Wednesday, November 4, 2009

From the 11th Iowa - Continued . . .

Since the above was in type, the following has been received. Although not so late as the letter we published yesterday from the same correspondent, it will be found of interest:–


FRIEND SANDERS: – The most terrible battle of the war thus far – the most terrible ever fought on this continent, and both for the numbers engaged, the fierceness of the contest and the multitudes killed and wounded, one of the most fearful of modern times – has been fought at this place during the last two days. The battle commenced at daylight on Sabbath day, and raged with scarcely a moment’s cessation until dark. Shells were thrown at short intervals from two of our gunboats during the night, and on Monday morning the fight was renewed, if possible, with greater desperation and lasted until night.

The attack was made by the rebels, under Beauregard, Bragg and Johnson [sic]. Our officers seemed to be taken at unawares, and we were driven back inch by inch during the first day, retreating in all five or six miles. At dark on Sabbath evening it seemed that all was lost and that our whole army of 100,000 or more men would be captured or driven into the river. Our men fought bravely, nearly without exception; but the country is nearly all heavily timbered and broken, and the enemy understood the ground better than we did. It was the general impression all day on the Sabbath that we were outgeneraled. Buell and his forces were not here, and they enemy knew it. In a Memphis paper left by the enemy in the camp of the 11th, the fact is states that the attack would be made on the Sabbath, that Buell could not get here, and that victory was sure to the South; and inasmuch as everything was stake, exhorting the people pray for success.

But, thank God, the victory is ours. Buell arrived with the head of his column on Sabbath evening, landed a large force during the night, and all Monday and Monday night fresh troops were pouring in, which gave new life to our exhausted regiments, and proved too much for the enemy. The enemy, being nearly surrounded, fought desperately, and maintained their ground all the forenoon, but soon after noon began to retreat and soon to run. Our cavalry and artillery followed them closely – how far I do not know – it is said fifteen miles last night, and fresh troops were still arriving this morning and joining in the pursuit.

Of course, it is impossible to give any detailed account of this great battle at present. It is safe to say that many thousands on both sides were killed and wounded. I will venture to guess that 5,000 of our men – either dead or wounded – were at the landing on the boats this morning, and most of the dead were left on the field.

I know little except of the 11th Iowa. They stood their ground alone, except as a battery was in their rear, against at least six times their number, until their ammunition was exhausted, and retired only when they were ordered.

Col. Hare was in command of the brigade and was not with the regiment, but with three other regiments, which, strangely were taken to another part of the field. He was slightly wounded. Lt. Col. Hall was in command of the 11th. His horse was killed almost at the first fire, and he was slightly wounded, but bravely kept his position during the two days, and led his men three times into the terrible fight.

Major Abercrombie was wounded and had to retire. Lt. Compton, of Co. E, was killed – the only one of our commissioned officers. Lieut. Miles, of Co. F, was wounded seriously, perhaps mortally. Lieut. Magoun [sic], of Co. H, was wounded, but not dangerously. Lieut. Hinsman, of Co. K, was wounded; I do not know how seriously.

Thirty of our regiment are known to be dead, and two hundred or more wounded. How any escaped is a mystery, as a perfect storm of bullets was rained upon them for nearly an hour. They escaped in a measure by lying flat on their faces and sides, and only rising partly to fire. In their rear, as I happen to know by most sensible demonstrations, balls were flying altogether too thick to be agreeable. It is believed that our wounded were brought off the field. The dead have since been buried near where they fell.

The 16th Iowa, who were in another part of the field, I learn were badly cut up, but I do not know the particulars.

The 12th Iowa were nearly all taken prisoners, as also several other regiments – I do not know how many.

Let us thank the God of battles and of all righteousness, that so many of us are left alive and well, and that in this most terrible fearful conflict the victory is on the side of liberty, truth and justice.

The rebel Gen. Johnson [sic] is said to be killed and Beauregard to be a prisoner – minus an arm. I do not know the truth of these reports. You will get all the facts probably from others sooner that I can give them. I will give you more when I can find time to write.


– Published in The Davenport Daily Gazette, Davenport Iowa, Friday Morning, April 18, 1862, p. 2

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