EDITED BY John C. Parish
Associate Editor of the State Historical Society of Iowa
Copyright 1920 by the State Historical Society of Iowa
(Transcribed by Gayle Harper)
A FEW MARTIAL MEMORIES
In the spring of 1862, Camp Benton,
just west of St. Louis, was a rallying point for the
volunteers of the Northwest. Fifteen or twenty thousand new
troops occupied it, in tents and barracks; brass bands
paraded; raw cavalrymen, with unstained sabers, stood in long
lines learning to cut, thrust and let the enemy parry";
infantry with glittering weapons were drilling in companies
and in regiments; the silver ringing of bright ramrods in
still brighter gun-barrels was heard on every hand; staff
officers, who had been clerks or unfledged lawyers a few weeks
previously, galloped about with an air of immense
responsibility, as though a battle were in progress. All was
glitter, bustle and excitement. ''Now, this is war", I said to
myself, leaning against a cannon that had never been fired,
and folding my arms in the fashion of Napoleon.
0, Johnnie has gone for to live in a tent
They have grafted him
into the Army.
couple of days a great number of boxes some- what resembling
coffins, were hauled to the front of our quarters, and we
turned out with loud cheers to ''draw guns". They were
beautiful Springfield rifles, as bright as silver, and of the
best pattern used in either army during the war. It was an
exciting moment. When the orderly sergeant handed me one,
together with a belt, a bayonet and sheath, a cap-box and
cartridge box, and a brass ''U. S." to put on the cartridge
box, I felt that a great trust was being reposed in me by the
United States government. Many a man has gone to Congress or
received a Major-General's commission with less actual modesty
and solemn emotion than I experienced on that occasion. And
that burnished rifle, so beautiful that it seemed fit only to
stand in the corner of a parlor, or repose in a case of
rosewood and velvet, subsequently had an obscure but worthy
history. In the course of the war, from its well-grooved
barrel, I hurled more than eight hundred Minie balls in
protest against a Southern Confederacy, and on my last
battlefield I smashed it against the side of an oak tree, that
it might never fire a shot for the dissolution of the Union.
(1) Practically the entire
Sixteenth Iowa Infantry was captured before Atlanta on July
22, 1864. The Editor.
other things were rapidly given to us. Wo received those
horrible-looking regulation felt hats which somebody decreed
we must wear; also black plumes to adorn them; a brass eagle
that resembled a peacock in full feather, for the side of a
hat; a brass bugle for the front; brass letters and figures to
denote each man's company and regiment; leather dog collars"
to span our necks, and much other trumpery all of which we
threw away eventually, except the hat. The latter, in time, we
lowered a story or two, by an ingenious method, and it served
us well in storms of rain, and in the fierce heats of Southern
summer. Buttoned and belted and strapped, and profusely
ornamented, we felt we were soldiers indeed, and we pined for
gory combat. Now and then a straggler would arrive, and after
gazing on our splendid paraphernalia, he would be in a fever
of anxiety until he, too, had secured the last gewgaw to which
he was entitled at the hands of a generous Government. Have
you drawn your bugle yet?" became the slang salutation of the
camp, the original inquiry having been propounded by an
alarmed rural volunteer to one of his belated companions.
After strutting about with our new weapons, like so many boys
in their first new boots, we were ordered to the drill-ground
to learn how to handle them without impaling one another.
Early the next morning the drums rattled furiously, and orders
came to pack up instantly and get ready to leave for the seat
of war. The wildest commotion ensued. Every other matter was
forgotten, and with eager haste we got into line on the parade
ground. There we learned the most annoying duty of a soldier
to stand in his place like a hitching post, perhaps for hours,
simply awaiting orders.
We finally stacked arms and had
breakfast, but at eleven o'clock we marched out of Camp Benton
with drums beating and colors flying, going we knew not where.
Three batteries and three regiments of infantry followed us.
The people of St. Louis cheered us vociferously all along the
route. At 2 o'clock we reached the steamboat levee, and our
regiment (16th Iowa) was packed and crowded on board a
miserable old craft called the Crescent City. The other
regiments embarked on other boats, and more troops and
batteries were swiftly ferried across from East St. Louis and
embarked on still other steamers. At dusk our somewhat
imposing flotilla swung off, and amid the roar and clatter of
martial music, and the cheering of soldiers and people, we
steamed down the Mississippi. It was the 1st of April, and our
commanders told us we would smell gunpowder soon.
o'clock the next morning we reached Cairo, and saluted the
beautiful Ohio with a round of cheers. Our fleet turned up the
Ohio, and on still the next day we came to Paducah, Kentucky,
at the confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee rivers. Taking on
plenty of coal, we moved up the Tennessee river to join
Grant's army, flushed with its recent victory at Fort Donelson.
The voyage was enchanting. I shall remember those lofty
bluffs, robed in green foliage, bright with blossoms and
flowers, to the last days of my life. Wild and picturesque
scenes lay on either side, and strains of music floated on
every breeze. The weather was balmy and delightful. The air
was fragrant with the breath of Southern spring. We seemed
only on a pleasure excursion. We passed Fort Henry without
stopping, but close to its battlement works, constructed on
land little above the river level, "Old Glory" floated
peacefully above the riddled ramparts, sentries paced back and
forth, and troops were encamped near by.
evening of April 5th we arrived at Pitts- burg Landing. No
wharves, warehouses or dwellings lined the shore. Not even a
clearing was visible. We saw only a wooded wilderness. On the
east shore were richly timbered low lands, subject to
overflow. On the west side abrupt bluffs rose from the water's
edge to a height of 150 feet. They were broken by deep ravines
that came down to the river. These towering green highlands
were covered with magnificent oaks and elms in full foliage,
decorated here and there by dark mistletoe. In Egyptian
darkness we disembarked on the west shore, and climbing nearly
to the summit of the bluff, we formed in line and stacked
arms. The other regiments and the artillery companies also
disembarked and climbed the hill. A very large army seemed
scattered about. We could see innumerable camp- fires far to
the front, and martial music floated for miles through the
woods. Worn out with a voyage of hundreds of miles, we spread
our blankets and went to sleep. It was the night before the
battle of Shiloh one of the bloodiest engagements of the
|THE OPENING GUNS OF
Early in the morning very early
I became aware that something unusual was occurring. Rousing
with an effort, I staggered to my feet and found that other
men had also been awakened, and far away through the woods we
faintly heard bugles sounding and heard the distant dull roll
of drums, mingled with the discharge of fire arms.
Interrogating members of a regiment near by, we got the
So long as there's truth to unfetter,
So long as there's
wrong to set right,
So long as our march is
So long will the cry be
So I drink to
defeat or to conquest;
To the laurel or
cypress and scar;
To danger, to courage,
To the glory and
grandeur of War.
Irene F. Brown.
''Why, it's the long roll beating."
And what's the long roll?" we inquired.
explained that it was a peculiar roll of the drum that is only
beaten at a time of great danger to an army. Like a fire bell
at night, it was a note of alarm. It signified the enemy's
presence, and called the soldiers to arms, in haste. This was
news indeed, and a presentiment of impending momentous events
seemed for a moment to possess me. Every drummer who heard the
roll, snatched his drum and repeated it. The weird note
sounded in every direction. We listened intently and were soon
startled by the roar of artillery, somewhat distant, but
frequent and heavy. Presently the cannonading became ''nearer,
clearer, deadlier than before." The crash of musketry, in
volleys, was heard, far away to the front. Staff and field
officers began to appear, many of them mounted and "riding in
hot haste"; and the drums of many of the regiments around the
landing beat the assembly.
that some kind of a battle was commencing, had been ridiculed
at first, but it was now certain that heavy fighting was being
done on the outer lines. Our drums beat and our regiment
hastily formed, after which baggage was brought up from the
landing, ammunition was issued, and we were shown how to bite
and use cartridges. We got orders to cook breakfast, eat it,
and get back into line. As the roar over in the woods waxed
nearer, louder, deeper and more terrible, wounded men began to
appear in great numbers along the road leading to the river.
The first of them who reached us gave a partially correct but
exaggerated statement of affairs. The army had been surprised
by an immense force of Confederates, they said; soldiers had
been shot or bayonetted in their tents; whole regiments had
been captured or massacred; our lines had been broken and
driven back ; many of our batteries bad been captured, and
affairs were growing worse every moment. Presently a new class
of men began to arrive from the field, in limited numbers.
They were totally uninjured, and some of them had no muskets.
In reply to any questioning, they said their regiments Were
all cut to pieces," and that there was no use for them to stay
there any longer. As time dragged by this class of men became
more numerous, and the number of regiments that were all cut
to pieces struck me as being quite appalling.
battle meantime waxed fiercer and fiercer, and appeared, to be
extending over miles and miles of ground; more artillery was
getting into line; the concussion of guns grew heavier and
more frightful; and volleys of musketry broke in tremendous
explosions, one overlapping and drowning the other in rapid
succession; the leaves on the trees and the very air seemed to
vibrate with repeated shocks; and listening volunteers, fresh
from the North, some of them slightly pale, abandoned their
long cherished fear that the war might end before they would
ever do any fighting.
The preceding night we had slept
for the first time on a soldier's couch the ground little
dreaming that before we should sleep again the surge-like tide
of an awful battle would sweep to within twenty paces of that
spot. It was a Sabbath morning, warm, sunny, and with a
cloudless sky. I thought of the ringing of the church bells in
my native State, and then I listened with awe to the terrible
roar of the mighty conflict raging a few miles away. It
swelled into smooth thunder, varied by volleys of artillery,
and then broke into redoubled violence, lashing and clashing
with spasmodic rage. It seemed that some vast, devouring force
of Nature was approaching; that some furious ocean had been
poured upon the land, and was leaping and crashing its way
through crags and abysses to the scene where we stood. On the
opposite side of the river the lowlands were basking in the
sunshine that streamed through the fresh foliage of the trees,
and blossoms and flowers were plainly discernible. It was a
picture of perfect tranquility. The river was like a sheet of
glass. Two heavily armed gunboats moved slowly back and forth
like restless monsters fretted with unavailing ire ; and the
many transports lying along shore were rapidly getting up
steam as though to fly from a region of disaster.
and wounded men poured past our bivouac by hundreds. We had
ceased to interrogate them, for the reply was invariably the
same. A fearful struggle was in progress. The Union army was
literally fighting for existence. It was being steadily driven
back, and had met with enormous losses. The attack had been
made with consummate skill, at the earliest break of dawn. At
many portions of the field, not even picket lines had been
stationed in front of the Union encampments, and these troops
were taken by complete surprise. (2)
(2) The question of whether or not
Grant 's army was taken by surprise has been for many years a
subject of controversy. For a refutation of the surprise
theory see Kich 's The Battle of Shiloh. The Editor.
Men were actually killed on their
cots. Rebel soldiers afterwards told me that they fired into
the tents and the Yankees came buzzing out like bees." At
other portions of the field, pickets were properly stationed.
Where the blame lies is immaterial. Generals, colonels and
soldiers knew little about actual war especially on a large
scale. The enemy rushed on in three heavy lines of battle, and
won everything at the outset, but that the battle raged for
forty-eight hours afterwards, and ended in a rebel defeat, is
one of the wonders of history.
Sidney Johnston fell that day, just after leading a victorious
charge, and at the very moment he was waving his thanks to his
wildly applauding soldiers. (3)
(3) There has been much
difference of opinion as to the manner of the death of General
Johnston. The story recounted by Parkhurst is to be found in
many of the earlier books dealing with the battle. Later
writers have in several cases maintained that General Johnston
was engaged in forming the reserves behind the lines when he
was hit by a stray ball. See Kich's The Death of General
Albert Sidney Johnston on the Battlefield of Shiloh in The
Iowa Journal of History and Politics, Vol. XVI, pp. 275-281.
Just before the battle he had
issued to them a stirring address, in which he said:
I have put
you in motion to offer battle to the invaders of your country.
With the resolution and disciplined valor becoming men
fighting, as you are, for all worth living or dying for, you
can but march to a decisive victory over agrarian mercenaries,
sent to subjugate and despoil you of your liberties, property,
and honor. Remember the precious stake involved. Remember the
dependence of your mothers, your wives, your sisters, and our
children on the result. Remember the fair, broad, abounding
lands, the happy homes, and ties that will be desolated by
your defeat. The eyes and hopes of 8,000,000 of people rest
upon you. You are expected to show yourselves worthy of your
valor and lineage: worthy of the women of the South, whose
noble devotion in this war has never been exceeded in any
time. With such incentives to brave deeds and with the trust
that God is with us your generals will lead you confidently to
the combat, assured of success. (4)
(4) This address by General
Johnston to his soldiers is printed in the War of the
Rebellion: Official Records, Series I, Vol. X, Pt. II, pp.
396-397. The Editor.
breaking a Union line, and driving it back in rout, Gen.
Johnston was receiving the clamorous applause of his soldiers.
Three fugitives turned around to see what new calamity
impended, and they guessed him to be a general. Loading their
muskets as quick as they could, they fired simultaneously.
He fell in his saddle, and died a few moments afterwards in
the arms of a surgeon. His death caused a temporary cessation
of the enemy's activity. After some delay, that proved
valuable to the Union forces, Beauregard assumed command. He
swore he would water his horse in the Tennessee river before
sunset," and he nearly kept his word. (6)
has been much difference of opinion as to the manner of the
death of General Johnston. The story recounted by Parkhurst is
to be found in many of the earlier books dealing with the
battle. Later writers have in several cases maintained that
General Johnston was engaged in forming the reserves behind
the lines when he was hit by a stray ball. See Kich's The
Death of General Albert Sidney Johnston on the Battlefield of
Shiloh in The Iowa Journal of History and Politics, Vol. XVI,
pp. 275-281. The Editor.
This famous declaration was made at the beginning of the
battle by General Johnston, not by General Beauregard.
The enemy's frantic efforts
continued. By this time every Union regiment was in action.
Gen. Lew Wallace left Crump's Landing, somewhere down the
river, that morning, with about ten thousand men, with rush
instructions to reach the field promptly, but he got lost in
the woods. Had he made the march in proper time, he might have
won imperishable glory. He could have hit the left flank and
rear of the rebel army, and changed a disastrous field into a
victorious one. As matters went, he arrived when the crisis
was over the next morning.
(7) All day long, hour
after hour, the battle raged, and the victory seemed to be
(7) General Wallace arrived after
dark Sunday evening and during the night disposed his troops
for battle. War of the Rebellion: Official Records, Series
I, Vol. X, Pt. II, pp. 170, 176, 188, 193, 196, 197. For a
discussion of General Wallace's march to the battlefield, see
Rich's General Lew. Wallace at Shiloh in The Iowa Journal of
History and Politics, Vol. XVIII, pp. 301-308. The
|SUNDAY EVENING AT
Their toast to the smoke of the peace pipe,
As it curls over
vintage and sheaves;
Over war vessels
resting at anchor,
And the plenty that
I drink to the sword
and the musket;
To Battle's thunder and
crash and jar;
To the screech and the
scream of the bullet
To onset, to strife and
|Irene F. Brown.
close to evening. From the hilltop where I stood, stretching
down the long abrupt slope to the river's edge, and off to the
left for half a mile, and perhaps a mile, was the wreck of a
terribly beaten army. Thousands and thousands of men, in the
apathy of despair, awaited an apparently inevitable calamity.
Buell's army was known to be close at hand, hurrying toward
us, on the other side of the river, and officers of every rank
from general down, were passing through this vast mob and
appealing to them by everything that civilized men hold sacred
to get into line and keep the enemy back, if only for ten
minutes, till Buell could save them from massacre. I even saw
a girl of eighteen stand on a stump like another Joan of Arc,
and deliver a passionate harangue. She was in Zouave uniform
some ''daughter of a regiment" and her burning words
produced astonishing effect.
We had but
a little ways to go, and barely a moment to take in the
situation. A long line of artillery stretched off to the
right, some of the pieces being heavy enough to shatter the
walls of a fortress at one discharge. The enemy was throwing a
Thousands and thousands of
infuriated men poured in to sight with fixed bayonets, yelling
like demons. It seemed that the earth had vomited forth a new
rebel army. ''Bull's Run! Bull's Run! Bull's Run!" they
shrieked at the tops of their voices. They hoped to stampede
us in sheer terror. We fired by instinct.
|At once there rose
so wild a yell,
It seemed that all the
fiends that fell
Had pealed the banner
cry of Hell.
Almost at the
same time our massed park of artillery hurled barrels of grape
and canister into their naked ranks. Their yells were drowned
in the roar, but on they came, the living trampling over the
No commands were given us. No man's voice could have
been heard. Every man loaded and fired with frantic haste.
Smoke rose before us, in clouds. Suddenly a tempest of musket
balls flew hissing around us. We knew we had checked the
charge, for troops on a charge seldom fire. The combat
deepened. A terrific and supernatural noise alarmed me. It
seemed like some enormous projectile ripping the air open. I
instinctively crouched to the earth. It passed in the
direction of the enemy, diagonally, and fell among them. I
imagined I heard it bursting, and that I saw the flames of its
explosion. It was a huge shell from one of the gunboats.
Others followed in swift succession, scattering death and
havoc wherever they fell. They were thrown with astonishing
precision. An unusual crash of musketry to the left caught my
attention. Glancing across the road I saw that a long double
line of infantry had just poured a volley into the foe. Where
I fought, our line was ragged and disordered. Some were
standing erect, some were lying down, some were fighting on
one knee, and some were behind logs, stumps and trees. But
every man of that line stood erect, in splendid order. They
were fresh troops from Buell's command. The rest was like a
horrible dream. We loaded and fired and smoke enveloped us.
The ground trembled beneath our feet.
We were in a
whirlwind of smoke, fire and missiles. It was so near night
that our muskets flashed fire.
Our cannons belched forth
streams of fire. At times I saw gunners standing erect,
ramrods in hand, like silhouettes against a background of
fire. At length bullets ceased to fall among us. I dreaded a
new charge. Then the fire began to slacken all along our line,
we began to hear cheers, we ceased firing, and knew that the
conflict had ended. Then, amid the lifting clouds of smoke,
and amid the dead and dying, powder-grimed and streaming with
perspiration, we snatched off our hats and cheered and yelled
like maniacs. We had repulsed the foe, and the first day's
carnage at least was over.
As I was
getting into place at the line of battle, just before the
enemy's onset, I hastily viewed a most melancholy
circumstance. On the left hand side of the road, on the summit
of the hill stood an old log cabin, and around it were
innumerable tents I cannot say how many, for they stretched
to the left and every one of those tents was filled with
wounded soldiers. Musket balls were already piercing the
canvas, and I saw men running with stretchers to remove the
wounded. All that stood between those ten is and the storming
columns of the foe was a hurriedly forming and ragged line of
battle. The line must have been within a yard of the tents, or
may have been formed down through them, the outer tents being
torn down. Imagine the agony of a man with a shattered leg or
with a minie ball through his lungs being jolted off in a
stretcher by two excited, rough and incompetent men. Imagine
this being done under a fire of musketry, with shells bursting
plentifully around, and tremendous excitement prevailing. Or
worse yet, suppose he had been left behind, shorn of the
strength he possessed an hour before, and must lie helpless on
his blood-drenched couch with screaming missiles rending his
tent to tatters, and inflicting additional wounds. I did not
see the result, but great numbers of those men must have been
killed on the cots where they were lying.
We had no
sooner reached the line of battle than a shell came shrieking
through the air, and fell not twenty feet in front of us. It
whirled there a moment and exploded. A soldier fell forward on
his breast, and a comrade ran to his side, and taking him by
the shoulders, lifted him up. Then we saw that his face and
throat were blown or cut off, and the blood spurted in great
jets or streams from the veins and arteries of his neck, and
his friend dropped the quivering trunk to the ground with a
look of horror. It was the ghastliest sight I saw in the war.
We hear orators rant about men spilling their blood on the
altar of their country. That man literally poured out all the
blood in his veins on the barren soil of a Tennessee hill,
that the flag that floats in triumph today might continue an
emblem of nationality and power.
Immediately after the repulse of the foe, and when triumphal
cheers were ceasing, we began to hear different and more
piteous sounds. They were the moans of the wounded and dying.
I even heard horses sending forth sounds that seemed like
appeals for human sympathy and assistance. Indistinctly seen,
but all around us, was blood on the ground, on the trees, on
the guns that had swept the foe so terribly, on the prostrate
forms of the slain, and even on men who were walking about,
glowing with the enthusiasm of victory.
were pouring up the road from the landing. They were soldiers
of Buell's army. The steamers were ferrying them across the
river as fast as possible, and bands of music were playing on
the steamers. These men had been in the service some little
time, and betrayed evidence of training and discipline. They
passed us, and deployed in line of battle some distance beyond
us, for the enemy's forces had retired about half a mile. The
Buell troops that got into action that evening numbered only a
few thousand, but they rendered invaluable aid at a critical
moment. (8) They were led by the impetuous General Nelson, who
was afterwards killed in a Louisville hotel by one of our own
generals. Nelson was a proud, arrogant, overbearing man, but
he was a most heroic military leader utterly without fear. I
saw him on horseback at the road, under the full fire of the
enemy, but did not know until the next morning who he was.
Only a part of Colonel Ammen's brigade of General Nelson's
division actually got into the fight on Sunday evening. These
troops could doubtless be numbered in hundreds rather than
thousands. War of the Rebellion: Official Records, Series I,
Vol. X, Pt. II, pp. 328, 333-334, 337. The Editor.
A rapid re-organization of Grant's
forces ensued; the rolls were called, arms were stacked in
line; those of us who had any rations, ate them, after which,
exhausted with the day's toils and intense excitement, we
spread our blankets on the ground and were soon sleeping
|Our bugles sang
truce for the night cloud had lowered,
And the sentinel stars
set their watch in the sky;
And thousands had sunk
to the ground over-powered,
The weary to sleep and
the wounded to die.
|CO. C, 16th Iowa Infantry.