TWENTIETH IOWA INFANTRY.
ENROLLED IN THE COUNTIES OF SCOTT AND LINN-FLAG PRESENTATION-MOVE TO BENTON BARRACKS-ORDERED TO ROLLA-SPRINGFIELD-MARCH INTO ARKANSAS-"JAYHAWKING"-THE BATTLE OF PRAIRIE GROVE-ENCAMPMENT ON THE FIELD-THE CAPTURE OF VAN BUREN-RETURN TO MISSOURI-ACTIVE OPERATIONS THERE-EMBARK FOR VICKSBURG-TAKE POSITION IN THE LINE OF INVESTMENT-CAPTURE OF YAZOO CITY-JOIN THE ARMY OF THE GULF-EMBARK FOR TEXAS-THE OCCUPATION OF BROWNSVILLE-A LONG PERIOD OF QUIET-ADVENTURES ON THE "HIGH SEAS"-THE MAJOR ON THE PICKET!-EVACUATION OF BROWNSVILLE-SAIL TO NEW ORLEANS-CAPTURE OF FORT GAINES AND FORT MORGAN-AGAIN IN LOUISIANA-IN ARKANSAS-SCURVY-THE MOBILE CAMPAIGN-MUSTARD OUT-HOME AGAIN.
Among the regiments, numbering more than twenty of infantry, which were recruited and organized in the State of Iowa under the President's proclamation of July 2d, 1862, calling for three hundred thousand additional volunteers, the Twentieth was among the first. In the patriotic ardor under which the regiment was quickly recruited the counties of Scott and Linn vied with each other, and each contributed five companies to the organization. They were ordered to rendezvous at Clinton, and there the organization of the regiment was completed on the 25th of August, the command then numbering nine hundred and two officers and enlisted men. William McE. Dye, who had served as Captain in the regular army, was appointed Colonel; Joseph B. Leake, who had conspicuously served in the State Senate, Lieutenant-Colonel; and William G. Thompson, who had also been in the legislature, Major. Of these, Leake had recruited a company and was promoted from captain thereof Constant S. Lake, who had served with the First Iowa, was appointed Adjutant; Jasper H. Rice, Quartermaster; Doctor Henry Ristine, Surgeon, with A. O. Blanding and K. S. Marlin, Assistants, and Reverend Uriah Eberhart, Chaplain. The line officers of the regiment were: Captains; E. N. Bates, Ed. Coulter, M. L. Thompson, Dolphus Torrey, Chester Barney, N. M. Hubbard, Charles Altmann, R. H. Lucore, Charles C. Cook, S. B. Byram; First Lieutenants; Charles L. Drake, James M. Dennison, Harrison Oliver, A. H. Brooks, J. G. G. Cavendish, William Corbett, F. E. Starek; Joseph J. Holland, Stephen L. Dows, Elijah Stone; Second Lieutenants- Joseph A. McClelland, David Cavin, Robert M. Lytle, Charles E. Squires, Edward E. Davis, Manson H. Crosby, John B. Parcell (soon resigning, succeeded by George A. Bennett), Wilson Wightman James W. Carver, and Elias Taylor.
The regiment remained at Clinton only about one week after organization. Several of the officers and not a few of the men having seen service, schools of instruction and drill were at once instituted, and the command immediately began to fit itself for the duties of campaigning. There was an agreeable relaxation from these studies and exercises one day, however, when the patriotic ladies of Lyons visited the encampment in large numbers and in behalf of the donor, Mrs. Harrison, presented the regiment a beautiful flag. The Reverend G. F. Magoun made a very handsome and eloquent speech, on presenting the flag in behalf of the donors, and was responded to in an equally handsome manner by Major Thompson on the part of Colonel Dye, who made no claims to oratory.
At dusk of the 31st, the regiment went aboard steamers and moved to Davenport. The "Bill Hinderson," "Add. Hine," "Canada," and a large barge were used for the purpose of transporting the regiment on this its first voyage! Time came, before the war closed, when the same regiment moved with more comfort on a single steamer no larger than one of these. Now all was confusion. Every private had as much baggage as a field marshal, and every officer enough to supply a division headquarters.
So the three steamers and the barge were crowded "ramdam full" of men and luggage; so full that Captain Barney says his sleeping-apartment for the night was "an old cheese-box, with his back against the wall; the only unappropriated spot he could find upon the boat. "
On the morning of September 1st the fleet made the port of Davenport, and a disembarkation was effected a short distance above the city. Hence the regiment marched by the Burtis House on "Camp Herron," of which it took forcible possession, and found the sutler fully established. Here the regiment spent a few gala days, the citizens of Davenport, more especially the ladies, visiting the camp in large numbers, to the great joy of the command and the great violence of rigid discipline. On the morning of the 5th, the regiment marched to the landing and embarked for St. Louis on the steamer Metropolitan, amid a large concourse of citizens of both sexes. Adjutant-General Baker went on board, which was the signal for the departure of the boat. Moving down the river to the point below Rock Island, General Baker went ashore, and again the boat pushed off, the boys brushed away the tears of parting from friends, perhaps forever, and as Davenport sank out of sight behind them began to talk hopefully of the future. Soon a severe storm came on, and John C. Magill in the midst of it fell overboard, and, in spite of all exertions to save him, was drowned. And so amid sorrow, and storm, and death the Twentieth spent its first night from home more gloomily, perhaps, than any other of its whole history; for it was not long till partings from friends, and death, and storms had become so frequent as to excite but little feeling. Such is army education.
The regiment arrived at St. Louis on the morning of the 8th, and at once marched from the levee to Benton Barracks, where it first came into the presence of an army. The command remained in the Barracks not quite one week, several of the men becoming sick and two dying within that time, when it moved by cars to Rolla. Thence it took up its first line of march in the field for Springfield, Lieutenant-Colonel Leake in command, Colonel Dye having command of the brigade, and after many adventures, and no little suffering from the want of water on a considerable part of the route, arrived at Springfield on the 24th. Here the regiment was placed in a brigade, with the Thirty-seventh Illinois, First Iowa Cavalry, and one section of the First Missouri Light Artillery, Colonel Dye commanding, and assigned to the division, at this time commanded by General Totten, a most eccentric genius, but an excellent soldier.
Having remained at Springfield a few days the regiment marched to Pond Springs and went into camp. Here it halted two days, and being in the vicinity of the field of Wilson's Creek, many of the men, and doubtless all who had belonged to the First Iowa, of whom there were several in the regiment, visited the spot where Iowa valor first became distinguished. The citizens in the neighborhood of the encampment were, many of them, ignorant and shiftless human beings as any part of our country possessed. They were of secession proclivities most decidedly, and perhaps a majority of them had been at one time or other in the rebel army under "Pap Price" as they called the confederate general. Our troops, therefore, thought the irregular confiscation of their property nothing more than a lawful spoiling of the Egyptians. They had large quantities of paper on what they called the "Bank of facsimile," that is to say, imitation notes of confederate currency, purporting on their face to be facsimiles. With this "money" they engaged in a considerable commerce with the inhabitants of this part of our country, buying milk, butter, eggs, roast pig, vegetables, "dip candles," fence-rails, and what not, and as often as possible making trades where the change would be in their favor. Besides, there were many of the citizens who were quite willing to exchange their "Lincoln greenbacks "for this worthless trash, and the soldiers could not find it in their hearts to refuse accommodating them. One of the officers' servants exchanged a twenty-dollar patent medicine advertisement for twenty dollars in greenbacks, and if the rebel did not learn the value of Holloway's Pile Ointment it was his own fault. But commerce has a demoralizing effect, and it was peremptorily stopped by General Totten just as the Bank of facsimile failed without a penny of assets. More serious business was in hand. I ought to add, for chronological accuracy, that the "facsimile" business, of which I have here given the outline, was more profitably carried on afterwards than just at this time.
General Blunt, commanding the first division of the army, was at this time farther advanced in the enemy's country than the Second Division. was command was for the most part composed of cavalry and mounted infantry, capable of moving with great celerity from place to place, and always anxious to have a fight, more especially if the enemy could be whipped by them alone, and as anxious to receive re-enforcements whenever it was understood the enemy was approaching in considerable force. It so happened, therefore, that both the Second and Third Divisions seemed to play a secondary part to the First Division, for a considerable period, during which the enemy, in small force, laid himself liable to be suddenly attacked and defeated by a mounted army, before the infantry could come up, of which Blunt took advantage, and in several affairs of no great importance in themselves, and of no account to the general cause on the frontier, won no little cheap reputation, and at the same time appeared to cast the other two divisions in the shade, so far, at any rate, as public opinion went. When the great battle came off, of which these affairs were the mere skirmishes between the pickets, all this was reversed. Blunt acted with great gallantry and energy throughout, being ever a dashing and efficient officer, and it could have been no fault of his that during the months of October and November he did about all the fighting, and the other two divisions about all the marching and hard work. During these two months our regiment marched more than five hundred miles, often moving throughout an entire night, passing over the mountainous regions of northwestern Arkansas, crossing creeks and rivers, much of the time over horrible roads and in weather which was disagreeable beyond description. It is usual for troops to be more healthy while on the march than when in camp. But the campaignings of our regiment at this time seem to have been accompanied by the worst effects of marching and the worst effects of life in camp. The roads were much of the time so bad that it was impossible for the trains to keep pace with the column, so that the troops were compelled to bivouac many nights during the whole of which the rain fell in torrents, making them shiver out the long hours in the most dreary discomfort which it is possible for the mind of man to conceive. A great many of the men succumbed before these difficulties, and the hospitals were soon overflowing with sick men who not long before were having such jolly times at Pond Springs. The two months which preceded the battle of Prairie Grove probably formed the gloomiest era in the history of the Twentieth.
During that era, which I have thus generally described, its history, more in detail, was about as follows: Early on the morning of October 1st, the men struck tents and took up line of march "for the front," an indefinite locality, where, according to rumor, Blunt had been engaged, and had been defeated. On the day following, a forced march was made to Spring River, where the command halted a day, and then made a night march in the direction of Newtonia. The first part of the night, the moon shone brightly on the bristling bayonets of the column rapidly moving over a high prairie, but about midnight a storm came on just as the line of march came into a dense forest, and the command trudged slowly on through the gloom and rain, morning finding them some distance from Newtonia. The enemy under Rains was posted there behind a stone fence, and it was the intention of the Union generals to surprise him, coming up from three sides. The storm and darkness had delayed the Second Division, so that it came up too late for the affair which took place on the morning of the 5th, but our regiment joined in the pursuit of the rebels and here had its first skirmish with the enemy, losing two men wounded. The regiment then went into camp near Newtonia, and remained quiet a few days. Again breaking camp during a heavy rain, the command marched, with some halting, to Cassville, and having pitched tents there remained a short time in camp. Here the Army of the Frontier, General Schofield commanding, was fully organized, but our regiment remained as before assigned. After which event, it participated in marches and countermarches in face of the enemy in the vicinity of Pea Ridge, the men sleeping on their arms or marching by night, and almost constantly on the move till the close of the month when the command moved back into Missouri, without having as yet seen an armed enemy except at the affair of Newtonia. By irregular movements, General Totten some days moving only a short distance, on others making severe forced marches, our regiment on the 20th of November went into encampment at "Camp Lyon," within a day's march of Springfield.
So far as the second division was concerned, the campaign had appeared to the troops to have been utterly meaningless and useless, as well as heartless and cruel. Though the men had marched themselves barefoot, nothing appeared to show that they had accomplished anything of any the least use to the cause, here or elsewhere. But some of the troops had learned to "jay-hawk." The commissariat of the Union army was, perhaps, never abundantly supplied in this region of country, and at this time it was impossible for the trains always to be up with the troops. Every man, therefore. on the general rule of self-preservation? became his own commissary, and jay-hawking developed into a science, based upon military necessity. The country was not rich; it everywhere, by its farms laid waste, its ruins of burned buildings, its general air of desolation, gave most palpable evidence of the sad ravages of war; but milk, butter, corn-bread, honey could be had at many places, while swine and domesticated fowls were still abundant. These it was the business of the jay-hawker to take and bring into camp, and where many were jay-hawkers it may readily be supposed there was little danger of absolute starvation. It is but simple justice to state, however, that the Twentieth Regiment of Iowa Volunteers did not participate in the "jay-hawking" forays of which the country heard so much. Lieutenant-Colonel Leake depended upon regular supplies, and, when they were not forthcoming, he obtained them by the ordinary foraging parties, in all ways conducted according to the laws of war. General Totten was himself a strict, rigid disciplinarian, and it is certain the stories with which the country was filled touching these jay-hawking operations did not at all apply to the Second and Third Divisions of the Army of the Frontier. Most assuredly they did not to any Iowa regiment in that army. In the Twentieth, the rein of discipline was never relaxed for a single day, the Lieutenant-Colonel commanding having too correct a notion of its efficacy to permit any species of pillaging whatever, whether called "jay-hawking" or anything else.'
The regiment remained at Camp Lyon the rest of the month, the monotony of camp life being enlivened by daily drills occupying several hours. The command was now very much reduced by sickness and by the deaths which had already occurred, and its dress parades were not largely attended. But a great load of presents came from friends at home, and, with the letters which accompanied them sent joy and gladness to the hearts of all. There was at least one oasis, covered with bright flowers, and sparkling with sweet waters, on the general desert of frontier campaigning. This was the knowledge that they were constantly borne kindly in the memories of kind friends at home. Of this they never ceased to have substantial evidences.
The officers and men of the regiment had not finished writing letters home, acknowledging the receipt of messages and presents, when the bugle suddenly sounded the notes of war. On the evening of December 3d, a courier arrived with intelligence that Blunt, one hundred and twenty-five miles distant, was threatened with attack, and needed prompt assistance.
I ought to observe also that I do not agree with the opinion of the troops that their campaign had been meaningless and without result. General Schofield's army had relieved Missouri from rebels, and the campaign, so severe in its results upon the Union troops, had been of considerable importance and value, as we shall see hereafter. General Curtis telegraphed its entire success and ordered Schofield to withdraw from Arkansas, and during the absence of Schofield, Hereon and Blunt reaped the glory of Prairie Grove.
Long before the stars faded from the sky on the morning of the 4th, the division was in motion. As day dawned on the morning of the 7th, that division was marching rapidly southward through the streets of Fayetteville, Arkansas, more than an hundred miles from Camp Lyon, and not long after the sun came up on that bright Sunday morning it was deploying into line of battle on the field of Prairie Grove.
Of the glorious engagement which there took place, and of the glorious part the Twentieth sustained therein, I have spoken in the preceding chapter. To get there, the regiment had made a march of one hundred and ten miles in three days. If this had been over the smooth, hard roads of Europe, with the streams all spanned by bridges, and the hills leveled by the engineer, it would have been accounted wonderful, and would justly have excited the admiration of military savants. But every mile traveled on this frontier was equivalent to two on the ordinary roads of the East The country was mountainous, the streams had to be waded, the roads were bad. The soldiers of the Twentieth Iowa Volunteers, having made t IS march, went into the battle with fine spirits, but with their feet bleeding like those of Washington's army when it marched into the dreary winter quarters of Valley Forge. The regiment lost between forty and fifty, in killed and wounded, out of two hundred and seventy engaged 2
After the battle, the army went into encampment on the field, and the dead having been buried and the wounded removed to hospitals at Fayetteville, there remained until after Christmas, taking that rest which the troops of the Second and Third Divisions, in especial, so much needed.
The battle of Prairie Grove had been of the utmost benefit to the Union cause. It had saved Missouri from devastation and pillage at the close of the year, as effectually as the battle of Pea Ridge had done near the beginning of the year. It had broken up in rout and demoralization an army of twenty-five thousand men, most of whom were soon scattered all over a wide extent of country;in Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas; completely satisfied of the hopelessness of the Confederate cause in this
2 The following is the list of casualties: Major William G. Thompson, severely wounded.
Company A.-Killed, Daniel W. Robbins. Company B.-Wounded, Corporal George C. Miller. Company C.-Killed, Lieutenant Harrison Oliver. Wounded, Lieutenant R. M. Lytle: Corporal William Murray; J. F, Jacobs. Company D;Wounded, David Ross, Alexander A. Watson, James Forber, William A. Akley, W. J. L. Hunt. Company E-Killed Daniel M. Sullivan, John Menig. Wounded, Lieutenant J. G. G. Cavendish; John Kessler, Henry Gertz, Webster Spencer, Martin Rhomberg, Lemuel Harker, Thomas J. Moore. Company F-Wounded, J. O. Parker, Milton J. Elliott, Walter Lewis, E. J. Reynolds. Company G-Killed, Sergeant Thomas B. Miles; Corporal Richard Carnes, Wounded, Lieutenant F. E. Starck; Sergeants Robert Speer, Corporal John C. Murphy; Joseph Patterson, Joseph Speer, William F. Culbertson, Samuel McFate, Harvey J. Browne, William Jameson. Company H-Wounded L. McCurdy. Company I-Killed, Steven S. Wood. Wounded ; George W. Daniels. Company K-Killed, Sergeant F. M. Steele. Wounded, Lieutenant E. Stone; Corporal L. L. Whitney; Rufus Fisk, James McKane, William Criswell.
Making eight killed; thirty-nine wounded;total, forty-seven.
quarter. Though bands of lawless troopers continued to prey upon Missouri, and though Marmaduke succeeded in making a foray into the State not long after the battle, it was two years afterwards before any considerable rebel army appeared north of the Arkansas. When the Union army had sufficiently reposed, it followed up the victory of the 7th December by the capture of Van Buren.
The march thither from the encampment on Prairie Grove began early on the morning of December 27th. "Providing ourselves nominally with six days' rations (in reality with two), we set out at daybreak," says Captain Barney, "marching rapidly all day until the moon went down at two o'clock on the following morning, when we made a temporary halt at the southern slope of Boston Mountains; a distance of thirty-two miles, our road lying over the roughest country we had yet passed through, up the steepest ascents and down almost perpendicular declivity's. "This important foray, which resulted in the further dispersion of Hindman's army, in the capture of Van Buren, a depot of supplies, the destruction of several steamers, and immense quantities of stores; all which achievements were made practicable by the victory of Prairie Grove; was principally the work of the mounted troops, and the famous "mule howitzers," as Blunt's mountain howitzers were called by the Indians and the army generally. The infantry joined in the triumphal entry into the town, and forming in the public square made the walk-in ring with shouts and singing "John Brown. "
Our regiment returned to Prairie Grove in time to be mustered on the afternoon of December 31st. It had marched considerably more than an hundred miles, and, as it spent one day at Van Buren, it had averaged thirty-four miles each day. General Schofield met his troops on their return from Van Buren and assumed command.
He presently moved to Fayetteville, and halting near there a few days began a series of marches and countermarches, through mud, and rain, and snow, whereby the troops were exhausted, and not knowing the object of the movements; to prevent the escape of Marmaduke through the passes of the Boston Mountains; did some grumbling. At length on the 23d of April, after six months of active operations in Missouri and Arkansas, our regiment marched into Rolla, and on the next day moved by cars to St. Louis.
Here, the command was scattered, part being on duty at Benton Barracks, part down the Mississippi some distance, patrolling the river, the principal portion at the arsenal, all doing excellent service at a period when an uprising of traitors in St. Louis was expected, and when the rebels in heavy force were threatening the city. The regiment afterwards encamped at "Camp Gamble," formerly called Camp Jackson, and noted as the spot where Captain Nathaniel Lyon gave the first palpable example of a vigorous prosecution of the war. On the 10th of May, the second anniversary of General Lyon's capture of Camp Jackson, that event was remembered by a magnificent celebration, in which the regiment took part, and was reviewed, with the other troops in the city, by Major-General Curtis
Five days afterwards the regiment moved by rail to Pilot Knob. Here it went into encampment, and remained somewhat more than a fortnight having a fine opportunity to drill which was improved to the utmost by both officers and men. On the morning of the 3d of June, marching orders were received, and on the same day the regiment moved for St. Genevieve, on the Mississippi River. Here, with that portion of the Army of the Frontier under command of Major-General Herron, who had been most justly promoted for his victory of Prairie Grove, the regiment embarked on the steamer "J. D. Perry," and was soon on a voyage to reinforce the army before Vicksburg.
Speaking of the arrival of the regiment at St. Genevieve, Captain Barney says: "Our campaigns in Missouri here ended. We had marched on foot since leaving Rolla on the 16th of September, 1862, eleven hundred and twenty-seven miles; most of our marches being made during the winter season, exposed to the rains, and over roads at times almost impassable on account of the mud. Much of the time we had been on half rations, and. with inadequate supplies of clothing. The hardships endured on these marches had thinned our ranks more than would as many hard-fought battles. And now, even after the lapse of time, and subsequent more stirring scenes of sieges and battles in which we took part, our memories still retain vivid recollections of the lonely wayside graves where we deposited the bodies of our comrades along the route of these unparalleled marches. They fell, not in battle, but by disease contracted while in the performance of duties beyond their strength, and under circumstances of peculiar hardship. We shall never cease to honor their memories for the heroism which enabled many of them at times, even while suffering under disease, to still continue in the discharge of their duties. "
The command arrived at the mouth of the Yazoo River on the 11th, and was ordered to report at Haine's Bluff. Moving thither, it was ordered back to Young's Point, where it disembarked. Marching across the peninsula to a point opposite Warrenton, it there crossed the Mississippi, and on the 14th took position on the left of the beleaguering army. From this time until the capitulation the regiment took an active part in the siege, pushing forward the works, the whole command, or heavy details there from, being engaged night and day. Many in the command became sick, but the losses by casualty of battle were trifling. At ten o'clock on the morning of July 4th, the regiment, at the head of the division, marched into the rebel works, and was the first on the left to plant the flag of the Union on the battlements of Vicksburg.
The regiment had just got comfortably fixed in camp inside the rebel works, when marching orders were received. It went aboard transports on the 11th, having been ordered to reinforce General Banks, at Port Hudson. But intelligence of the surrender of that place having been received, the destination of the army under command of General Hereon, was changed to Yazoo City, whither it at once proceeded. The enemy evacuated the city upon the approach of the army and the gun-boats, leaving much property to fall into our hands. The regiment joined in the march to Black River, and bore its full share of the discomforts thereof On the 22d it was again in camp at Vicksburg, but remained there only three days.
General Herron was ordered to join the Army of the Gulf. The division accordingly bade farewell to comrades of the grand army with whom it had shared so much suffering and so much glory, and embarking on transports moved into a department where there were no Vicksburg to be taken, and where there was no Grant to take them if there had been. If we shall find, therefore, the history of the Twentieth regiment for nearly a year after its departure from Vicksburg to be somewhat tame and monotonous, the fault must lie at the door of the general commanding the department.
After Banks was relieved by the accomplished and energetic Canby, the troops in that department had something besides garrison duties, balls, and disastrous expeditions to engage their attention, and to give them that fame for which true soldiers are ever willing to spill their blood and give their lives.
The regiment, upon arriving at Port Hudson, disembarked and went into encampment, where it remained about three weeks for no other purpose, as it seemed, than to be greatly reduced by sickness and death. Thence the regiment sailed for Carrollton, near New Orleans, and encamping there a fortnight recovered to some extent from the effects of the camp at Port Hudson. Here there was considerable drilling by company, and a good deal of reviewing. On the 7th of September, the command again embarked, taking only blankets and six days' rations in haversacks, and steamed up the Mississippi. This was the admirable preparation made for an "expedition" which lasted more than a month, which involved much labor on fortifications about Morganza, much marching and counter-marching in rear of that place, an infinite amount of dirty clothes, the same quantity of profanity; and resulted in the capture of the main portion of the Nineteenth Iowa and Twenty-sixth Indiana, on the 29th of September. Lieutenant-Colonel Leake, of the Twentieth, was in command of this outpost, and was captured with the command. It is proper, therefore that I should here relate the circumstances of this unhappy and painful disaster.
THE COMBAT OF STERLING FARM.
When our regiment embarked for Morganza, as we have seen, it moved in company with General Herron's division of the Thirteenth Corps. At this time General Thomas Greene, rebel, with a considerable force, was annoying the navigation of the Mississippi near the mouth of Red River and below. General Herron was instructed to keep Greene's forces back of the Mississippi, and to attract their attention whilst a Union column should move against them from the direction of Bayou Teche. Herron was at this time in poor health, on which account the energy and watchfulness necessary to command in the face of the enemy were in abeyance.
On the 12th, Lieutenant-Colonel Leake was sent out toward the Atchafalaya to observe the enemy. He had but a small command; the Nineteenth Iowa, the 26th Indiana, a section of the First Missouri Light Artillery, and a battalion of cavalry, all much reduced by sickness, so that the whole force, even upon the addition of a company of mounted infantry composed of details from different regiments in the division, under Lieutenant Walton, of the Thirty-fourth Iowa, amounted to scarcely six hundred effective men. Lieutenant-Colonel Leake was ordered to remain at "Norwood's plantation," more than half way between Morganza and the Atchafalaya, on the right bank of which the rebels were encamped in force. On the 13th Lieutenant-Colonel Leake moved to the vicinity of the Atehafalaya, and drawing the enemy's fire, ascertained his position. The next day, he sent his pickets out in all directions, and learning that his position could be approached by the enemy on roads leading to his rear both from north and south, retired on the night of the 14th to "Sterling Farm," a stronger position than Norwood's, but still isolated from the main command at Morganza. Practical roads for the rebels would still enable them to attack him in rear.
He was thoroughly aware of the imminent danger of his position. He made it fully known to General Herron, even going so far as to visit him in his state-room on a steamer at Morganza. General Vandever visited the post, and was persuaded that it was not tenable. Nevertheless, Lieutenant-Colonel Leake was ordered to hold it "as long as the water held out." Wherefore, in obedience to orders, but against his own judgment, he held the outpost, and endeavored by sleepless vigilance and unwearied energy, and by every possible means, to guard his little band against overwhelming attack. His pickets were constantly on the watch, and over so much space as they could cover a spider could hardly have crept without their observing it. There was skirmishing every day. "Every night," says J. Irvine Dungan, of the Nineteenth, in his excellent history of that regiment, "every night the pickets were visited, each post by Colonel Leake, and we all thought him much too strict. An air of vigilance prevailed, and there never was a camp in which each man more felt the importance of care and watchfulness, such was the force of our commander's example."
The morning of September 29th was rainy and disagreeable. About thirty minutes before noon Colonel Leake's pickets north of his position were driven in, firing as they fell back. In two minutes his infantry were in line of battle. By some mistake of the artillerymen one of the guns was taken where it could be of no service, but in an incredibly short time after the pickets gave warning of the approaching enemy Lieutenant-Colonel Leake was giving them an effective fire from his single useful gun and his musketry. The combat became animated at once. The Union commander fought with a desperate endeavor to break through the rebel lines, but in vain. There were two brigades and a battalion opposed to him from the direction of the first attack. Greene was moving against him with still stronger force from the west, whilst a considerable body of cavalry by a detour was coming up on the south. These troops were dressed in our army blue and at first deceived Lieutenant-Colonel Leake who supposed them his own horsemen who were on picket in this direction. By this time the combat had been going on some time with fearful fury. Taking every advantage of position; using the levee of Bayou Fordoche as a breastwork, and making the most of every house, fence and tree, this gallant little band of now less than five hundred men fought five thousand for two hours and ten minutes, and then, being completely surrounded, gave themselves up prisoners of war.
Lieutenant-Colonel Leake held his men well in hand, and kept them as well protected as could be, so that his losses in killed and wounded were only about fifty. The rebels lost more than this number slain on the field, and admitted a loss of two hundred wounded, among them one Colonel and two Majors. Lieutenant-Colonel Leake was also wounded, but did not yield the command. Lieutenants Kent and Roberts, of the Nineteenth Iowa, were killed, Captain Taylor, mortally and Lieutenants Woods and Robb, severely wounded.
Such, in brief was the combat of Sterling Farm, or the Battle of Fordoche, as it was called by the rebels; a combat which ought never to have been fought, but which was waged by Lieutenant-Colonel Leake and his command with heroic courage and in the best manner possible. Everything was done by that officer which could have been done with his force and position. It was a painful disaster, resulting in the long imprisonment of many brave men, in addition to the losses on the field. General Dana relieved General Herron very shortly before the battle, but I am constrained to say the latter was responsible for the disaster. He informed Dana that the position was secure. Had his powers not been impaired by illness, General Herron would doubtless have thought and acted very differently.
Colonel Dye being in command of the brigade, that of the regiment now fell to Major Thompson. On the 10th of October it embarked on steamers and moved again to Carrollton where it went into the old encampment. Here it remained in quiet and comfort for a fortnight. On the 24th, it embarked on Gulf transports, forming a part of the Texas expedition. On the 2d of November, after a stormy voyage, a landing was attempted. In this attempt several men were drowned, among them William Bite and Morgan Parsons of the Twentieth, but a landing was not effected until the 4th. The troops then landed on the island of Brazos Santiago, Texas.
On the islands, waters, and mainland of this State, the regiment remained many weary months, being compelled to submit to a sort of honorable military exile, in obedience to that policy, which, under General Banks, resulted in nothing but cotton, disaster, and expeditions! "Having remained in the vicinity of Point Isabel about a week, the command embarked on the transport "Planter," and sailed to the southern end of Mustang Island. Immediately upon landing it commenced marching along the sandy beach, dragging two twelve-pounder howitzers by hand, the men carrying their knapsacks and sixty rounds of extra ammunition. The march was continued till midnight. At the northern extremity of the island the rebels had some earthworks, thrown up to defend the entrance to Corpus Christi and Aranzas Bays. These works were captured by two Maine regiments, before the arrival of the Twentieth with the artillery, those gallant regiments making a splendid and bloodless charge, with their arms at a right-shoulder-shift!
The regiment remained on Mustang Island, garrisoning the works, for more than seven months. The duties of the garrison were exceedingly light, and a number of expeditions were made up the bay to Corpus Christi, Lamar, St. Mary's, and other places, with a twofold object; first, to gratify the spirit of adventure natural to the western character; and, secondly, to procure lumber with which to erect barracks and houses for the comfort and convenience of the troops. When the parties engaged in these expeditions returned, they were usually accompanied by Union men and their families who took advantage of the presence of the garrison to escape from the tyranny and persecution of the insurgent government, its aiders and abettors. There were some of these expeditions accompanied by great danger, and followed by results of importance. The bays of Texas are not easily navigated at any time, and sudden gales of wind, amounting almost to tornadoes, frequently arise, so that sailing here has all the adventure of a voyage on the high seas, and a great many more breakers to arouse the fear of mariners But squalls, breakers, reefs could not prevent the men of the Twentieth from capturing Texan towns and Texan lumber. A detachment of the regiment, under Captain Barney, also captured the blockade-running schooner "Lizzie Bacon," and compelled a noted pilot of those waters to run her from St. Alary's to Mustang Island. But all these operations which served to enliven garrison life were accompanied by trifling casualties. The capture of Captains Coulter and Torrey, in December, was about all the loss that befell the command.
When that expedition which returned with the "Lizzie Bacon" came in, about the middle of May, 1864, the regiment was found to be in command of Captain W.. L. Thompson, Major Thompson having resigned. Although Major Thompson was not a strict disciplinarian, he had great courage, and a heart overflowing with the milk of human kindness. He left behind him the affection of every man in the regiment. Captain Barney relates the following, to illustrate the major's military style: "I will here relate an incident," he says, "which, although it may disparage Major Thompson's reputation as a ' martinet ' in discipline, will nevertheless illustrate the perfect freedom with which he was at all times approached by men of the regiment; his uniform kindness, gentlemanly deportment, and coolness and bravery on the battlefield, had long since secured for him the friendship of every member of the command. Notwithstanding undue familiarity sometimes indulged by the men and line officers, it would be difficult to find a regimental commander whose orders were more cheerfully obeyed than were his. A picket post was established about one mile west of camp, and much care taken by the Major that picket-duty was performed in strict accordance with the ' regulations. Then the men were supposed to have become perfect in this duty, he one morning visited the line of pickets with a friend, in order to show him how well they were instructed, and performed their duties. On approaching the sentinel, who was lying down on a sand hill, they were greeted with the following salutation, addressed to the Major: 'Hallo, Bill, got any whiskey?' Being thrown off his guard, he replied, 'No, really, now, I forgot that canteen !" '
On the 24th of June, 1864, the troops touched their caps in farewell salute to Mustang Island, and sailed to Brazos Santiago. Thence our regiment marched to Brownsville. Here it remained, on garrison duty, till the evacuation of the place on the 29th of July. The time was spent in drilling, inspections, visiting the Mexican town of Matamoras, and in occasionally getting into line to repel a threatened attack, said threatened attack invariably consisting of the approach of a few ragamuffin guerrilla-men who took this way of amusing the garrison whilst cotton was being carried across the river a few miles above. There never was either real attack or failure in the passage of the cotton. General Canby, whose troops of friends were not in the cotton business, failed to see, therefore, that the possession of Brownsville was of any earthly account to the Union cause, and the troops of the army gladly evacuated Texas for a field of more active operations.
The march from Brownsville to Brazos Santiago was made along the crooked Rio Grande, and on the 2d of August the good ship "Panama," in tow of the steamer "City of Richmond" set sail for New Orleans. On the evening of the 6th, the regiment was encamped at Carrollton. The stay here was short. The regiment moved to Fort Gaines, Alabama, sailing on two steamers, so that one part arrived just after the surrender, and the other a day or two afterwards. The whole took part in the siege and bombardment of Fort Morgan, but in all these operations, resulting in a most cheering Union triumph, happily suffered no loss at the hands of the enemy.
At the close of the first week in September the regiment sailed for New Orleans, but halted there only a short time. It moved up the river, and disembarked at Morganza. Here Lieutenant-Colonel Leake rejoined the command, and was received with unmixed satisfaction by all his old comrades. The regiment remained at Morganza about one month, drilling much of the time, and taking exhilarating exercise in "races" to and from the Atchafalaya. On the 12th of October the command moved up the river on steamers, and on the 18th disembarked at Duvall's Bluffs, on White River, Arkansas. Here and at Brownsville, not very far distant, the regiment remained till January 1865.
The health of the men was bad. Scurvy had prevailed in all the companies, and its effects were still visible, though the disease itself had some time before abated. The weather was as bad as it could be, even in Arkansas. Hence, when Mr. George Smith, of Davenport, arrived in the
latter part of November, with fabulous amounts of sanitary stores from "the ever-to-be remembered and generous-hearted patriots of Scott county," he was received with the utmost kindness, and when he departed a few days afterwards he carried with him the grateful resolutions of the regiment, and intelligence of its improvement in health and spirits. During this period the regiment made scouts to some distance from headquarters, worked on fortifications which were never of any use, and, upon the whole, had about as blue and disagreeable a time as troops would naturally be supposed to have in Arkansas. But the sanitary stores cured the scurvy, and when the regiment on the 8th of January, 1865, evacuated Arkansas, it had good health and spirits, and shortly afterwards encamped in a "mudhole" near Kennerville, Louisiana, without grumbling or complaint.
On the 16th of February the regiment embarked on steamers, on the next day came to anchor in Pensacola Bay, Florida, and disembarking went into camp at Florida Point. Here it remained till the campaign of Mobile, in which, from beginning to end, it took such part as was most creditable to itself, and reflected honor upon the State and upon the service. It is well known to all familiar with this brilliant campaign, that the march of the army from Pensacola to Mobile was exceedingly toilsome and difficult; that it was accompanied by labors of a very onerous nature. It was on this difficult march that the regiment received the following compliment, which was ordered to be read to the command. drawn up in line, on the morning of March 29th:
General Orders No. 8.
"HEAD QUARTERS SECOND DIVISION, THIRTEENTH. ARMY CORPS,
"IN THE FIELD, March 28th, 1865
The General commanding appreciates the ready and generous efforts of the troops in promoting this difficult march. These labors assure future success and every patriot will feel grateful to the soldiers who have endured them. The General particularly thanks Lieutenant-Colonel J. B Leake, commanding the Twentieth Iowa Volunteers, for the valuable and rapid service of his regiment this morning, showing by the amount done, how much can be accomplished by officers giving their personal interest and attention to their duty.
"By order of Brigadier-General C. C. ANDREWS,
"Assistant Adjutant General."
The regiment took part in the siege of Blakely, and was with the assaulting column which so gloriously carried the works on the evening of April 9th. Though this assault was made in the teeth of a terrible fire of both artillery and musketry, the losses were very slight in the whole column. A shell passed through the blue field of the flag presented to the regiment by its friends in Scott County, but not a man was injured. Private George Bolton, of Company K, had been severely wounded during the siege, making the only casualty in the regiment during the operations against Mobile.
The regiment moved across the bay to Mobile on the 14th, and was assigned to duty under Brigadier-General George L. Andrews, provost marshal general of the military division in the city. Most fortunately it was ordered to brigade headquarters, out of the city, on the 23d, and remaining there a few days escaped the terrible explosion which occurred two days afterwards. It returned to the city after the disaster, and continued in the performance of duty there till mustered out of service, on the 8th of July. It proceeded from Mobile to Clinton, Iowa, where it was received with great kindness by the citizens, who came out to welcome the command in large numbers, notwithstanding the rain was coming down in torrents. What was more, they treated the brave men to a sumptuous supper. On the 27th, the disorganization was completed, and the Twentieth Iowa passed into history. The officers of the regiment when it was disbanded were: William McE. Dye, Colonel; Joseph B. Leake, Lieutenant-Colonel; C. S. Lake, Adjutant; J. H. Rice, Quartermaster; A. O. Blanding, Surgeon; K. S. Marlin, Assistant; Reverend Richard King, Chaplain. Company A; Captain Henry W. Chase; Lieutenant John N. Coldron. Company B; Captain E. Coulter; Lieutenants James M. Dennison, James O. Stewart. Company C; Captain M. L. Thompson; Lieutenants R. M. Lytle, William M. Johnson. Company D; Captain Charles E. Squires; Lieutenants George NV. Thompson, Thomas F. Allen. Company E; Captain Edward E. Davis; Lieutenant M. F.. Weller. Company F; Lieutenant M. H. Crosby. Company G; Captain Charles Altman; Lieutenants Frederick E. Starek, J. W. Moore. Company H; Captain George A. Gray; Lieutenant William A. Scott. Company I; Captain Joseph C. McClelland; Lieutenant James W. Carver. Company K; Captain Henry B. Doolittle. Captain Edward Coulter had been commissioned major, but not mustered, and Lieutenant Crosby had likewise been appointed Captain. So, these Sergeants had been appointed Lieutenants, namely: Cyrus Wynn, Martin Rhomberg, M. H. Pierce, George B. Woods, Edward Evershed, Dudley E. Stedman, Joseph D. Barnes, and Patrick Gaffney. It numbered four hundred and sixty-four men, rank and file. They at once sought their homes in Scott and Linn counties, where they were received with unmixed hospitality, and with about the same affectionate welcome which parents extend to favorite children; the newspapers vied with each other in articles of welcome, and Mrs. TIRZAH T. M. CURRY, of Davenport, lent the resources of her delightful genius to the occasion: