History of the Twenty-Fourth Regiment,|
Iowa Volunteer Infantry
Together with Historical Sketches of Volunteer Organizations
Transcribed by Pat Kasch on April 21, 1997.
1861 - 1866
17th - 31th Regiments - Infantry
Published by authority of the general Assembly, under the
direction of Brig. Gen. Guy E. Logan, Adjutant General Des Moines
Emory H. English, State Printer E.D. Chassell, State Binder
1910 HISTORICAL SKETCH
TWENTY-FOURTH REGIMENT IOWA VOLUNTEER INFANTRY
On the 15th of February, 1863, the Twenty-fourth Iowa left Helena with its brigade, which formed part of the force under General Wasburn engaged in clearing out the obstructions in Yazoo Pass and opening the same to navigation. This duty, while arduous, gave the men active employment and relieved them from the depressing effects of witnessing the daily depletion of their ranks from disease, while lying idle in camp. Upon the return of the regiment to Helena, in the early spring, the troops with which it was associated were transferred to the Thirteenth Army Corps and ordered to join General Grant's army, in its operations against Vicksburg, and were conveyed on transports to Milliken's Bend, where they disembarked and marched, over difficult and sometimes almost impassable roads, to Perkens' Landing. Here, on the 28th of April, they again embarked on transports and barges and moved down the river to a point about four miles above Grand Gulf, where, without disembarking, they witnessed the tremendous artillery combat between the gunboats and the rebel batteries at Grand Gulf, which lasted for several hours. The troops had, in the meantime, been awaiting orders to land and co-operate with the gunboats in their attack upon the enemy's works, but, after prolonged bombardment, without apparent effect, the gunboats withdrew, and the attack by land was also abandoned. The troops disembarked and marched down the levee to a point three miles below Grand Gulf, where they bivouacked until morning. During the night the gunboats and a number of transports succeeded in passing the rebel batteries. The Twenty-fourth Iowa, with the other troops of the Thirteenth Corps, now embarked on transports and gunboats and were conveyed down the river to Bruinsburg, sixteen miles below Grand Gulf, where they landed and took up the line of march toward Port Gibson. The Twenty-fourth Iowa had been assigned to the Second Brigade of the Twelfth Division, Thirteenth Army Corps. The brigade was composed of the Forty-seventh Indiana, Fifty-sixth Ohio, and the Twenty-fourth and Twenty-eighth Iowa, and was under the command of Colonel James R. Slack of the Forty-seventh Indiana, from whose official report-in the absence of the report of the commander of the regiment-the following extracts are made, showing the part taken by the Twenty-fourth Iowa in the battle of Port Gibson, May 1. 1863. After describing the formation and position of his brigade prior to the commencement of the engagement, Colonel Slack says:
During the formation of our lines, the battle opened a short distance to our left and front, and continued with great stubbornest for an hour. When General Hovey directed me to put my column in motion and support General Benton, whose forces were being hard pressed by overwhelming numbers. The whole column was immediately formed, and moved most gallantly to the point indicated, with the Forty-seventh Indiana and Fifty-sixth Ohio on the left and the Twenty-eighth Iowa on the right. These positions were respectively taken under a severe fire of the enemy's infantry, and shell and canister from the whole battery at a distance of about two hundred yards, yet the several commands took their position in line without flinching, and advanced to within eighty yards of the enemy's battery, immediately after which General Hovey ordered Colonel Cameron of the Thirty-fourth Indiana, to charge and take the battery, and ordered me to support the charge with the Fifty-sixth Ohio, which was immediately to the left of the Thirty-fourth Indiana.
While the fierce fighting which resulted in the capture of the battery and 220 prisoners from the rebel troops supporting it was in progress, the Twenty-fourth Iowa was held in reserve, but was ready to advance the moment the order was received. It was the regiments first battle, and its officers and men chafed under being placed in reserve and not having their share of the fighting in this early period of the battle. Later in the day, however, the Twenty- fourth and Twenty-eighth Iowa were sent to the support of General Logan's division, on the extreme left. They promptly moved to the new position assigned them, as further shown by the report of Colonel Slack, in referring to the order, as follows;
In the afternoon the Twenty-fourth and Twenty-eighth Iowa were ordered to the rear and extreme left of the line, to support Major General Logan's division, which was hotly engaged, and there continued fighting like veterans, as the men of that gallant state always have done, until the enemy was driven from the field and utterly routed at every point, and the curtain of night closed the scene.
At the close of his report Colonel Slack says:
To the cool and gallant conduct of all the field and line officers, and the persevering determination of each and every one in my command, I cannot express too much gratitude and admiration. To them belongs the glory of the triumph, every officer and every man having done his whole duty. . . . The whole number of casualties are: Killed 16; wounded, 62; missing, 11; total, 89 (2).
It will thus be seen that in its first experience in battle the Twenty-fourth Iowa had acquitted itself with honor, and had shown that, whenever the opportunity came, it could meet the enemy with that same steady courage and determined bravery that it had exhibited while enduring the hardships and suffering of the campaign in Arkansas, during which it did not come into contact with the enemy in battle, but faced the grim messenger of death, in the form of disease, with the same if not greater fortitude than was requisite to face the death- dealing guns of its rebel foes. The official report of General A. P. Hovey describes with great particularity all the movements of the troops of his division between the dates of May 2d and 16th, upon which latter date the battle of Champion's Hill was fought. (3) During these movements more or less skirmishing with the enemy occurred, in which the Twenty-fourth Iowa had its share; and in the battle which ensued, the regiment took the most conspicuous part and suffered the greatest loss of any of the gallant regiments of its brigade. Failing to find the official report of the regimental commander, the compiler again has recourse to the reports of the brigade and division commanders, Colonel Slack (4) and General Hovey.(5) The following extracts are from the report of Colonel Slack: On the night of the 15th, we encamped on the Jackson and Vicksburg railroad, near Bolton Station. In the morning we left camp about six o'clock, and moved east about 7 miles, when we approached very nearly to the enemy, drawn up in line of battle. In pursuance of orders of Brigadier General Hovey, I formed the Second Brigade in two lines to the left of the road, in the field of one Champion(6), with the artillery in advance. Soon thereafter I placed my lines of battle in advance of the artillery, and ordered two companies of the Forty-seventh Indiana, two companies of the Fifty-sixth Ohio, and two companies of the Twenty-fourth Iowa, as skirmishers, who covered the whole front of the line and advanced toward the enemy. Skirmishing soon began, and continued for about one hour, when I advanced the whole line, with the Forty-seventh Indiana on the right, and the Twenty-eighth Iowa on the left. The thick growth of underbrush and vines, ravines and hills, made it very difficult to advance, but it was accomplished with little disorder, until we reached the crest of the hill, where we found the enemy in very heavy force, about 200 yards in front of us, and under cover of a wood beyond a field. Then the battle began with great fury, our troops advancing for the purpose of driving the enemy from the cover of the woods, which was done at double-quick and in a most gallant manner, the men loading and firing as they advanced, and unfalteringly receiving a most deadly fire from the enemy; yet they pressed forward, as men only can do who are prompted by intelligent motives of patriotic devotion to a common country, until the rebel force was driven from the covering and forced to fall back a distance of 200 yards, with terrible loss, the ground being literally covered with dead and wounded rebels. In this daring and determined charge all the regiments lost most severely. The Twenty-fourth Iowa most gallantly charged upon a rebel battery of five guns, and took it at the point of the bayonet, killing many of the cannoneers and driving the remainder from their guns and some fifty yards to the rear, when a new rebel line, which had not been in action, appeared in treble our force, and opened a most murderous fire upon our lines, which the unflinching and determined braves of the Twenty-fourth Iowa resisted for fifteen minutes, but, because of the overwhelming force brought to bear upon them, reluctantly retired from the battery, but kept the rebel re-enforcements at bay by their incessant fire and stubborn resistance. This battery was subsequently retaken, and is now in our possession. During this terrific charge, Major Edward Wright, of the Twenty-fourth Iowa, was severely wounded, immediately after which he captured a stalwart rebel prisoner and made him carry him off the field. . . Our ranks being badly depleted, I directed the whole command to retire gradually from the field and take position near the crest of the hill where the rebel lines were first formed, which was done in good order, at which time a re-enforcement of one brigade came to our support, after few well directed volleys, with the aid of the batteries, which General Hovey had massed on the extreme right, the enemy was routed and fled in great confusion and disorder from the field. Thus ended this unequal, terrible and most sanguinary conflict. . . For two long hours my brigade held in check fully three times their number, and I hesitate not in saying that, had they not so gallantly and determinedly resisted, the fortunes of the day might have been greatly damaged, if not our glorious triumph turned into a defeat. During the progress of the battle, my command took a large number of prisoners, which were handed over to the Provost- marshal without any account being taken of them. . . Major L. H. Goodwin of the Forty-seventh Indiana and Major Edward Wright of the Twenty-fourth Iowa were seriously wounded while gallantly leading their men, but I am more than grateful to know that they are both rapidly recovering and will soon be able to resume their respective positions. To those brave officers and men who fell in that sanguinary conflict and who resolved to do or die in defense of and for the perpetuation of the best Government ever known to civilization, we cannot do more than assure their friends at home that they fell with their faces to the foe, in defense of the constitution of a common country. . . The whole number of casualties (detailed lists of which I herewith inclose) is as follows: Forty -seventh Indiana, killed 32, wounded 91, missing 17, total 140. Fifty-sixth Ohio, killed 20, wounded 90, missing 28, total 138. Twenty-fourth Iowa, killed 35, wounded 120, missing 34, total 189. Twenty-eighth Iowa, killed 21, wounded 62, missing 14, total 97. Missouri Battery, wounded 2.
It will thus be seen that the entire loss of the brigade was 556, out of the four regiments and one battery of which it was composed, of which number the loss of the Twenty-fourth Iowa constituted one-third. Near the close of his very full and complete report of the part taken by the two brigades of his division in the battle of Champion's Hill, General Hovey says:
I cannot think of this bloody hill without sadness and pride. Sadness for the great loss of my true and gallant men; pride for the heroic bravery they displayed. No prouder division ever met as vastly superior foe and fought with more unflinching firmness and stubborn valor. It was, after the conflict, literally the hill of death; men, horses, cannon, and the debris of an army, lay scattered in wild confusion, Hundreds of the gallant Twelfth Divisions were cold in death or writhing in pain, and, with large numbers of Quinby's gallant boys, lay dead, dying or wounded, intermixed with our fallen foe. Thus ended the battle of Champion's Hill, and our heroes slept upon the field with the dead and dying around them. I never saw fighting like this. The loss of my division on this field alone was nearly one-third of my forces engaged. Of the Twenty-ninth Wisconsin, Twenty-fourth and Twenty-eighth Iowa, in what words of praise shall I speak? Not more than six months in the service, their records will compare with the oldest and best tried regiments in the field. All honor is due to their gallant officers and men; and Colonels Gill, Byam and Connell have my thanks for the skill with which they handled their respective commands, and for the fortitude, endurance and bravery displayed by their gallant men. . . . Among the dead of the Second Brigade are the honored names of Captains Silas D, Johnson, William Carbee and First Lieutenant Chauncey Lawrence of the Twenty-fourth Iowa.
The total loss in both brigades of General Hovey's division in the battle of Champion's Hill was 1,202, of the 4,180 engaged.(7) General Hovey places the loss of the Twenty-fourth Indiana at 40 per cent of its number engaged, and gives that as the maximum loss of any one regiment. Reference to the tabulated statement shows this to be an error. The Twenty-fourth Iowa had 417 enlisted men and officers engaged in the battle, and its loss was 189, over 45 per cent of the number engaged, and this was the heaviest percentage of loss of any regiment of the brigade or division. There were but nine companies of the Twenty-fourth Iowa engaged at Champion's Hill; Company B, being at that time on detached duty at General McClernand's headquarters, was not engaged. The regiment had now been in the service less than eight months, yet it had taken its place by the side of regiments from other states which had participated in numerous battles and had won the designation of Veteran, had fought with equal distinction, had won the highest commendation of its brigade and division Commanders and, at the very beginning of its experience under the fire of the enemy, had established a record for bravery and efficiency second to none of the gallant regiments from Iowa which had preceded it to the field.
The Twenty-fourth Iowa marched with its brigade from the battlefield of Champion's Hill to Black River Bridge, but did not arrive there in time to participate in the battle in which the Twenty-first and Twenty-third Iowa regiments won such distinguished honor. Remaining at Black River for a few days, the regiment continued its march to Vicksburg, where it arrived on the 24th of May and at once took its position on the line of investment in the center of General Hovey's division, where for the succeeding forty days it endured the hardships, dangers and privations incident to the siege of the rebel stronghold which surrendered to General Grant on the 4th of July, 1863. On the morning of July 5th, the regiment marched with its brigade and division, a part of the army under General Sherman, in the expedition against Jackson, Miss., and participated in the operations which ensued, culminating in the evacuation of Jackson by the enemy on July 16, 1863, and the end of the great Vicksburg campaign. The total loss of the two brigades of General Hovey's division, from the commencement of the siege of Vicksburg to the evacuation of Jackson, was 155 killed and wounded, while that of the Twenty-fourth Iowa, during the same period, was 1 killed and 12 wounded. As there were twelve organizations in the division, the loss of the Twenty-fourth Iowa was about the same average as that of the other regiments of the division. During the entire campaign the aggregate losses of the Twenty-fourth Iowa in battle were 208.
Upon its return to Vicksburg the regiment was allowed a brief period of rest in camp. Colonel Byam had resigned on the 30th of June, and Lieutenant Colonel Wilds had succeeded to the command of the regiment. About the middle of August, 1863, the regiment was transferred to a new field of operations. Embarking on transports, it was conveyed to New Orleans, and from there proceeded to Algiers. From the date of its arrival at Algiers, the compiler finds a carefully written record of its subsequent operations, during the year 1864, prepared by Major (later Lieutenant Colonel, Colonel and Brevet Brigadier General (8)) Ed Wright for the Adjutant General of Iowa (9). Only brief quotations can be made from this record and the copies of official reports which accompany it, on account of limitation of space, but the compiler will endeavor to include all the most important events which transpired during this period of the service of the regiment. Reference to the record will show that the events which transpired during each month of the year are carefully noted and the details given with great particularity, a large part of which are necessarily omitted in this sketch. During the greater part of the month of January, 1863, the regiment was in camp at Algiers, La., being at that time a part of the Second Brigade of the Third Division, Thirteenth Army Corps. The location of the camp was such that the men suffered much hardship from the wet weather which prevailed. On January 21st, the division was moved to Madisonville, La., on the north side of Lake Pontchartrain, and there the regiment found the most beautiful and attractive camping ground it had occupied since leaving the State of Iowa. There the regiment remained until February 26th, when it returned to its former camp at Algiers, and there, on the 3d of March, with its brigade and division, marched in review before General McClernand and was especially complimented by the General for its fine appearance and perfection in drill. On March 5th, the regiment was conveyed by rail to Berwick Bay, La. From there all camp equipage that could possibly be dispensed with and all extra baggage was sent back to New Orleans, and the troops prepared for rapid marching as reinforcements to the army under General Banks, then engaged in his unfortunate Red River Expedition. The troops consisted of the Third Division of the Thirteenth Army Corps, which included the brigade to which the Twenty-fourth Iowa belonged. The division marched rapidly to Washington, La., where it overtook the Nineteenth Army Corps, under General Franklin. The march was continued, with occasional halts for rest, when, on the 31st of March, the troops arrived at Natchitoches, La., having marched 290 miles. The march was resumed on the 6th of April and, on the evening of the 7th, the troops arrived at Pleasant Hill, La., and found the cavalry engaged in a skirmish with the enemy at the front. The brigade was ordered to move forward and support the cavalry, but, after marching about one mile, found that the enemy had retired. At daylight the next morning the march was renewed, with the Fourth Division in advance. Five companies of the Twenty-fourth Iowa were detailed as escort for the train in the rear. About 8 o'clock A. M. the advance encountered the enemy, who, after a short skirmish, retreated. The Third Division halted to await the arrival of the Nineteenth Corps, as the enemy was reported in strong force. At 2 P.M., the next day, the march was resumed. The troops marched very rapidly for five miles, when the enemy, was discovered in force, the column was halted, and the First Brigade formed line of battle on the right of the road, with the Second Brigade in line on the left. The engagement which ensued was generally known as the battle of Sabine Cross Roads, but has sometimes been called the battle of Mansfield. Major Wright, who was in Command of the Twenty-fourth Iowa, and who wrote the official report of the part taken by that portion of his regiment which was engaged in the battle, after describing the movements of his regiment and brigade prior to the opening of the engagement, says:
The Twenty-fourth, about 130 strong, Companies A, D, I, C and H having been detailed as train guard and left in the rear, under command of Capt. Martin, was ordered to form in the rear as a reserve to the Second Brigade. The lines being formed, the advance was ordered. The lines moved forward near a fourth of a mile, when, coming to the edge of the field beyond the timber. a halt was ordered, and the line immediately engaged the enemy. The Twenty-fourth, about three hundred paces in the rear, was ordered to lie down. While in this position, my command received a severe raking artillery fire from the enemy's guns posted in front of the right of the brigade. Having remained in this position about half an hour, during which time the front line was firing rapidly, I was ordered to move my command to the front. which I did by a left oblique movement, and came in on the left of the brigade, and took position in a ravine, at the edge of the timber. From the position there occupied, I could see with my field glass at least 8,000 of the enemy forming in the distance, but not within range of our muskets. The enemy's skirmishers had advanced to the edge of the hill in our front, and were protected by a battery immediately on their left, which had taken position behind some large buildings, from which place it was impossible for our weak line to dislodge it. The Fourth Division I could not learn anything of, and the only force to oppose these heavy, columns of the enemy was the Third Division, about 1,200 strong, and some straggling cavalry. This position was held for near an hour, when, the enemy advancing in heavy force-at least ten to one-and most of the command being out of ammunition, we were overwhelmed by numbers and compelled to retire from the field. This, however, was no easy task, as the enemy's cavalry was already far in our rear, both on the right and left, and we were assailed at all points. I ordered my command to confine their movements to the thick brush, as much as possible, and, by keeping in the woods between the road and an open field on our left, which was occupied by the enemy's cavalry, I succeeded in bringing the most of the command off the field, and forming in the rear of the Nineteenth Army Corps, about three miles from the battlefield, after which I procured ammunition for my men and joined with the One Hundred and Sixty-First New York Volunteers, and remained until after dark. The fight being over, I reported with my command to General Cameron, and marched back to Pleasant Hill, arriving there at sunrise on the morning of the 9th. Casualties during the day were 34, a list of which is hereto appended. The officers and men of my command all behaved well and stood at their posts until ordered to fall back, delivering their fire with a precision not to be surpassed. I cannot close this report without making some comments about the manner in which this battle was managed. It was understood when the army arrived at St. Patrick's Bayou that we had found the enemy in force, and why we should have been sent forward in detachments, only to be demolished by superior numbers, is a mystery to me. First the cavalry moved up and were repulsed, next the Fourth Division was moved forward, and shared the same fate. Then the Third Division moved forward on double quick for five miles, along a road blocked by trains, only to come in contact with in overwhelming force, before which it was compelled to retire. Who is responsible? I leave the question for the historian to answer, believing it will be answered correctly.
I have the honor to be, most respectfully,
Your obedient servant,
ED WRIGHT, Major Twenty-fourth Regiment Iowa Infantry Volunteers.
N. B. BAKER, Adjutant General State of Iowa.
The correct answer to Major Wright's question is readily given. His was only one of a number of brave Iowa regiments which lost heavily in that ill-fated expedition, through the utter incapacity of the Commanding General, Nathaniel P. Banks. The verdict of all military historians is unanimous with reference to the Red River Expedition and its commander. Both were stupendous failures. Major Wright displayed great skill and ability in being able to extricate his command from its perilous situation, with a loss of little less than one-third of the number engaged. While the loss was heavy, it is marvelous that, under the circumstances, it was not much greater. Had the other five companies of the regiment been engaged, the loss would have been proportionately greater. It was therefore fortunate that they were on detached duty. Upon the return of the regiment to Pleasant Hill, Major Wright was placed in command of the brigade and Captain Martin assumed command of the regiment. The Third and Fourth Divisions of the Thirteenth Corps, under command of General Cameron, (General Ransom having been severely wounded,) were ordered to take charge of the train and proceed to Grand Ecore, on Red River. Here the command arrived, on the evening of the 11th, and began the construction of fortifications; Lieutenant Colonel Wilson, of the Twenty-eighth Iowa, succeeding Major Wright as brigade commander. The two divisions left Grand Ecore on the morning of the 22d and reached Cane River at 2 A. M., on the 23d, where the enemy was found strongly posted on the opposite side of the river, for the purpose of contesting the crossing of the Union troops. General Cameron did not attempt to force his way across the river under the fire of the enemy, but, moving his troops up the river, effected a crossing by wading, and thus outflanked the enemy and drove him from his position. A bridge was then put down, over which the army of General Bank had passed by 10 A. M. the next day, when the line of march was again taken up and the army arrived at Alexandria on the 25th. The retreat had been conducted by forced marches and the troops, marching day and night, were completely exhausted upon reaching Alexandria. Company A, of the Twenty-fourth Iowa, had been detailed to guard the steamer "Hetty Gilmore" from Grand Ecore down the river. During the trip a detachment of the enemy attempted to capture the boat but was driven off. Two men of the company, Sergeant Charles Wager and Private Rudolph McKinley, were severely wounded. The company returned to the regiment at Alexandria. Lieutenant Colonel Wilds, who had been absent since December 6th on recruiting service in Iowa, rejoined the regiment at Alexandria and resumed command. Between the 25th April and the 13th of May the regiment had several sharp skirmishes with the enemy, in which a number of its men were wounded. General Banks commenced his retreat from Alexandria on May 13th , and on the 22d his army reached Morganza Bend. The Twenty-fourth Iowa had a skirmish with the enemy while engaged in a reconnoitering expedition from Morganza, In which Captain B. G. Paul, of Company K, was killed, and four enlisted men were wounded. The losses of the regiment while connected with the troops commanded by General Banks had reached the aggregate number of 48, and the results accomplished, during that period of its service, were not only not commensurate with the loss, but the officers and men of the regiment were fully justified in the opinion that the sacrifice had been in vain, and they were rejoiced to know that a change for the better was in prospect.
The regiment left Morganza on June 13th, proceeded to Carrollton, La., and went into camp near Greenville Station, on the New Orleans and Carrollton Railroad. Leaving there on the 21st, it was subsequently stationed at Kennerville and Thibodeaux, La., until July 6th , upon which date it proceeded by rail to Algiers, where it received in exchange for the old Enfield rifles with which it had been supplied since taking the field-new Springfield rifles and accouterments. On the morning of July 22d the regiment embarked on the transport "Star of the South" and, soon after, put to sea, with orders to report to the commanding officer at Fortress Monroe, where, after enduring the usual discomforts of a sea voyage, it arrived on the 29th, and at once proceeded to Washington, D.C., arriving there at midnight and, the next morning, proceeding by rail to Monacacy, Md., reached that place on August 1st, where it joined a detachment of the Nineteenth Army Corps under command of General Emory. Colonel Wilds was placed in command of the brigade to which his regiment was attached.