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In the moment of action remember the value of silence and order.-- Phormio of Athens
Memoirs of John Ritland6721 Reads
We enlisted at Story City, Iowa, the 12th of August, 1862, and left from Nevada, Iowa the 13th of September the same year. On the last day of our stay in Nevada, we were feasted and banqueted in regular wedding fashion. At the tables, the soldiers, marching to the strains of music, were seated first, and directly afterwards those nearest of kin. But there was too much sorrow and weeping at the thought of parting that our appetites were small.
Mother could not swallow a morsel. I gave her an apple to take home. Personally, I did not feel the pain of parting to be unbearable.
From Nevada we were taken in three wagons holding about 12 men each to Clemens Grove, where lived the father of H. F. Ferguson. The old man invited us to his home for dinner. He had butchered a hog which was fat and luscious to a degree. After having gorged ourselves on delectable swine flesh, we thought of our host and asked him to state his price. He refused to consider it, but expressed a desire that we, each of us, make a couple of rebels bite the dust. Mr. Ferguson had a son in the 2nd Iowa Cavalry, Co. B, and another in the 2nd Iowa Infantry, who died at Shiloh, in the spring of 1862.
From Clemens Grove we went to Albion, where we were quartered Saturday night. On Sunday we were again feasted to our heart's content. Great big tables were set up in the open, and the women served chicken and all kinds of good things. We spent Saturday night at Grundy City, Grundy County, where we were pieced out among private families. From Grundy City we were taken to Waterloo, where we were treated to plenty of apples, though in a rather unique fashion. The apples were thrown about everywhere, on the ground and elsewhere, and we hopped around picking them up as best we could. Our next halt was Dubuque, which we reached by train.
When we came to Dubuque, we immediately sought for some good things to eat, but though we had taken time by the forelock, the people of the city, or whoever it was, got ahead of us and brought us the hind-quarters of several oxen which we were invited to make away with at our pleasure. We were supposed to prepare food ourselves in camp-kettles, but none of us knew how. However, we had to learn, or starve.
We were sworn into service the 6th of October, the same year, and started for St. Louis a week later. Arrived there, we marched in a northwesterly direction through the city. We finally came to a timber where we halted on the south side, and where there were houses and tables. Here we were well entertained for a week.
From this place Companies A, D, F, and G were taken to Cape Girardieu, Missouri. I never visited the place, which was located beyond some rugged hills and dells through which I saw soldiers go when departing. The rest of us in the regiment, Companies B, C, E, I, H, and K went with our captain, Colonel Scott, went to New Madrid, Missouri., and stayed there until Sunday between Christmas and New Year's. But, before we left New Madrid, our captain received orders from General Asport to destroy the ammunition magazines there, and sink all cannon balls that we could not carry, for here the rebels were expected to appear. We lay around in boats on the Mississippi and witnessed the explosion which was terrific. Later Colonel Scott was tried by the war authorities for having "obeyed wrong orders" and uselessly destroyed war material, but being a good lawyer, he cleared himself and was exonerated.
We stayed at Fort Pillow, Tennessee, until June. The place was most uninviting. We had to shovel snow off the ground to prepare a place to sleep. Later we built houses there and lived comparatively well. Not far from our camp was an evil nest, where a guerrilla captain by the name of Kussman, a German, delighted in shooting down as many Union soldiers as he could safely get a bead on. However, one morning when he wasn't looking, Captain Moorse, of the 2nd Illinois Cavalry, nabbed him, placed him in chains, and sent him to Columbus, Tennessee.
One day, while we were yet at Fort Pillow, we received a rather funnily expressed message from the rebels. Colonel Wolfe, of the 52nd Infantry, took charge of the letter in which was expressed a very strong desire to possess the place we were occupying, in fact they were bound to have it, etc. The colonel turned the letter over and exploded into unprintable speech, and finally wound up by writing: "Come any time. I have plenty of boys to fight you, and they are of the best kind." We felt certain that they would come upon us in the night. We waited while the dogs howled and the lightning played back and forth on the heavens, and at three o'clock all fires were extinguished, but no rebs came then, nor at dawn, when we thought surely they would have hurled themselves at us.
From Fort Pillow we were transported to Columbus, Kentucky, where we remained until September, 1863. It was here that Mr. Eliasson took sick and was the first among the Norwegians to pass away.
Our next stopping place was Island No.10, where John Nelson Tarvestad received his discharge and went home. Jonas Duea and I became quite sick while here, but went, nevertheless, into active service in a few days. We had eaten too much fresh meat and had contracted a disease called bloody flux.
We left Island No.10 in February, 1864, and traveled per steamer some 800 miles, reaching Vicksburg, finally, where we remained a few days pending the collection of a large army. When gathered, we numbered about 40,000 men, all under the command of General Sherman. The army, when strung out, stretched as far as 15 miles. This is called the Meridian Expedition and was undertaken in February, 1864.
On the way we marched past a town by the name of Jackson, where we saw ruins of a large building, the courthouse, which had been burned, and of which only piles of brick and iron remained. Further on we were obliged to leave our "provision wagons" as we dared not be encumbered with them any longer. We marched steadily on for another 50 or 60 miles, shooting as we went, but did not meet a great many of the enemy. We had a fine promising lad, who was a drummer in our military band, who was caught and overpowered by a skulking reb and later was taken to Andersonville prison. He was the only one in our company who had the ill fortune to be taken to this terrible place.
When marching, we would suddenly hear the command "Halt", and as quickly "Forward March", and all we could do was obey, and thus it was repeated over and over again, no one being the wiser, except, perhaps, the officers. When we were about five miles from Meridian, we were abruptly halted again, but this time we learned the reason. Colonel Scott had something he wished to say to us. He jumped on top of a stone, while we crowded eagerly around, as thick as ants, all anxious to hear every word.
"Men, you have now been in the service over a year, and have had comparative ease and sufficient food, but now, as it seems, the Government will soon have urgent need of us. I ask you, man to man, to set your faces sternly to the performance of every duty, and be prepared to make the great sacrifice, if need be."
Again we marched on with the firm resolution in our hearts to do or die; and again we were halted, this time to receive orders not to fire a shot, meanwhile, continuing our interminable marching, as if there was no end. Almost unaware we found ourselves marching though a deserted town with here and there some negroes reported, but not a sign of the enemy. Upon asking where they might be, the negroes reported, "They're all gone. They began going yesterday. Some went last night, and the rest this morning." They had divided and their destinations were Mobile and Richmond. We occupied the city without a shot.
Immediately upon our arrival, we were allowed to break ranks and were told to make use of our liberty to forage for food, for we were desperately hungry. Some were ordered to tear up the railroad track and gather the rails together, placing supports at the endings making it possible to build a fire in the middle and underneath, which, when hot enough, make the rails bend rendering them useless.
Six hundred of the men were ordered to go six miles south of Meridian and fetch corn to a mill situated there. After the grinding was finished, we set fire the mill and a large cotton warehouse which stood near by. After we had performed our necessary, but disagreeable task, we started on a run back to Meridian, for we now knew the whole countryside would be roused by the flames, as likely as not lurking rebel forces near at hand would seek reprisal.
After a stay of four days at Meridian, we again turned our faces towards Vicksburg. On the way we came across a big mill said to be owned by a brother of Jefferson Davis. We stopped here a few days to grind the grain we could find and when that was accomplished, we set fire to the mill as well as to several other large buildings connected with the establishment.
While we were here Co. C. and K. were sent, under Co. C's captain, Captain Peoples, to go and burn a bridge which spanned the Pearl River. We marched four abreast, and as we approached, we could see rebel pickets stationed on a high hill overlooking our advance. We expected them to take to their heels, but no, not only did they not fly, but one of them flung himself on a white horse, rode directly at us, and when within shooting distance, hopped off his mount and promptly fired. I happened to be in the front rank, and I noticed the bullet as it glanced off the branch of a tree, and rolled harmlessly at my feet. We answered in kind, but it made no further impression than to have the bold rider fling forth,"You may shoot, you damn Yankees, but you can't hit me anyhow." Then spoke up Silas N. Lee of Nevada, threateningly, "Look out! Look out!", and we fired another volley, but the gay daredevil was off like the wind.
We rushed to the bridge and make a good fire under it as quickly as possible, hurrying away as quickly as we came for fear of being gobbles up by an arm of the enemy's forces, who, by now, might have received warning of our whereabouts. However, we got safely back to the camp, where the Davis Mill was burned, and then set off for Vicksburg.
On the way the four companies, A, D, F, and G, with whom we had parted one and a half years before at St. Louis, turned up, and there was much joy and handshaking in the happy reunion.
When we came to Vicksburg, I was quite sick. Nevertheless, I was given orders to go with the others and discharge the old load from my gun and clean it up. Some obeyed the order, others did not. A sense of duty impelled me to go, but as I stumbled along, I forgot to remove the stopper inserted in the gun barrel to keep the water out. I blazed away, but discovered immediately to my horror my mistake and the bursted barrel. I became exceedingly downcast at my misfortune, but finally mustered my courage enough to go to our Captain Wheeler and ask him if he thought I would be obliged to pay for the gun. He answered that he feared that such might prove to be the case. I then went to our 1st Lieutenant George Childs of Nevada, who was always rather partial to us privates, and laid the case before him: "Would I have to pay?" "Oh, no John, just shine it up and bring it up for inspection." I polished it up inside and out till it shone like burnished silver. During the inspection, as I went through the required drill extra properly, the officer, glancing at my shining weapon, noticed that it was slightly battered at the end and exclaimed, "This gun is good for nothing!" Someone took my name down, and in the afternoon I received orders to go to the commissary department and get another gun. I never succeeded in getting the shine to it as compared to the other one, but I was relieved of the dread of disgrace, not being obliged to pay damage money.
After this, we came under the command of General Banks, and we were taken on an expedition 200 miles south of Vicksburg. We experienced a series of continual handicaps. We received orders to advance from our commander on a morning at 3 o'clock and march 30 miles through the various obstacles of timbered country, arriving, finally at a river where the bridge had been burned. It took considerable effort to rebuild it, and not only that, for on the opposite side of the stream were difficult hills and more tiresome timber; so finally, when we arrived footsore and spent, in the open, we found only a tiny town populated by Frenchmen for our pains. We asked for food, but they did not understand us. We made signs, which helped some, for now they brought us a little food. We asked where the rebels were, but heard only the same refrain, "nich forstay." But we suspected that they knew better that they would let on. Our suspicions were confirmed when, after marching a few miles through the brush and hills, we were fired upon, volley after volley. We were thoroughly hungry and disgusted, not to say mad, and had we but gotten our claws into those wily Frenchmen, it would not have gone well with them.
Now ensued the battle of Fort DeRussy, March 14, 1864. Cannons were brought into play, and we were fired upon as we marched along the road. Further on we were flanked aside on the banks of a creek where we dropped down flat on the ground. While lying thus, Colonel Scott shouted: "When the bugle is blown, you must all get up! Rise as one man!" We lay quiet for about an hour, and when the summons came, we jumped to our feet and charged up the steep bluffs. I was nearly on the top once, but became so short of breath, that I hadn't the power to hold on, and slid back a considerable distance. I grabbed hold of an exposed root and pulled myself up again. In the meantime, the bullets flew thick and fast. Tom Lein said it was so steep where he happened to be that the men had to climb on each other's backs to be able to make headway. Our men swarmed in from all sides. I was of the first coming from the south side of the fort to reach the top, and we jumped in on the poor wretches as they stood or sat around, with the sweat just pouring off them from fear. There was said to be * 3,000 men in the fort, and all were taken prisoners. There were not many killed on our side, and only four in our regiment. Only one man was wounded in our company.
From Fort DeRussy we marched to Pleasant Hill, where ensued another fight. We passed by a timbered tract, upon emerging into the open with part of the army, a regiment of rebel cavalry attacked us. We were ordered to fix bayonets, and those in the front line dropped to their knees with their guns on the ground, while the line behind stood with guns to shoulders ready to press the bayonets home in the horses' breasts as they charged. They came on at a terrible rate, and though halted appreciably by our formidable front, they plunged through. They were stopped, however, by our main army and were obliged to retreat back the way they came. We tried to receive them right! It was an awful sight to see the number of dead and wounded scattered about, as well as the poor horses staggering around bleeding to death or galloping frantically about with saddles and straps flying.
Almost before we could turn around, we were attacked by an infantry regiment, but we fought them with might and main and, finally, drove them back. We had scarcely done so, however, before a second regiment of fresh recruits hurled themselves at us. The bullets whined and whistled, my companions fell, and death was in the air, but at last we made them give way, only to receive a mighty fusillade from a third regiment, flanking us on the left and right, and firing as they went. I had never seen such tactics before and was told that these soldiers were entirely befuddled from excessive whiskey drinking.
As luck would have it, darkness set in, and we sought cover, helter-skelter in the woods. While puzzling around, I received a bullet in the back, but fortunately for me, I hadn't taken time during the fight to shed my blanket like most of the others had done, and now it saved my life, the bullet being unable to penetrate its thick folds. I lay down beside a log, but my, oh my, what a vast number of bullets those Confederates did waste on that log! After awhile we saw small campfires being kindled in every direction, upon which we stole away one by one from our hiding places, arriving finally in our own camp. Then followed handshakings! Hands met in fervent clasps that were thought to be inanimate. What a hearty reunion! It was now revealed to us that the contemptible Banks was a traitor who had arranged it so that we were bound to lose. He let a few detachments bear the front of battle, while the main army lay inactive. It seemed as if an order had been given for us to retreat at one time, however, the order did not reach us for the messenger boy fell on the way.
We had barely arrived in camp when our chaplain, Coffin from Fort Dodge, called for two volunteers from each company to go back with him to the battleground and give succor to the dying and wounded. No one answered from Co. K, as all were thoroughly hungry and fatigued. He repeated the call, and this time I answered, feeling thankful that my life was spared, and that I for one, shall never forget it! Some were praying to God in their agony, others swore, and corpses lay thickly strewn about. We carried water to the wounded, bolstered them up with blankets and made fires. It grew cold that night, and the poor sufferers begged us to take them along, but it was impossible for us then. We promised to come back in the morning and fetch them. We dared not remain for fear of being taken prisoners. Banks concluded to call us whipped and decided to have us "skedaddle" (fly) that night. And when the enemy heard of this, they promptly came and took possession. General Banks resigned after this ill-fated expedition, relieving us of his company, which was also the safest for him.
We were carried by steamboat on the Mississippi River from Vicksburg to Memphis. When we were about half way, we were ordered off the boats to drive away an army of guerrillas who had been bothering transportation on the river of late. In the battle that followed our regiment had four men instantly killed, while none were wounded, a most remarkable record, by the way, the usual rule being that again as many were wounded as were killed. Henry B. Henryson (Beroen) of Story City was killed in this engagement, which was called the Battle of Lake Chicot.
The fighting occurred on an extremely hot day, June 6, 1864. After the battle, we set work to bury the dead. They were all buried in one grave and some of them had to be carried a considerable distance. My comrade, Osmund Egeland, who was always willing and eager to lend a helping hand, got sick immediately after burying the dead and died in a hospital, or pest house, in Memphis a few days afterward. The cause of his death was over-exertion, the heart being over-taxed. Upon our reaching Memphis, the regiment boarded a train of flat cars and were taken to a place called Tupelo, Mississippi, where they had a battle.
I was taken sick at Memphis and was unable to go with my regiment to Tupelo. The hospital being full, I was taken to what was called Meridian Camp, where there several hundred others who were sick. It was there I was given my 30 day furlough. I started for home the same evening I received my permit on a Mississippi River boat, reaching Cairo, Illinois in 24 hours.
The remainder of the journey was made by rail. We were supposed to pay one-half fare, but having no money, we took advantage of a regulation that allowed a soldier transportation, providing, however, for the eventual payment of the fare through a reduction from the monthly wages. There were several hundred soldiers at Cairo, who were on their way home on furloughs, and a ticket agent was kept busy writing transportation all night. I was not able to crowd up and get mine, but luckily, one of the soldiers, who was going in my direction, and who was not as sick as the rest, finally succeeded in getting transportation for all who were bound for that place.
As we had nothing further to do, we strolled in the direction of our train, arriving much to early, a couple of hours at the least, but we were in luck. Many others had strolled along in the same fashion, and we filled the coaches long before it was time to start, leaving about half the number with long faces to wait for the next train. We went from Cairo to Dixon, Illinois, a distance of 355 miles, and then on to the Mississippi, where we slept on the river bank all night. The next morning we hired an Irishman to take us across the river on a ferry boat for 10 cents apiece. We were now at Clinton, Iowa, and here we went to a soldiers' home where we rested for a day. After a rest, we felt stronger and continued our journey toward Marshalltown. This was as far as I was given transportation, and now arose the question as to how I might be able to get home from this place. I possessed just 50 cents, and I knew that this was not sufficient to pay for a ticket to Nevada. I got on the train, thinking to ride as far as the conductor would allow, and trust to luck as to the method of locomotion the remainder of the way. As the conductor came around, I handed him the 50 cents and told him how far I wanted to go, which was to Nevada. He wanted more money, but I told him that this was all I had. He looked at me for awhile and noting my miserable condition handed back the 50 cents, generously saying that I needed that much for breakfast, and passed on. Arriving at my destination, I hunted the stage-coach man, whose route lay between Nevada and Rose Grove, and engaged a ride to Roland for my 50 cents, yet intact. The price was higher, but since this was all I had he finally promised to take me. A little while before the stage-coach was due to leave, I found an acquaintance, Vespestad, by name, who invited me to ride with him and promised to take me to my very doorstep, even saving me the walk from Roland. The stage-coach ride was accordingly cancelled and my 50 cents still remained untouched.
When I returned to the army, I expected that the railroad fare, which had been advanced by means of the "transportation" would be deducted from my monthly pay, but undoubtedly through some error, I received my full pay regularly. Thus it came about that I had an absolutely free ride from Memphis, Tennessee, and home, a distance of about 1,000 miles, and this done not through any "bum" riding or tramping or intention of cheating. On the contrary, I was fair and honest about it and intended to pay all.
I stayed at home 30 days and had gained in health a great deal but not fully recuperated, so through Dr. Stitzel's (Nevada) aid and intervention, I was allowed an additional 30 days, thus making it a 60 day furlough. By this time I was well again, and started my way back to the army in September. I found my regiment in Cairo, Illinois.
We were soon embarked on a steamboat heading for St. Louis, on our way to Pilot Knob, in the Iron Mountains, where we expected to engage in action. From St. Louis we road to Pilot Knob by rail on flat cars. When we came upon the enemy, we found they outnumbered us greatly, and we decided very quickly to withdraw, the sooner the better. We were immediately ordered aboard the train and started off, but the load was too much for the engine, the wheels slipped, and there we stood.
If it hadn't been for Lieutenant George Childs of Nevada, we would undoubtedly all have been taken prisoners. Mr. Childs assumed command, ordered us all off the train, and made us push, thus giving the train momentum, whereupon we jumped aboard a few at a time, and finally rolled merrily on. But our danger was not yet past, since this all happened in a timber country, with but few openings, so we could not know what was preparing in advance of us.
We feared the enemy might have played mischief with the road bed, concentrating somewhere to receive us, or be lying in ambush along the track. Their force was three times as large as ours. At no time during the whole war, was I as nervous as on the ride through this forest, where at any moment, I expected to be the target for gunners of every description situated behind trees or other hiding places. Huddled up as we were on the flat cars, we were an easy mark for the most unskilled marksman. But to our great joy and relief nothing occurred, and we were soon safe in St. Louis.
We were not destined to remain quiet very long, but were soon ordered out to chase some ubiquitous rebels. And chase, we surely did! They managed to retain a two days march ahead of us all the while till we reached a point in Kansas where we gave up the chase. Our cavalry had skirmishes with them at times, and would occasionally find bodies of dead soldiers. We had to wade the Osage River and the Gasconade River in ice water, and there was snow on the ground. This was far from pleasant, considering that we had no opportunity to change clothes, or had no chance to sleep indoors, or dry ourselves before warm stoves. After we had pursued the rebels into Kansas, hopes of overtaking them was abandoned, and we started dolefully back on the long march for St.Louis with nothing accomplished.
At no time during the war did we go through such a campaign of starvation and disappointment as on this ill-fated expedition, which, we may say, was mostly the fault of General A. J. Smith. He was ambitious and wanted to make quick successful headway, also a rise for himself and his boys, and he figured that, by giving us very limited rations, our lightened burden would enable us to make more rapid progress. Since Missouri was not considered a rebel state, we were not permitted to forage, so we were in a quandary as to what to subsist on. However, hunger made us forget our orders . . . but we never stole anything, just took it! The officers read a portion of the law to us nearly every morning, in which we learned that whoever was caught taking anything that did not belong to him would be punished by having a certain amount deducted from his wages. Each captain was under orders to watch his company and report to the higher authorities any transgression of this law. Under threats we soon made it clear to our captain that if he did really try to fulfill the letter of the law in this respect, it wouldn't be quite good for him. So he never reported anything! By the way, it isn't all fun and pleasure to be a captain either!
The rule among us was to butcher in the evening and do our cooking at night. Meat was not always scarce, but often we had to eat it unsalted. We had no bread or butter. We never stayed long enough in one place to bake bread; hence, we had to substitute meat for bread, meat for butter, and for almost everything else in the food line. Our appetites, not to say stomachs, strenuously opposed this one-sided fare, and sometimes to such an extent that the food was promptly returned after taking.
As the pilfering along the road continued in spite of the numerous law proclamations, one regiment was detailed to guard the rest of the soldiers in the army from over-reaching themselves. One day when our regiment was entrusted with this duty, it so happened that just ahead of me marched a sergeant who had about as long fingers as anyone when it came to picking up things calculated to satisfy the cravings of the inner man. We had marched from early morning until about 1 P.M. without any dinner, having also had but very little breakfast. We then came to a large, fine farm house set right near the road, with a nice path leading up to the front door, and a nice little gate inviting as could be, and, oh my! The smell of hot biscuits being served for dinner . . . who could withstand it? Not only were we not invited in, nor might we take anything, oh no. We were to guard the army from doing that very thing, but the attractive place and those ravishing smells proved too much for the sergeant, and he slipped inside the gate and made for the house. Noting his action, I instantly plied my legs, and by the time the sergeant had reached the house, I was there too. The family had just eaten dinner, but there were yet many goodly remnants left on the table, and we reached over, apologetically but firmly, and filled our haversacks with hot biscuits, hot potatoes, and many other good things to eat. But lo and behold, when we came up with another farm house along the road and dutifully tried to guard them, there were others before us who had as keen a sense of smell as we, and guard or no guard, the food on hand was unhesitatingly appropriated. And the guards began it!
After this we were supplied a little more liberally with "grub", as we generally termed it, and had less occasion to enter peoples' homes so rudely. When we finally came back to St. Louis, we found we had marched 700 miles, starving most of the time, and as we said before, accomplished nothing.
We were thoroughly glad to get back to St. Louis, as we hoped to obtain a much needed rest and clean clothes. We were a highly disreputable looking bunch as we marched up the street, our shoes being without soles and full of holes. Some were entirely shoeless and swung along barefooted. Our clothing hung in tatters, and several had to wrap these about them to avoid shame; nor had any of us washed since the last time we were in St. Louis. We now had a glorious clean-up. We were given clean, new clothes. The old ones were too far gone to salvage, so they were consigned to the flames together with all the inhabitants they contained.
From St. Louis, we were taken aboard steamers and were carried down the Mississippi to Cairo, Illinois, thence up the Ohio River, and from there on the Cumberland to Nashville. On the day of our arrival there, we were drilled and marched around until evening, when we were left in a slough for the night. There was no sleeping for us that night of December 15, 1864. We got the order to be ready for marching at six o'clock in the morning. We had an inkling of what was the objective of the order. There were strong indications that we were on the eve of storming the Nashville fort, a considerable stronghold, it being nine miles in length. Sure enough, in the morning operations began, with General Thomas as our head commander and General Hood on the side of the Confederates. My regiment, the 32nd of Iowa, happened to have its positions quite near the center of the besieging line. As usual, the opening of hostilities was signalled by the booming of cannon, and for two days the battle raged. It turned out to be a piece of good fortune that we had been dumped in the slough, for the enemy shots went mostly over us, especially so with the heavy discharges from the cannon. Although they could see us from the fort, the timber having been cut away, they seemed to be having trouble focusing us right in the depression which we occupied.
Near the end of the second day's fighting, we saw our flag go up on the breastworks to the right of us, which meant our boys had broken through the rebel lines. Then came our turn to start from the slough and go directly at the fort to capture, if possible, a share of it. We went on a rapid run, firing as we ran, but not all of us got by unscathed, for soon one of my companions fell, and then another, but we could stop at nothing now, and after a fierce onslaught, we occupied the fort.
The Battle of Nashville proved to be one of the most complete and decisive victories of the Civil War. Hood's army was practically annihilated, a great many being killed or wounded, and an enormous number taken prisoners. It was rumored that many of Hood's soldiers got so disgusted after the battle that they left his army and went home. Union paper money rose 15 per cent after this battle.
The next day after the battle was spent chasing the fleeing rebels, and we crowded them so that they were unable to move their cannon fast enough, so they dumped many of them into the Wolfe River. The next day, December 24th, we still pursued them, but on coming to a stream, which I believed was the same Wolfe River, we found that the bridges had been burned. We made a bridge and marched over, but we did not make the bridge sufficiently strong at once. The provisions trains and vehicles could not pass over, and all we had to do was starve. The next day was Christmas Day and no food! The provisions reposed tantalizingly on one side of the river, and we fumed and fretted and licked our tongues on the other. Never during the whole war did I think so much of home, father, mother, sister, and brothers, as I did on this doleful Christmas Day in Tennessee. I thought of the many Christmas dinners mother had prepared and which I had enjoyed, and of the many other Yuletide pleasures experienced in the simple, yet dear home in far off Iowa. In the afternoon some of the boys had succeeded in bringing down some geese, so we had an imitation feast towards evening.
We continued marching until we came to the Tennessee River, where we were taken by steamboat to a place called East Port, at a point where the states of Alabama and Mississippi meet, just south of the Tennessee line. Here we hoped to get rest and quiet for awhile, but the rebels had no sympathy, and continually bothered, and in three weeks we were again in motion. This time we went up the Tennessee River, then down the Ohio and landed at Cairo once more. In a few days we were loaded on a steamer again and made a trip of 1,200 miles to New Orleans. It gave us an opportunity to view the city, but having seen so many different towns by this time, I did not take the trouble to do any sightseeing. However, I visited an old cemetery here and found many of the tombstones with the dates going back as far as 1700 and a few to the latter part of 1600.
Again we steamed down the Mississippi, this time clear to the Gulf of Mexico. As land faded from sight, we began feeling the heave of the waves and many of us were soon in the throes of seasickness. We sadly wondered what would become of us. Our misery ended after awhile, for the steamer paused at Dauphin Island, remaining here for about three weeks. Here we had a very enjoyable time. In places the water about the island was quite shallow, and in places we waded in and fished oysters by hand. The fine sea air together with the change of diet worked wonders in our general health, and we approved greatly during our short stay. The 81st Illinois regiment was stationed on another island in the immediate vicinity, so one day the soldiers, Ole and Sam Hegland, came over and paid us a visit.
Our joyful three weeks quickly came to an end, and we were now scheduled to undertake the capture of Mobile, Alabama. There were two forts at Mobile, one called Fort Blakely and the other the Spanish Fort. Our voyage from Dauphin Island was described as follows by a poet in our regiment:
On March the 20th we did start
From sandy Dauphin Island;
From oysters there we had to part,
The ocean waves were silent.
Up the Fish River we did steam
Making a great commotion;
We crooked and turned and turned again,
But, oh, how slow each motion.
But by and by we came to stop
At a place that seemed forsaken,
It was Sibley's Mill and off we got
And ate some tack and bacon.
And soon went into camp
Amongst the southern pines,
And rested there a week or so
With naught to cheer the time.
On March the 25th, you know,
We started once again
To go and fight the rebel foe,
With many to be slain.
While 2 divisions, 16 corps,
Were doing picket duty,
Old General Steele began to roar
Upon the noted Blakely.
Now 2 divisions leaves the Spanish Fort
And draws up nearer Blakely,
And 2 divisions there must work;
Well, we did it up quite meekly.
I cannot now recall any more of this so called poem, but the poet goes on and tells about the good work done by our army.
For some reason or another, the rebels left the Spanish Fort and withdrew to Fort Blakely. We had thus only one fort to capture instead of two. We commenced the bombardment on Fort Blakely April 3rd, and continued until April 9th, when the final charge was made.
There were numberless torpedoes planted in our way to the fort, and all the trees were chopped down and the limbs sharpened. It was very difficult for us to get through, and while we were crawling slowly forward between the various obstructions, sharpened branches and all, the enemy had the advantage of being able to fire much more rapidly than we. What worried us most of all was a great big cannon place directly in front of us which would be sure to belch forth grapeshot into us the moment we came within proper range. But thanks to our battalion behind, they also dreaded those "grapes" so they fired directly at the monstrous thing and finally succeeded in hitting the axle which broke, causing the muzzle to sag downward. This silenced it forever. We now felt safer. One cannon further up the front, similar to the one mentioned, was fired with disastrous effect, killing 14 of our men in one discharge.
The fort was duly captured and we took practically the whole garrison, 30,000 in number, prisoners. In fact we took all, save a few who jumped into the Alabama River and were drowned, or with the rare exception of a few who were able to swim across and thus escape.
We had for the last year and a half been chased around from place to place, and had taken part in several battles and innumerable skirmishes, and had marched and traveled by train and steamship til now we felt were justly entitled to a rest. There were other armies that had been doing but little the last year or so, and General Canby, who commanded a part of the army at the siege of Fort. Blakely, had not been doing much with his army of late, so he volunteered to go to Montgomery, Alabama, and attempt to take the fort there, leaving us to rest up. But our ambitious General Smith would not listen to this, not being satisfied to lie idle, so we had to go on again. In the ensuing march from Mobile to Montgomery, we suffered much the same hardships we had done on the expedition through Missouri, and under the same general. We found out that General Canby had sincerely wished to spare us, but that the strong-headed General Smith objected, as he was anxious for the honor of taking another fort. Signs of all descriptions with various threats and readings aimed at General Smith were nailed up on fenceposts and trees along the road, and Smith, who kept himself rather in the rear of the army, could not avoid noticing them. And it seemed to take effect, for he was easier with us after this, giving us better rations and better treatment generally.
We had been through a good many battles by now, and we had taken several forts, but to be honest, we dreaded what was now before us, which was the contemplated the siege of Fort Montgomery. It was a large fort, and we realized fully what it would mean to take it. I had seen so many of my intimate friends with whom I had fought shoulder-to-shoulder killed, wounded and maimed for life, and as we had only three months left on our enlistment there were so few of us left, I wanted this remnant to be spared and get home. But there was no sympathy or sentiment. All we had to do or think about was to obey orders and go to Montgomery and take that fort.
When we were nearing the fort on our last day's march, we would occasionally be halted, and then we would hear a mighty hollering and cheering far ahead of us. Soon it was whispered that good news was coming. The cheering came closer and shortly a man on horseback drew up opposite our regiment, halted us, got off his horse, and officially announced that General Lee had surrendered to General Grant, and that the war was now ended.
Then came our turn for cheering, which we did most lustily and from the bottom of our hearts. Amidst the cheers there were hats and handkerchiefs thrown aloft, and some had been propelled so swiftly and went so high that they caught in the tree tops and had to be left there - but who cared for hats or handkerchiefs at such a time? It was the happiest moment of my life! The cruel war was over, and those who were left of us were safe and had the best prospects of getting back to our dear ones again.
We continued marching until we came near the city, when there was a momentary halt to enable the best band (at least, so I thought) of the army, the 198th New York, to take its place at the head of our columns and lead us into the city to the strains of stirring martial music. We were woefully tired out, but when we could march to the tune of such uplifting music and were buoyed up by the thought that our dangers and privations were soon over, we walked along quite lightly in spite of our fatigue.
We marched about two miles beyond the city where we camped in a pine forest. Here we had to stay for three months. Some regiments were sent home quite promptly, while others had to remain until things cooled down somewhat.
One or two regiments were sent home each week. We waited in vain for any relief orders to come to the 32nd Iowa. Our time of enlistment, too, had expired, and so, we wrote a complaint to Washington D.C., whereupon we soon got an order that we might go home. A steamboat took us down the Alabama River then we marched across the country to Vicksburg, and there embarked on a steamer for Clinton, Iowa. We were mustered out August 23, 1865, four and a half months after the assassination of Lincoln.
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1864: Union troops under General Frederick Steele fight off a Confederate army under General Edmund Kirby Smith as the Yankees retreat towards Little Rock, Arkansas.
1864: Work begins on the Dams along the Red River, which will allow Union General Nathaniel Banks troops to sail over the rapids above Alexandria, Louisiana.
1930: The Soviet Union proposes a military alliance with France and Great Britain.
1943: The British submarine HMS Seraph drops a dead man the British planted with false invasion plans, into the Mediterranean off the coast of Spain.
1945: Adolf Hitler commits suicide in his bunker. Karl Donitz becomes his successor.
1968: U.S. Marines attack a division of North Vietnamese troops in the village of Dai Do.
1970: U.S. troops invade Cambodia to disrupt North Vietnamese Army base areas.
1975: South Vietnam surrenders. By dawn, communist forces move into Saigon.