SECOND COLONEL, SECOND INFANTRY.
General James Madison Tuttle, was born near Summerfield, Monroe county, Ohio, on the 24th of September, 1823; and was educated at "the people's college" — the Common School. Emigrating to Indiana with his father's family, in the winter of 1833, he settled in Fayette county, whence, after a residence of thirteen years, he removed to Farmington, Van Buren county, Iowa, where he soon after engaged in mercantile pursuits.
Prior to entering the United States Service, General Tuttle was a quiet citizen, and not known to any great extent, outside of his own county. In the fall of 1855, he was elected to the office of sheriff of Van Buren county, and in 1857, to that of treasurer and recorder, and was known as a prompt, honorable and accurate official —but nothing further. He cared little for public eclat; and what little public life he had seen, was not so much attributable to his own efforts, as to the solicitation and labor of his friends. In his case, as in many others, the war developed latent powers that otherwise would doubtless have remained dormant.
Early in 1861, in response to the call of the President for seventy-five thousand men, General Tuttle closed up his business hastily, and recruited a company, of which he was elected captain; but the quota of the State's three-months men being already full, his company, in the following May, was assigned to the 2d Iowa Infantry. At its rendezvous, he was chosen lieutenant-colonel of that regiment, and on the 6th of the following September, was made its colonel.
There are few officers, who have a better military record than General Tuttle — none a fairer; and from the time he led his regiment in its gallant and reckless charge against Fort Donelson till August, 1863, when he accepted the Democratic nomination for Governor of Iowa, there were none, except confessed sympathizers with the rebellion, who were not loud in his praise; — and he merited his great popularity.
That the 2d Iowa Infantry, Colonel James M. Tuttle commanding, and the glory incident to the capture of Fort Donelson are inseparable, is known not only in Iowa, but in every loyal State; but, it is not so generally known that the tender of the "forlorn hope" had been previously made by General Smith to several other regiments, by all of which, through their commanders, it had been declined.
"Colonel, will you take those works ?"
"Support me promptly, and in twenty minutes I will go in."
And he did go in; but the glory was dearly purchased. The dangers met, and the obstacles encountered and overcome in this assault, were of the most prodigious character; and the heroism that inspired the assailants has never been fully appreciated. It is without question the most gallant, reckless and successful charge of the whole war. On the right of the Fort Henry, or Dover Road, a fierce struggle had been going on during all the forenoon of the 15th, with results so favorable to the enemy that, abandoning their purposes of retreating, they returned to their works, confident of being able to force the entire Federal position; and, to show that their hopes of success were not unreasonable, it is only necessary to state that with the exception of a few regiments — only two brigades—the whole Federal force had been encountered and sadly worsted. McClernand and Wallace had both been defeated. I am aware that the Rev. John S. C. Abbott, our able and pleasant historian, does not corroborate this statement; nor does the rebel General Pillow, whom Mr. Abbott cites as authority; but the former was doubtless misinformed, and, as for the latter, he would not tell the truth if a lie would better suit his purpose. Indeed his own flaming dispatch, forwarded to Nashville just on the eve of the Confederate successes, contradicts his official report of the battle — "On the honor of a soldier, the day is ours;" and so at that hour it was.
In the disposition of the Federal troops at Fort Donelson, the 2d Iowa Infantry held the extreme left of General Grant's forces. Its position from the rebel lines, at the point where the attack was to be made, and where, I may add, a whole brigade had. made an assault the day before and been repulsed, was some six hundred yards distant. The character of the ground, Intervening between the 2d Iowa and the intrenched line of the enemy, was such as to throw all the advantages in the enemy's favor. In front of the regiment, and just beyond the open field in which it formed for the charge, was a ravine whose sides, thickly lined with tangled brush, were very difficult of passage. Beyond, was the steep, obstructed hill-side, along the crest of which, and parallel to the ravine, were the earth-works of the enemy. Not more than one hundred yards In front of these works was a formidable abattis, to pass which an assaulting column must break its line of battle, and move by the flank. Beyond the abattis there were no obstructions except the enemy's breast-works.
The assaulting party consisted of three hundred men of the 2d Iowa, under Colonel, afterwards General Tuttle; and here Mr. Abbott is again in error; for he says: "General Smith led the charge on horseback. It was a sublime sight, as this mass of troops, in unbroken line emerged from the woods, and commenced its firm, resolute, silent tramp up the steep hill in the face of the battery of the foe." General Smith remained at the foot of the hill till the charge had been made, and the enemy's defenses gained.
But to return: When all was in readiness, the order to advance was given, when Colonel Tuttle, with the left wing of his regiment, forcing his way through the ravine, began scaling the hill-side. The abattis was reached, and that obstruction passed without the firing of scarcely a gun, but the instant after, and hardly before the gallant band had again come into line, it received the concentrated fire of three rebel infantry regiments — not less than two thousand men. The slaughter was terrible. At the first fire, one hundred and fifty of these three hundred gallant men fell, either dead or wounded. Among them were the lamented captains, Slaymaker and Cloutman. But the ardor of the surviving was in no manner cooled. Their good name had been impeached at St. Louis, by an unjust and unwarranted order of General Hamilton; and the last man was to die or be a victor. Without a perceptible halt, the assaulting party, closing up its ranks, moved steadily on. Such daring was too much for the enemy; and two whole regiments, with the exception of a few men who were promptly put to the bayonet, fled from their defences in precipitate flight. A Mississippi regiment to the right, still remained; but, the right wing of the 2d Iowa now coming up, this also fled to the ravine below.
The key to the rebel position had now been wrested from the enemy, and yet the fighting was not more than half done. Between the main fort and the position the 2d Iowa now held was a deep ravine, through which the enemy having passed, had taken up a position on the high ground, which bounded its opposite side. Colonel Tuttle, wishing to avail himself of their present fright, promptly formed his regiment, and moved against them. He had reached the ravine, and was engaging the enemy, when that Indiana regiment, just having gained the hill for the first time, commenced pouring a severe musketry-fire upon his rear. Momentary confusion followed. Colonel Tuttle first waved his sword, and in other ways endeavored to induce the Indianians to cease their firing; but they believed they were engaging the enemy, and no token but the white flag would they accept. Alarmed for the safety of his own regiment, Colonel Tuttle now determined to run back to them, and inform them in person of their mistake; but he had not gone far before he stopped short, and, turning his face in the direction of the enemy's fire, began moving backward. The reason for this maneuver of the colonel was then unknown, and for sometime after; but it afterwards turned out that he was fearful of being shot in the back by the enemy, which he had declared should never happen. My informant was a member of his old regiment.
Order was now restored. In the meantime General Smith, having come on the hights to superintend movements in person, recalled the 2d Iowa, and, with the other troops of his command, stationed the regiment behind the captured works of the enemy. Random firing was kept up till late in the evening, and the next morning the fort surrendered.
Fifteen thousand prisoners, many ordnance stores, and much other property, were the fruits of the victory. There were other fruits, though these were not to be relished by the public palate. The commander-in-chief, and every division commander in the fight, were made major-generals, and every brigade commander was made a brigadier. The 2d Iowa Infantry, therefore, not only made U. S. Grant, C. F. Smith, J. A. McClernand and Lew Wallace, major-generals; but Lauman and some ten others, brigadiers. It also broke the line of the enemy's defences, which extended in the South West, from Bowling Green to Columbus, and opened up the enemy's country south, to the Memphis and Charleston Railroad. The regiment did still more; it forced General Johnson to evacuate Bowling Green, captured Buckner, and frightened into flight Pillow at Fort Donelson, and compelled Polk to evacuate Columbus, on the Mississippi. Glorious old Regiment! Well might General Halleck say: "The 2d Iowa proved themselves the bravest of the brave." Richly did the regiment deserve its place in the van of the triumphal march into the rebel stronghold!
And yet, after the surrender of the fort, the colonel of the Indiana regiment, who had ordered his men to fire into the 2d Iowa, had the impudence to claim the honor of being the first in the enemy's works; but in justice to General Smith, let me say, his claims were met only by reprimands and cursings.
In adding the roll of honor, I shall quote from the official report of Colonel Tuttle:
''When I come to speak of those who particularly distinguished themselves for coolness and bravery, so many examples occur to me that it seems invidious to make distinctions. Of those few who were in the most responsible positions, Lieutenant-Colonel Baker, Major Chipman and Adjutant Tuttle, to say that they were cool and brave would not do them justice. They were gallant to perfection. Lieutenant-Colonel Baker had a ball pass through his cap and come out near his temple. Major Chipman was among the first to fall, severely wounded, while cheering on the men of the left wing, and refused to be carried from the field; but waved his sword and exhorted the men to press forward. Captains Slaymaker and Cloutman fell dead, at the head of their companies, before they reached the entrenchments. Near them also fell Lieutenant Harper. His death was that of a true and brave soldier. Captains Cox, Mills, Moore and Wilkins were at the head of their companies, marked examples of gallantry and efficiency. Lieutenants Schofield, Ensign, Davis, Holmes, Huntington, Weaver, Mastic, Snowdon and Godfrey — in fact nearly all of my officers, commissioned and non-commissioned, deported themselves nobly throughout the engagement. Sergeant-Major Brawner deserves very honorable mention for his gallant conduct. Surgeons Marsh and Nassau also deserve the highest praise for their skill and untiring devotion to the welfare of the wounded. Dr. Nassau was particularly noticed for his bravery on the field, taking off the wounded during a heavy fire of the enemy."
I cannot omit, in this report, an account of the color-guard:
"Color-Sergeant Doolittle fell early in the engagement, pierced by four balls, and dangerously wounded. The colors were then taken by Corporal Page, company B, who soon fell dead. They were again raised by Corporal Churcher, company I, who had his arm broken, just as he entered the entrenchments, when they were taken by Corporal Twombly, company F, who was almost instantly knocked down by a spent ball, but immediately rose and bore them gallantly to the end of the fight. Not a single man of the color-guard but himself was on his feet at the close of the engagement."
At Shiloh, Colonel Tuttle was placed in command of a brigade, where he won new laurels. His command consisted of the 2d, 7th, 12th, and 14th Iowa regiments, and, with it, he held a portion of that line which saved the Federal army from capture. After the fall of General W. H. L. Wallace, in that deadly cross-fire of the enemy, and just at the mouth of that flanking swoop that swallowed up the 8th, 12th, and 14th Iowa, Colonel Tuttle, at the request of Captain McMichael, General Smith's acting assistant adjutant-general, assumed command of the division, which he held the remainder of that day, and until the enemy were finally repulsed and driven from the field. At Shiloh, he showed himself to be cool and calculating in danger, and on the 9th of the following June, he was rewarded with the commission of a brigadier-general. Subsequently to his promotion to the rank of a general officer, and until the spring of 1864, when he left the service, General Tuttle, a principal portion of the time, commanded a division in the field. During the fall of 1862, and the following winter, he was in command at Cairo, Illinois; but, in the spring of 1863, was relieved and placed in command of the 3d Division, l5th Army Corps. He joined Sherman in the march through Jackson to the rear of Vicksburg, and, in the assault and capture of Jackson on the 14th of May, was with his division in the advance. His division moved against the south side of the rebel capital, while General Crocker's made the assault on the west.
There is a solitary political chapter in General Turtle's history. He was the Democratic candidate for Governor of Iowa, at the fall election of 1863, and the following brief extract from his Address to the People will show his views upon the all-absorbing political question of the day."
"I am in favor of a vigorous prosecution of the war to the full extent of our power, until the rebellion is suppressed, and of using all means that may be in our possession, recognized by honorable warfare, for that purpose. I am for the Union without an if, and regardless of whether Slavery stands or falls by its restoration; and in favor of peace on no other terms than the unconditional submission of the rebels to the constituted authorities of the Government of the United States."
In size General Tuttle is above the medium, with broad, square shoulders, and weighing one hundred and ninety pounds. He has a sanguine, bilious temperament; light, florid complexion; and gray eyes. His mental and physical organism seem to be in perfect sympathy; for he is slow of speech, and slow in action. He has none of the dash of Sheridan; — he is more like General Grant — slow and sure. Ordinarily he does not draw conclusions rapidly; but, if the circumstances be such as to give him no time for deliberation, he seems equal to emergencies, for his judgments are nearly always correct. He is naturally modest, unassuming and unostentatious. He has large hope, but little self-esteem, and lacks confidence in his own ability. But he is stubborn, and his deliberate opinions are not easily shaken.
SOURCE: Stuart, A. A., Iowa Colonels and Regiments, p. 51-59