Friday, October 9, 2009



Francis J. Herron is Iowa's youngest major-general, and the second one of that rank appointed from the State. His ancestry are ancient and honorable, and, on the paternal side, are familiarly known as "Herron's Branch," who, settling in Eastern Pennsylvania in the early history of that State, were ever classed among her most intelligent and well-to-do yeomanry. On the maternal side of the house, he is descended from one of the oldest families of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, who settled in that city when it was a mere village, and who have maintained an honorable position in the community to the present day. The general's uncle, the late James Anderson, ranked with the most benevolent and wealthy citizens of Pittsburg.

The subject of our sketch is a son of the late Colonel John Herron, and a native of Pittsburg, where he was born on the 17th day of February, 1837. He was educated at the Western University, in Pittsburg, which was then, and is still, under the superintendence of Professor J. M. Smith, a brother-in-law of the general. Leaving this University at sixteen, he was soon after appointed to a clerkship in a Pittsburg banking-house, and, in 1854, became a partner in the banking firm of "Herron & Brothers." In 1855, he removed to Iowa, and, in connection with one of his brothers, opened a banking-house in the city of Dubuque. Dubuque is his present home.

General Herron began his brilliant military career as captain of Company I, 1st Iowa Infantry. He served with his regiment in Missouri till the expiration of its term of service, and with it took part in the memorable battle of Wilson's Creek. Returning home in the latter part of August, he was, on the tenth of the following September, commissioned lieutenant-colonel of the 9th Iowa Infantry. For gallantry at the battle of Pea Ridge, (March 6th, 7th and 8th, 1862, where he was wounded and taken prisoner) he was made a brigadier-general, and, for his courage and superior military skill at the battle of Prairie Grove, December 7th, 1862, was promoted to his present rank. The battle of Prairie Grove is one of the most brilliant of the war—perhaps the most brilliant, when we consider the disparity in numbers of the forces engaged; and it was by no means barren in results; for a well-organized and confident army was overwhelmed in defeat, from the effects of which it never recovered.

In the organization of the Army of the Frontier, under General Schofield, of date the 15th of October, 1862, General Herron was put in command of the 3d Division. The 1st and 2d Divisions were commanded by Generals Blunt and Totten respectively. For three weeks previous to the 1st of December, 1862 and longer, the Army of the Frontier had been watching the enemy, who had below, and in the vicinity of the old Pea Ridge battle-field, a large and well-organized army, under command of the rebel Major-General Thomas C. Hindman.

On the first of December, General Blunt, who had been holding his division on Prairie Creek, near Bentonville, moved against a detachment of the enemy, and, driving it from Cane Hill, held the position. This was no sooner done, however, than the enemy threatened him in heavy force, and compelled him to send to General Schofield for reinforcements. General Blunt's messenger, arriving at head-quarters near Wilson's Creek on the evening of the 3d of December, found General Schofield absent, and General Herron in command. "General Blunt must have reinforcements or lose his entire command;" and there was no other alternative; but General Herron, under instructions, could afford no relief. The expedient which he adopted was worthy of him, and will redound to his infinite credit. Dispatching a messenger to General Schofield, but without awaiting or expecting a reply, he broke camp and marched to the rescue.

At day-light on Sunday morning, the seventh of December, his command passed through Fayetteville, Arkansas, and halted for breakfast one mile beyond; but before the meal was completed, members of the 1st Arkansas Cavalry, which composed a portion of the advance-guard, came hurrying back with word that Hindman's cavalry was upon them. The merest incident often controls momentous issues, and so it happened here. Major Hubbard, a gallant, positive fellow, and an officer of General Herron's staff, being in command of the advance-guard, was captured and taken before the rebel general. "How much of a force has General Herron?" demanded Hindman. "Enough," replied the major, "to annihilate you;" and this answer, with Herron's determined fighting and superior generalship, saved to our arms the battle of Prairie Grove; for Hindman, with his twenty thousand, dared not move out against the handful of men in his front, (not four thousand all told) for fear of being annihilated by an overwhelming reserve, marshaled, in his imagination, in the heavy timber to our rear. Nor did he learn his mistake till late in the afternoon, and just before the guns of General Blunt began thundering on his left and rear.

Having completed their hasty meal, Herron's troops resumed the march and pushed vigorously on, till arriving at Illinois Creek, about ten miles distant from Fayetteville. There the enemy were met in force. They were on the south-west side of the creek, and strongly posted on the high ground, which, on either side, looks down into the valley through which the road to Cane Hill passes. The situation was no sooner learned than Herron had formed his decision. He must bluff his adversary, or lose his command; and this was the plan on which the engagement was fought, which, to General Hindman, was a confirmation of Major Hubbard's report. General Herron first endeavored to push Battery E, 4th Missouri Light Artillery, and the 9th Illinois Infantry across the ford in his front; but that was so accurately covered with the guns of the enemy as to make it impossible. The detachment was driven back in some confusion. Next, he ordered Colonel Houston to cut a road through the timber to the right, and, having gained the opposite side with Captain Murphy's Battery, to open on the enemy and divert their attention, while he, with the balance of his command, pushed across the ford and gained a position in front of the enemy. The movement was successful. A further account of this battle will be found in the sketch of Colonel W. McE. Dye, of the 20th Iowa. I will only add here, that Hindman was defeated, and Herron made a major-general.

It will be interesting to know the names of the troops who earned General Herron this promotion. They were the 9th, 37th, and 94th Illinois, the 19th and 20th Iowa, the 26th Indiana, and the 20th Wisconsin Infantry regiments, together with four Missouri batteries, commanded by Captains Murphy, Faust and Hack of, and Lieutenant Borries. The 6th, 7th, and 8th Missouri Cavalry, the 1st Iowa and 10th Illinois, and the 1st Battalion of the 2d Wisconsin Cavalry, were all sent forward to General Blunt from Elkhorn, and remained with his command till the close of the engagement.

General Herron remained with his command, operating in Missouri and Arkansas, till late in the following May, when he was summoned to Vicksburg to take part in the reduction of that place. Immediately after the fall of the city, he made his expedition up the Yazoo River, after which, he embarked his command on transports, and sailed for Port Hudson and thence for Carrollton, Louisiana; where he arrived on the 13$h of August. Subsequently to that date, the general has served principally in the Gulf Department; but the operations in which he took part will appear in the sketches of other officers.

General Herron's Division was attached to Ord's Corps. By that general he was held in the highest esteem, as is shown by General Order Number 39, dated, "Head-quarters 13th Army Corps, Carrollton, Louisiana, September, 25th, 1863."

During the winter of 1863-4 and for some time after, General Herron, while serving in Texas, made his head-quarters at Brownsville. It will be remembered that it was during this time the forces of M. Ruiz, Governor of Tamaulipas, and those of Colonel Cortinas, came in collision in Matamoras. L. Pierce, U. S. Consul stationed in that city, became alarmed, and sent to General Herron for protection. Colonel Bertram of the 20th Wisconsin was at once sent across the river with a portion of his regiment, with which he conducted the Consul and his property and papers within the Federal lines. Had I the space, a further history of this affair would be interesting.

General Herron's ventilation of the Department of Arkansas has more recently made his name quite distinguished. This was a most thankless mission, and he was charged by some with being partial; but that is not strange. Indeed, we are not to suppose the exposer would be more popular with the guilty parties than the expose. The result of his investigations was published in nearly all the leading papers of the country, and convinced all honest men that, the Department of Arkansas had been the theatre of most outrageous abuses.

General Herron has a neat, well-formed person, and dresses with much taste. In appearance he is intelligent, and in manners agreeable. He has, I am told, some vanity. His marked traits of character are three. He is always calm and composed, no matter how great the danger, or how wild the excitement. At Prairie Grove he led the advance over the ford of Illinois Creek, and, under the rapid and accurate fire of the enemy, was in imminent peril; but he was perfectly calm, and apparently insensible of danger.

Another marked trait of his character is his taciturnity; and yet, if he talks but little, there is nothing about him sullen or morose. His voice, which is clear and kind, has a sort of charm about it that evidences a warm heart and generous nature. He was always popular with the soldiers of his command.

His third and most distinguishing trait — that which more than all others has contributed to make him what he is — is a self-reliant spirit. This, from his early youth, was always noticeable, and was the cause of his leaving the Western University before mastering the full course of study. It was a matter of no consequence to him that his lather and his friends were opposed to this course. He believed he knew enough to make his way in the world, and, because he thought so, all remonstrances were unavailing.

Frank J. Herron was promoted to the rank of brigadier-general from that of lieutenant-colonel. He is the only officer from the State who has been thus complimented by the War Department.

SOURCE: Addison A. Stuart, Iowa Colonels and Regiments, p. 201-6

No comments: