charge, and that his death was the first result of their treachery. This trait of Indian character was, perhaps, most notable in the tribe of Sioux Indians, a portion of whom constituted the band who were being removed to the reservation assigned to them, when the revolt took place.

Another engagement, in which a small detachment of the Seventh Iowa Cavalry suffered the greatest loss in killed - in proportion to the number engaged - which occurred in any of its conflicts with the Indians, took place near the post of Julesburg, C.T., on January 7, 1865, and is officially designated as the "Battle of Julesburg." The following account of the engagement is given in the historical memoranda of Major O'Brien, heretofore referred to in this sketch, and has reference to Company F, alone, that being the only company engaged, and that conflict the most important event in its history:

During the fall and winter of 1863 and 1864, the company was subjected to great hardships, with no quarters except the shelter of a few worn Sibley tents. On account of exposure many were taken sick, but endured their sufferings without a murmur. The quarters were completed on or about the 1st of March 1864, and the post assumed the name of Fort Cottonwood, commanded by Major George M. O'Brien, Seventh Iowa Cavalry. The company was ordered by General Mitchell to march from Cottonwood to Fort Laramie, July 19, 1864; arrived at Fort Laramie July 28th. While the company remained at the post, parties wee engaged in scouting the country in quest of hostile Indians. On August 21st, the Company was ordered to proceed to Julesburg, C. T. where it arrived August 24th; distance marched 170 miles. Total distance marched July 19 to August 24, 1864, 966 miles. Upon arriving at Julesburg, the company commenced erecting quarters and supplying the garrison with fuel, which is from sixty to eighty miles distant. On the 7th of January 1865, thirty-seven men of the company, being all that were present for duty, engaged in battle some fifteen hundred Indian warriors, concentrated for battle near the post. The Indians at first retired, and I immediately ordered a pursuit, which was continued to the bluffs, when, suddenly from every ravine and hiding place, the savages threw themselves upon my little band; at first the enemy was checked, abut only for a moment. The enemy compelled my men to retreat; leaving fourteen of the detachment dead on the field horribly mutilated. After the retreat, the Indians retired. Many Indians were killed and wounded. On the 2nd of February, the post was attacked by a large number of Indians, who were repulsed with severe loss, without doing my company any injury.3

Report of Adjutant General of Iowa, 1866, pages 146 and 147

Captain Nicholas J. O'Brien was the commanding officer of Company F, and the presumption is that it was from his official report to the Major that the memoranda was made. It is a very notable fact that, in these conflicts with the Indians, the number of killed is far in excess of the wounded, on both sides, while in the battles between the Union and Confederate troops, the wounded were almost invariably largely in excess of the killed. In the battle of Galesburg no wounded are reported, while fourteen of the thirty-seven men engaged were killed. 4

4 Report of Adjutant General of Iowa, 1867, Vol. 1, page 340. Names of the killed in Company F, Seventh Iowa Cavalry, at Julesburg, January 7, 1865: Sergeant Allison Hanchett, Corporal Anthony Koons, Corporal Walter B. Talcott, Corporal William H. Gray, Private George Barnett, Private Hiram W. Brundage, Private Henry H. Hall, Private David Ishman, Private James Jordon, Private Davis Lippincott, Private Edson D. Moore, Private Amos C. McArthur, Private Thomas Scott, Private Joel Stebbins.

The description of the hardships endured by Company F. will apply as well to all the companies of the regiment, at one time or another, during their long and arduous term of service. Their serviced extended over such a wide field, and the enemy with whom they had to deal with was so elusive and treacherous, that it required great fortitude and capacity for endurance on the part of the troops. Their marches extended over many thousands of miles in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska and Dakota Territories. Company A has a record of 5,300 miles traveled in scouting, escorting trains, pursuing Indians and changing stations, from the time it took the field to the 28th of February, 1865. 5

5 Report of Adjutant General of Iowa, 1866, page 144.

Other companies have similar records and, at the time they were mustered out of the service, all of them had probably exceeded that record.

The official reports of Major General Sully show that detachments from the Seventh Iowa Cavalry participated in the battles of White Stone Hill and Tahkahokutah. In both these battles the regiment fully sustained the good reputation it had won in all its previous engagements, and performed its duty bravely and efficiently. Captain Millard, in command of his company, followed General Sully in his charge through the center of the Indian encampment at White Stone Hill, and continued to follow up the Indians, who made a desperate resistance, until darkness ended the conflict. In the next engagement, three companies of the regiment, under command of Lieutenant Colonel Pattee, again followed the gallant General Sully and contributed their full share in winning another decisive victory over the combined Indian tribes. General Sully's reports describe the movements of his troops, previous to and during these battles, with great minuteness and particularity, and show the great difficulties encountered in conducting his campaigns, the hardships and privations to which the troops under his command were subjected and the great value of the service of these brave volunteer soldiers to the Government. 6

6 Report of Adjutant General of Iowa, 1864, pages 616 to 628 inclusive; 1865, Vol. 2. Pages 1366 to 1374 inclusive.

Copious extracts from these reports have been made in the compilation of the historical sketch of the Sixth Iowa Cavalry, and the compiler - to avoid repetition - refers the reader to that sketch, which is contained in this volume. The records of the Sixth and Seventh Regiments of Iowa Cavalry are, to a considerable extent, identical. The general character of the service performed by the two regiments was the same. The companies composing both were often widely separated and located at lonely posts, far beyond the frontier, and from those posts the movements of the Indians wee noted. Often messengers wee sent to distant forts, and, in the performance of that dangerous service, some of those brave men were overtaken and slain by the Indians. The life of the cavalry soldier on the plains as fraught with constant danger and hardship. In the exhaustive official report of Major General Pope, commanding the Department of the Northwest, the operations of the troops against the Indians, the location of the various military posts and the Indians tribes, the long line of frontier to be defended, the almost insuperable difficulties encountered, are all most fully described; and the brave officers and men serving in his department, including the Sixth and Seventh Regiments of Iowa Cavalry, are highly commended. 7

7 Report of Adjutant General of Iowa, 1865, Vol. 2. Pages 1358 to 1365 inclusive.

Could this and many other official reports pertaining exclusively to the campaigns against the Indians, in which these Iowa regiments participated, be incorporated in this sketch, a more adequate comprehension of the value of their service and the privations they endured could be had. It is not, however, within the province of the compiler of these necessarily brief historical sketches to give more that the outlines of the history of each organization. In his "Iowa in War Times" Major Byers pays a fine tribute to the Sixth and Seventh Regiments of Iowa Cavalry, which is here, quoted, in part as follows:

They had hard marches, far away from the comforts or advantages of civilization; they fought barbarous foes, and usually in overwhelming numbers, and were always victorious. Some of them marched from three thousand to five thousand miles and scouts and petty fights were weekly accurrences. The regiments were nearly always more or less divided, garrisoning different posts, scouting and marching in different directions, making succinct history of their arduous services almost impossible. Good and brave officers led them and their services were of as much value to the country in beating back savages, as were the services of other regiments in fighting the rebels in the South. The character of warfare practiced on the western plains required a degree of endurance, personal bravery and heroism, not excelled on the bloodies battlefields of the south.8


L. D. Ingersoll, in his "Iowa and the Rebellion," after having made mention of the gallant conduct of Colonel Summers, pays the following tribute to Colonel and Brevet Brigadier General Heath, and his regiment:

Colonel Summers was mustered out of the service not long after the battle of Julesburg, and returned to Iowa. Some months afterwards, Major Heath, always popular with the command, was commissioned, and was mustered Colonel in the following May, and soon afterwards was brevetted Brigadier General. The Department of Missouri was now in command of Major General G. M. Dodge, who devoted much of his energies to the protection of our western settlers and of the overland line of travel to the Pacific Coast. General Heath went to Fort Kearney, and taking command of a sub-district, succeeded in defeating the Indians in one or two engagements, and in making it safe for travelers to journey to the great gold-bearing regions of our Country.

General Heath conducted hostilities against the Indians with great success, and won the enconiums of not only his superior officers but of the people who had been so long harassed that they had well nigh given up all hope of being soon relieved from the terrors of Indian warfare. "The citizens of Nebraska," says a leading journal of that territory, "and especially those living on and interested in the great overland road, may congratulate themselves upon having a military commander who thoroughly understands the mode of Indian warfare, and who is willing to march against them, and to endure the same privations and fatigue that his men do, sharing his rations with them; whose home in the field is in the saddle, and whose movements are as rapid as those of his wily foe. These qualities are combined in General Heath, who stands head and shoulders above any officer who has been in command at Fort Kearney, since the beginning of the Indian Troubles."

It is doubtless on account of the efficient services of General Heath and his command that the Seventh Cavalry is still retained in the service (January 1866) and will probably be retained for some months to come. Its troopers, inn whole or by detachments, have already taken part in every expedition against Indians, in the Departments of the Missouri, Kansas and the Northwest, from the middle of 1863 to the present time, and they have always done their duty manfully, skillfully, bravely. They have endured many privations, suffered many hardships, but they have suffered with patience as they have fought ever gallantly, keeping from our borders a ruthless enemy, who, but for their sleepless vigilance and untiring energy, would have carried fire and massacre and indescribable horrors over the new settlements of our frontier. There is a heavy debt of gratitude due from the country, and especially from the Northwest, to those troops who were denied the privilege of fighting rebels in the South, but who performed invaluable services on the less glorious field of the Far West. 9

9 "Iowa and the Rebellion," by L. D. Ingersoll, page 692.

The historical memoranda of Major O'Brien heretofore referred to, give a condensed record of the operations of each company of the regiment, except Company I. This record shows that Companies K and M re-enlisted as Veteran Volunteers, at Fort Sully, on the 28th and 29th of February, 1864, under the General Orders No. 191, of the War Department. As the order provided that soldiers re-enlisting for a second term of three ears should be furnished with transportation to the State from which they originally enlisted, and be granted a furlough of thirty days to begin after they reaching the State, these two companies were transported on flatboats down the Missouri River to Sioux City. They embarked on March 17, 1864, and reached Sioux City on April 5th, having been blockaded by ice for several days on the way, and covered a distance of six hundred miles by river. They left Sioux City on April 5th, and, upon the expiration of the furloughs, reassembled at Davenport, Iowa, from which place they returned to Sioux City, and on May 30th, joined the Northwestern Indian Expedition, under command of General Sully The following foot note appears at the end of the last roster, showing casualties and changes among the officers of the regiment: 10

10 Report of Adjutant General of Iowa, 1867, Vol. 1. Pages 37 and 38.

Company I, of this regiment, was originally known as the "Sioux City Cavalry," and as such was mustered into the service of the United States at Sioux City, November 14, 1861. By order of the War Department, dated April 25, 1863, the company was transferred to the Seventh Cavalry, July 14, 1863. The officers and most of the enlisted men were mustered out November 23, 1864, on the expiration of their term of service, and its remaining members, being transferred to the new Company L, Company I ceased to exist. The Seventh Regiment of Iowa Cavalry Volunteers, excepting the Lieutenant Colonel, and Companies K. L and M were mustered out of the service at Leavenworth, Kansas, May 17, 1866. Company's K L and M were mustered out at Sioux City, June 22, 1866. The date and place of muster out of the Lieutenant Colonel is not known at this office. All officers, not otherwise accounted for, were mustered out with their organizations as above. Company's K L and M of his regiment, were originally known as Companies A B and C of the Fourteenth Infantry; subsequently they became the Battalion of the Forty-first Infantry. May 14, 1863, they were transferred to the Seventh Cavalry, under order of the War Department, dated April 25, 1863. The original Company L of this regiment was mustered out of service in November 1864, on the expiration of the term of service of most of its members. A new company was subsequently organized, composed of the veterans and recruits of the former Companies I and L and other recruits and called Company L.

The foregoing extract shows how the different portions of the regiment terminated their honorable career of service as volunteers of the United States Army. It may be justly said of the Seventh Iowa Cavalry that its service to its State and the general Government was of great importance. Its field of service was constantly upon the frontier, and while it was keeping in check the savages who had waged such relentless war upon the pioneer settlers, other Iowa regiments were winning glory and fame upon the great battlefields of the South. While that opportunity did not come to the gallant Seventh Iowa Cavalry, let it ever be remembered that in the field of service to which it was assigned it performed its duty faithfully and heroically, and it is entitled to a prominent position among the nine splendid cavalry regiments which the State of Iowa contributed to the service during that memorable period in the history of the United States - 1861 to 1866.


Total Enrollment                                                 1592
Killed                                                                     53
Wounded                                                                     18
Died of Wounds                                                       2
Died of Disease                                                     92
Discharged for wounds, disease or to other causes      267
Buried in National Cemeteries and Forts                        30
Captured                                                                     --
Transferred                                                                     9

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