Fourth Regiment Iowa Volunteer Cavalry
General Sherman highly commended Colonel Winslow for his successful
management of the expedition, in a personal letter, from which the following
extracts are taken:
"You did exactly as you were ordered and acted perfectly right..
I wish now I had ordered you to destroy all cars instead of attempting
to save them, but my instructions were based on General Grant's wishes
as conveyed to me in person...I now assure you of my great respect..I esteem
you highly as A most promising cavalry officer, and only ask you , ---
find yourself to obey orders, and when left to your discretion to do just
what your judgment suggests. Only remember that boldness and dash are the
characteristics of good cavalry...I will watch your progress always and
wish you to consider me your friend and to call on me freely when you will..."
Among the notable incidents in the history of the regiment was the capture and escape of Private Charles H. Smith, of Company C, afterwards promoted to Sixth Sergeant and, later, to Second Lieutenant of his company. Smith was captured August 12, 1863 near Grenada, Miss. He escaped in the night by eluding the vigilance of his guards and after securing the horse of their captain, rode two hundred miles, mostly by night, and after many thrilling adventures, in several of which he came very near being recaptured, succeeded in reaching the camp of the Second Iowa Cavalry at LaGrange, Tenn, and a few days later, rode the noble horse, which had carried him through so many perils, in to the camp of his own regiment at Memphis.
On the 29th of August 1863, the regiment with its brigade embarked for Vicksburg where it arrived on the 31st and again went into camp. On the 26th of September, General Sherman issued a General Order, from which the following paragraphs are quoted.
1. "Colonel Winslow will organize a force of about one thousand men, to move via Brownsville, Vernon and Benton, and to return to Yazoo and Mechanicsburg, to start tomorrow evening, special instructions to be given to the Commander, who will report in person in the Commanding General...
2. Colonel Winslow, Fourth Iowa Cavalry , is announced as Chief of Cavalry, and his orders will be obeyed by all the cavalry forces now attached to this command."
A detachment of 300 men of the Fourth Iowa Cavalry, under command of Captain William Pursel, constituted part of the force under Colonel Winslow, which moved, as instructed, making a diversion to attract the attention of the enemy from the movement of Sherman's main army, then marching towards Memphis, its real destination being Chattanooga. The Cavalry expedition was entirely successful, met with slight loss and returned to camp with eight prisoners captured in a skirmish with the enemy(1). On October 16th, the regiment started on another expedition, under command of Major General McPherson, and, in the first days' march, encountered the enemy several times losing two men killed and one captured(2). On the 4th of December, a detachment of 100 men of the regiment, under command of Major Spearman, accompanied a force of cavalry which moved by transports to Natchez and there cooperated with the command of General Gresham on an important expedition. This detachment returned to Vicksburg December 17th. On the 19th of December, a sufficient number of the Fourth Iowa Cavalry had re-enlisted to entitle the regiment to be designation as a Veteran organization. Recruits began to arrive from Iowa about the same time and the strength of the regiment was increased to nearly three-fourths of the maximum number. New and improved carbines were supplied and, for the first time in its history, the Fourth Iowa Cavalry was completely armed and equipped.
From the 19th of December 1863, to the 1st of February 1864, the regiment remained in camp near Vicksburg. On the latter date, it moved in advance of General Sherman's army at the commencement of the most remarkable experiment that, up to that time, had been undertaken--the Great Meridian Expedition. Upon that expedition, General Sherman demonstrated the possibility of a large army cutting loose from its base of supplies and penetrating far into the interior of the enemy's country.
Indeed, the success of the Meridian Expedition no doubt led General Sherman to undertake at a later period, that great and brilliant achievement of his military genius--this march from Atlanta to the sea. As the vanguard of the army, the cavalry brigade, commanded by Colonel Winslow, was kept well in the front. Only the most effective men and horses were sent on this expedition, for the reason that it was expected that both would be subjected to the extreme limit of endurance. The Fourth Iowa Cavalry detachment consisted of 423 picked men and officers under command of Major Parkell (3) The leading events in which the Fourth Iowa participated were first, at Jackson, where on February 14th, the enemy was met in large force and the cavalry made an impetuous charge in which the Fourth Iowa was conspicuous, and in which one piece of artillery and fifty prisoners were captured. The rebels made a brave fight, under the leadership of General Stephen D. Lee, one of their best officers, but were compelled to retreat, the gallant General and several of his officers barely saving themselves from capture by the fleetness of their horses. At Tunnel Hill, East Meridian, the regiment led the advance in another severe encounter with the enemy, the engagement beginning at sundown and lasting until 9 P.M., the rebels being driven for miles over the hills and suffering much greater loss than they were able to inflict in a running fight. The regiment was engaged in many lesser conflicts during the expedition, in all of which it was victorious. While the infantry was destroying the railroads at Meridian, the cavalry was scouting the surrounding country and inflicting great damage upon the enemy by burning bridges and destroying supplies which had been accumulated for the use of the rebel army. Returning by a long circuit to the north, the cavalry arrived at Canton in advance of the army; and upon the arrival of General Sherman at that point, the Fourth Iowa was selected as his escort to Vicksburg, arriving there on the 29th of February having been absent 26 days. The distance marched was 450 miles. A large number of recruits had arrived during the absence of the detachment, and the aggregate strength of the regiment was increased to 1,300. Those who had re-enlisted--about 500 --with Colonel Winslow, and as many of the officers as could be spared from duty at the camp, marched to Vicksburg on the 11th of March, and there embarked on the good steamboat "Constitution" and proceeded to Keokuk, Iowa, where they arrived on the 14th, and on the next day each man received a furlough for 10 days, at the end of which time he was to report at Davenport., the place designated as the rendezvous, where the veterans were to reassemble. At the appointed time, they all reported to Colonel Winslow and within forty-eight hours were again on their way to the south. At St. Louis, colonel Winslow received orders to disembark his men and proceed to Benton Barracks, where they were to be remounted and provided with the necessary equipments to enable them to at once enter upon another vigorous campaign, in three days, they were again on their way down the river, with orders to disembark at Memphis. In the meantime, the men who had not reenlisted and the recruits, remaining in camp at Vicksburg, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Peters, had been ordered to proceed to Memphis, and there on the 29th of April 1864, the regiment was again united and assigned to the Second Brigade of the Cavalry Division of the Sixteenth Army Corps. General Grierson was in command of the division and Colonel Winslow was assigned to the command of the Second Brigade.
On the 30th of April, the regiment with its brigade and division, marched from Memphis to Bolivar, reaching the latter place on the 4th of May. Finding that the rebel General Forrest had retreated with his forces into Mississippi, General Sturgis, in command of the federal forces, marched in pursuits, as far as Ripley, but, failing to overtake the enemy, the expedition was abandoned, and the troops returned to Memphis, arriving there on the 12th of May, having marched 250 miles and suffered great hardship, without accomplishing any important results, while, as will subsequently be shown, was to be the fate of this well-equipped army of 8,000 men while it remained under the command of General Sturgis. On the 29th of May, the Fourth Iowa Cavalry, forming part of a reconnoitering force of 1, 500 men, under command of Colonel Winslow, left Memphis at 9 P.M. and proceeded to Hernado, Miss., from whence it returned to Memphis, having been gone 22 hours, and covered a distance of 54 miles, without coming in contact with the enemy.
On June 1st, General Sturgis left Memphis, with his army of 8,000
men and 18 pieces of artillery, and marched south in the direction of Guntown,
where the rebel General Forrest had concentrated a strong force, with the
intention of moving against Memphis. The strength of this rebel force was
variously estimated at between 10,000 to 12,000 effective fighting men,
well supplied with artillery, and it was under the command of one of the
most daring and skillful officers in the rebel army. Colonel Winslow's
Brigade, consisting of the Third and Fourth Iowa and Tenth Missouri Cavalry
regiments and four pieces of artillery ..the advance and on the evening
of the 7th of June, encountered a scouting party of the enemy.
In the skirmish which ensued, Colonel Winslow lost four men and the rebels
left six dead upon the field. The cavalry continued to advance without
again encountering the enemy until the morning of June 10th,
when the rebel army under General Forrest was found in position at Brice's
Cross Roads, six miles from Guntown, where the entire strength of both
armies being engaged in a hotly contested battle which resulted in the
complete defeat of General Sturgis and the loss of 3,040 of his army, killed,
wounded and captured, nearly all of his artillery, and 250 wagons of his
supply train. During the progress of the terrible conflict, and amid the
horrors of the fearful disaster which followed, the Fourth Iowa behaved
with the most determined coolness and obstinate bravery. At the beginning
of the fight, Colonel Winslow's Brigade repelled three successive charges
of the enemy and firmly held its ground until twice ordered to retire to
make way for the infantry. During the retreat, this brigade maintained
its organization fully and covered the retreat of the army until the enemy
abandoned the pursuit, the Third and Fourth Iowa being the extreme rear
guard for a great part of the way. The guns of Winslow's Brigade were the
first to open upon the enemy, fired the last shot at his advancing columns,
and were the only ones brought safely off from that disastrous field. The
men were in the saddle 54 consecutive hours, engaged with the enemy the
greater part of the time, without food for their horses or provisions for
themselves. When the regiment reached Memphis on the 14th of
June, the men and horses were in a condition of almost total exhaustion.
They had marched 350 miles and had suffered a loss of 2 men killed, 8 wounded,
and 3 captured.
Major A. R. Pierce was in command of the regiment on this ill-fated
expedition, and described in his official report, with particularity of
detail, all its movements from the time it left Memphis to its return to
that place. He shows how gallantly the regiment withstood the first attack
of the enemy, where Lieutenant Dillon and many of his company were wounded;
how the bridge was held until the infantry were given time to cross, and
how companies D and G, commanded by captain Abraham and Lieutenant Kirk
held the enemy in check at the most critical points on the retreat; how
the Third and Fourth Iowa Cavalry continued in the rear, covering the retreat
until both men and horses had almost reached the limit of endurance. In
concluding his report, Major Pierce says: "I should be happy to mention
in this report the names of all the officers and men who are entitled to
special notice, but, in so doing; I would have to name most of my command.
The battalion commanders, Captains Wood, Doe, and Abraham, deserve much
credit for their personal bravery on the field before the retreat and the
prompt manner in which they handled their commands, in guarding the rear
after the retreat began; also Lieutenant Woodruff, Acting Adjutant of the
regiment for his promptness in clearing the bridge over Tianomingu Creek,
and removing our horses from immediate danger.
The regiment was allowed but ten days rest, when it was again upon the march. The army was now under the command of Major General A. J. Smith, a very able and competent officer. The Fourth Iowa was attached to the same brigade with which it had served on the previous expedition, commanded by Colonel Winslow. The army marched south for the purpose of attacking Forrest's command and retrieving the disaster which had been inflicted upon the expedition under Sturgis. After a number of skirmishes with the enemy, the regiment with its brigade arrived at Tupelo, in advance of the army, on the 13th of July, at noon, and immediately began to destroy the railroad and the buildings containing supplies for the rebel army. At 4 P.M. of the same day, the cavalry was ordered to proceed to the rear, to defend the train which was in danger of capture. The enemy was driven off and the train safely conducted to Tupelo, but upon reaching that place, near midnight, the regiment and brigade were again sent to the rear, to meet and check the advance of the enemy. After marching about two miles, the enemy was encountered and his further advance checked, the cavalry force holding its position under the fire of the repel batteries until morning, when it was ordered to retire within the infantry lines, which was done slowly and all the way under fire. The enemy then attacked the infantry, which stood firm, repelled three successive charges, and finally, in turn, charged the rebels along their whole line and drove them from the field. In this battle the rebel forces lost 2,00 men, killed, wounded and prisoners, while the loss to General Smith's army was about 900 in killed and wounded.
The next morning Colonel Winslow's Brigade was again sent to the front to reconnoiter. The enemy was found in strong force, and a movement was made to cut off the brigade from the main body, but, after a severe engagement, it succeeded in again retiring within the infantry lines. A several engagement ensued, in which the enemy was again defeated. Later in the day, General Smith, moved his army northward, the cavalry keeping in the rear, and the Fourth Iowa acting as the extreme rear guard. At Town Creek, five miles from Tupelo, while the column was halted, the enemy in strong force attacked the rear. Colonel Winslow quickly got his brigade in line and successfully resisted the attack until reinforced by the infantry, when the rebel force was driven from the field with heavy loss. This ended the fighting. The enemy had been severely punished and the disasters of the previous expedition had been retrieved. The return march was fraught with much hardship. It was difficult to procure sufficient forage for the horses, and the men were compelled to live upon one-fourth rations; the weather was very warm, but, notwithstanding these unfavorable conditions, the regiment completed the march of 400 miles in very good condition. It reached Memphis on the 13 of July. Its loss on this expedition was three men killed, ten wounded, and nine captured."
After a brief rest, the regiment was called upon to engage in another
expedition. All the cavalry at Memphis had now been consolidated into a
cavalry corps, consisting of two divisions, the corps under the command
of General Grierson; the First Division commanded by Colonel Winslow of
the Fourth Iowa. The strength of the two divisions was about 2,500 each.
Eleven companies of the Fourth Iowa--about 650 men and officers--were assigned
to Colonel Winslow's Division. The cavalry corps left Memphis on the 3rd
of August and marched direct to Holly Springs, Miss, from which place,
it marched south to Tallahatchia River, where it met General Chalmers'
brigade of rebel cavalry, posted on the mouth side of that stream. They
had burned the bridge. To reconstruct the bridge, under the fire of the
enemy, seemed impossible, but the artillery was brought forward and opened
such a hot fire upon the enemy as to render their position untenable. They
were soon driven out of range and the work of rebuilding the bridge was
began and pushed to completion. On the 9th of August the work
was done and the Fourth Iowa was the first regiment to cross the river.
The enemy was at once attacked and, after a spirited resistance, retreated
to Hurricane Creek, where he made another stand, but was again forced to
give way. The rebel General Chalmers, who was, in command, now retreated
to Oxford, followed closely by General Grierson's forces, and was soon
driven from that place. Further pursuit was prevented by an order to return
to Memphis, for the purpose of engaging in an expedition against the rebel
Commander Coonel Price, who was proceeding with his army to again invade
the State of in Missouri.
In the meantime, the rebel General Forrest had executed a brilliant movement, which most likely also had its influence in causing General Smith to change his plans. Forrest, with 3,000 picked men and horses, had made a detour around General Smith's command and; by a series of forced marches had succeeded in reaching Memphis, and just before daybreak, on the morning of August 21, 1864, made an impetuous attack upon the troops stationed there and had reached the heart of the city before the different detachments of Union troops could be rallied for defense. Among these detachments was Company C, of the Fourth Iowa Cavalry, which had been left upon provost guard duty when the regiment left Memphis. This company, under the command of First Lieutenant L.P. Baker, rendered conspicuous service in repelling Forrest's attack and driving his force out of the city, after a severe conflict, in which Lieutenant Baker and several of his men were wounded, the Lieutenants's wound being so severe as to permanently disable him. The regiment reached Memphis on the 30th of August, having marched 350 miles during the expedition.
On the 24 of September 1864, the men and officers of the Fourth Cavalry who were the most able to endure the hardships of another active campaign, in the number of 515, with the other cavalry regiments composing the command of Colonel Winslow, crossed the river at Memphis, and entered upon the long and arduous march which was terminated at Cape Girardeau on the 5th of October. From Cape Girardeau, the troops were conveyed by boats in St. Louis, and stopping there only long enough to procure fresh horses and other equipments necessary for the continuation of the campaign, they resumed the march. General Price's rebel army of 20,000 men had now reached Lexington, Mo. and was preparing to move forward to Jefferson City, and thence to St. Louis. Recruits were constantly joining his army and the invasion of the State had indeed reached formidable proportions. To meet this invading army there was a force of about 11,000 infantry, under command of Generals A. J. Smith and Joseph A. Mower, and about 6, 500 cavalry, under command of Major General Pleasanton, and another force composed of Kansas militia, and other troops under Generals Curtis and Blunt, making in all an army equal if not superior in numbers to that of the daring and reckless rebel invader. It was evident that much hard fighting must ensue before General Price and his army could again be driven out of the State of Missouri. The official reports give all the details of the movements and operations of the cavalry, from the time the march began at St. Louis to the last engagement, resulting in the overwhelming defeat of the rebel army. Marching 360 miles in twelve days, the cavalry first encountered the enemy at Independence, on the 23rd of October, and , after two hours of hard fighting, in which the Fourth Iowa bore a most conspicuous part, the enemy was driven from the field, the cavalry following in swift pursuit."
On the 23rd of October the rebels made another determined stand and the fighting became desperate. The Fourth Brigade, being in advance, opened the fight, dislodged the first line of the enemy and forced him back upon his reserve. The first Brigade was then ordered up to assist the Fourth, both being under command of Colonel Winslow, who at once ordered a charge along the whole line. After a desperate resistance, the rebel line was broken by the charge and retreated in disorder.
The Fourth Iowa was at the front and performed its whole duty in
this charge. Colonel Winslow was severely wounded in the leg, but continued
in the saddle, directing the movements and encouraging his men until the
enemy was in full retreat. To cover the retreat of its main army, General
Price formed one brigade in line of battle, four miles south of Westport,
near which place the forces, under Generals Curtis and Blunt, had attacked
the enemy at the same time Colonel Winslow's command had made charge. The
cavalry now charged the rebel brigade--which was endeavored to cover the
retreat--with such vigor that it broke and fled in great confusion following
the retreat of the main rebel army. The cavalry followed in pursuit for
four miles at a gallop, and captured many prisoners. In this charge Fourth
Iowa was so conspicuous that it received the highest commendation from
Major Generals Curtis, Pleasanton, and Blunt. Price's flying army was closely
pursued to the Osage River, where his rear guard was overtaken October
25th, and routed by a cavalry charge in which the Fourth Iowa
again bore a conspicuous part.
The conditions which now confronted the rebel General Price and his army were desperate. He was a brave man, but he must have realized the hopelessness of further resistance. Nevertheless he resolved to make one more determined stand. He selected a position twenty miles south of the river on the open prairie and there formed the remnant of his army --about 10,000 men in view of the army which was advancing to attack him. The First and Fourth Cavalry Brigades of the Union army were quickly formed for a charge, moved over the open prairie n full view of the enemy, who stood grimly awaiting the attack. The bugle call for the charge rang out, and the line surged forward. The enemy's cavalry alone met the charge, but fought with bravery. His infantry had already taken up the line of retreat. The arm of the strong force of Union cavalry could not long be resisted, and the enemy rebel line was soon again in retreat, the victorious troopers following rapidly crushing the rebel lines, capturing artillery and prisoners, and hastening retreat of the new completely demoralized rebel army across the Marmo River and thence on to the shelter of the Ozark Mountains. In this last charge, the Fourth Iowa had the honor of ending and, and by its impetucuity (sic), contributed largely in the glorious results. Lieutenant H. W. Curtis, of Company F. was killed and Major A. R. Pierce was severely wounded while gallantly charging at the head of the regiment. The result of this victory was a loss to the enemy of 1,000 killed and wounded, 1,000 prisoners (among whom were Generals Marmaduke and Cabel) 5 pieces of artillery, 100 wagons loaded with provisions and ammunition, and an immense number of small arms. General Price escaped, with a small remnant of his once powerful army. The pursuit was kept up by the cavalry until the enemy had disappeared among the Ozark Mountains. It was impossible to go further in pursuit, as there was no food or forage to be obtained in that desolate country, and the cavalry started on the return march with men and horses nearly worn out. It was now the 8th of November. Snow had fallen the weather was cold and the men were insufficiently clothed. Intense suffering was endured until November 14th, on which date the column was met by a supply train, which had been sent to its relief, and the men were no longer hungry, although they still endured much from fatigue and cold weather. At length, after a march of 100 miles, the regiment reached Rolla on the 27th of November. From that point, they were conveyed by rail to St. Louis and on the 30th of November were once more in their old quarters at Benton Barracks.
In his congratulatory order to the Cavalry division, Major Roserans states that his loss to the campaign was 348 in killed, wounded, and missing. The loss of the Fourth Iowa Cavalry was r killed and 24 wounded, but its loss was far greater than this, in the men rendered unfit for further service on account of the exposure and hardships to which they were subjected during the campaign. In writing to the Adjutant General of Iowa, under date of 1 December 1864 Colonel Winslow says:
"Lieutenant Hedge, Adjutant, is about to send you an account of the operation of the Fourth Iowa Cavalry for this year. While his history will be, without doubt, a truthful statement of the career of the regiment during this, the most memorable year of the war, it cannot do justice in the sacrifices, patience, courage, fidelity and patriotism of these soldiers, whom I have had the honor to command. No language can describe their sufferings...your expeditions against Forrest and against Price bear testimony to the fatigues endured, the dangers encountered, the defeats shared and the victories won. ...Unlike infantry commands, whose losses are sustained on certain days or in particular battles, far apart, cavalry regiments seldom meet with heavy losses at any one time, but almost every day records the death, wounding or capture of the trooper, in some of the innumerable skirmishes or scouts in which, as the "eyes of the Army" cavalry are engaged. While the infantry soldier has his seasons of inactivity and rest, the trooper has no day nor hour, which, he can call his own, but is aroused at all times and at any moment by the sound of the bugle, calling him to mount and move to the front...Very few appreciate what the cavalry soldier endures or accomplishes for his country..thence I have written the above few words in his behalf"
1. The story of a Cavalry Regiment. Page 164
2. Report of Adjutant General of Iowa 1865, Vol. 2, page 1332. Official Report of Colonel Winslow.
3. Report of Adjutant General of Iowa 1865, Vol 2, page 971. History of the Government during 1864. A. Hodges, Adjutant
Military Index *** Home Page