Saturday, August 1, 2009



Jabez Banbury is a native of England, and was born in the year 1831; but, removing to this country when quite young, he became, long since, thoroughly Americanized. He is a man of limited education, and by trade a mechanic.

At the time of entering the service, he had some experience in military matters; for he had been a member of an independent military company in Marshalltown. At that time I am informed, he gave proof of military taste and talent. He enlisted in the United States volunteer service in June, 1861, and assisted in raising a company for the war, which was afterwards assigned to the 5th Iowa Infantry, and designated Company D. Of this company, he was elected 1st lieutenant, and, with this rank, entered the field. He was promoted to the captaincy of his company in February, 1862; was made major of his regiment, on the 14th of the following July, and, on the promotion of Colonel Matthies to brigadier-general, was commissioned colonel. At the time his regiment was transferred to the 5th Iowa Cavalry in August, 1864, he was mustered out of the service, and returned to his home in Marshalltown.

General Matthies left his regiment at Milliken's Bend, Louisiana, just before it started on its march to the rear of Vicksburg. From that time till the fall of that city, the 5th Iowa was commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel E. S. Sampson. From the fall of Vicksburg, up to the time Colonel Banbury was mustered out of the service, the regiment was under his command, if we except a few months when he was in command of a brigade. The 5th Iowa is proud of its record, and it may also be proud of its commanding officers; for they were all most excellent men.

The march to the Yockona, and thence back to Memphis; the trip down the Mississippi to Grand Lake, and thence back to Helena; and the wild expedition down the Yazoo Pass, all belong to the history of the 5th Iowa Infantry. An account of these I have given in the sketches of other officers and regiments, as I also have of the march from Milliken's Bend round to the rear of Vicksburg. Of the battles fought during the last named march, the 5th Iowa was engaged in two — Jackson and Champion's Hill. The regiment also engaged the enemy in two skirmishes—the first on the hills north of Bayou Pierre, and the second in the rugged country north of Big Black River. In the last, the regiment constituted a portion of the force under Colonel Boomer of the 26th Missouri, who was sent out on a reconnoissance some five miles in the direction of Vicksburg. The 5th Iowa led the advance of its corps from Raymond to Clinton, and marched with its division, which led the advance, from Clinton to Jackson. In the battle of Jackson, the regiment did not suffer severely. Its position was to the left of the 17th Iowa, and so far to the north that it overlapped the right of the enemy's line. Its loss was four men wounded.

The part which the 5th Iowa took in the battle of Champion's Hill, or Baker's Creek, was most brilliant and sanguinary. This battle, which came off on the 16th of May, 1863, "was fought mainly by Horey's Division of McClernand's Corps, and Logan's and Quimby's Divisions (the latter commanded by Brigadier-General M. M. Crocker) of McPherson's Corps; and in it the Iowa troops were consequently largely represented. On the evening of the 15th instant, General Grant made his head-quarters at Clinton. Early on the following morning, two employees on the Jackson and Vicksburg Railroad were brought to him, who represented that, on the previous night, they had passed through General Pemberton's army. They also represented that Pemberton had marched out from Vicksburg with a force consisting of about eighty regiments, with ten batteries of artillery, the entire command numbering about twenty-five thousand men. The object of Pemberton was, to come up with and attack General Grant in rear, before he should be able to overcome General Johnson at Jackson; and it had been before reported by prisoners that, on General Johnson's arrival at Jackson in the evening of the 13th instant, he had sent peremptory orders to Pemberton to make this movement. The evidence was conclusive to General Grant that a great battle was near at hand; and he therefore ordered a rapid concentration of his troops, even sending back to Jackson for General Sherman's Corps, which had been left behind to destroy the railroads and rebel government property. This done, he mounted his horse and rode rapidly to the front. In the march from Jackson back in the direction of Vicksburg, the divisions of Logan and Crocker (excepting the 2d brigade) reached a point some five miles west of Clinton; and were, therefore, only about seven miles east of Champion's Hill, and not far distant from General Hovey, who, with his division, was in the extreme advance. The next morning, the 16th of May, the troops of Hovey's Division left their camp at Bolton's Station, and moved in the direction of Champion's Hill, three and a half miles distant. These troops were the first to meet the enemy. The engagement was just opening as the 5th Iowa, with its brigade, came up.

"The enemy had taken up a very strong position on a narrow ridge, his left resting on the hight where the road makes a sharp turn to the left approaching Vicksburg. The top of the ridge, and the precipitous hill-side to the left of the road, are covered by a dense forest and under-growth. To the right of the road, the timber extends a short distance down the hill, and then opens into cultivated fields on a gentle slope, and into a valley, extending for a considerable distance. On the road and into the wooded ravine and hill-side, Hovey's Division was disposed for the attack."

But Logan and Crocker fought on the right of the road, having come into line in the above named open fields. Logan's Division held the extreme right, and next to his was Crocker's; and now the fighting opened in earnest. The rebel, as compared with the Federal force, was more than two to one; for Pemberton had not less than twenty-eight thousand men; whereas the divisions of Hovey, Crocker and Logan would not number thirteen thousand. Confident of success with his superior numbers, the enemy massed heavily on the right of Hovey's Division, which was near the road, and forced it back. His left they also flanked, and soon after forced back his whole line. The 3rd Brigade, to which the 5th Iowa was attached, held the left of Crocker's Division, and, seeing Hovey's right driven in, and their own left flank threatened, they faced to the left, and double-quicked down to the road to meet the enemy and check their further advance. The 93d Illinois was the extreme left regiment of the brigade, and, next to that, was the 5th Iowa: a portion of the 93d crossed the road, so that the 5th was but a few paces distant from it. And right here the fighting was most obstinate and sanguinary. The trees, living, though insensible witnesses to this terrible contest, stand there still, bearing on their shattered branches and lacerated trunks, thrilling evidence of these hours of bloody strife. From one tree near the road-side, more than five hundred bullets were afterward extracted; and it was not three feet through.

In that immediate vicinity, the 5th Iowa with its brigade, maintained its position in the unequal conflict for more than an hour and a. half, and, during the last half hour, it had no ammunition, or only such as could be taken from the cartridge-boxes of the dead and wounded. In the meantime, the enemy at this point had been reinforced, and were being led on with the promise of certain victory. To withstand longer such odds and desperation was impossible, and the gallant 3d Brigade began to break, retiring over the hill in its rear, and back into the open fields. McClernand, with the balance of his corps, was momentarily expected, and was now looked for with the greatest anxiety; but relief came from another and unexpected quarter. Just then two regiments of the 2d Brigade, which had been left the night before at Clinton, as a sort of body-guard to General Grant, came in view, down the road, at double-quick. The 17th Iowa was in the advance, and was closely followed by the 10th Missouri; and both regiments did not number more than five hundred and fifty men. In the instant that these troops were seen by Colonel Putnam of the 93d Illinois, he came riding back at full run, without his hat, and his brown, wavy hair streaming in the wind, shouting to Colonel Hillis, of the 17th: "For God's sake, Colonel, hurry up—we can not stand another minute;" and the fields to the right, which were filled with the affrighted and fleeing stragglers, were proof of what he said. With the handful of reinforcements thus brought up, the scale of battle was turned; and, before McClernand had arrived, the enemy were hastening in total rout back in the direction of Vicksburg.

To show the determination and valor with which the 5th Iowa and its brigade fought, I will give one instance, which came under my own observation. On arriving at the top of the hill from which our lines had been driven, I noticed a noble young boy lying near the road. He was shot through both legs, and was unable to stand; but he had his musket in his hands, and was loading and firing on the advancing enemy. We were now under a galling fire, and I saw no more of the brave boy till the enemy were driven from the field. On returning afterward to look for the dead and wounded of my company, I saw him lying in the same spot, but he was dead. I do not know his name or his regiment; but he must have belonged to the 5th Iowa, or the 93d Illinois.

The 5th Iowa, in this engagement, lost nineteen killed and seventy-five wounded, out of an aggregate of three hundred and fifty officers and men. There were many individual instances of gallantry; but I am able to mention only the names of Captains Tait, Lee and Pickerell.

The same night of the battle, the 5th Iowa marched two miles in the direction of Vicksburg; and the next night camped on the Big Black. On the 19th instant, the regiment with its brigade arrived in rear of Vicksburg; and, from that time until the fall of the city, its history is the same as that of the 10th Iowa, and the other regiments of its brigade. I might add that, from the fall of Vicksburg up to the winter of 1864, its history is the same as that of its brigade. Early in September, 1863, the 5th Iowa left with its division for the purpose of joining the army of General Steele in Arkansas; but, on arriving at Helena, learned that no reinforcements were needed in that quarter. From Helena it moved up the river to Memphis, and from that point marched across the country with General Sherman to Chattanooga, where with its brigade it took a distinguished part in the engagement of the 25th of November. On the night of the 24th instant, the regiment stood picket near the Chattanooga and Knoxville Railroad, just where it passes the north point of Mission Ridge; and the next day, at noon, joined its brigade and moved out through the open fields as elsewhere described, to engage the enemy. After arriving at the White House, which was near the base of the hill for which General Sherman was fighting, the chief portion of the regiment was deployed as skirmishers to the right and front of its brigade, and remained thus deployed till a retreat was ordered. The total loss of the 5th Iowa in this engagement was one hundred and six; but the greater portion of these were captured in the sudden left flank movement of the enemy. Two commissioned officers were wounded, and eight captured; among the latter were Major Marshall and Adjutant Byers.

Subsequently to Grant's victory at Chattanooga, there is little in the history of the 5th Iowa Infantry of striking interest. It joined its division in the pursuit of Bragg, as far as Graysville, Georgia, and then returned to Chattanooga. After going into several temporary camps along the road, it finally reached Huntsville, Alabama, where it passed the following Winter. In April, it came North on veteran furlough; returned to the field early in May; served for a short time on the Huntsville and Decatur Railroad, and was then ordered to Kingston, Georgia. On the 8th of August, 1864, the veterans of the regiment, by special order of the -War Department, No. 262, were transferred to the 5th Iowa Cavalry, and assigned as Companies G and I, under the following officers: Captain Albert G. Ellis, 1st Lieutenant Jeremiah M. Lembocker, and Second Lieutenant William S. Peck, of Company G; Captain William G. M'Elrae, 1st Lieutenant Robert A. McKee, and 2d Lieutenant John Q. A. Campbell, of Company I.

At Mission Ridge Colonel Banbury showed great courage, riding constantly under the heavy artillery - and musketry - fire of the enemy. The same night of the engagement, he was assigned to the command of his brigade; for General Matthies, the brigade commander, had been wounded as I have already stated. There is one other item in the colonel's military history, which I should not omit to mention. At the battle of Corinth, October 3d and 4th, 1862, he commanded the 17th

Iowa Infantry; and led it in the charge in which the regiment captured the colors of the 40th Mississippi, and between one and two hundred prisoners.

Although I served in the same division with Colonel Banbury for many months, I never saw him to know him; but I am told by good authority that "he is reticent in manners, intelligent though not educated, honest, upright, and thoroughly reliable." As a soldier, he ranked among the best officers of his division; and, had he possessed sufficient impudence, would doubtless have been promoted to a brigadier-general.

SOURCE: Stuart, A. A., Iowa Colonels and Regiments, p. 139-46

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