Thursday, November 12, 2009



John Morrow Hedrick is a native of Indiana, the State which stands third, in the number of her sons, who, in Iowa, have been honored with colonel's commissions. He is a son of J. W. Hedrick, Esq., a resident of Wapello county, and an intelligent and influential farmer.

General Hedrick was born in Rush county, Indiana, the 16th day of December, 1832. In the year 1846 he accompanied his father's family to Iowa, where he has since resided. His means of education were limited. He never entered the halls of an academy or a college as a student. He acquired his education at the Common Schools, and at his father's fireside; but, notwithstanding his limited advantages, he had, at the age of seventeen, qualified himself for a teacher. From the age of seventeen to that of twenty, he passed his Winters in teaching, and his Summers on his father's farm. In 1852, he entered a mercantile house as clerk. Soon he became a partner in the business, and, ere long, proprietor of the house. With the exception of two years, when he was engaged in the real-estate business, his entire attention, from 1852 till the beginning of the war, was turned to mercantile pursuits. But he was unfortunate in some investments. In 1857-8, he had risked much in land speculations; and, like the great majority of those who at that time dealt in wild lands, suffered pecuniary losses.

In August, 1861, General Hedrick closed out his business in Ottumwa, for the express purpose of entering the service, and, before the close of that month, had enlisted a sufficient number of men to entitle him to a first lieutenant's commission. Before entering the service, he had held commissions as second lieutenant and captain in an independent military company of the city of Ottumwa; but this company existed only in name, and the knowledge of military matters, which he derived from his connection with it, was of no importance: indeed, in this respect, he was as purely a civilian as any officer that has gone out from the State.

General Hedrick was commissioned 1st Lieutenant of Company D, l5th Iowa Infantry, the 20th day of September, 1861, and on the 23d of the following December was made quartermaster of that regiment. While the regiment was at its rendezvous in Keokuk, he was promoted to the captaincy of Company K, and with this rank he entered the field.

Shiloh, as has already been stated, was the 15th Iowa's first battle; and the part taken by the regiment in this engagement has been already given. Captain Hedrick here distinguished himself, and was wounded and taken prisoner. At the time the regiment made its partially successful assault against the enemy, and just when the left wing was overpowered and forced back by overwhelming numbers, he was wounded, and instantly surrounded and captured. Being taken to the rear he, with about two hundred and fifty other officers, was forwarded to Corinth, and thence by rail to Memphis; where he arrived on the night of the 8th, near mid-night. Hustling the prisoners rudely from the cars, the Confederates huddled them, both officers and men, into a large store-room, where they guarded them that night, and where, for the first time since their capture, they issued them rations. It had been more than fifty hours since they had tasted food, and now they received only raw bacon and rotten bread.

But in the meantime the issue of the battle having been decided, the enemy became apprehensive, not only of the capture of Corinth, but of Memphis; for a fleet of Union gunboats was, at that very time, lying only a few miles above the city. The Union prisoners were therefore, on the morning of the 9th, hurried on board the cars, in order to be sent South; but for some reason the train did not leave till evening.

At that time, the fiendish cruelties practiced by the Confederates upon all Union people within their lines, had not purged the city of Memphis of all Union sentiment; for, during the entire day of the 9th, hundreds of her citizens crowded closely around the carefully-guarded train, which contained the prisoners, speaking kind words and, whenever occasion offered, tendering more substantial testimonials of their sympathy. But the story of the sufferings of Union prisoners of war has been often told, and need not be here repeated.

The sojournings of Captain Hedrick in the South, and the route he traveled with his brother officers, may be given with interest. Leaving Memphis on the evening of the 9th of April, he was taken, first to Jackson, Mississippi; from Jackson to Meridian; from Meridian to Mobile; from Mobile up the Alabama River to Selma; and from Selma to Talladega, where for two weeks he was quartered with his brother officers in a vacant Baptist College. From Talladega he was taken back to Selma, where he remained two months; from Selma to Montgomery; from Montgomery to Atlanta; from Atlanta to Madison; and from Madison to Richmond, via Augusta, Columbia, Raleigh and Weldon. At Richmond Captain Hedrick was paroled, after a prison-life of six months and seven days, and entered our lines on the 18th day of October, 1862.

After remaining several weeks with his family at Ottumwa, he learned that he was exchanged, and at once returned to his regiment. He re-joined it on the 9th of February, 1863, at La Fayette, Tennessee, and was immediately promoted to the majority, his commission dating the 17th of January, 1863. On the 22d of the following April he was made lieutenant-colonel; and with this rank he won his chief laurels. When, after the fall of Atlanta, Colonel Belknap was made a brigadier-general, Lieutenant-Colonel Hedrick was promoted to the full colonelcy of the 15th Iowa Infantry, his commission dating the 20th of August, 1864. He was breveted brigadier-general in the spring of 1865, for gallant services in the Atlanta Campaign.

As has already been stated, the l5th Iowa saw its hardest service in General Sherman's campaign against Atlanta. Just before returning home on veteran furlough, the regiment had accompanied General Sherman on the Meridian march, which, however, is celebrated only for the rapidity of the movement, and the large amount of rebel property destroyed; and still earlier the regiment had joined in the siege of Vicksburg, and in the subsequent march on Jackson; but in none of these movements was it in any general engagement. It did not accompany its corps on the march through Bruinsburg, Port Gibson, Raymond and Jackson, to the rear of Vicksburg; but with its brigade was stationed at Grand Gulf.

In the march to Monroe, Louisiana, which, considering its length, is the hardest with one exception that was ever made by the Iowa Brigade, the 15th Iowa was commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Hedrick. The expedition was commanded by Brigadier-General Stevenson, and left Goodrich's Landing above Vicksburg, about the middle of August, 1863. The line of march, which was almost due west, lay across the broad bottom-lands that, for nearly fifty miles, stretch westward from the Mississippi. These bottom-lands, lying as they do below Lake Providence, had in the previous Spring received rich deposits from the Lake Providence Canal; and the road, which was narrow and straight, was bordered with the most luxuriant vegetation, in many places the weeds being twelve feet high. There was hardly a breath of air stirring, and, from morning till night the troops for the most of the way had no protection from the burning rays of the sun. The weather too was dry, and the dust almost suffocating. In addition to all this, the timber and the rank and dense vegetation was thickly inhabited by snakes of all kinds, and of the most fabulous size — enemies which the troops held in much greater terror than the few hostile rebels who hovered in their front. The only alleviating circumstance in this expedition seemed to be that the country had never been ravaged by our army, and supplies were abundant. Of the two hundred and eighty-one men of the 15th who started on this march, sixty had to be brought back to the river in wagons and ambulances. Several too, who were unable to bear the fatigue, were left within the lines of the enemy, in care. of Surgeon Gibbon.

The fruits of the expedition, which was some twenty days out from Vicksburg, were small. Monroe, the terminus of the Vicksburg and Monroe Railroad, was entered without opposition, the enemy abandoning the place, crossing the Washita, and destroying their pontoons. A few prisoners were captured, and a small quantity of Confederate stores destroyed.

The march of the Iowa Brigade with the greater portion of its army corps from Clifton, Tennessee, to the front at Kenesaw Mountain, has already been given. On the morning of the 2d of July, 1864, the 17th Army Corps formed the left of Sherman's army before Kenesaw. The Iowa Brigade held the right of its corps. Already, Sherman had despaired of dislodging the enemy from their strong-hold in his front, and that night he ordered a flank movement to the right, by way of Nick-a-jack Creek. Just at dusk, the 17th Corps, which was to hold the advance, broke camp, and, with the division of Giles A. Smith in the lead, took up its line of march down the valley, just in rear of the main line of works in the centre and on the right. The movement was a surprise to the enemy; and yet, the character of the country to be passed, which was broken and heavily timbered, enabled them to make much resistance. Keeping a considerable force of cavalry with light artillery constantly in the front, they would halt at every commanding point along the road, and, with their artillery, supported by their cavalry, dismounted, harass [sic] the advance. These positions, in nearly every instance, had to be charged.

During two days of this march, (the 4th and 5th of July) Lieutenant-Colonel Hedrick, with four companies of the 15th Iowa, and four of the 16th, as skirmishers, led the advance. On the second day's march, the following incident occurred: on a heavily-wooded point, the enemy was found in position, and the reserves brought up and deployed, for a charge. Instantly, as the charge was ordered, the Iowans swept recklessly down through the ravine, and up the opposite slope to the crest, where the enemy had just shown themselves. They gained the point, and now for the pursuit. With a shout, they started down through the brush, each man striving for the lead, when — bang! bang! bang! went the enemy's artillery from the hill not more than seventy-five yards in advance. A deadly volley of musketry followed, when the boys, returning as quickly as they went, reported to their officers: "Damn 'em, they are right up there!"

Soon after discovering Sherman's movement to Nick-a-jack Creek, the enemy evacuated Kenesaw and Marietta, and hurried to their left, where, on the morning of the 6th, they showed sufficient force to prevent a further advance; for their position was a strong one on the hills that lay on the east side of Nicka-jack Creek, and near where that stream forms a junction with the Chattahoochie. From the 6th of July to the 10th, the time was passed in skirmishing with the enemy; but, in the meantime, General Sherman had entered Marietta, and passed up the Chattahoochie fifteen miles to Roswell, where he secured a crossing. That stream was now passed, and the capture of Atlanta made certain. This happened on the morning of the 10th instant; and in the afternoon and evening of the same day, the enemy abandoned their works on the Nick-a-jack, and crossed the Chattahoochie. A tedious march up the valley past Marietta, and the 17th Corps also crossed the river at Roswell, and led the advance to Decatur, which was entered with little opposition, on the evening of the 19th instant. (In giving the movements of the 17th Corps, I am also giving the movements of the 15th Iowa, and of the other regiments of the Iowa Brigade.)

The advance from Decatur to the south-east side of Atlanta, on the 20th, was fiercely contested; but the enemy, at nightfall, had been successfully forced back to their defenses around the doomed city. On the following morning, followed the fierce assault of the 21st, which was unsuccessful, and in which the 15th Iowa lost some fifty in killed and wounded; but the great battle of the campaign, and the one in which the l5th Iowa suffered most, and most distinguished itself, was that fought on the afternoon of the day following.

After the engagement of the 21st, the Iowa Brigade marched to the extreme left of its corps, and took up a position as a sort of picket-reserve; and in this position it was assaulted near the hour of dinner-call, on the following day; but a description of this engagement has been already given.

Colonel Hedrick was wounded in the early part of the engagement, and just before his regiment was forced back. He was shot with a minnie ball directly over the spine, in the small of the back. The ball, striking and cutting his sword belt in two, was turned slightly to the left; and, passing down across the ilium, came out near the lower point of the hip. Completely paralyzed by the wound, he was at once placed upon the shoulders of two men to be taken to the rear when he instantly received another shot through the left fore-arm. The first wound was supposed to be mortal; and, but for his vigorous constitution, it must have proven so. For many weeks he was kept upon his back, and even now he can not move about without the aid of crutches. Having partially recovered, he was detailed on a court-martial in the city of Washington, where he is still serving.

Since the battle of the 22d of July, before Atlanta, the 15th Iowa has been commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Pomutz, a Hungarian by birth, and, I am told, a good officer. The services of the regiment, since the fall of that place, are comprised in the march from Atlanta, via Savannah, to Raleigh and Washington.

Of General Hedrick as a military man, I dare not speak as I otherwise would, were he not my fellow-townsman. All who know his military history concede that he is an officer of great worth.

In person, he is tall and slender, with spare features, dark-brown hair, and large, dark eyes. He is an energetic and rapid talker, and expresses his opinions with great positiveness; which he can do with safety, since he has much general information. He has a firm step, and a hearty laugh; is hopeful, cheerful and self-confident, and endures reverses with great fortitude. He is as much esteemed as a citizen, as he is admired as a soldier.

SOURCE: Addison A. Stuart, Iowa Colonels and Regiments, p. 295-302

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