Fourth Regiment Iowa Volunteer Cavalry

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On the 11th of May, Lieutenant Colonel Swan was ordered to move rapidly in the direction of Hayses Bluff and reconnoiter that fortified position for the purpose of ascertaining whether it was still occupied by the enemy. Early in the afternoon, the advance guard of the regiment came within sight of works, and continued to advance cautiously, but not encountering opposition. Captain Peters with his company was ordered to move forward for closer observation and meeting with no enemy, he rode into the fort and found but twenty of the enemy, who surrendered without resistance.

The strongly fortified position had been hastily evacuated. Captain Peters at once got into communication with Admiral Porter, whose fleet of gunboats was lying in the Yazoo River, below, out of range of the guns of the fort, and a detachment of marines was landed, under command of Lieutenant Walker, to whom Captain Peters turned over the fort and prisoners. Captain Peters moved on to the fortification at Snyder's Bluff, which he found had also been abandoned by the enemy.. That night the regiment bivouacked in the rear of McPherson's Corps and remained in that temporary camp for several days, sending out scouting and reconnoitering detachments to observe the movements of the enemy. The camp was afterwards moved to a fine location in the rear of General Sherman's position. The effective force of the regiment was constantly drawn upon for scouting duty and most of the men and officers were in the saddle during the day and many times far into the night. This incessant service told severely upon both men and horses, and the effective strength of the regiment became fearfully reduced as the days wore on, both men and horses breaking down when the limit of physical endurance was reached. In the performance of these duties several conflicts with the Army occurred.

On the 24th of May, near Mechanicsville, a large detachment of the regiment under Major Parkell, joined with detachments of other cavalry; all under command of Lieutenant Colonel Swan met a similar force of the enemy and, in the skirmish, the fourth Iowa had one man wounded and one horse killed. On May 29th near the same place. Major Parkell, in command of all of the effective force of the regiment, had quite a serious engagement with the enemy, in which he had one officer and six men wounded. Major Winslow, whose battalion ws supporting the artillery, was wounded in the leg by a piece of shell, and though he continued on duty, suffered from the wound for many months. On the 22nd of June, a detachment of the regiment composed of 30 men each from companies A, F, I, and K, 120 men and officers under command of Major Parkell was sent to blockade the road near the Bear Creek ford, by falling trees, and then delay the expected advance of the enemy. While engaged in this work, the pickets which had been posted were attacked and those who were not killed, wounded or captured were rapidly driven in. And Major Parkell found himself and his small command confronted with an overpowering force of the enemy. He made a most gallant resistance but his valor and that of his men and officers could not prevail against such tremendous odds; and he was compelled to retreat, with a loss of more than one-half of the detachment. The pursuit was not long continued. The commanding officer of the rebel force, naturally expecting that reinforcements would be encountered soon halted and retreated with his prisoners. The loss of Major Parkell's detachment was 8 killed, 17 wounded, and 36 captured. The enemy left 15 men dead upon the field and one officer, a Major, mortally wounded, who evidently was supposed to be killed, as they carried off the rest of their wounded. Their total loss could not, therefore, be ascertained, but it no doubt reached if it did not exceed that of the Fourth Cavalry, except in prisoners. Upon learning of the attack, the remainder of the regiment was quickly mounted and hurried to the relief of their comrades, but was not able to overtake the rebels before they had reached the lines of their own army. The division commander was justly criticized for sending so small a force so far in advance of the Union Lines, without adequate support being provided in case of attack. Lieutenant Joshua Gardner and Sergeant William T. Biggs died from the effect of wounds received in this engagement. All of the captured were exchanged and returned to the regiment in October, except Lieutenant William J. McConnelle, who remained in prison a long time and was finally exchanged and discharged without returning to the regiment, and Private James A. Livingston , who was reported to have died of his wounds in prison.

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On the 20th of June 1863, Major Winslow was promoted to Colonel of the regiment, succeeding Colonel Porter who had resigned on account of ill health. Upon assuming command of the regiment, Colonel Winslow proceeded with great energy to improve the condition in the manner of more strict enforcement of discipline and in other respects. He had secured the confidence and respect of the men and officers, and his efforts to improve upon the methods of those who had preceded him in command of the regiment were appreciated by all. They were now thoroughly seasoned soldiers and comprehended the absolute necessity for a more strict and impartial enforcement of discipline. Had this feeling been shown at an earlier period, Lieutenant Colonel Drummond would most likely not have resigned on account of the difference of opinion between Colonel Porter and himself as to the proper discharge of the duties of the commander of the regiment. The experience of the Fourth Iowa Cavalry was not greatly unlike that of other volunteer organizations. It generally took a long time for the men to discover that implicit obedience to orders constitute the first duties of a soldier, and also to discover those among their officers who were best fitted not only to command them in time of battle, but in best care of them upon the march, in camp and under all conditions of the service. For this reason the early commanders of regiments met with greater difficulties than those who succeeded them and they were often subjected to unjust criticism--at least this was true with reference to a majority of them.

Immediately after the surrender of Vicksburg, on the 4th of July, 1863, General Sherman's army moved against the rebel army, commanded by General Johnston. On the morning of July 5th , Sherman's infantry were upon the march towards Jackson. A cavalry brigade, composed of the Third and Fourth Iowa, Second Wisconsin, and Fifth Illinois under command of Colonel Cyrus Bussey, of the Third Iowa, crossed the Big Black River at Messinger's Ferry, and at once took the advance of the army on the road to Jackson. From the morning of the 6th to the 11th of July, Colonel Bussey's command was constantly at the front, had numerous skirmishes with the enemy and rendered valuable assistance to General Sherman in driving the rebel army into its entrenchments at Jackson and in subsequent operation during the short siege which followed ending in the evacuation of the works, by Johnston, on July 17th and his retreat

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across Pearl River. While the siege was in progress, Bussey's cavalry had been active, and, in obedience of orders, from General Sherman, proceeded to destroy a portion of the railroad, immediately in the north of Jackson, then marched towards Canton, twenty five miles farther in the north, in conjunction with a force of infantry and artillery, engaged the enemy, driving him into Canton on the night of July 17th. That night, the enemy evacuated Canton, and the next morning Colonel Bussey marched into town with his command, and proceeded to destroy factories and machine shops which had been engaged in the manufacture of equipments for the rebel army, also, cars and locomotives, which had been used by the rebels in transporting supplies for their army. Immediately after entering Canton, Colonel Bussey had ordered the Fourth Iowa Cavalry to march rapidly to the Big Black River and destroy the long railroad bridge and a mile of trestle work together with the railroad property at Way's Bluff. The regiment promptly executed this order, meeting with no resistence from the enemy, and rejoined the command that night. Colonel Bussey then marched from Canton to Messinger's Ferry and went into camp. The Fourth Iowa Cavalry's camp was located on the Flowers Plantation, a beautiful place surrounded by a luxuriant growth of trees, shrubs, and flowers, where it remained about three months. Notwithstanding the beauty of the location, the semi-tropic climate was unhealthful to these men who had been reared in the north and there was much sickness in the regiment.

Upon his return from Jackson, General Sherman had established his headquarters about a mile , north of the camp of the Fourth Iowa Cavalry, and an acquaintance was formed between the General and Colonel Winslow, which grew into a warm friendship. From the day (May 12th, 1863) that General Sherman had been a witness to the gallantry and coolness of Winslow under the fire of the enemy and the skill with which he handled his men, he had kept him in mind as an officer who would deserve promotion. Closer observation had confirmed the General's first estimate and he determined to organize an Independent Cavalry Brigade and to place Colonel Winslow in command of it. General Sherman had planned an important and a hazardous expedition, the successful execution of which would inflict heavy damage upon the enemy, but require the exercise of great skill and good judgment on the part of the officer, who would be selected to command it. General Grant approved the plan, leaving all the details for the execution of it to be arranged by General Sherman. In his letter of instructions to Colonel Winslow, General Sherman states that there is a large amount of railing stock-- 70 locomotives and 500 (?)cars --on the Great Central Railroad between and at Water Valley and Granada to be moved, if possible, to and above Granada and thence to Memphis. He also states that General Grant had ordered that a Cavalry force to proceed from Memphis to Grenada and to cooperate with the force under Colonel Winslow in carrying out these instructions. In an expedition of this kind, it was, of course, necessary to invest in the commanding officer the authority to act upon his own judgment, but he was to carry out his instructions, in so far as it was possible to do so, and to use his own discretion as circumstances should require. The official report of Colonel Winslow shows that his instructions were strictly complied with, except in the matter(1) of getting the railing stock into Memphis which turned out to be impossible. The operations of the regiment and brigade during the expedition are fully described, and with that particular clarity of detail characteristic of Colonel Winslow's reports. The compiler regrets that limitation of space will not permit the insertion of the entire report in this sketch.

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The following extracts will, however, serve to show the indomitable will of the commander, and the bravery, and good discipline of his officers and men, some of the difficulties encountered and overcome, and the important results achieved.

In accordance with instructions, the forces under my command, consisting of the Third Iowa, Fourth Iowa, and Fifth Illinois Cavalry regiments, eight hundred men left camp on Big Black River at 8 o'clock a.m. on the 10th inst....reached Yazoo City at 8 o'clock on the 12th inst. The gunboats, transports and troops had left this place early on the 11th inst.(2) After waiting in bivouax until the morning of the 11th inst., I decided in opposition to the voices of the officers commanding regiments to rush forward without further delay....We bivouacked at 10 p.m. on Harlan's Creek thirty miles from Yazoo City and eight miles from Lexington. Entered Lexington, where the Third Iowa, Major Noble and Lieutenant Jones, A.A.C.S. was left to procure rations, while the main force pushed forward to Durant And captured at noon a train of cars just from Grenada. Captain Peters was immediately placed in charge of the engine and proceeded five miles below Durant and burned a bridge on the track. I learned that there was one engine and about ten cars, also that the railroad bridge over Big Black River had just been repaired, the captured train being the first one ordered over it. Resting until 4 o'clock P. M. when the Third Iowa came up the columns moved to West Station going into bivouac at 11 P.M. twenty four miles by way of Durant and twenty miles direct from Lexington. At this point, some cars and engines were found and with the train from Durant forwarded to Tilden--twelve miles--arriving at 11 o'clock 14th inst. when the Cavalry was delayed until 6 P.M. to make up trains. Reaching Winona---twelve miles---at daybreak on the 17th, it was found that the enemy, which now appeared in front, had destroyed a small bridge above town. I therefore, decided to leave the trains, now comprising thirteen engines and sixty cars, and pushed forward into Grenada, where I heard some force of the enemy were posted. I caused to be burned a bridge below West Station, one below Vaiden, and two below and near Winona that the trains might not be carried off if we should be forced to abandon them temporarily. Under my instructions, I intended to return-to Winona - and run them into Grenada. I found Lieutenant Colonel Phillips, Ninth Illinois Mounted Infantry, with two brigades--fifteen hundred men.

Upon learning of the approach of Colonel Phillips command, the rebel forces, stationed at Grenada, had burned two bridges north of that place, thus making it impossible to get the locomotives and cars beyond that point. Those at Grenada were, therefore, destroyed, while those left north of that place were abandoned. Colonel Winslow then assumed command of all of the Union forces and proceeded on the march to Memphis on the 23rd of August, 1863 having marched 265 miles. The total casualties were 11 men killed and wounded. The loss of the enemy in killed and wounded was not definitely ascertained, but 56 of their number were captured and paroled. During this expedition, the Fourth Iowa Cavalry was commanded by Major Paskill.



1. Report of the Adjutant General of Iowa, 1865, pages 1315 to 1317

2. According to his instructions, Colonel Winslow was to have secured supplies at Yazoo City from the Commissary of the Union troops stationed there. His failure in so compelled him either to return to Vicksburg for supplies or to continue his march and take the chances of procuring supplies for his men as well as forage for his horses, from the country at the time of his march. He boldly decided on the latter course, in opposition to the judgment of his officers.

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