Wednesday, May 6, 2009



James B. Weaver was the fifth colonel of the 2d Iowa Infantry. He is a native of the city of Dayton, Ohio, where he was born on the 12th of June, 1833, and a son of Abram Weaver, Esq., formerly a county officer and politician of Davis county. He accompanied his father's family from Ohio to Michigan, and thence to Iowa, where he arrived in 1843. In the year following, he settled in Davis county, where he has since resided.

Colonel Weaver's early education was limited — only such as the West, at that early day, afforded. At the age of nineteen, he began the study of law, which he pursued for two years in Bloomfield, and then, with the late lamented Colonel James Baker, entered the Cincinnati Law School. Leaving that University in the spring of 1856, he returned to Iowa; and, from that date until the commencement of the war, practiced his profession in Bloomfield, Davis county. Soon after establishing himself in practice, he was married to Miss Clara Vinson, a lady of intelligence and worth.

Colonel Weaver entered the service, as first lieutenant of Company G, 2d Iowa Infantry, and with that rank fought at the battles of Fort Donelson and Shiloh. He was made major of his regiment, vice N. W. Mills promoted to lieutenant-colonel, and, after the death of Colonels Baker and Mills, was promoted to the colonelcy. His commission as major was received the day before the first day's fight at Corinth, and that of colonel, in the latter part of the same month.

If we except the part taken by the 2d Iowa Infantry in the early part of General Sherman's campaign against Atlanta, the history of the regiment, while under the command of Colonel -Weaver, has in it little of general interest. From the fall of 1862 to the fall of 1863, it was stationed on garrison-duty at and near Corinth, Mississippi; and, if we except the few expeditions in which it took part during this time, the routine of its camp-life was only occasionally broken by droll camp-scenes and incidents.

In garrison-duty, the day begins something as follows:— awakened in the morning by the braying of mules, the impudent clatter of drums, and the shrill whistle of fifes, the soldiers hurry on their clothes and assemble on the company parade grounds for "roll-call." But there is always some delinquent: some lazy fellow throws back his blanket and, sitting upright, rubs his eyes and yawns lustily. He begins to wonder if he will have to "police" to-day, or stand picket, or — what he will have to do, when the command "fall in" is sounded, and instantly the trumpet-voice of the orderly begins calling, "Buckmaster;" "Bunner;" "Brown;" "Brooks;" — he hurries on his pants and out into line, but only in time to find his name passed, and himself checked as absent from "roll-call." The day begins badly; for the thing he most dreaded is now upon him — he is the first on the list of those detailed for "policing," and he curses his ill luck.

Next follows the morning ablutions and toilet, and then breakfast. The 2d Iowa at Corinth were gentlemen; for, in those days, they had black men for their cooks, their "hewers of wood and drawers of water." The soldiers chatted and laughed, while their servants fried the bacon, and made the coffee. "Guard-mounting," "company-drill," "dinner-call," and "retreat," followed each other, until finally "tattoo" closed the day. Generally, the history of one day was repeated in that following.

Of all the troops sent out from Iowa, there has been no regiment, where the enlisted men have maintained Bo much independence in their relations with their officers, as have those of the 2d Iowa, — none, where the members would endure less of style in their field- and line-officers. In every other respect, the discipline of the regiment was most commendable. In the summer of 1863, while the 2d Iowa was stationed with its brigade at Corinth, General T. W. Sweeney, (afterwards dismissed in disgrace from the service for threatening to shoot General Dodge, and a surgeon) issued an order, embracing the following points: — 1st. There must be no familiarity between enlisted men and their officers. 2d. If any enlisted man have any business with the commanding officer of his company, he must transact it through the orderly-sergeant. The orderly-sergeant, on entering his officer's tent, must remove his hat, and taking the position of a soldier, make known his business. He must never seat himself, or talk about other matters than those relating to the business in question; and, that being attended to, he must leave promptly, and with the proper salute. Violations of the order were to be reported by company-officers, and all offenders severely punished.

This was a new article in the regiment's code of discipline, to which it would not yield submission. But Colonel Weaver, always anxious to comply with orders, added one of his own; and, with a rhetorical flourish, held his company-officers responsible for all infringements of the former. Both were read to his regiment on dress-parade, and were greeted with three groans. One stormy night not long after, when the colonel was in bed, a shot was fired through his quarters, the ball passing within four or five inches of his person. For some reason or other, no more was said about the obnoxious order, and the men visited the tents of their company-officers as usual.

After Vicksburg had fallen, and Port Hudson, and the Mississippi had been opened from its mouth to its sources, there was little need for the magnificent army of General Grant, in its old field of operations. On the west side of the Mississippi, the power of the Confederacy was inconsiderable: its chief strength lay on the east side of the river. Rosecrans successfully engaged Bragg at Murfreesboro, and forced him back across the tail of the Cumberland Mountains, to and beyond Chattanooga. Then, himself defeated, he was beaten back to Chattanooga, and there beseiged. After the fall of Vicksburg, therefore, Chattanooga became the chief point of interest, in military operations in the South West. General Grant's victory at Vicksburg was the consummation of success in that quarter, and he therefore planned immediate relief for the Army of the Cumberland, at Chattanooga.

In order to open and protect new lines of communication between Nashville and Chattanooga, and to render that one already open more secure, Corinth was to be evacuated, a large extent of the Memphis and Charleston Railroad abandoned, and General Dodge's command ordered across the country to the Nashville and Decatur Railroad. Hence it was that the 2d Iowa, with its brigade and division, was transferred from Corinth to the line of the above named road. General Dodge's command left Corinth and crossed the Tennessee, at Eastport, with the rear of General Sherman's Corps, then on its way to Chattanooga.

The 2d Iowa marched directly to Pulaski, Tennessee, where were established the head-quarters of the regiment. Pulaski was also General Dodge's head-quarters. Colonel Weaver was made commandant of the post, and held the position during the following winter, and until just before the expiration of his term of service. The services of the 2d Iowa were, in the meantime, the same as those of other troops, stationed on rail road guard-duty. The regiment however, marched on no expeditions, and was, at no time, attacked by the enemy. It was at Pulaski that the 2d re-enlisted, and from that point left for Iowa on veteran-furlough.

Soon after its return from Iowa, the 2d Iowa, with the balance of Dodge's command, took the field. Leaving the non-veterans at Pulaski, the regiment, in the latter part of March, 1864, marched to the front, by way of Elkton, Huntsville and Bridgeport. It had been so long stationed in camp that the news of its assignment to the front was hailed with much satisfaction, and demonstrations of joy, along the line of march, such as song-singing and the like, were frequent. The Elk river was to be crossed at Elkton, and there was no bridge and no boats; but that was no obstacle; for the regiment, and indeed the whole brigade, stripping off all but their shirts, waded the stream, amid shouting and laughter. There are always some wags in every regiment, and at such times as these, they crack their jokes and make much sport.

On arriving at Huntsville, General Sweeney's Division, (the 2d) to which was attached the 2d Iowa, was joined by that of General Veatch. These troops constituted General G. M. Dodge's command—the celebrated left wing of the 16th Army Corps. They proceeded from Huntsville to Chattanooga, and from Chattanooga, over the battle-ground of Chickamauga, on to Dalton.

At Dalton, General Johnson was strongly intrenched, with the finest rebel army ever mustered in the South West; and so confident was he of his strength that he had boasted he would march on Chattanooga, and, having driven the Federal forces from that place, would move on and capture Nashville. But Dalton was to fall with but little bloodshed. General McPherson, moving through Snake Creek Gap, gained Johnson's left flank, and compelled him to evacuate his strong works and fall back to Resaca. In this flank movement, the first in General Sherman's "flanking campaign," the 2d Iowa took part. Soon after, Colonel Weaver was mustered out of the service, and returned to his home in Bloomfield. His three year's term expired on the 28th of May, 1864. From that time to the present, the 2d Iowa Infantry has been commanded by Colonel Noel B. Howard.

Colonel Weaver is one of the handsomest of the Iowa colonels. He has a symmetrical, well-developed person, which, with his dignified address, intelligent countenance, and dark-blue eyes, makes him interesting and pleasing. He is too small for a great man, and yet, with his dignity and self-assurance, he impresses a stranger favorably.

Intellectually, he is rather brilliant; I am told he is a graceful and interesting public speaker. His worst fault is an affectation in delivery.

He has some vanity, and was proud of his position as colonel of the 2d Iowa. For instance: just after being commissioned a lieutenant, it is said he returned to Bloomfield and attended church in full uniform, sporting the whole regulation outfit. "From his walk," said an officer of his regiment, " you could tell that he was colonel of the 2d Iowa."

He was a good and brave officer, and there are few who were as cool as he in battle. At Shiloh, while the 2d and 7th Iowa were running that terrible gauntlet, on the afternoon of the first day's fight, Captain Moore, of company G, was shot through both legs and disabled. Lieutenant Weaver stopped, picked him up, and bore him from the field. Under the circumstances, not one man in five thousand would have imitated his example. He is a member of the Methodist Church, and is one of the few officers who abstained from the use of liquor in the service.

SOURCE: Stuart, A. A., Iowa Colonels and Regiments, p. 71-76

No comments: