Thursday, May 21, 2009



Aaron Brown was born in Mississippi, about the year 1822, and is the only native from that State who has held a colonel's commission from Iowa. He entered the service from the county of Fayette, Iowa, and was the first lieutenant of Captain Carman A. Newcomb's company. He was made captain, April 8th, 1862, and promoted to the majority of his regiment, after the resignation of Major William M. Stone. I am unacquainted with Colonel Brown's history, prior to his entering the service.

In resuming the history of the 3d Iowa, I shall go back to its encampment at Shiloh, where it rested immediately after the battle. It was the same whence it had marched on the previous Sunday morning to the bloody field. Its dead comrades it had gathered and buried; and now it rested and contemplated the scenes of the past conflict. It had won military glory; but was this an equivalent for its dead comrades just buried? All were sad, and yet all hearts swelled with secret and inexpressible joy at their miraculous escape from harm. Shiloh had taught the regiment a new lesson—to respect the valor of the enemy, and, needlessly, not to seek a new encounter; and such has been the experience of every regiment that has once met the enemy in a desperate engagement. No one will a second time leave his cot in the hospital to be present in battle, and yet there are hundreds of instances where this thing has been done by novices. Good soldiers soon learn to do their whole duty, and no more.

During the siege of Corinth, and for several months after, the 1st Brigade of the 4th Division was commanded by General Lauman; but neither the 3d Iowa, nor any other regiment of the brigade, met the enemy during the environment of that place. I of course, except the affairs on the skirmish line. Before the fall of the city, there was but one affair in front of the 3d Iowa, which approached to any thing like an engagement : this was the charge of the 8th Missouri, of General Sherman's command, to capture a block house, known as Russel's House. The charge was successful, and gave the regiment an enviable reputation; and it sustained its name well, for it was this same regiment that so distinguished itself nearly a year after, at Raymond, Mississippi. The position of the 4th Division before Corinth was to the left of General Sherman, that general holding the extreme right of the besieging army. While the 3d Iowa was lying in the trenches before Corinth, it was joined by Lieutenant-Colonel Scott, who had but just recovered from his sickness. "All welcomed him joyfully."

Much was expected of General Halleck at Corinth. He had command of the finest army that had ever been marshaled in the South West. The enemy, in his disasters at Shiloh, had lost his best general; his troops were dispirited; and it was expected, nay demanded, that Beauregard and his army be either routed or captured. But, if General Grant had been lazy in pressing the enemy after his defeat at Shiloh, so was Halleck cautious not to push him to a new engagement. He thought he would capture the whole thing, never dreaming, I suppose, but what Beauregard was fool enough to sit still and be surrounded.

But, presto change! At a quarter before six, on the morning of the 30th of May, a deafening explosion was heard in the direction of Corinth, and, instantly, dense clouds of smoke were seen rising over the city. But few wondered at the cause. Pope had told Halleck several days before that Beauregard was evacuating; and that time Pope told the truth. Many privates, even, could have told as much. Pope had begged eagerly for permission to swing the left wing against the enemy's works; but, No! The severe jar that all had just felt was caused by the explosion of the enemy's magazines. And so the enemy escaped, and the government gained — a little, sickly, strategical point. The whole army was at once put under arms, and marched, a part into Corinth and a part in pursuit of the enemy. With the divisions of Sherman and Hurlbut, there was a strife to see who would be first in the city: who was the winning party, I never learned. I only know that we, of Pope's command, were put in pursuit.

Corinth fell on the 30th of May, 1862, and, seven days later, Memphis was surrendered to Captain, now Rear-Admiral Charles H. Davis. On the 2d of June, and before the fall of Memphis, the 4th and 5th Divisions, under General Sherman, left Corinth, and marched west in the direction of the last named city. The object of this movement was, I believe, to co-operate with the fleet of Ellett and Davis in the capture of Memphis, and ultimately to open up the railroad between that place and Corinth. The news of the fall of Memphis reached these troops while they were camped on the high bluffs that overlook the Big Hatchie—that stream which, four months later, General Hurlbut's Division was to render historic. Before them, where they were then encamped, lay the future battlefield of Matamora.

After considerable delay at La Grange and Moscow, General Sherman resumed the march to Memphis, where he arrived with his command on the 21st of July. The 3d Iowa led the van of its division into the city. On the 6th of September following, General Hurlbut was ordered back in the direction of Corinth; and, on the departure of his division from Memphis, the 3d Iowa was again in the van.

On the 13th of September this command was encamped at a point on Spring Creek, where it remained till the 19th instant, when a detachment of it, consisting of the 1st Brigade and two battalions of the 2d Illinois cavalry, under General Lauman, marched south to create a diversion in favor of General Grant. It will be remembered that this was the date of the battle of Iuka; and the reason of this movement on the part of General Lauman will be found elsewhere. General Lauman's scouts came on the enemy in the vicinity of La Grange. They were moving north in force; the column, on the march, was a mile and a half in length. The force of Lauman being unequal to engage them, that general beat a hasty retreat, and marched till he came within supporting distance of General Hurlbut; but the enemy, although they pursued, declined to give battle. Northern Mississippi was at this time full of scouting parties of the enemy: they were actively developing their plans for the re-capture of Corinth and the destruction of General Grant's army. Price was disheartened by his defeat at Iuka; but Van Dorn resolved to strike again at Corinth.

While General Hurlbut was encamped near Bolivar, Tennessee, on the 3d of October, 1862, he received orders to march promptly in the direction of Corinth; and the next morning reveille beat at one o'clock. Soon after the column was in motion. He had his own division, and, in addition to these troops, the 68th Ohio and 12th Michigan, two regiments of Ross' command that had come down from Jackson. The march was to be made in light trim — only two wagons to the regiment. The ambulances were to go along, and the men knew that all this meant fighting. The march was pushed rapidly, and, just beyond Pocahontas, the cavalry van-guard came on the enemy's pickets. That night the column reached the Big Muddy, about two miles west of the Hatchie, and that same forenoon Van Dorn and Price had been repulsed and utterly routed at Corinth. All that afternoon, the enemy had been in rapid retreat in the direction of the Hatchie; but of all this General Hurlbut was ignorant.

The 1st Brigade had just stacked their arms, and were preparing supper, when it was reported that the cavalry in front were engaging the enemy. Instantly orderlies began flying to and fro, and for a time there was much apprehension; but the firing soon ceased and all remained quiet till morning. That night General Ord arrived from Jackson via Bolivar, and reported the defeat of the enemy and his subsequent retreat in the direction of the Hatchie. He would probably be met on the morrow, and all nerved themselves for the conflict. General Ord, who was the ranking officer, now assumed command of the forces. In the early part of the engagement which followed he was wounded, and retired from the field, leaving Hurlbut in command of the Federal forces. To Hurlbut, therefore, belongs the credit of that brilliant victory.

The battle of the Hatchie, or Matamora, was fought on the 5th of October, 1862, and was an unequal and most desperate engagement. It was good fortune for the 4th Division that the enemy had been previously routed and demoralized; and also that he was being hard pressed by Rosecrans: had this not been so, General Hurlbut and his command must have been certainly crushed. Even after the demonstration of the Federal cavalry of the previous evening, on the west bank of the Hatchie, the enemy never dreamed that there was any considerable force to resist his advance. He supposed it was a small cavalry command, sent forward to harrass him on his retreat. Therefore, on the morning of the 5th, he began pushing his infantry across the Hatchie with all confidence; his surprise can be imagined, when he met the division of Hurlbut. Beating a hasty retreat back across the bridge, he took up a strong position on the bluffs opposite; but the particulars of this engagement appear in the sketch of General Lauman. The 3d Iowa was one of the regiments that was filed to the right, into the pocket, and, with the other troops there stationed, was subjected to a murderous fire, without being able to protect itself, or return it. But for the movement round the bluffs to the left, General Hurlbut must have been defeated before Rosecrans came up.

The disproportion in killed and wounded of the 3d Iowa was unprecedented: two only were killed, while nearly sixty were wounded. One of the former was Lieutenant Dodd. He was struck by a shell just before reaching the bridge, and killed instantly. Captains Weiser and Kostman were wounded, as also were Lieutenants Hamill, Foote and C. E. Anderson. The latter was wounded just at the close of the battle, after having done his duty nobly. In their conduct in the battle, the men of the regiment vied with the officers; and their names should all be recorded, to go down in honor to posterity.

After the fighting had closed and the result of all three battles learned, there was both sadness and rejoicing. The 3d Iowa, with its division, marched back to Bolivar, and there tendered and received congratulations. General Hurlbut was lavish of his praises to all his troops: — "Comrades in battle, partakers of the weary march and long watches! the title of the Fighting Fourth, earned at Shiloh, has been burnished with additional splendor." He was now Mr. Hurlbut, and no longer General. His heart was as warm and tender as a woman's. But he had covered himself with glory, had been made a major-general, and was now taking leave of his division.

After the battle of the Hatchie, the seven subsequent months were not eventful to the 3d Iowa Infantry. General Lauman succeeded General Hurlbut in the command of the 4th Division, and under him the regiment remained, and, in the following spring, followed him to Vicksburg. It had in the meantime made many fatiguing marches, the most important of which was that under General Grant, through Central Mississippi to the Yockona. For many weeks it was stationed on guard-duty at Moscow, on the line of the Memphis and Charleston Railroad. During these seven months, there had been many changes in the regiment, the chief one of which was the resignation of Colonel Williams, and the promotion of Major Brown to that rank.

On the 18th of May, 1864, the 3d Iowa left Memphis for Vicksburg. Its days of rest and quiet camp life had passed, and now, for many months to come, it was to endure the hardships and breast the dangers of active field service. With its brigade it sailed up the Yazoo River, at day-light of the 21st of May. The object was to open up communication with Sherman, then just forcing the enemy back into his inner-works at Vicksburg. It is claimed that companies G and K, of the 3d Iowa, were the first to occupy the enemy's strong works at Haine's Bluff; but about this there must be some mistake.

One incident in the passage of the 3d Iowa from Memphis to Vicksburg, I must not omit to mention. The Crescent City, on which the regiment was embarked, had arrived, in the afternoon of the 19th instant, at the bend of the river near Island No. 65, and was sailing on unsuspectingly, when it was suddenly opened on with two howitzers from the eastern bank. Thirteen men of the regiment were wounded at the first discharge, one of them mortally; but, before the guerillas had time to re-load, a gunboat came up and drove the wretches from their cover. This circumstance will be remembered, when I state that the 41st and 53d Illinois, having landed and pursued the guerillas without being able to overtake them, returned and burned to the ground the village of Greenville, some two miles below the scene of murder. If reports were true, its fate was merited, and for other reasons; for it was said that, early in the war, a father and his son, Union residents of Greenville, were headed up in barrels by the fiendish citizens, and rolled down the steep bank into the Mississippi.

Before Vicksburg, the services of the 3d Iowa were the same as those of the other troops, buried in the heated trenches around that beleaguered city.

I now hasten to the most eventful chapter in the history of the 3d Iowa Infantry — its charge on the enemy's works at Jackson, Mississippi, on the 12th of July, 1863. Vicksburg had fallen, and the 3d Iowa had marched with the forces of General Sherman against Johnson [sic], who, for several weeks, had been raising the siege—with official dispatches. On the advance of Sherman, Johnson had fallen back and planted himself behind his works at Jackson; and there he was on the 12th of July, in a state of siege, confronted and watched by three corps—the 9th, under Parke, on his right; the 15th, under Steele, in his front; and the 13th, under Ord, on his left. General Lauman was in Ord's command, and his division held the right of Sherman's army. And thus matters stood on the morning of the 12th of July.

At the date above mentioned, it was thought by General Ord that the position of Lauman's Division was too much retired. He therefore ordered it forward, so that its left should dress on the right of General Hovey, whose division, from right to left, came next in order. Its right was to be thrown forward so as to correspond with the advance on the left. The object was to shorten and strengthen the line, and not to bring on an engagement; nor would one have followed, but for the aspirations of an ambitious general, who was charged by his own men with hunting for promotion among the slaughtered and mangled soldiers of his command.

The scene of this merciless butchery is south of the city of Jackson, and between the New Orleans and Jackson Railroad and Pearl River. "At about 9 o'clock in the morning," (I quote from Major Crosley's official report) "the 3d Iowa, 41st and 53d Illinois Infantry, and the 5th Ohio Battery of six guns crossed the New Orleans and Jackson Railroad, at a point about two miles south of Jackson, and one mile from the enemy's works. After crossing, line of battle was formed, skirmishers thrown out, and the line ordered forward. After advancing about one-fourth of a mile, the line was halted; and the battery, placed in position one hundred yards in our rear, opened fire with shell, and continued to fire rapidly for about twenty minutes. The enemy replied promptly with two guns, getting our range the first shot. As soon as the battery ceased firing, the line again moved forward. We advanced half a mile through timber and a dense under-growth, our skirmishers meeting with no opposition, when, coming to the edge of an open field, the line was again halted. Here we were joined by the 28th Illinois, which took position on our right." There the line should have rested; but General Lauman now coming up, ordered it forward.

This was now the position: In front were open, undulating fields, cleared of every thing that could afford protection or cover, even down to corn-stalks; about four hundred yards in advance were the enemy's skirmishers, backed by reserves, and, a little further on, a strong line of works, so constructed as to give the enemy a concentrated fire on a charging column. Behind these works, in addition to two brigades of infantry, were fourteen cannon—more than two full batteries, whose dark mouths spoke almost certain death to assailants. There was in addition, a formidable abattis, constructed with occasional gaps, to pass which, it would be necessary for the charging party to break its line and assemble in groups. This formidable strong-hold was to be carried by less than one thousand men, and that, too, without any diversion in their favor.

The brigade advanced in compliance with orders, until it had reached, forced back and occupied the position of the enemy's skirmishers. The order had been to move forward; but Colonel Pugh, the brigade commander, believing there must be some mistake, again reported to General Lauman — this time in person. He explained to the general the point his command had reached, the position of the enemy, and the character of his works, and then waited for further orders; but they were still the same — to move forward. There could be no mistaking the general's purpose. All, from field-officers to privates, saw the situation; but, although the movement filled them with amazement, there was no faltering. Literally, they were to enter the jaws of death; but they would not sully their good name by disobeying orders.

The order to advance was given, and the whole line moved forward at double-quick and in perfect order, when — but what need of further recital? They were, of course, repulsed. Many, passing the abattis, advanced to within pistol-shot range of the enemy's works; they could go no further, and, after struggling a few moments, retreated precipitately. As soon as the exhausted, bleeding troops reached the edge of the timber, whence they had advanced before encountering the enemy's skirmishers, they rallied promptly, and, soon after, were marched back to the point on the railroad at which they had crossed in the morning. All the dead, and nearly all the wounded, were left upon the field; nor would the enemy allow them to be reached and rescued by flag of truce; and there they lay, mangled and bleeding, beneath the rays of the scorching sun, comrades in agony, as they had long been comrades in battle.

The escape of any from death was almost miraculous; and yet, in the 3d Iowa, the loss was only about fifty per cent. The regiment went into the engagement with an aggregate of two hundred and forty-one officers and men, and lost, in killed, wounded and missing, one hundred and fourteen. Company B lost all three of her officers, killed — the two Ruckmans and Lieutenant Hall. Colonel Brown was severely wounded. The loss of the 53d Illinois was greater than that of any other regiment. Among others, it lost its gallant colonel. He was struck by a charge of canister, and fell from his horse, literally torn in pieces. It is said that General Lauman wept when he looked on the remnant of his old brigade.

After the lamentable affair at Jackson, the 3d Iowa returned with its division to Vicksburg, and sailed thence to Natchez. In the following Winter it again returned to Vicksburg, and accompanied General Sherman on his march to Meridian. The regiment re-enlisted as veterans, and came North in the early spring of 1864. Returning to the front, it was ordered to join General Sherman, already on the march against Atlanta. Before the fall of that city, Colonel Brown, and a majority of the field- and line-officers resigned their commissions. In re-officering the regiment, a lieutenant was promoted to the lieutenant-colonelcy: it was entitled to no colonel, on account of the fewness of its numbers. On the memorable 22d of July, 1864, before Atlanta, the regiment was again put in the thickest of the fight, and lost heavily. Among the killed was its lieutenant-colonel, who had only the day before received his commission. The regiment was soon after consolidated with the 2d Iowa Infantry, and lost its organization as a regiment.

In closing this sketch of Colonel Brown and his regiment, I will add an extract from a letter of Captain J. H. Reid, of the 15th Iowa:

"Our men, captured on the 22d of July, were taken through Atlanta that day, and their names reported to the provost marshal-general, when they were marched to East Point the same night. In passing through the city, whenever a shell fell in the streets from our batteries, they cheered and sang, 'Rally Round the Flag.' Rebel officers told them to dry up, they were prisoners of war; but they answered, 'We will always cheer a Yankee shell.' A squad of rebel cavalry was passing through the streets with the flag of the 3d Iowa Infantry, captured after the color-sergeant fell, literally pierced through and through with bullets. Some of that regiment among the prisoners saw their old flag in the hands of the enemy. They made a rush for it, wrested it from its captors, and, amid torrents of threats and curses from the guards, tore it into a thousand shreds."

I never saw Colonel Brown; but, from what I can learn of him, he must be a large man, with phlegmatic temperament, and an easy-going disposition. He may not be a brilliant man, but he was certainly a brave and faithful officer.

SOURCE: Stuart, A. A., Iowa Colonels and Regiments, p 97-108

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