Monday, November 23, 2009



Brevet General Clark Russell Wever was born in Hornsfield, Jefferson county, New York, on the 16th day of September, 1835. He resided with his parents until he attained his majority, and then visited Mexico and Texas. After traveling extensively through those countries, he returned to his native county, where he remained till the year 1858. In the fall of that year he removed West, and settled in Burlington, Iowa, where he opened a broker- and exchange-office. He subsequently removed to Carthage, Illinois, which was his place of residence at the time he entered the service. He assisted in recruiting Company D, 17th Iowa Infantry, early in 1862, and, on its organization, was chosen its captain. He accompanied his regiment South, and was with it during the siege of Corinth, and on the march to Boonville; but soon after it started on the Ripley march, he was attacked with typhoid fever, and sent back to Corinth. He lay in the Clear Springs and Corinth Hospitals for several weeks, and until it was thought by the surgeons that he could not recover his health in that climate. He was then sent North, where he remained till the following October, when he re-joined his regiment at Moscow, Tennessee, just before it started on its march down through Central Mississippi. On the resignation of Colonel Hillis, before Vicksburg, he was promoted to the colonelcy of the 17th Iowa Infantry. I should not omit to state that he had been promoted to the lieutenant-colonelcy of his regiment, In the preceding October, soon after he re-joined it at Moscow.

From October, 1863, until after the fall of Vicksburg, his history and that of his regiment are the same. He was present with it in every campaign, and in every battle.

In writing the history of the 17th Iowa, I could fill a volume; but I must confine myself to leading events. From Champion's Hill the regiment marched to the rear of Vicksburg, and took up its place in line. It was in reserve in the charge of the 22d of May, and lost only seven men. The place where it suffered most during the siege was at Fort Hill, on the Jackson and Vicksburg road.

General Logan's pet scheme for breaking the enemy's line, and forcing the surrender of Vicksburg, was the blowing up of Fort Hill, and the occupation of its site. The Fort was a work of considerable elevation, and of prodigous strength, and was the key to a large extent of the rebel fortifications. Securely lodged here, and General Logan would have been in a position to enfilade their lines, both on the right and left, and render their works untenable. The mining had all been completed, and the fuse was ready for lighting, by noon of the 25th of June; and that afternoon was fixed upon as the time for the explosion.

From the Union lines, a narrow, deep trench led to the fort, running up the hill in a north-westerly direction, and near the celebrated oak, under which Grant and Pemberton afterward arranged the terms of capitulation. This trench, just before the explosion, had been filled with troops, who in the confusion that would follow were to rush in, occupy and fortify the position. The explosion took place just before sun-down, and was a sight of terrible magnificence. For a moment the air was filled with earth, boards, blocks of wood, cotton-bales and human beings. Of the latter, many were buried in the debris, and some thrown into the Union lines; and among these was a poor negro, who, dead with fright, plead for his life on the ground that, "he had only jus done come out from de city to bring his massa's dinner."

The troops in the trenches now rushed into the crater, which had been formed by the explosion; but, although the enemy were surprised, they would not yield their position. On the outside of the crest of the fort and toward Vicksburg, they swarmed in great numbers; and, by their peculiar mode of attack, made it impossible for the Federal troops to fortify. They used both musketry and hand-grenades — from six- to twelve-pound shells. Though this mining scheme was General Logan's own, he was not limited to his own troops to push it to consummation; and General Smith's (formerly Quimby's) Division was called on for reinforcements. The 17th Iowa was one of the poor unfortunates; and early in the evening this regiment, with the 56th Illinois, marched out into the trench above alluded to. It was ordered into the crater by reliefs, the first relief entering a little before eleven at night: the reliefs were three, and altogether held the crater a little more than three hours. Perdition, painted in the most glaring and hideous colors of the most rigorous theology, could not be a more horrible place for poor mortals, than was this crater for the unfortunate soldiers.

That night was one of gloom and terror for the 17th Iowa, and will never be forgotten; though, to portray correctly the scene of mortal strife and anxiety, is utterly impossible. The night was dark and gloomy; and as the brave troops stood in the approaches, awaiting their turn in the fearful carnage, they were greeted by the heavy and incessant booming of artillery for miles around, and the screaming of shells, flying and bursting in every direction. On the hill in their front was the crater, filled and defended by Union troops, and assaulted on three sides by a chagrined and infuriated enemy. Friend and foe were separated only by a thin crest of earth; and so near were they together that they could touch each other with the muzzles of their guns. This scene of strife, which was lighted up by the constant explosion of hand-grenades and the discharge of musketry, was appalling; and yet the brave men, who just now were standing only as spectators, must soon become actors on this stage of death. This was the most dreadful hour of suspense ever experienced by the 17th Iowa Infantry; and the engagement itself was not more appalling.

The killed and wounded of the regiment in this contest were shockingly mutilated; and a larger portion of the wounded died, than of those wounded in any other engagement; and it is not strange, for every casualty in the regiment was caused by the bursting of hand-grenades. The musketry-fire of the enemy was too high. In the list of casualties, which were thirty-seven, were Captains Ping and Horner—both wounded. First-Sergeant Moses Stuart Pettengill, a brave, efficient and faithful soldier, was also wounded, and severely. All were so sore and lame for a week after the engagement, as to almost render them unfit for duty.

After the fall of Vicksburg, the 17th Iowa was ordered into camp on the hills south-east of the city, where it remained till it was ordered, with its division, to reinforce General Steele near Little Rock. It proceeded by boat to Helena, leaving Vicksburg on the 12th of September; but the history of its movements from that time until its arrival at Chattanooga, appears in the sketches of other Iowa officers, whose regiments were attached to the same division.

The 17th Iowa left its camp at Bridgeport for Chattanooga, at day-light on the 18th of November, and in the evening of the 19th instant bivouacked under Lookout Mountain, and seemingly within a stone's throw of the fires of the enemy's picket-posts, which were scattered along the side of the mountain about half-way up from its base to its summit. At two o'clock the next morning, the regiment, with its brigade and division, crossed the Tennessee, and, marching up its north bank till it had passed behind some hills, which covered it from the view of the enemy's lookout on Lookout Mountain, went into camp, just after day-light. Just before the fighting in Chattanooga Valley opened, all the troops which had marched through with General Sherman from the Mississippi River had arrived in camp on the north side of the Tennessee. General Osterhaus' Division, however, should be excepted; but in place of these troops was the division of Jefferson C. Davis, which was in camp near North Chickamauga Creek. With this command General Sherman was to re-cross the Tennessee, just below the mouth of South Chickamauga Creek, and oust the enemy's right from the line of hills known as Mission Ridge.

General Grant's plan of attacking Bragg was known in the main to nearly the entire command of General Sherman, as early as the morning of the 23d of November: it might have been known to the commands of Thomas and Hooker; and, if the like has happened in any other instance during the war, I do not know it. It was the more remarkable, since in some respects the commanding general had taken great precaution to secure secrecy; for the citizens, for several miles around, were kept under the strictest surveillance. But it was known that the contest would commence on the afternoon of the 23d instant; for then General Grant was to demonstrate whether the report of Bragg's falling back was correct. The troops stationed at Chattanooga, and the corps of General Howard were selected to develop the enemy's force on the hill-slope in rear of Chattanooga.

Back of the camp of the 17th Iowa, was a high, precipitous hill, from whose summit was a fine view of Chattanooga, Chattanooga Valley, the north and east sides of Lookout Mountain, and the west slope of Mission Ridge; and from this hill, which is some four miles distant from Chattanooga, not only the greater portion of the 17th, but the greater part of its brigade and division, witnessed the contest in the country below: it was the first engagement to which the 17th Iowa had been a spectator, where it was itself unengaged, and removed from danger. The enemy were surprised. They supposed, as it was afterward learned, that the Union troops were simply parading on a review; and the affair proved more fortunate for General Grant than he had hoped. The enemy lost their strong position on Indian Hill or Orchard Knoll. But the enemy were not evacuating; Bragg was simply sending reinforcements to General Longstreet, in East Tennessee; and on this fact a deserter had based his report of the enemy's falling back. But the troops dispatched to Longstreet were now hastily recalled; for General Bragg saw that his own position was in danger.

In the three days' desperate fighting that preceded the total rout of General Bragg's forces, the 17th Iowa took no part until the afternoon of the 25th instant. The regiment was among the first troops to cross the Tennessee, on the night of the 23d, and, in the afternoon of the 24th, was marched out against what was supposed to be a strongly intrenched position of the enemy, on the north end of Mission Ridge; but on arriving at the hights no enemy was found. It then rested on its arms until about noon of the next day, when, with its brigade, it was sent forward to the support of General C. L. Matthies' command. The engagement on Mission Ridge was, I believe, one of the hardest field-fights the 17th ever had. But the enemy defended successfully their strong position through all that day, which enabled General Bragg to save a good share of his stores and artillery. In this engagement the 17th Iowa had only about two hundred men, and its list of casualties was sixty.

In the pursuit of the disorganized Confederate forces, the regiment marched only as far as Graysville, Georgia, and then returned to Chattanooga. From Chattanooga, it marched to Huntsville, Alabama, where it remained until the following May, and was then ordered in the direction of Atlanta; and from the above named date till the 13th of October, 1864, it was stationed in detachments along the line of railroad, between Chattanooga and General Sherman's front, to defend that road from sorties of the enemy.

On the 13th of October, 1864, the 17th Iowa Infantry, then commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel S. M. Archer, was captured at Tilton, Georgia; but it did not surrender until after the most stubborn resistance. Tilton, Georgia, is situated on the line of the Chattanooga and Atlanta Railroad, and is nine miles south of Dalton, and six, north of Resaca. The defenses of the place, which three weeks previous had been assaulted by the rebel cavalry command of Wheeler and successfully defended by the 17th Iowa, consisted of simply a block-house and outer trenches. Wheeler was the precursor of the young, gaunt and maimed General Hood.

It was known for several days previous to the time in question, that the garrison was in danger of being attacked, and every thing was put in a condition for resistance. On the evening of the 12th instant, Colonel Archer had been informed that the enemy were in the vicinity; and at a little past six of the following morning they made their appearance before the picket-line. Two companies were at once sent out as skirmishers, and the balance of the regiment drawn up in line outside the block-house. By nine o'clock the skirmishers had been driven in, and the whole command was compelled to retire within its works. Soon after, a flag of truce, which before had been unrecognized, was received by LieutenantColonel Archer, who, in company with Captain Hicks, went out to meet it. The colonel received and read the following:

“Head-quarters Stuarts Corps, Army or The Tennessee,
Near Tilton, Georgia, October 13th, 1864.

"To The Officer Commanding United States Forces, Tilton, Georgia:

"SIR: — I have ample force to take the garrison at Tilton. To save loss of life, I demand an immediate and unconditional surrender. If this demand is complied with, all the white troops and their officers shall be paroled within a few days, and the negroes shall be well treated: if refused, I will take the place, and give orders to take no prisoners.

"Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Alex. P. Stuart, Lieutenant-General, C. S. A."

To this, Lieutenant-Colonel Archer, through Captain Hicks, replied:

"Give my compliments to General Stuart, and tell him if he wants my command, to come and take it."

"But we have thirteen thousand men, and can storm your works," insisted a rebel officer.

"Can't help that; I was put here to hold this place, and you can't have it till you blow us out."

"I admire your pluck; but you haven't got a d—d bit of judgment."

This was said by a rebel colonel, who had accompanied the flag of truce, after which the colonel was allowed ten minutes in which to retire to his command. The unequal fight now opened; and less than two hundred men, in the block-house and surrounding trenches, were besieged and assaulted for five long hours, by not less than five thousand.

Having tried unsuccessfully to carry the place by storm, and destroy the block-house by fire, the enemy, at a little after one o'clock in the afternoon, brought up their artillery. Twelve-pounders were first put in battery in the skirt of the timber south of the block-house; but their position was so little elevated that they could do but little damage. Soon after, twenty-four pounders were placed in position on a commanding point to the west of the block-house. Further resistance was now useless, for every shot came plunging down the hill and through the block-house, knocking the timbers and scattering splinters in every direction. Finally, a shell burst in its centre, which prostrated every man inside: twelve were killed and wounded. The roof was now nearly all shot away, and the upright timbers fast falling. To resist longer would be madness, and the white flag went up.

In the meantime the place had been entirely surrounded, and now the gray rascals came flocking in from every quarter, headed by general and field officers. Riding up to Lieutenant-Colonel Archer, Lieutenant-General Alexander P. Stuart said: "Do you know whom you have been fighting? Your obstinacy has given me a d—d sight of trouble, and detained me nearly a whole day." "Well, general," replied the colonel, "that was what I was put here for;" after which General Stuart's provost-marshal general remarked, "I thought there would be trouble, when I learned this was an Iowa regiment."

About the same time that Tilton was attacked by the corps of Stuart, Dalton was attacked by General Cheatham, and Resaca by General Lee. The former place, which was commanded by Colonel Johnson, was disgracefully surrendered; while the latter, commanded by Colonel Wever of the 17th Iowa, was gallantly defended.

The terms of surrender, brought by flag of truce to Colonel Wever, were the same as those accompanying the demand for the surrender of Tilton; and Colonel Wever's reply was similar to that of Lieutenant-Colonel Archer. "In my opinion," he said, " I can hold this post; if you want it, come and take it." To defend the extensive works of Resaca, Colonel Wever had only about seven hundred men—only enough, when deployed as skirmishers, to occupy the entire line of works. But, in shrewdness, the colonel was more than a match for his adversary; for his troops were deployed in the manner above stated, and every flag and guidon that could be commanded was stuck around on the works in the most commanding places. The ruse was successful, and, after some skirmishing, and a vigorous use of artillery, the enemy retired. For his successful defense of this post, Colonel Wever was highly complimented by General Howard.

In closing this sketch of Colonel Wever and the 17th Iowa, the reader must indulge me, while I name some of the many brave men with whom I served so long, and for whom I formed the deepest attachment; and, that I may not appear partial, I shall select the names of those who, in the discharge of their duty, either lost their lives or were severely wounded.

Captain David A. Craig of Company H was a brave and noble man. He died in the fall of 1863, from disease contracted in the service. Captain S. E. Hicks was most generous and noble-hearted. He was a true friend, and one of the bravest men in the regiment. He was captured with his regiment at Tilton, and afterward lost his life while endeavoring to swim Coosa River, to escape the enemy. Captain L. T. McNeal was quiet and unsociable, but a most excellent officer. He was shot through the knee on Mission Ridge, and died from the effects of the wound some three weeks after. Captain William Horner of Company G., though unassuming, is an able man, and possesses fine judgment. He was wounded severely in the hip at Fort Hill, on the evening of the 25th of June, 1863, and his life, for a long time, despaired of. Captain Charles P. Johnson is a most gallant officer. He was shot through both thighs in the first battle at Jackson, Mississippi, and, for sixteen long months, lay upon his back in a rebel hospital in Georgia. Captain John F. Skelton was also wounded at the first battle of Jackson. He was shot in the right eye, the ball passing through his head and coming out under the left ear. Being necessarily left in the hands of the enemy, he was retained a few days at Jackson, and then transferred to Libby Prison. After the lapse of five months, he made his escape and came in our lines. He was captured again at Tilton, Georgia, and again made his escape, traveling, in company with Lieutenant Deal, through more than five hundred miles of the enemy's country, and reaching the Gulf through the dismal lower-waters of the Chattahoochie. Lieutenant D. W. Tower, a gallant, modest young officer, was shot through the knee at Champion's Hill, and had his leg amputated. After the stump had healed, he donned a wooden leg, and again joined his regiment. He was also captured at Tilton. Young Lieutenant Inskeep was shot through the neck and killed, at the battle of Jackson.

Our quiet and able surgeon, Doctor Udell, and the facetious and urbane Doctor Ealy; Assistant-Surgeons McGorrisk, Biser and Coleman; our sedate and worthy chaplain, Wilson, who hated gray-backs as he hated the Great Adversary; Major S. M. Wise; Captains Newton, (who died of wounds received before Vicksburg), Huston, Ping, (who goes into a fight just as a man goes who is late at his work), Hoxie, Craig, Moore, (a most genial fellow), Edwards, Rice, Brown, Snodgrass, (a good fighter and the most stubborn man in the regiment); Lieutenants Garrett, Sales, (the judge), Neuse, Scroggs, Stapleton, (an excellent officer who died of disease), Park, Johnson, Godley, Morris, Swearngin, Barnes, Reach, Burke, (the wit and editor), Tamman, Inskeep, Stever, Griffith, Woodrow, Spielman and Woolsey; and, with a few exceptions, all the enlisted men from Joseph M. Atkins to Ashel Ward, the alpha and omega of the regiment—all deserve more than a passing notice; all were brave and deserving men, and merit the lasting gratitude of the country. The recalling of their names and friendship will ever be among the pleasantest of my army recollections.

In the winter of 1864-5, Colonel Wever accompanied the remnant of his regiment North on veteran furlough; and I should not omit to state that, although the term of service of the 17th Iowa lacked some two months of coming within the order creating veterans, yet, for gallant services, it was permitted to re-enlist, and to share all the incidental honors and emoluments. On the expiration of their furlough, Colonel Wever, led his handful of men back to the front by way of New York City; for, in the meantime, Sherman had captured Savannah. Their last march was that made from Beaufort to Goldsboro and Washington.

I can not close this sketch, without giving expression to my love and esteem for Company D, of the regiment. Their patience, bravery and endurance I can never forget. Others were just as good and brave; but I loved them less.

Colonel Wever is about six feet in hight, and has a slender, but not an elegant form: there is an awkward twist about his shoulders. He has dark hair and complexion, and piercing black eyes. Considering his age and opportunities, he is rather a remarkable man. His education is limited; but, in spite of that, he has worked his way up above many who in that respect were greatly his superiors. He is recklessly brave in the face of the enemy, and one of the most ambitious men I ever met. He aspired to be a full brigadier, and it is a shame he was not promoted to that rank; and, in giving expression to this opinion, I do not think I am influenced by the many kindnesses he has shown me.

SOURCE: Addison A. Stuart, Iowa Colonels and Regiments, p. 331-42

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