Our thanks to Jolene K. Osmun of Osseo, Michigan, who called my attention to the Fourth Regiment Iowa Volunteer Cavalry and so graciously sent me the information she had making these pages possible.

Pages 640-644

Pages 640


The Fourth Regiment of Iowa Cavalry was organized under the proclamation ofPresident Lincoln, dated July 23, 1861. The original roster of the regiment shows that the twelve companies of which it was composed were ordered into quarters by Governor Kirkwood, on dates ranging from August 25 to November 2, 1861. The place of rendezvous designated in the order was Mount Pleasant, Iowa, where the companies were mustered into the service of the United States by Captain Alexander Chambers, of the United States Army, on dates ranging from November 23, 1861, to January 1, 1862.(1) Most of these companies had perfected their organization and were awaiting assignment when the Governor's order was issued, but some of them had only an incipient organization at the that time, hence the disparity in the dates upon which they were mustered into the service. Upon the date of the muster of the last company, the regiment numbered 1,086 men and officers. The camp was named "Camp Harlan," in honor of the distinguished Senator from Iowa, whose home was in Mount Pleasant. Barracks were erected for the use of the men and officers and stable for the horses.

The subjoined roster gives the names of the field, staff and line officers, as well as that of each enlisted man, at the time the organization was completed and, opposite the name of each, appears his personal record of service. In so far as the same could be found by a careful search of the official records. However, it is there than possible that, in some instances, individual records may be found to be incomplete or incorrect. In such cases the fault must be charged to the official records, and inability to obtain fuller information from the War Department, at Washington, and not to those who made the transcripts. A painstaking effort was made some years ago by William F. Scott, late Adjutant of the Fourth Iowa Cavalry, to compile a correct roster and record of the regiment(2). In his preface to the work, Adjutant Scott says: "The history given is that of the original records, supplemented by papers of my own and of other officers and soldiers, all verified with much care." But the great number of errors and contradictions found and traced in explanation makes it probable that many others remain hidden. I can only say that the work is as nearly correct as it could well be made, and certainly more nearly correct than the official records.

While this compilation, like that of every other Iowa military organization embraced in this work, is made from the official records, the completed roster has been carefully compared with that to which reference has been made, for the purpose of verification and the clearing up of records which would otherwise have remained more or less obscure and incomplete. The Fourth Iowa Cavalry is more fortunate in this regard than any other Iowa regiment, the history referred to being contained in a large volume of over six hundred pages and describing with great particularity all the movements and operations of the regiment during its long term of service. The compiler of this historical sketch is confronted with the difficult task of condensation and cannot therefore attempt to include in this brief history anything more than the outlines of the most important events connected with the service of the regiment, but in the arrangement of the roster which follows, he hopes and believes the chief merits of the work will be found.

Only a few of the officers and men of the regiment had the benefit of previous military training or experience. Colonel A. E. Porter, Major George A. Stone and Adjutant George W. Waldron had been officers in the First Iowa Infantry and had fought in the battle of Wilson's Creek, as had also a number of the enlisted men of the different companies; but this experience, except in so far as having been under fire was of benefit to them, availed but little because they had no knowledge of the duties of cavalry soldiers. Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Drummond(3) was the notable exception in this regard, he having been a lieutenant in the Fifth United States Cavalry. Upon joining the regiment, he became its instructor in tactics and discipline. He was a man of excellent ability, but somewhat imperious in his manner and bearing, and perhaps ever zealous in his efforts to bring the regiment up to a state of efficiency in drill and discipline before it was called upon to take the field The regiment remained at Camp Harlan until the latter part of February, when it was transported by rail to St. Louisa and thence to Benton Barracks. Horses of an excellent quality had been supplied before leaving Iowa, but the regiment was otherwise only partially equipped when it reached Benton Barracks. There its equipment was completed, but the quality of arms with which it was at first supplied was poor. It was a long time before a better quality of arms could be furnished.

On the 10th of March, 1862, Colonel Porter received orders to move his regiment by rail to Rolla, Mo. Upon its arrival there, a detail of forty men under command of First Lieutenant John Gurlee, of Company A, was sent to guard a party of paymasters going to pay the troops of the Army of the Southwest. The detachment was joined by a larger force of cavalry at Lebanon and successfully performed its duty as escort, reaching the army at Pea Ridge on March 26th, and then countermarched to Springfield, where it awaited the arrival of the regiment. The regiment marched from Rolla to Springfield and went into camp there, where it remained about three weeks. On April 14th the regiment marched south and, on the 16th, joined the army under General Curtis, at Forsyth. On April 19th, a scouting detachment of the regiment under command of Lieutenant William A. Heacock, came into conflict with a party of the enemy at Talbot's Ferry, Ark., and, in the skirmish which ensued, Lieutenant Heacock, was killed--the first man of the regiment to meet death at the hands of the enemy. The army moved eastward to West Plains. There was much sickness in the regiment, and there were a number of deaths, while others became incapacitated for further duty and were subsequently discharged. It was the usual experience of raw regiments in the field. The hardships and exposure to which the men were subjected caused more deaths and disabled more men than the conflicts with the enemy. From West Plains the army moved to Batesville, the cavalry scouting the country on the flanks and rear. On June 3d, Company C under command of Captain Porter, came into contact with a force of rebel cavalry and, in the skirmish, Corporals Bucher and Browning were wounded, and with Private Murdock captured. They were confined at Little Rock until August, when they were exchanged.

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On June 24th, the army took up the line of march for Helena, Company F, of the Fourth Iowa Cavalry, under command of Captain Winslow, had been detached from the regiment about the middle of May and was acting under the orders of Captain Banning, the Chief Commissary of hte army, who was actively employed in gathering provisions from the surrounding country and in guarding the commissary trains and the mills which were grinding grain into flour and meal for the use of the army. Captain Winslow's company captured a steamboat loaded with sugar and molasses. The company also brought in about one hundred wagons loaded with provisions. Thus far, his company had sustained no casualties in making these important captures, but, on the 7th of June, it came late contact with a party of rebels and Corporal John G. Carson was mortally wounded. On the 14th of July, twelve men of Captain Winslow's company were foraging under command of Sergeant Cartlin. While loading their wagons at Gist's plantation, twenty miles from Helena, they were attacked by a force of one hundred rebel cavalry. Curtiss lost one man killed and five wounded from his little detachment. The wounded men were captured. Captain Winslow, hearing the firing, galloped with the rest of the company to the rescue, overtook and attacked the rebels and recaptured one of the wounded and all of the wagons. The wounded prisoners were subsequently paroled.

The movement of the army was very slow, owing to the intense heat, the necessity for constant foraging to obtain provisions, the large number of sick in wagons and ambulances, and the blocking of the roads by the enemy placing obstructions which it too, much time to remove. There was also considerable fighting by the troops which led the advance. The Fourth Iowa Cavalry was assigned to the rear guard. Finally, the long march and the end of the campaign was reached when the army arrived at Helena, July 12, 1863.

The regiment remained in camp at Helena, for over eight months. During this period, it was engaged in scouting the surrounding country, watching the movements of the enemy and guarding the approaches to that important post, which was many times threatened with attack.. The troops composing the defensive force at Helena consisted of three regiments of infantry, one battery, and the Fourth Iowa Cavalry, all under the command of Colonel William Vandever of the Ninth Iowa Infantry, an able officer who had won distinction at the battle of Pea Ridge, Company F, under command of Captain Winslow, was assigned to special service as provost guards and other duties at headquarters in the town, and did not rejoin the regiment until it left Helena. The camp of the Fourth Iowa Cavalry was outside the town, about four miles on the Little Rock

road, constituting an outpost for the defensive works and the garrison, hence its duties were of the utmost importance, as it would be the first to meet the enemy in case of an attack in force. The most constant vigilance was therefore necessary, and was maintained. The details for picket duty each day were heavy and scouting parties were sent out in advance of the picket lines to guard against the possibility of a surprise. Small scouting parties of the enemy were observed from time to time, but no conflict which involved loss to the regiment occurred until September 20th when a detail of eight men, of Company D, met a superior force of the enemy and, in the fighting which ensued, the detachment lost one man killed, one wounded and three captured, the remaining four, escaping returned to camp and a detachment was at once sent in pursuit of the rebel, but did not succeed in overtaking them. On September 30th, two men, of Company M, were captured. Three men, and those captured on the 20th, were exchanged and returned to the regiment in November, 1862.

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About the 1st of October, General Vandever and his infantry troops left Hebron, and a considerably smaller force was sent to succeed them as a garrison for the post. The camp of the Fourth Iowa Cavalry was then moved two miles nearer Helena, on the Little Rock road, and two other cavalry regiments--the Ninth Illinois and the Fifth Kansas--were encamped with them. On

the morning of the 11th of October, a detachment of fifty men of the Fourth Iowa was sent out on a scout, under the command of Major Rector, and proceeded about fifteen miles without meeting the enemy, but late in the afternoon, when marching through a lane, within three miles of camp, it was suddenly attacked from the rear by a superior force of rebels. Although placed at a great disadvantage--his men being thrown into confusion by the sudden and unexpected attack--the gallant Major Rector succeeded in rallying his men and resisted the attack in his front, but a portion of the enemy had made a detour and, coming from the opposite direction; the detachment found itself attacked from all sides and was compelled to cut its way out, which it did after losing twenty-one of its number in killed, wounded and captured. Major Rector was among the captured. Lieutenant George B. Parsons, of Company B, had also been sent on a scout with forty of his company the same morning, and was returning to camp when he heard the firing of the enemy's and Major Rector's men, and, moving promptly to the place where the fighting was going on, he boldly charged the enemy, killing and wounding a number of them and capturing twelve prisoners, among whom was Lieutenant Colonel Giddings of the Twenty-First Texas Cavalry, who was in command of the rebel force. In this charge, Lieutenant Parsons lost two men captured and four wounded, and was himself wounded. The regiment went in pursuit of the rebels, but did not overtake them. The captured men were paroled and returned to the regiment and a couple of months later, were exchanged and restored to duty. Lieutenant Parsons was very highly commended for his prompt action and the personal gallantry he displayed in the engagement. He was subsequently promoted to Captain of his company.

On the 8th of November, captain John H. Peters of Company H, with a detachment of 190(?) Men from different companies of the regiment, was leading the advance of a column of 600 cavalry, which was part of a reconnoitering expedition under command of Colonel Vandever, when he received orders to charge a force of rebels who held the road upon which the column was marching. He promptly charged the enemy who fled after but slight resistance. His loss in the charge was ? Men wounded. Later on, the same day, his detachment ws suddenly attacked by a larger force of the enemy. Captain Peters promptly charged again, this time losing 19 wounded. Among those wounded in their charge were Captain Peters, Lieutenants Beckwith, Tucker, Fitch and Groenbeck and Corporal Charles W. Sisson, who subsequently died from the effect of his wound. The enemy's loss in these two engagements was 17 killed, 14 captured and many wounded, the total number not known. Captain Peters and his command were highly commended for their gallantry. Two officers--a Major and a Captain were among the prisoners captured from the enemy.

On the 19th of November the regiment started, from Helena, with the cavalry force under the command of Colonel Bussey of the Third Iowa Cavalry, which was to co-operate with the infantry under General A.P. Hovey, in an expedition having for its object the capture of Arkansas Post--a strong and important rebel fortification on the Arkansas River. The troops suffered very great hardships upon this expedition which was finally abandoned on account of the impassable condition of the roads, and-- on account of low water--the failure of the transports which carried the infantry to proceed to the point where the two forces were to have joined. On the 25th of November the troops reached Helena, on their return from this unfortunate march. On hte next day after its return, the regiment was ordered to march with another expeditionary force, under General A.P.Hovey. This force landed at Friars' Point, Miss., a few miles below Helena and marched toward Grenada, the cavalry keeping well in advance. Destroying a considerable amount of railroad track near Coffeeville, it moved on to Panola and destroyed the railroad at and near that place thus inflicting great damage upon the enemy's line of transportation. Many horses were also captured and several hundred negro men returned with the expedition and were afterwards enlisted in one of the colored regiments whose organization was authorized about that time. The entire march occupied but seven days. Upon its return to Helena, the camp of the regiment was moved near the river to a low and unhealthy situation, resulting in much sickness which proved fatal to many. Among those, who died there were Major Benjamin Rector and Captain Thomas C. Tullis. The reason for the change in location of camps was the necessity for contracting the lines nearer the post on account of the smaller garrison then occupying it but the danger from attack by the enemy was not so great as that incurred from disease and after much insistence, the commanding officer of the post permitted the regiment to move its camp to higher ground much farther away from the fortifications. The result of the change was soon apparent in a decreasing sick list. This reduction of the force imposed heavy work upon the cavalry, from whose camps, at some distance from the town, all the advanced picket posts and details for scouting were furnished.

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On the 8th of March, a detachment of the regiment, under command of Major Spearman, had a skirmish with the enemy at Big Creek, ten miles west of Helena, in which private Benoni F. Kellogg, of Company L, was killed. Early in April, a detachment of the Fourth Iowa Cavalry, under command of Major Winslow, participated in an expedition against a force of rebels encamped at Wittsburg, on the St. Francis River, about one hundred miles north west from Helena. On the 8th of April the enemy was encountered near Wittsburg and after a brief but hard fought engagement was defeated. The loss of the Fourth Iowa Cavalry in this fight was one man killed and seven wounded, all of Company L, which was at the front and charged the enemy who made the attack from ambush after dark. This was the last fighting in which any of the regiment took part during the remainder of its stay at Helena.

On the 29th of April 1863, the Fourth Iowa Cavalry--Lieutenant Colonel Swan in command-embarked on steamboats at Helena and, on the next day landed at Milliken's Bend. From the 30th day of April to the close of the Vicksburg campaign, on the 16th of July, the regiment performed very active and arduous service. Only a brief description can be given of its most important operations during this remarkable period in the history of the war. During the investment of Vicksburg the movements of eh regiment covered the country in the rear of that stronghold, embracing the territory between the Big Black, the Mississippi and the Yazoo Rivers. Its principal encounters with the enemy were as follows:

On the morning of May 12th, the Second Battalion, under command of Major Winslow, while leading the advance of Sherman's column was engaged in a skirmish with the enemy in which it lost one man killed; three men wounded, and four horses killed. Major Winslow's horse was killed and he barely escaped being killed by being caught under the horse as it fell. It was here that Major Winslow first came under the observation of General Sherman who had ridden to the front, and was a personal witness of the gallant conduct of the Major and his battalion. The next engagements were on May 13th and 14th when the Fourth Iowa cavalry under the personal direction of General Sherman, engaged in successful flanking movements, which caused the enemy to retreat in and through te city of Jackson and resulted in the capture of the city, with a loss to the enemy of 345 killed, wounded and captured, while the loss in General Sherman's army was 42 killed and 258 wounded.(4)

On the 14th of May the Fourth Iowa Cavalry marched from Jackson in the rear of General Sherman's army. It was held within sight of the battle of Champion's Hill; awaiting orders, but did not become engaged. It was sent upon a reconnaissance to Brownsville the next day and had a slight skirmish with the enemy's cavalry yet suffered no casualties, the enemy retreating rapidly through the village. The regiment returned to the rear of the army.



1. Report of the Adjutant General of Iowa, 1863, Vol 2, pages 509 to 544 inclusive

2. Roster of the Fourth Iowa Veteran Volunteer Cavalry--1861-1865. An appendix to "The Story of a Cavalry Regiment", by William Force Scott; New York; Press J. J. Little & Co. 1902

3. Lieutenant Colonel Drummond went into the field with the regiment, but after a few months, resigned, and returned to his position in the Fifth United States Cavalry. He was killed while gallantly leading his men into battle in a charge at Five Forks, April 1, 1865.

4. Report of the Adjutant General, 1864, page 512

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