Sunday, September 6, 2009



Jacob Gartner Lauman was the fourth volunteer officer from Iowa, promoted to a brigadier. He was born in Tarrytown, Maryland, on the 20th day of January, 1813; but removed with his family, when young, to York, Pennsylvania. In 1844, he came West, and settled in Burlington, Iowa, Where, engaging in mercantile pursuits, he has since made his home. At the outbreak of the war, he took an active part in enlisting and mustering our volunteer troops, and, on the 11th of July, 1861, was commissioned colonel of the 7th Iowa Infantry — later, the heroes of Belmont.

While under the command of Colonel Lauman, the 7th Iowa was stationed and served at the following points: — Jefferson Barracks, Pilot Knob, Ironton, Cape Girardeau and Jackson, Missouri; Cairo, Illinois; Fort Holt, Mayfield Creek, Camp Crittenden and Fort Jefferson, Kentucky; and Norfolk and Bird's Point, Missouri. The regiment was stationed at the latter place, on the 6th of November, 1861, when it sailed on the Belmont expedition, the object of which was, "to prevent the enemy from sending out re-inforcements to Price's army in Missouri, and also from cutting off columns that I [Grant] had been directed to send out from Cairo and Cape Girardeau, in pursuit of Jeff Thompson."

On this expedition, the battle of Belmont was fought; and the conduct of Colonel Lauman in the engagement, together with that of his regiment, gave him his early popularity as a military leader. At Belmont, the 7th Iowa greatly distinguished itself, and received from General Grant, in his official report, the following mention: — "Nearly all the missing were from the Iowa regiment, (the 7th) who behaved with great gallantry, and suffered more severely than any other of the troops."

Just when the enemy had been driven from their camp, and down the steep bank of the Mississippi, Colonel Lauman, while giving Captain Parrott instructions with reference to the captured artillery, was disabled from a musket-shot wound in the thigh. He was taken back to the transports on one of the guns of Captain Taylor's Battery, just in advance of his regiment, and was only in time to escape that terrible enfilading fire that well nigh annihilated the rear of Grant's forces.

A remarkable incident occurred while the troops were re-embarking after the battle. It is well vouched for, and worthy of record. The last transport had just cut its hawser, and was dropping out into the stream, when the enemy suddenly appeared on the bank with artillery. One piece was hastily put in battery, and leveled on the crowded decks of the transport. The rebel gunner was just about pulling the lanyard, when a shell, from one of the Union gun-boats, burst directly under the carriage of the gun, throwing gun, carriage and all high in the air. The carriage was demolished, and, while still in the air, the gun exploded. The rebel gunner and several others were killed; and the lives of at least a score of Union soldiers were saved by this remarkable shot.

"It was after the retreat had commenced that Lieutenant-Colonel Wentz was killed. He died on the field of battle, like a true soldier; he was a truly brave man, and did his duty well and nobly. Lieutenant Dodge of Company B was killed, and Lieutenant Gardner, who commanded Company I, and Lieutenant Ream of Company C, mortally wounded. Among my officers, more or less severely wounded, you will find the names of Major Rice, Captains Harper, Parrott, Kittredge and Gardner, and 1st Lieutenant De Heus, (who commanded company A) of whose bravery I desire to speak in the most emphatic manner. I desire also to direct your attention to Captain Crabb, who was taken prisoner, and who behaved in the bravest manner. But I might go on in this way and name nearly all my command, for they all behaved like heroes; but there are one or two more I feel it my duty to name as deserving special mention. Lieutenant Bowler, adjutant of the regiment, and Lieutenant Estle, whose conduct was worthy of all praise, and private Lawrence A. Gregg, whose thigh was broken and he left on the field; he was taken prisoner and his leg amputated, but he died the same day, telling his captors with his dying breath, that, if he ever recovered so as to be able to move, he would shoulder his musket again in his country's cause."

"My entire loss in killed, wounded, prisoners and missing, out of an aggregate of somewhat over four hundred, is as follows: Killed, fifty-one; died of wounds, three; missing, ten; prisoners, thirty-nine; wounded, one hundred and twenty-four. Total, two hundred and twenty-seven."

Having recovered from his wound, Colonel Lauman re-joined his regiment; and at the battle of Fort Donelson was placed in command of a brigade, composed of the 2d, 7th and 14th Iowa, and the 25th Indiana. At Fort Donelson, the gallantry of his brigade — more especially that of the 2d Iowa — made him a brigadier-general. From what occurred just before the successful assault was made, it seems that the success of his troops was unlooked for by Colonel Lauman; for to Colonel Tuttle, who desired to lead the charge, he said: "Why, sir, you can't go up there; didn't I try it yesterday?'' And to the reply of Colonel Tuttle, that he would, if he lost the last man of his regiment, he said, "Oh, sir! you'll soon get that taken out of you." After the assault of the 2d Iowa at Fort Donelson, Colonel Lauman believed there was nothing that brave men could not accomplish.

After being promoted to the rank of a brigadier, General Lauman was assigned to the command of a brigade in General Hurlbut's Division, with which he fought in the left wing of Grant's army at Shiloh. Colonel Williams of the 3d Iowa having been disabled in that engagement, General Lauman succeeded him in the command of his brigade; which command he retained until the following October. He marched with Sherman and Hurlbut from Corinth to Memphis, after the fall of the former place; and, in the following Fall, when the enemy began to show activity in the neighborhood of Corinth, returned with Hurlbut to the vicinity of Bolivar, Tennessee; near which place he was encamped just before the battle of Iuka. To mislead the enemy under Price at Iuka, or, as General Grant expresses it, "to cover our movement from Corinth, and to attract the attention of the enemy in another direction, I ordered a movement from Bolivar to Holly Springs. This was conducted by Brigadier-General Lauman." On the 5th of October, General Lauman commanded his brigade in the battle on the Hatchie.

General Hurlbut's march from Bolivar to the Big Muddy, about two miles west of the Hatchie, has already been given in the sketch of Colonel Aaron Brown. The battle of the Hatchie, or Matamora, opened between the Federal and Confederate artillery, the former stationed on the bluffs, and the latter in the Hatchie Bottom. After a brief artillery duel, the 2d Brigade, General Veatch commanding, charged the enemy's infantry that had crossed the bridge to the west side of the stream, and routed them. Falling back across the bridge, they, with the balance of the rebel forces, took up a position on the opposite bluffs. General Ord, now coming to the front, determined to attack the enemy in their strong position, and accordingly ordered General Veatch to push his brigade across the bridge.

The topography of the battle-ground on the east side of the Hatchie, is thus well given by Lieutenant Thompson, of the 3d Iowa Infantry:

"Beyond the river there was about, twelve rods of bottom, and then there arose a very high and steep bluff. Along the brow of this, the enemy, rallying and reinforced, had formed new lines of battle, and planted artillery, which, from different points, enfiladed the road and bridge, and swept the field on both sides of the stream. Following up the river just above the bridge, it makes an abrupt elbow, and comes down from the east, running parallel to the road on the opposite side [of the bridge]. In this elbow, and on not more than half an acre of ground, a part of General Veatch's Brigade, according to the orders of General Ord, would have to deploy."

Crossing the bridge and filing to the left, it was possible to gain the enemy's right flank; for on that side of the road the north point of the bluffs could be passed; and what seems strange is that, a man of General Ord's ability should not have discovered this strategical point. The balance of General Lauman's Brigade, which was of the reserve forces, was now ordered across the bridge, and directed to file to the right, into the inevitable pocket. General Lauman, accompanied by his orderlies, led the advance. To cross the open field, and then the bridge, was a most perilous undertaking; for, on the bluffs on the opposite side, as has already been stated, the enemy's artillery was so planted as to give them a converging fire on both the field and bridge. General Lauman reached the opposite side in safety, followed by the other two regiments of his brigade, one of which was the 3d Iowa Infantry.

The battle was now raging with great fury, the enemy from their elevated position pouring a deadly, continuous fire on their helpless victims below, whose returning fire was almost wholly ineffectual. Confusion must soon have followed; but just then General Ord was wounded, and General Hurlbut assumed command. He at once crossed the bridge, and, in person, directed a flank movement around the bluffs to the left. The troops employed were the 46th Illinois, the 68th Ohio, and the 12th Michigan. The enemy's right flank was soon gained and turned, which compelled them to abandon the bluffs; — and thus the day was saved from disaster.

This pocket-blunder of General Ord, and the subsequent indiscretion of General Lauman, have been considered by some as connected with the latter's ill-fortune at Jackson, Mississippi, in the summer of 1863. The story is as follows: — In the winter of 1862-3, a supper was given in Memphis, where Generals Ord, Veatch, Lauman and others, were present. When the wine was passing, and all were merry, the affair on the Hatchie occurred to General Lauman, and he remarked to General Ord: —"General, that was a bit of a blunder, in putting us into that pocket, wasn't it?" (I may not give the language, but I give the idea.) General Ord, it is said, made no reply; but gave his eyes a wicked leer, which, even then, some thought meant mischief.

Soon after the battle of Matamora, General Hurlbut was made a major-general, and assigned to the command of the District of Jackson, Tennessee. General Lauman succeeded him in the command of his division.

If we except the march of General Grant into Central Mississippi, in which General Lauman joined with his division, his military history, for the six months following the battle of Matamora, is void of great interest. During this time, he had his head-quarters, first at Bolivar, then at Moscow, and then at Memphis. When Vicksburg was beleagured, he left Memphis to report to General Grant in rear of that city; and, on the fall of Vicksburg, marched with his division on the, to him, unfortunate campaign to Jackson. His position before Jackson, and what happened on the 12th of July, appear in the sketch of Colonel Aaron Brown, of the 3d Iowa Infantry. With reference to a further history of this affair, I shall only add an extract from the official report of General Sherman.

"On the 12th [July], whilst General Lauman's Division was moving up into position, dressing to his left on General Hovey, the right of his line came within easy range of the enemy's field artillery and musketry, from behind his works, whereby this division sustained a serious loss, amounting in killed, wounded and missing to near five hundred men. This was the only serious loss which befell my command during the campaign, and resulted from misunderstanding or misinterpretation of General Ord's minute instructions, on the part of General Lauman.

At the time of the occurrence of this misfortune, General Ord's head-quarters were to the right of the Clinton and Jackson road, and near where the left of his command rested. Near that of General Ord's, was the tent of Surgeon Wm. L. Orr of the 21st Iowa. When the heavy firing opened in front of General Lauman's command, Ord, in a tone of much surprise and alarm, called hurriedly to one of his aids: "What does that mean? what does that mean? Ride out there quickly and see." General Lauman was at once relieved of his command, and ordered to report to General Grant at Vicksburg. Upon his departure he issued the following order:

"Head-quarters Fourth Division, Sixteenth Army Corps,
In The Field, Near Jackson, Miss., July 12th, 1863.

"Fellow-soldiers :

Having been relieved from the command of the 4th Division by Major-General Ord, the command is turned over to Brigadier-General Hovey. To say that I part with my old comrades with sorrow and regret, is simply giving expression to my heart-felt feelings. I shall ever remember the toils and hardships we have endured together, and the glory which the Old Fourth has won on hard-fought fields, and the glory which clusters around their names like a halo — with pride and satisfaction.

"And now, in parting with you, I ask a last request, that, in consideration of your past fame, you do nothing, in word or deed, to mar it; but that you give to your present or future commander that prompt obedience to orders which has always characterized the division, and which has given to it the proud position which it now enjoys.

"Officers and soldiers, I bid you now an affectionate farewell.

"J. G. Lauman,

But for his ill-fated blunder at Jackson, General Lauman would doubtless ere this have been made a major-general.

Reporting to General Grant, he was sent, I think, to an Eastern Department, and assigned a command somewhere in Northern Virginia; but before his arrival, the command had been given to another. He was then ordered to report to his home in Burlington to await further orders from Washington, which, thus far, he has failed to receive. The general, I am informed, has made frequent efforts to secure an investigation of the causes, whereby he was thrown under opprobrium, but without success. Rumor says that both Grant and Sherman have put him off with, "we have no time to convene courts-martial.''

The war is now closing, and he will, probably, go out of the service, without being restored to a command. Indeed, his health is broken down, and he is now totally unfit for service.

Like the majority of the Iowa general officers, General Lauman is of only middle size. His person is slender, and his weight about one hundred and forty pounds. He has a nervous, excitable temperament, and a mild, intelligent countenance.

As a military leader, he is brave to a fault, but he lacks judgment. He would accomplish much more by intrepidity, than by strategy; and, if his intrepidity failed him, he might lose every thing.

He has been a successful merchant, and stands among the wealthy men of Burlington. As a citizen, he has always been held in the highest esteem, and is noted for his kind-heartedness and liberality.

Source: A. A. Stuart, Iowa Colonels and Regiments, p. 163–170

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