Sunday, October 25, 2009



William Hall was born in the city of Montreal, Canada East, on the 25th of January, 1832; but, though born in Canada, he is not a foreigner. His parents were, at the time of his birth, residents of the State of Vermont, and chanced to be on a visit at Montreal. William remained at home with his family till 1844, during which time his father resided in Ogdensburg, New York; Brookville, Canada West; and Rochester, New York. In 1844 he entered Oberlin College, where he remained a year and a half, and then entered the Western Military Institute of Kentucky. At that time, as also at the breaking out of the rebellion, the rebel Bushrod Johnson was superintendent of the institution. Commencing with the rank of private, Colonel Hall went through all the military grades of the school, and graduated as acting-adjutant, and with the rank of captain. Soon after leaving that institution, he entered the Harvard Law School, at Cambridge, Massachusetts; but, without graduating, left in 1854, and came West. Since that time he has made his residence in Davenport, Iowa. By profession, Colonel Hall is a lawyer; and I understand he ranked fairly at the Davenport bar. He had the reputation of being a hard worker, and of doing the best he could for his clients.

In the summer of 1861 he entered the volunteer service, and the 23d of September following was commissioned major of the 11th Iowa Infantry. He was promoted to the lieutenant-colonelcy of his regiment, on the 11th of October, 1861, and, on the resignation of Colonel Hare, was commissioned colonel. He held this rank, and served in the field, till the summer of 1864, when, Colonel W. W. Belknap being promoted over him to a general officer, he resigned in disgust. It is reported that, after his return home, he espoused conservatism, and vilified [sic], in public speeches, the policy of the Administration; but that can hardly be so.

As already stated, the 11th Iowa's first battle was Shiloh. Its second was Corinth; and the part it acted in the latter may be gained from the following extract from Colonel, now General, Crocker's official report:

"About five o'clock in the morning of the 3d instant, the brigade formed — two regiments, the 11th and 13th Iowa volunteers in line of battle, facing to the west, and the 15th and 16th Iowa volunteers, in close column by division in rear of the line. The regiments remained in that position, with skirmishers deployed in front, receiving an occasional cannon-shot, until about three o'clock, when, the division on the right having fallen back, a change of front was ordered. The l5th and 16th were then formed in line of battle perpendicular to the first line, and the 11th and 13th, in close column by division, in the rear. In this position, the brigade remained until about four o'clock P. M., when orders were again received to again change front, so as to connect the right of the brigade with the left of General Davis' Division, its left to rest in the direction of Battery E. After the execution of this order had been commenced, notice was received from General McKean that the division was to move back inside the inner fortifications; and an order was received that, the 11th and 13th regiments be formed in line of battle a quarter of a mile in the rear of the line formed by the 15th and 16th, in front of, and parallel to the road, over which the artillery of the division must pass, the brigade to protect the movements of the rest of the division, and the artillery."

This position, which the 11th Iowa, or the Iowa brigade was thus ordered to abandon, was south of the Chewalla road, and a little north-of-west of Corinth. "On arriving inside the fortifications, we took position, the 15th Iowa in line of battle in rear of, and to the right of the battery commanded by Captain Phillips, 1st Infantry; the 16th in rear of, and supporting the 5th Ohio Battery, which was in position on the left of Captain Phillip's Battery; five companies of the 11th Regiment, in command of Major Abercrombie, in line of battle, supporting the 1st Minnesota Battery, in position still on the left of the 5th Ohio Battery; the 13th Iowa, and five companies of the 11th, still in the rear of the l5th and I6th, in close column by division, as a reserve." This last position was held through all the fighting of the next day, the 11th Iowa being drawn up in line of battle in rear of the 15th. The only commissioned officers of the regiment, wounded in both day's fighting, were Lieutenants William H. Wetherby and Dennis P. Greeley: the latter was wounded by a falling tree.

From November 1861, till the spring of 1864, the history of the 11th Iowa will be found in the sketches of other officers and regiments. It re-enlisted in the winter of 1863-4, and came North, on veteran furlough, in March following.

In May, 1864, two divisions of the 17th Army Corps rendezvoused at Clifton, on the Tennessee, from which point, General Blair marched across the country to Sherman, via Huntsville, Decatur and Rome. 'The 11th Iowa was attached to this command, and arrived at the front early in June, and, while Sherman was in the vicinity of Acworth, Georgia. The regiment first confronted the enemy before Kenesaw Mountain, and lost its first man on the l5th of June. Before Kenesaw, "General Hooker was on its right and front, General Howard on its left and front, and General Palmer between it and the railroad." The rebel General Polk was killed by a cannon shot on the 14th of June, after which the enemy abandoned Pine Mountain away on the right, and took up a position "with Kenesaw as his salient point, his right wing thrown back to cover Marietta, and his left behind Nose's Creek, covering the railroad back to the Chattahoochie." While the enemy were in this position, General Sherman made his bloody and unsuccessful assault. The flank movement to the right, led by the 17th Corps, commenced in the evening of the 2d of July, and an account of it will be found in the sketch of General Hedrick.

Like the other regiments of the Iowa Brigade, the 11th Iowa suffered its severest loss on the afternoon of the 22d of July; but an account of this engagement has been given elsewhere. The following is from Lieutenant-Colonel Abercrombie's official report:
"Many acts of bravery were performed by officers and men of the regiment, which might be mentioned, did time and opportunity permit.

"Major Foster was wounded early in the action, faithful in discharge of his duty. Captain Neal was killed instantly by a grape-shot at the fort late in the afternoon. Captain Barr is missing. Captain Rose, missing, is supposed to have been wounded and captured. 1st Lieutenant Cassell, missing; 1st Lieutenant Caldwell, killed; 1st Lieutenant Pfoutz, wounded; 2d Lieutenant Wylie, wounded. I would make honorable mention of Sergeant-Major John G. Safley, who, with 1st Sergeant John A. Buck, Company K, (afterwards killed — brave fellow) and a party of picked up men, numbering thirty or forty, made a dash over the works held by the enemy, bringing over more than their own number as prisoners, amongst whom were a colonel and captain.

"In the sally, Safley was wounded, but it is not believed seriously. During the action a Confederate flag was captured, and brought over the works by Private George B. Haworth, of Company B, and is now in his possession. A banner, belonging to the 45th Alabama, was also brought over by Private Edward Siberis, of Company G, which was placed by him in the hands of Lieutenant Safley, Provost-Marshal of the brigade."

Altogether, the 11th Iowa captured, and sent to the rear, ninety-three persons. Both Captain J. W. Anderson and Adjutant B. W. Prescott are mentioned for gallantry. The loss of the regiment, in killed, wounded and missing, was severe — eight officers and one hundred and twenty-nine men. It has already been stated that Major Foster was wounded. He died not long after, and the regiment mourned, in his loss, one of its finest and most popular officers. He was a native of New Hampshire.

From the 15th of June, 1864, to the 5th of September, the 11th Iowa lost, in killed, wounded and missing, ten commissioned officers, and two hundred and seven enlisted men. One of the officers, who has not already been mentioned, was Lieutenant Alfred Carey of Company E. He was wounded on the 15th of June, before Kenesaw, and afterwards died of his wounds.

A further history of the 11th Iowa will be found in the sketches of the other regiments of the 17th Corps' Iowa Brigade.

For several months, Colonel Hall commanded the Iowa Brigade. He commanded it on General Blair's Mechanicsville march during the siege of Vicksburg, and until the return of Colonel Chambers of the 16th Iowa from leave of absence. He also commanded it through the entire Atlanta Campaign. He was not much liked by his brigade. He was nearly all the time sick and irritable; but, in justice, I should add, he never made his sickness an excuse to avoid duty. If danger was at hand, he was never the second man present.

The colonel is a small man, weighing about one hundred and twenty-five pounds. He has a slender, gaunt, ungainly person, rendered so, I suppose by disease. He wears long, black hair; has large, black eyes, and a dark, sallow complexion. Colonel Hall is not a comely man. When I saw him, in the spring of 1864,1 wondered how he had for three years endured the hardships of the service.

When interested or excited, he moves about nervously, with his face turned downward, and his hands thrust in his pantaloons' pockets. He has large self-esteem, and prides himself in doing things in his own way. If he is as he seems, he is impervious to flattery; but that can hardly be, for he shows great indignity, if he thinks his services underrated. It was on this score that he tendered his resignation.

Considering his ill-health, Colonel Hall was successful as a soldier. He was a good tactician, and brave and resolute. His greatest fault seemed to be in questioning the justness and propriety of the orders of his superiors. He would obey them, but it was not uncommon for him to do so under protest. The following will illustrate how the enlisted men of his command appreciated his temper.

While the Iowa Brigade was encamped at Clifton, Tennessee, just before starting across the country to Huntsville, a squad of raw recruits, from its different regiments, were put on picket. They were in the enemy's country, and, of course, were ordered to load their pieces. Returning to camp in the morning, they inquired of the veterans how they should get the charges, out of their guns, and received the following instructions: "Go out there, behind Colonel Hall's tent, and fire them off: that's the only place—and be sure and all fire at once." They did as directed. What followed, was better appreciated by the veterans, than by those who were learning their first lesson in soldiering. Colonel Hall, who was in bed, sprang out in a rage, and ordered the poor fellows tied from morning till night.

SOURCE: Addison A. Stuart, Iowa Colonels and Regiments, p. 237-242

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