2flags.gif (3096 bytes) 6th Regiment Iowa Volunteer Infantry
in the War of the Rebellion
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button-sm.gif (1265 bytes) Historical Sketch button-sm.gif (1265 bytes)

The ten companies of which this regiment was composed were ordered to rendezvous at Burlington, Iowa, where they were mustered into the service of the United States on the 17th and 18th days of July, 1861, by Lieut. Alexander Chambers, United States Army.

The subjoined roster contains the names of its first Field and Staff and Company Officers and shows the subsequent changes which occurred. The regiment remained but a short time in rendezvous, and, like those which had preceded it, was destined to learn the theory as well as the practice of war, in the field. On the 6th of August, 1861, Colonel McDowell received orders to proceed to Keokuk, where he received arms for six companies of his regiment, and at once marched across the border into the State of Missouri, to assist the Fifth Iowa Infantry in preventing a threatened invasion of Iowa by rebel troops. This prompt movement caused the rebels to retreat in haste, and the object of the expedition was accomplished without loss. The regiment returned to Keokuk, and on the 9th of August proceeded by boat to St. Louis.

It was stationed for a time at Jefferson Barracks, then at the United States Arsenal and, later, at Lafayette Park and Benton Barracks. On the 19th of September, 1861, the regiment left Benton Barracks, and was transported by rail to Jefferson City, and from that place started upon an active campaign in the State of Missouri, in which it learned its first severe lesson in marching, and the endurance of hardships.

Under the limitation of space prescribed for the historical sketches of thedifferent Iowa organizations, the compiler cannot go into the details of the service rendered by the regiment during these first months of its career, and can only give the outlines of its heroic record during its long period of service covering over four years, and ending with the close of the great War of the Rebellion. The subjoined roster, showing the personal record of each officer and enlisted man, together with summary of casualties, furnishes the best evidence of the loyalty and devotion with which they served their country in her hour of greatest need. Suffice it to say that, during the remainder of 1861, and the winter of 1862, the regiment passed through an experience in the State of Missouri which may well be called the hard training school which fitted it for the great work which lay before it. During this period it marched long distances over rough roads, the men were overloaded with heavy knapsacks, which contained many things then considered indispensable for their comfort, but which were afterwards discarded as useless. The camp equipage was cumbersome, and the transportation for a single regiment exceeded that which was later found sufficient for a brigade of four regiments. The men had not learned how to properly take care of themselves, and the result was the breaking down of many of them from disease. Many died, and many more were permanently disabled and discharged and their places filled by new recruits who had to pass through the same experience. This seasoning process was indeed severe, but the men who survived it were prepared to go through the seemingly incredible hardships which they afterwards encountered.

During this first campaign they had seen but little fighting, as no large bodies of the enemy were encountered, but they had a foretaste of nearly all the hardships to which they were subsequently subjected in the ordinary routine of camp life and marching. The supreme test of courage and fortitude upon the battlefield and -- for some of them -- that severest experience of all, confinement as prisoners of war, was yet to come. Yet, it must not be forgotten that the service rendered by the regiment in that summer, fall and winter in Missouri was very important in its results. The presence of the Union forces not only saved that State from being dominated by the rebels, but it also saved the State of Iowa from being invaded by them.

On the 7th day of March, 1862, the regiment was ordered to join the Army of Tennessee; and at once proceeded to St. Louis, where it embarked and was conveyed down the Mississippi to Cairo, and thence up the Ohio and Tennessee rivers to Pittsburg Landing, Tenn. While en route it was provided with new and improved arms and ammunition, and was thus better prepared to meet the enemy in actual conflict. On the 16th day of March, 1862, the regiment disembarked at Pittsburg Landing, and was assigned to the First Brigade of the Fifth Division. The division was commanded by the General W. T. Sherman, and Col. John A. McDowell of the Sixth Iowa was the senior Colonel in command of the brigade. The position of the regiment was on the extreme right of the army, while two of its companies were detached to defend the bridge crossing Owl Creek, some distance in advance of the regiment. When the rebel attack began on Sunday morning, April 6th, these two companies were in a greatly exposed position, and found much difficulty in rejoining the regiment, which they finally succeeded in doing, under the leadership of Captain Walden, in time to participate in the severest contest in which the regiment was engaged during the battle. There were but few regiments, on either side, in any battle of the war, whose loss in killed -- in proportion to the number engaged -- equaled that of the Sixth Iowa Infantry at Shiloh.

While Colonel McDowell was in command of the brigade in which his regiment fought on the first day of the battle, it was much of the time under his immediate observation, and at a most critical period, early in the engagement, he relieved Lieutenant Colonel Cummins from the command of the regiment, because that office had shown himself incapable of properly directing its movements, and placed Capt. Daniel Iseminger in command. This gallant officer was killed while nobly discharging his duty, and the command devolved upon Capt. John Williams, who was severely wounded just before the regiment took its last position on Sunday evening when Captain Walden assumed command.

While the Sixth Iowa Infantry fought gallantly in many subsequent battles, it is the opinion of the compiler of this sketch that it distinguished itself most greatly at Shiloh. He therefore feels justified in quoting the entire official report of its first and greatest battle:

Headquarters Sixth Iowa Infantry

Pittsburg Landing, Tenn., April 10, 1862

Colonel: Having assumed command of the regiment by your order, I have the honor to make the following official report of the Sixth Iowa Infantry during the recent engagement. On Sunday morning, when the attack was made on General Grant's center, the regiment was immediately brought into line of battle, and was then moved about fifty yards to the front, along the edge of the woods. Company I was thrown out as skirmishers, and companies E and G were moved to the left and front of our line to support a battery just placed there. We were in this position for more than two hours, when we were ordered to fall back to the rear of our camp on the Purdy road.

The battle at this time was raging fiercely in the center, and extending gradually to the right. The line was slowly yielding to a vastly superior force, and it now became evident that we must change our position, or be entirely cut off from the rest of the army. The regiment then marched by the left flank about six hundred yards, crossed an open field about one hundred and fifty yards wide, took a position in the edge of the woods, and formed a new line of battle, which was again succeeded by another line, nearly perpendicular to the former, the right resting close to the Purdy road. It was here Lieutenants Halliday and Grimes were wounded and carried from the field, thus preventing them from distinguishing themselves, as they undoubtedly would have done, had they been spared to take part in the desperate and severe struggle that soon ensued. It was here that companies D and K, on picket duty at Owl Creek, joined the regiment by a circuitous route, the enemy having already got between them and the regiment. The regiment did not remain here long, however, but moved by the left flank, in an easterly direction, about half a mile over a broken and open field, and again entered the woods. A new line was formed, and the regiment moved forward to meet the advancing foe.

The line of battle -- at this time diagonal to the enemy's -- was immediately changed to front them, and it was here that the regiment withstood a shower of leaden ball and bullets, which was now pouring upon it with deadly effect. Notwithstanding a vastly superior force, and with no support, the regiment gallantly maintained this position for more than two hours, and when it became apparent that no succor was coming to it, and after the enemy had turned our right flank, and began pouring a galling cross-fire upon it, the regiment was ordered to retire. It fell back in good order, and was assigned to the support of batteries near the river. At this stage of the battle, I was wounded and carried from the field. From authentic sources I learn, however, that the regiment, under Captain Walden, remained at the batteries all night.

The next day the regiment was not formed as a regiment, but a detachment under Lieutenants Minton and Allison was connected to an Illinois regiment, and the major portion, under Captain Walden, voluntarily joined Colonel Garfield's command, and participated in the engagement throughout the day, until the enemy fled in great confusion.

In regard to the bravery, coolness and intrepidity of both officers and men, too much cannot be said. Where all did so well to particularize, would seem invidious; suffice it to say, the officers, with one or two exceptions, are deserving of the highest praise. The men were at all times cool, and as free from fear or confusion as if they were on dress parade. The list of casualties, which I append below, fully attests the severity of the contest. The following is the number killed, wounded and missing in the two days' engagement:

Killed 64
Wounded 100
Missing 47
-----
Total 211

Total number engaged less than 650.

I have the honor to be,
yours respectfully,

John Williams,
Captain, Commanding Regiment.

Col. John A. McDowell,
Commanding First Brigade

Prominent among the killed were Capt. Daniel Iseminger of Company B and Capt. Richard E. White of company K, Sergeants David J. Hayes of Company C and Lorenzo D. Prather of Company G, and among the wounded, Capt. Fabrian Brydolf and Lieut. John H. Orman. The subjoined roster gives the names of all the killed and wounded, not only in this great battle, but in all the subsequent battles in which this splended regiment was engaged during its long service. In this brief historical sketch compiled from the official records, special mention can be given of but few of those who were killed and wounded, but, in the roster before referred to, the record is shown opposite each name, and it constitutes an extended roll of honor of those who died upon the field of battle, or those subsequently died from wounds received; of those who recovered, or partially recovered, from the effects of their wounds; of those who died (a sad and long list) in hospital, or were discharged therefrom, many of them so broken in health that they continued to suffer to the end of their days; of those who died in prison, and of those who endured that horrible experience and lived to return to their homes, many of them but physical wrecks, and another long list of those who lie buried in National Cemeteries, or in unknown graves throughout the South.

After the battle of Shiloh, the regiment participated in the operations insident to the advance upon and siege of Corinth, ending in the evacuation of that stronghold by the enemy May 30, 1862. In the meantime the following changes had occurred among the field officers: Maj. John M. Corse was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel to succeed Markoe Cummins who had been dismissed from service, and Capt. John Williams was promoted to Major. During June and the greater part of July, 1862, the regiment was engaged in important reconnoitering expeditions in Tennessee and Mississippi, and on July 24th reached Memphis, where it was stationed until November 17th, when it started on the expedition of which Vicksburg was the objective point, and participated in that campaign until General Grant was compelled to abandon the expedition on account of the capture of his supplies at Holly Springs, Miss.

The regiment was stationed at Grand Junction, Tenn. during the greater part of the winter of 1862-63, but during that time was engaged in several expeditions of more or less importance, but did not encounter the enemy in any considerable number. While it lost but few men in killed and wounded in this period of its service, it suffered the usual privations of winter's campaign, and its ranks were being constantly thinned by sickness, the inevitable result of such a life of exposure to the elements, for, when away from camp, either on the march or on the picket guard, the men had no protection against the cold and the storm, save that afforded by the army blanket. In the meantime, a number of changes have taken place among the commissioned officers: Major Williams had resigned in October; Capt. J. A. Miller had been promoted to Major. Colonel McDowell resigned in March and Lieut. Col. John M. Corse became Colonel of the regiment, and later on -- on March 14th -- Major Miller was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and Adjutant Thos. J. Ennis to Major. There had also been numerous changes among the line and non-commissioned officers, as shown in the subjoined roster. Early in June the regiment was transferred to a new field of operations in the vicinity of Vicksburg. On June 14th the regiment was attached to a division of the Ninth Army Corps, and was stationed at Haines Bluff on the Yazoo river at the time of the surrender of Vicksburg, July 4, 1863. Immediately after the surrender, it moved to Jackson, Miss., and participated in the siege operations there. Colonel Corse in his official report of the conduct of his regiment, during the advance upon and siege of Jackson, describes in detail the difficulties encountered throughout the entire march, during which the enemy slowly retreated, but subbornly contested every day with the advancing Union army, from the 5th to the 19th of July, when they sullenly withdrew within the strong line of works they had erected around the capital of the State, but leaving outposts to be encountered and overcome, before the main line of works could be approached.

On the 14th, 15th and 16th of July, the regiment made a continued reconnaissance in front of the enemy's works, which ended in a brilliant charge upon an outlying force of the enemy, and drove them from their advanced position. A brief extract from the official report of Colonel Corse will show how gallantly the officers and men of the Sixth Iowa fought on these occasions:

My regiment had been deployed as skirmishers, to cover the front of the division, and I was directed to connect the line on the left of the railroad with that on the right, and to take charge of the skirmishers; that the several brigades would support me to push up the line of the Jackson and Canton railroad, keeping he line at right angles with that road. In accordance with my orders, I moved the line until the enemy made a stand on our left, when I massed companies D and F, and charged them, driving them through the woods into their own works. They then set fire to several buildings, to prevent our attacking their works. Having gained a good position on the left, I halted until the right should come up, as we had separated in making the charge. I found the right had been halted by order or Colonel Sanford, and connecting the two lines by pickets, we lay in that position till morning, when we received orders to advance. Changing direction to the left, the men moved under a very sharp fire, until I found it impossible to dislodge the rebels in front of our center, without massing the skirmishers and charging again. Companies K, E and B were put in line, and with a yell, and bayonets fixed, they drove the rebels out of the ditch they had held, killing and wounding quite a number. The ground gained was held, and after forty hours of most arduous labor the regiment was relieved by another line.

On the morning of the 16th, Major General Parke directed me to assume command of the skirmishers, and push them so as to feel strongly the enemy's line at every point in our immediate front. I assumed command of the line formed by the Sixth Iowa, supported by Sanford's brigade. At the designated signal, the line pressed forward, capturing some prisoners, killing quite a number, clearing the forest, railroad, fences and cornfields in their front, and driving the enemy into their works. Arriving about one hundred yards from their main works, a battery of siege guns enfilading our line, and a battery of howitzers in our immediate front, commenced a heavy fire. The latter, I saw, was supported by three regiments of infantry. After becoming convinced that the works at this point were too strong to be captured by direct assault, and that I had all the information the General desired from this reconnaissance, I ordered the men to fall back to the woods, which they did in good order. Here they remained until the next morning when the line entered the place.

Colonel Corse makes special mention in this report of the conduct of Major Miller and Adjutant Ennis, Captains Minton and Bashore and Lieutenant Holmes, and adds: "No officer of my command but in some way has rendered himself worthy of honorable mention, in some of the affairs, during our advance upon Jackson."

The loss of the regiment during these operations was 70 officers and men, killed and wounded. The following congratulatory order was issued by the Division Commander:

Headquarters First Division 16th A. C. In Front of Jackson, Miss., July 16, 1863

Colonel Corse, Commanding Sixth Iowa Infantry:

The valor of your noble regiment has been conspicuous, even amidst the universal good conduct that has marked the operations of all the troops of the First Division, during our advance upon Jackson, and since our arrival here.

I cannot too highly commend the gallantry you have displayed in two successful charges you have made. The true heart swells with emotions of pride in contemplating the heroism of those who, in their country's cause, charge forward under the iron hail of half a dozen rebel batteries, and, exposed to a murderous fire of musketry, from behind strong intrenchments, capture prisoners under their very guns.

Such has been the glorious conduct of the Sixth Iowa this morning, and those who shared your dangers, and emulate your valor, will join me in tendering to you, and the brave men under your command, my warmest thanks and most hearty congratulations.

Most truly yours,

Wm. Sooy Smith
Brig. Gen. Comd'g 1st Div.
16th Army Corps

Soon after the close of this campaign, the regiment was assigned to the Second Brigade, Fourth Division, Fifteenth Army Corps. The gallant Colonel Corse was promoted to Brigadier General August 11, 1863. In the memorable campaign which began with the march of Sherman to Chattanooga, the Sixth Iowa bore its full share, and in the battle of Missionary Ridge again fought heroically, as the long list of its killed and wounded so eloquently attests. Up that steep and strongly intrenched hill they climbed, under the command of their former Colonel, now Brigadier General, Corse, and led by Lieutenant Colonel Miller. The enemy stubbornly resisted every foot of the way, but slowly and steadily these gallant sons of Iowa continued to climb upward in the face of the death-dealing missiles of their brave and stubborn foe, until at last the crest was gained, and the battle won. The gallant General Corse was severely wounded. Among the killed of the Sixth Iowa was Capt. Robert Allison, and among its wounded were Maj. T. J. Ennis, Captains Calvin Vinton, Leander C. Allison and George R. Nunn.

The next conspicuous service of the regiment, which again put to the severest test its fortitude and endurance, was that December march, under the indomitable Sherman, to the relief of Burnside's starving troops at Knoxville, so graphically described by General Sherman in the following brief extract from his report:

Seven days before, we had left our camps on the other side of the Tennessee River, with but two days' rations, stripped for the fight, with but a single blanket or coat to the man, from myself to the private. We had no provisions, save what we gathered from the roadside; but we knew that 12,000 of our comrades were beleagured in Knoxsville, eighty-four miles distant, and must have relief within three days. This was enough; it had to be done.

And it was done. The roads were obstructed, and the advance of the Union troops delayed as much as possible, but the enemy finally yielded to the inevitable, and the siege was abandoned before Sherman's advance reached Knoxville.

The Sixth Iowa now had a season of rest at Scottsboro, Ala., during the winter of 1864. It was there that a large number of its men re-enlisted under the provisions of the order creating Veteran Volunteer organizations, and the regiment was afterwards known as the the Sixth Iowa Veteran Infantry. The veterans received a furlough for thirty days, and on the 27th of April re-assembled at Davenport, Iowa, and proceeded to Chattanooga, Tenn., and, upon its arrival there, the re-united regiment entered upon the great campaign which ended in the fall of Atlanta and the march to the sea. During this campaign the regiment was again a part of the Second Brigade, Fourth Division, Fifteenth Army Corps. It was actively engaged in all the movements of its brigade, and divisions. It fought at Dallas, Big Shanty, Atlanta, and had numerous other encounters with the enemy, in the trenches and on the skirmish line, in all of which it displayed the same heroic courage that had distinguished it in other campaigns and on other battlefields.

At Dallas, Colonel Miller was wounded, and Major Ennis succeeded him in command. There also fell Adjutant Newby Chase, mortally wounded. At Big Shanty, Acting Adjutant Lieut. John S. Grimes was killed. At Atlanta, the gallant Major Ennis was killed, and Capt. W. H. Clune was left in command. One hundred fifty-nine killed and wounded showed how the regiment had fought during this campaign, at the close of which, decimated to less than two full companies of men capable for duty, it enjoyed a brief season of rest, and then participated in the ever memorable march with Sherman to the sea, and in several notable engagements connected with that march, and that through the Carolinas, in both of which its ranks were still further depleted by an aggregate loss of five killed and twenty-seven wounded, and when it reached Washington, and took its place in line for the grand review, it was but a shattered remnant of a once powerful military organization; but, among all the troops that participated in that splended pageant, none bore themselves more proudly than the old Sixth Iowa Infantry. That gifted author and journalist, L. D. Ingersoll, in describing the scene said: "It was my fortune to witness the magnificent spectacle, and I shall never forget the emotions of pleasure with which I heard the shout of applause that greeted this thinned regiment, as it wheeled into Fifteenth street, in front of the grand colonade of the Treasury Department. Its colors were torn into shreds, its number was small, but the men marched with a free, steady step, and that elastic spring which only belongs to veteran troops."

Later on, the regiment proceeded to Louisville, Ky., where it was mustered out of service July 21, 1865. It was then sent to Davenport, Iowa, where it was disbanded, and the men returned to their homes.

The military records of the State of Iowa, and of the War Department in Washington, showing the details of the long service performed by this regiment, would, if transcribed in full, fill a large volume. This would also be true as to all the other Iowa organizations with an equally long record of service. It has been the difficult duty of the compiler of these historical sketches to give, in a condensed form, the leading and most important events in the history of Iowa regiments.

Among all the splendid organizations which Iowa sent into the field, none made a more heroic record than the Sixth Iowa Infantry. The descendants of the men who made this glorious chapter in the military history of their State may justly claim as proud a heritage as was ever transmitted by brave, unselfish and noble patriots to their posterity. In thus providing for the permanent preservation of these priceless records, the Commonwealth of Iowa has discharged a high duty to its loyal and liberty loving citizens of this and coming generations.

SUMMARY OF CASUALTIES

Total enrollment....................................1221
Killed.............................................. 109
Wounded............................................. 353
Died of wounds......................................  31
Died of disease..................................... 126
Discharged for wounds, disease and other causes..... 295
Captured............................................  50
Buried in National Cemeteries....................... 110
Transferred.........................................   8

Transcribed by Linda Suarez
from the Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers, Vol. I

1998, 1999 by Linda Suarez solely for the use and benefit of
The IAGenWeb Project, a part of The USGenWeb Project
Background & Civil War Button Graphics 1998 by Sue Soden