Sunday, January 11, 2009



Hugh Thompson Reid was born in Union county, Indiana, the 8th day of October, 1811. His father, who was a native of South Carolina, had left that State only a year before his son Hugh's birth. General Reid worked on his father's farm, in Indiana, till the year 1830, when he entered the Miami University, then under the tutorship of Professor Bishop. He graduated at the Indiana College, in 1837. Choosing the law for a profession, he studied for two years in the office of Judge Perry of Liberty, Indiana, and was then admitted to the bar. He came to Keokuk, Iowa, in 1843, and began the practice of his profession. Keokuk has since remained his home.

General Reid first became widely known in Southern Iowa, from his connection with the Keokuk and Des Moines River Railroad: indeed, to his energy and perseverance, more than to the efforts of any other man, this road is indebted for its existence. At one time its abandonment was talked of; but he would not consent, and the work was pushed forward. Its present flourishing condition evidences the soundness of his judgment.

Late in the summer of 1861, General Reid began recruiting a regiment for the service. Then, recruiting dragged heavily. On every hand he met with discouragements; but he finally succeeded, for he never turned his back on an enterprise once undertaken. The 15th Iowa Infantry was mustered into the United States service on the 22d day of February, 1862.

The 15th Iowa left its rendezvous in Keokuk on the 17th of March, 1862, and, after a stay of only ten days in St. Louis, proceeded to the front. At St. Louis the regiment received its arms and camp equipage. It arrived at Pittsburg Landing at six o'clock on Sunday morning, the first day of the battle. Its opening chapter was an eventful one. It fired its first gun at Shiloh.

General Grant's head-quarters were then at Savannah, eight miles below, on the river; and at that point Colonel Reid had, the night before, been assigned to the division of General Prentiss. On arriving at the Landing, on the morning of the sixth, his first business was to report to that general, and, mounting his horse, he rode out toward the front for that purpose; but for some reason, he did not reach the front till the battle had opened with great fierceness, and he was unable to effect his object. He therefore returned to the river, and, disembarking his regiment, drew it up in line on the high bluffs, and waited for orders. It was now hardly nine o'clock, and yet the frightful stampede had already begun. Long lines of fugitives, many of them hatless and coatless, and all of them frightened to desperation, came streaming to the river-bank, and nothing could stop them.

Colonel Reid first received orders to arrest these fugitives, and effect their re-organization; but it was utterly impossible, and he was therefore, after considerable delay, ordered to proceed hastily to the front.

I have already stated that the 15th Iowa received their arms at St. Louis, just before embarking for the front: it is therefore unnecessary to add that the regiment had never been instructed in the manual of arms. In the process of loading and firing, they were all novices; but it was fortunate that they were nearly all of them accustomed to a gun, and could handle it with efficiency.

Under the guidance of a staff officer of General McClernand, and followed by the 16th Iowa, Colonel Chambers, Colonel Reid started with his regiment for the front; and, after a long, circuitous march occasioned by the ignorance or confusion of the guide, — first to the right, in almost the opposite direction from where the firing was the heaviest, and then to the left in a south-westerly direction — finally entered a large, open field, the west side of which was bordered by timber and held by the enemy. On his right, too, the field was bordered with timber and held by the enemy; and here they had artillery in position, with which, as soon as he came into view, they opened on him with great vigor. They used shell, grape and canister, and fired with precision; but Colonel Reid, heedless of danger, advanced to engage the enemy in his front. He was so confident, or so forgetful, that he did not even take the precaution to deploy his regiment in line of battle; but marched it by the right flank, into the very face of the enemy. Some of his regiment said after the engagement that, if the enemy had opened their lines, he would have marched straight through and been captured; but it is needless to say that these were the colonel's enemies.

When he had reached a point where he was met both in front and on the right by a most galling fire, he drew his regiment out into line of battle; and the manner in which he did it, showed his great courage. He first filed it to the left, in a line parallel to that of the enemy, and then counter-marched it into a position to return the enemy's fire. All this time he was suffering loss. Such coolness must have been a strange spectacle to the enemy; and such troops they must have encountered with hesitancy.

As soon as the regiment was brought to a front, it engaged the enemy, first by a rapid fire, and then with the bayonet; and thus the struggle continued for nearly two hours, when, flanked on both the right and left, the order to fall back was given. The regiment fell back, as did nearly all the troops on that field, in confusion. But that is not strange: what is strange, is how, undisciplined as it was, the regiment maintained itself so long, and with such courage.

About this time, Colonel Reid was severely wounded. A shot struck him in the neck, and paralyzed him. Seeing him fall from his horse, Major Belknap ran to him, and raised him up, when he said: "Tell my wife that I died gloriously, fighting for my country." Brave man! He thought he was hit mortally—dulce pro patrla mori; but it fortunately proved otherwise. He revived in a half-hour, and resumed command of his shattered regiment.

There are various accounts of the particular part taken by the 15th Iowa at Shiloh: indeed, hardly two men of the regiment saw the thing alike. One says the regiment did not file left in coming into line, but that it formed "forward on first company." Another says that, a portion of the regiment filed left, and the other right, and thus got separated, (which is true); and still another that, it engaged the enemy across a large ravine, to the right and front, while standing by the right flank and before it was formed in line of battle. To show how great was the confusion, I may further add that, one of the regiment's field officers, the day after the battle had closed, was not able to find the field in which the fighting was done.

The following is Colonel Reid's statement of casualties, and his roll of honor:

"Fifteen of the thirty-two commissioned officers, who went on the field, had been killed, wounded, or taken prisoners: twenty-two officers and men had been killed, and one hundred and fifty-six wounded.

"Adjutant Pomutz distinguished himself during the action, for his coolness and courage. He, too, was wounded. Captains Kittle, of Company A; Smith, of Company B; Seevers, of Company C; Madison, of Company D; Hutchcraft, of Company E ; Cunningham, of Company G; Day, of Company I; and Hedrick, of Company K, who was captured in a charge upon the enemy, all distinguished themselves for their gallantry and courage, in leading forward and encouraging their men. Captain Blackmar, of Company F, was wounded in the action, and disabled; 1st Lieutenant Goode of the same company was also wounded. Captain Clark, of Company H, was not in the engagement, having been left sick in the hospital at St. Louis. Captains Hutchcraft and Day were both severely wounded. Second Lieutenant Penniman of Company A, and Hamilton of .Company I, were killed whilst bravely performing their duty. First Lieutenant King, and 2d Lieutenant Danielson of Company H, were both severely wounded, while acting well their part, thus leaving the company without a commissioned officer. First Lieutenants Studer, of Company B; Porter, of Company D ; Craig, of Company E ; Hanks, of Company G; J. Monroe Reid, of Company I, who, though wounded himself, continued in command of the company after the captain was disabled and the 2d Lieutenant killed; and Eldridge, of Company K; all deserve special praise for the manner in which they conducted themselves on the field. Second Lieutenants Lanstrum, of Company B; Brown, of Company E; Herbert, of Company C; and Sergeant-Major Brown, who was severely wounded, conducted themselves well on the field. The non-commissioned officers generally, were at their posts, and performed their duty. The color-Sergeant, Newton J. Rogers, who fought in the 1st Iowa at Springfield, gallantly bore our standard forward, and planted it. among the enemy, where it was bravely maintained and defended by portions of Companies C, E, I, and K. * * The Reverend W. W. Eastbrook, too, for a time laid aside his sacred office, and resumed the use of the surgeon's scalpel with great success."

In no respect is Colonel Reid too lavish of his praise. The 15th Iowa did nobly. During the war, no cruder troops have met the enemy; and but few have borne themselves with greater credit.

In the retreat from the front to the Landing, Captain Kittle, of the 15th Iowa, a handsome and brave young officer, was reported the hero of an incident which I would like to tell, but it is not well vouched for. The following is true. Soon after arriving at the Landing, a lieutenant-colonel — a staff officer — rode up to the frightened crowd on the river bank, and shouted: "Is there no officer here?" Captain Kittle stepping forward said: "Yes, Sir, I am an infantry officer: what shall I do?" "For God's sake, organize these men, and bring them out to the new line." Going at the work, he gathered in line, by threats and entreaties, a respectable battalion, and started with them to the front; but the greater part of them were so filled with terror, that they soon broke and fled back to the Landing. With the balance, he went on and took part in repelling the last assaults of the enemy, that were made that afternoon. There were many other instances of special gallantry among the line officers of the l5th Iowa; and the names of Captains Hedrick, Madison and Blackmar ; and Lieutenant J. S. Porter, may be mentioned specially, for their conduct was admirable.

Colonel Reid continued with his regiment till the 23d of April, 1863, when he received his commission as brigadier- general. A portion of this time he had been in command of a brigade. Subsequently to the battle of Shiloh, and up to the time he received his promotion, the history of his regiment is the same as that of the other regiments of the Iowa Brigade. General Reid was promoted to the rank of brigadier on the special recommendation of General Grant; and the general may well be proud of this compliment; for General Grant, knowingly, never compliments the undeserving.

During the spring of 1863, and till the 6th of the following August, General Reid commanded the District of Lake Providence, with the following named troops comprising his command: the 16th Wisconsin, the 122d Illinois, portions of the 17th and 95th Illinois, and the 1st Kansas Mounted Infantry. At the last named date, orders were given for the evacuation of the place. They were issued on account of the sickliness of the locality. After visiting his family on leave of absence, the general was placed in command at Cairo, Illinois. He was holding this command at the time of tendering his resignation, which was in the spring of 1864.

Colonel Reid does not look like the man he is. From what he has accomplished, I judge him to be a man .of more than ordinary ability. He is tall, and slightly stooping in person, & has coarse features, and a large, sandy, bushy head. He has large perceptive organs, and small, gray eyes, sunk deeply in his head. He is perhaps a little more comely than Colonel Shaw of the 14th, but not much.

In character, he is. brave and determined. A neighbor of his, of long acquaintance, speaks thus of him:

"In the early history of the Half-Breed Tract in Lee county, which included the city of Keokuk, there was much trouble about titles to real estate, and at times, a state of things bordering upon civil war. In these contests, General Reid was conspicuous, and had to undergo many dangers. On several occasions, his life was threatened by an infuriated mob; but he maintained his rights with so much courage, as to secure a local fame for prowess, which, more recently, has become national, by his military achievements."

In the essentials, General Reid was a fine soldier. He was brave, and had good judgment; but he could never master tactics. "He could not," say many of his regiment, "drill a company, to say nothing about a regiment;" and many instances are given, showing how he used to handle his regiment. In passing an obstacle, he once gave the following command: "File left, boys; and follow my horse round this stump!" But his regiment noticed this deficiency more, on account of the great contrast, in this respect, between himself and his successors, Generals Belknap and Hedrick. Both those officers are fine tacticians.

The following incident occurred while General Reid was colonel of the l5th Iowa: He was stationed with his regiment at Lake Providence, Louisiana, in February, 1863, when Adjutant-General Thomas visited Grant's army, to institute negro recruiting; for the Government had at last come to the conclusion that, for a black man to shoot a rebel, was no murder. McArthur's Division, of McPherson's Corps, was drawn up in hollow square, and addressed by Generals Thomas, McPherson and McArthur. Finally, Colonel Reid was called to the stand. Some officers of his regiment felt anxious for him; but he. soon relieved their minds, for he made the best speech of them all.

SOURCE: Addison A. Stuart, Iowa Colonels and Regiments, p. 281-8

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