Wednesday, October 7, 2009



Of General Vandever's early history I have been able to learn but little. I do not even know his native State. I first find him at Rock Island, Illinois, where he was employed in a news-paper office. Iowa was then a Territory. From Rock Island, he removed to Dubuque, and entered the Surveyor General's office at that place. Still later, he studied and practiced law in Dubuque. In 1858, he was nominated for Congress from the Dubuque District, there being, I am told, no stronger man of his party, who would accept the nomination, on account of the almost certain prospect of defeat. But the general made a good canvass; and, to the surprise of all, was elected. He was distinguished in Congress, for his dignity and taciturnity; two traits, which would embellish the records of many, who have worn Congressional honors.

Mr. Vandever was commissioned colonel of the 9th Iowa Infantry, on the 30th of August, 1861; and in the winter of 1862-3 was made a brigadier-general. As a military man, he has gained less distinction than any other public man who has entered the service from Iowa.

The 9th Iowa Infantry was enlisted principally from the counties of Jackson, Dubuque, Buchanan, Jones, Clayton, Fayette, Bremer, Blackhawk, Winneshiek, Howard and Linn. Its first field of service was Missouri, and its first hard-fought battle, Pea Ridge, Arkansas. At Pea Ridge, the regiment was commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel, now Major-General Herron; for Colonel Vandever was in command of the brigade to which it was attached. In the march from Rolla to Cross Hollows, it had several skirmishes with the enemy, but suffered, I think, no loss. From Cross Hollows it marched with its brigade on an expedition to Huntsville, Arkansas, an account of which is thus given by Colonel Vandever:

"On the morning of the 4th instant [March 1862] I left Camp Halleck, at Cross Hollows, in command of an expedition in the direction of Huntsville. The forces consisted of three hundred and fifty of the 9th Iowa Infantry, one hundred and fifty from Colonel Phelps' Missouri Regiment, one battalion from the 30th Illinois Cavalry, one section of the Dubuque Battery, (light artillery) and one section of Brown's Mountain Howitzers. We prosecuted the march and arrived at Huntsville at noon of the 5th instant, without incident. A portion of the enemy's stores was captured at their camp, three miles beyond Huntsville, and several prisoners taken. From the prisoners I obtained information that the enemy was marching in force toward our lines, for the purpose of attack, which information I immediately transmitted to head-quarters, and then prepared to retrace my steps. I moved out of Huntsville, and camped three miles distant. At two o'clock in the morning, I received your [General Curtis] orders to return and Join the main body at Sugar Creek. At three o'clock A. M., I resumed my line of march, and, at dusk the same evening, arrived in camp, having accomplished a forced march of forty miles in a single day."

The next day, the seventh, the severe fighting at Pea Ridge opened; and early in the morning Colonel Vandever marched his brigade out in the direction of Elkhorn Tavern. His command fought that entire day, on the left of the brigade of Colonel Dodge, which, it will be remembered, held the extreme right of General Curtis' army. It is stated elsewhere that the division of Colonel Carr, to which both Dodge and Vandever were attached, did the severest fighting at Pea Ridge. In speaking of the conduct of his own regiment in this engagement, Colonel Vandever says:

"Major Coyl of the 9th Iowa acted with distinguished valor, until disabled by a severe wound, and compelled, reluctantly, to leave the field. Adjutant William Scott also deserves great praise. Lieutenant Asher Riley, of Company A, my acting assistant adjutant-general, deserves particular mention. Upon the fall of Captain Drips and Lieutenant Kelsey, both distinguished for their bravery, Lieutenant Riley gallantly took command, and remained with the company throughout the action. Captain Carpenter and Lieutenant Jones, of Company B, also acted with great bravery, leading their company in the face of the enemy, and bringing off one of our disabled pieces and a caisson.

"Captain Towner and Lieutenant Neff, of Company F, were conspicuous for their bravery. Both of these officers were severely wounded, when the command devolved upon Lieutenant Tisdale, who gallantly led the company through the remainder of the action. Captain Bull and Lieutenant Rice of Company C also deserve particular mention, the latter of whom was killed near the close of the day, while the former was severely wounded. Captain Bevins of Company E, was killed upon the field, and the command devolved upon Lieutenant Baker. He acquitted himself with great credit. Captain Washburn and Lieutenants Beebe and Leverich of Company G, Lieutenants Crane and McGee of Company D, Captain Moore and Lieutenant McKenzie of Company H, Captain Carsakaddon and Lieutenant Claflin of Company K, and Lieutenant Fellows, commanding Company I, also Lieutenant Inman, were all conspicuous for bravery, under the hottest fire of the enemy. Many instances of special gallantry occurred among non-commissioned officers and privates. All did their duty well. I should also mention Sergeant-Major Foster of the 9th Iowa, and other members of the noncommissioned staff, who did their duty nobly."

After nearly a month's rest in the vicinity of the battleground, Colonel Vandever joined in the march of General Curtis across the Ozark Mountains to Batesville. While at Batesville, General Steele joined Curtis with a division from Pilot Knob; but here, also, the general lost the commands of Davis and Asboth, which were summoned by Halleck to Corinth. Early in June, the Army of the South West was re-organized into three divisions, commanded by Steele, Carr and Osterhaus. Colonel Vandever remained in Carr's Division, and retained the command of his brigade. The hardships of Curtis' march from Batesville to Helena, which was made in mid-summer, have already been enumerated; but not the different points at which the enemy were met: they were Searcy Landing, Sillamore, Waddell's Farm, Jeffries' Mills, Cashe River Bridge, Stuart's Plantation, Pickett's Farm, Grand Glaize and Round Hill. The last was of the most importance: less than six hundred defeated two thousand Texan Rangers, inflicting on them a loss of more than two hundred.

Colonel Vandever remained at Helena for several months, when, being appointed a brigadier-general, he was ordered to report to General Curtis at St. Louis, and given a command in Central Missouri. In the early part of April, 1863, he commanded the cavalry force, which, leaving Lake Springs, Missouri, marched against Marmaduke, and drove him from the State. It was this command that, at mid-night of the 26th of April, charged the enemy's camp on the Dallas road, near Jackson, routing the enemy, and afterwards pursuing them to St. Francis River.

General Vandever accompanied General Herron to Vicksburg, in command of one of his brigades; and, after the fall of the city, sailed with him up the Yazoo River to Yazoo City. For his services on this expedition, he was thus complimented by General Herron:

"I desire to return my thanks to Brigadier-Generals Vandever and Orme, my brigade commanders, for their unceasing efforts to carry out all my plans, and aid in the success of the expedition."

Since that time, and up to the spring of 1864, General Vandever served in the Department of the Gulf, but during the march on Atlanta he was ordered to report to General Sherman by whom he was assigned a district command with head-quarters at Rome, Georgia. He retained this command till after the fall of Atlanta, when he was ordered to Louisville, and assigned to duty on a court-martial. After the fall of Savannah he reported to General Sherman at that city, and was assigned to the command of a brigade in the 14th Corps which he commanded till the arrival of the Army of the Tennessee at Washington, when he was assigned to the command of the 2d Division of said corps. This command he accompanied to Louisville.

During the march from Fayetteville, North Carolina, to Goldsboro, General Vandever distinguished himself. The history of the march is as follows:

Crossing Cape Fear River, opposite Fayetteville, on the 15th of March, General Sherman "ordered Kilpatrick to move up the plank road to and beyond Averysboro. He was to be followed by four divisions of the left wing, [the 14th and 20th Corps] with as few wagons as possible; the rest of the train, under escort of the two remaining divisions of that wing, to take a shorter and more direct road to Goldsboro. In like manner, General Howard [commanding 15th and 17th Corps] was ordered to send his trains, under good escort, well to the right toward Faison's Depot and Goldsboro, and to hold four divisions light, ready to go to the aid of the left wing, if attacked while in motion. The weather continued very bad, and the roads had become a mere quag-mire. Almost every foot of it had to be corduroyed to admit the passage of wheels."

Prosecuting this line of march, the left wing fought the battle of Averysboro, and then turned east in the direction of Goldsboro; for Hardee had fled, "in a miserable, stormy night, over the worst of roads," in the direction of Smithfleld. The feint on Raleigh did not deceive Johnson, and Sherman, contrary to his expectations, had to fight the old rebel before reaching Goldsboro. While the left wing was on the march through the marshy, timbered bottoms that lie near Bentonville, Johnson, hurrying down from Smithfleld, threw himself on the front and left flank of Jefferson C. Davis' Corps, which was in the advance. Disaster threatened to overwhelm the leading division, and indeed the whole left wing, and Sherman became anxious; but the great courage and endurance of the troops held the enemy at bay till the right wing was brought up. Then, with their left flank and rear threatened, the enemy retired, and Sherman entered Goldsboro. In this engagement General Vandever distinguished himself.

Mr. J. Thompson, a member of the 1st Iowa Cavalry, who served for several months under General Vandever, writes thus of him:

"General Vandever is a man of medium hight, dark hair and wiry constitution. There is nothing remarkable in his features or organization, to impress one with the belief that there is any true greatness about him, either as a man or a general. He lacks both the will and the energy, but more, the ability of a successful leader. The history of his military life is a history of the man — tame and unromantic, exhibiting nothing striking or remarkable—never sinking below, nor yet rising above his chosen level. Such he is as a general, and such would be your opinion of him were you to see him."

From what I have been able to learn of General Vandever, I am persuaded Mr. Thompson does him hardly justice. Though in no respect brilliant, yet he is a man of good judgment and of great perseverance. He is not of a social, communicative nature. He minds his own business, and this, I believe, has been to his disadvantage in the army; for rapid promotion has depended not less upon hard begging, than upon hard working, especially if the officer in question holds a subordinate position. Can one in any other way account for so many worthless field and general officers?

SOURCE: Addison A. Stuart, Iowa Colonels and Regiments, p. 195-200

No comments: