John Scott, the commander of the Union forces at Blue Mills, Missouri, and one of the chief heroes at the battle of Pleasant Hill, Louisiana, is a native of Jefferson county, Ohio, where he was born on the 14th day of April, 1824. He is a lawyer by profession, and was admitted to the bar in 1845, in Steubenville, Ohio, where he had pursued his legal studies. But, being without means, and seeing less certain subsistence in the practice of his profession, than in the business of teaching, he removed to Kentucky, where, for two or more years, he was engaged in conducting county academies and select female schools. He was a resident of Kentucky, at the time war was declared with Mexico, and volunteered in the 1st Kentucky Mounted Volunteers, Colonel Humphrey Marshall's regiment. The late Colonel W. M. G. Torrence, of the 30th Iowa, who, like Colonel Scott, was then engaged in teaching in Kentucky, was a member of the same regiment. But in his connection with the Mexican service, Colonel Scott was unfortunate. He was one of the party of seventy that, on the 23d of January, 1847, was captured at Encarnacion, and taken to the city of Mexico. He was retained a prisoner of war, until the following October, and then released at Tampico.
At the close of the Mexican war, Colonel Scott returned to Kentucky, and, locating in Mount Sterling, became the editor of the "Kentucky Whig." Soon after his return he published an account of his prison-life. He continued his residence in Kentucky until the year 1856, when he removed to Nevada, Iowa; though two years before he had visited the State in search of a home on free soil. In Kentucky, he was a man of influence — in his congressional district at least; though his principles were such as to attach him to the unpopular party. In the canvass made by General Scott for the Presidency, he took an active part, advocating the claims and merits of that officer; and at that early day he did not fail to warn the people of his adopted State of the suicidal policy of agitating the Slavery question.
In the fall of 1859, Colonel Scott was elected to the Iowa State Senate, to represent the counties of Hardin, Hamilton, Boone and Story, and was a member and holding a seat in that body at the time of accepting a commission in the volunteer service. He entered the war as captain of Company E, 3d Iowa Infantry, but, on the final organization of that regiment, was promoted to the lieutenant-colonelcy. The early history of the 3d Iowa Infantry, and the part taken in the battle of Blue Mills, Missouri, by Lieutenant-Colonel Scott, in command of that regiment and the other Union forces, appears in the sketch of Colonel Wilson G. Williams.
Lieutenant-Colonel Scott was promoted to the colonelcy of the 32d Iowa Infantry, on the 10th day of August, 1862, and at once joined that regiment at its rendezvous near Dubuque. The 32d regiment, which was enlisted from the Sixth Congressional District, numbered at the time it was mustered into the service about nine hundred and thirty men. It was, as was the case with the majority of the Iowa regiments organized under the call of that Summer, made up from our best yeomanry. The first year and a half of its service was not eventful, and gave the regiment little reputation; for, from October, 1862, the date of its arrival at St. Louis, Missouri, until the month of March, 1864, it was stationed in detachments at Cape Girardeau, New Madrid, Fort Pillow, Columbus, and at other points along the Mississippi, on camp- and post-duty; and it rarely happens that incidents occur on such duty that attract general attention. In the case of this regiment, however, there was one such incident: it was widely talked of at the time; but its history with many was not understood.
It will be remembered that, in the latter part of December, 1862, Colonel, afterward General Forest, with a force estimated at from five to seven thousand men, made his appearance in Western Tennessee and Kentucky. It was on this same raid that Forest threatened Jackson, Tennessee, destroyed some thirty miles of railroad north of that place, and fought with the brigade of Colonel Dunham the battle of Parker's Cross Roads. On the 28th of December, 1862, Colonel Scott, under instructions from General Curtis, left Cape Girardeau, Missouri, to join six companies of his regiment, stationed at New Madrid, and occupying that place. By his instructions, he was to have oversight of the country from New Madrid to Cape Girardeau. On the afternoon of the 28th, he arrived at Columbus, Kentucky, and called on General Davies, then commanding at that place, for the purpose of consulting with him, and obtaining Information. On arriving at head-quarters, he found General Davies in conference with Generals Tuttle and Fisk, (both of the Department of Missouri) and in a state of great apprehension. The general believed the object of the enemy was the capture of Fort Pillow; and, assuming authority from General Curtis, ordered Colonel Scott to abandon New Madrid, and reinforce that place. The colonel remonstrated, and inquired for his authority; but, though the general failed to find the dispatch, he substantiated its substance by General Fisk. The colonel had no choice in the matter, for his duty as a subordinate officer was clear; but, though he entered upon it with apparent alacrity, I venture the assertion, he did not with a fully subordinate spirit. Hence it was that the government property at New Madrid and Island No. 10, was destroyed, in consequence of which, General Carr, unjustly, and without inquiry, placed Colonel Scott under arrest. But the finding of the commission, which was ordered to investigate the matter, was for the colonel a full vindication; for it found that "he did his duty, and was honorably acquitted of all blame." Naturally sensitive, and extremely jealous of his military record, the simple fact of his being put under arrest was a source of great mortification; but, to those who were acquainted with the circumstances, the affair was not only not detracting to him as a military man, but was a recommendation of great value.
I have stated that the 32d Iowa was stationed on camp- and picket-duty a principal portion of the time from October, 1862, until March, 1864. I should not however omit to state that, early in February, 1864, Colonel Scott, with a part of his regiment, accompanied General Sherman on his march to Meridian. In this expedition, and in that one under General Banks up the Red River, the regiment was brigaded with the 14th, and 27th Iowa, and the 24th Missouri. On the Meridian march, there was no general engagement, and, if I mistake not, the 32d Iowa, as a regiment, met the enemy for the first time in the assault and capture of Fort De Russey, an account of which affair is given in the sketch of General James I. Gilbert, formerly of the 27th Iowa.
Colonel Scott, in command of his regiment, sailed from Vicksburg for the mouth of Red River, on the 10th of March, 1864, his regiment forming a part of the 3d Division, 16th Army Corps, commanded by General A. J. Smith. On the evening of the 12th instant, the fleet bearing this command arrived at Simmsport, Lousiana, situated at the junction of Bayou Atachafalya with the Red River, and one of the places through which General Banks passed, while marching to invest Port Hudson.
From Simmsport to Alexandria, General Smith had no other aid or reinforcements than the gun-boat fleet of Admiral Porter; and between these two points was the strong work of the enemy, known as Fort De Russey. But Fort De Russey was captured, and Alexandria reached in safety, on the evening of the 15th instant. Some days after the arrival of General Banks with his command from Franklin, [Louisiana], the combined forces, numbering about fifteen thousand men, moved up the river — those of General Banks by land and the division of General Smith on the gun-boat fleet and transports. General Smith's command arrived at Grand Ecore on the 3d of April without incident; nor had General Banks on arriving at that point met the enemy in sufficient force to offer much resistance. At Grand Ecore, the troops rested for several days, as they had also done at Alexandria. The reason for these delays I have been unable to learn; and it may be true, as was at the time asserted, that General Banks, by his lazy activity, contributed to his own defeat. Report, too, burdens General Steele with a share of the odium; for he should have moved much sooner than he did, and rendered it impossible for the enemy to concentrate at long marches from Shreveport. But Providence, whose galled back has borne the blunders of centuries, was doubtless made the pack-horse of all these disasters, for one of these generals was retained in his command, and the other acquitted without censure. But we can not make history: we can only record it.
General Banks, with the command he had brought with him from the Gulf, marched out from Grand Ecore, on the Mansfield and Shreveport road, in the forenoon of the 5th of April, and two days later was followed by the division of General Smith. On the evening of the 8th instant, General Smith went into camp near Pleasant Hill; and that night every thing was put in readiness for an early and rapid march on the morrow; for, during nearly all that afternoon, he and his troops had heard, indistinctly, the reports of artillery at the front Notwithstanding the battle of Sabine Cross Roads was fought nearly twenty miles in advance of Pleasant Hill, and closed only after dark, yet, before eleven o'clock that night, the affrighted stragglers from the front came swarming past General Smith's encampment. As the night wore on, the confusion increased; and before two o'clock the stampede of footmen, horsemen and teams was appalling. Long before day-light, more than two thousand weak-hearted, terror-stricken men had fled to the rear, rehearsing as they rode or ran their stories of fearful disasters that had befallen General Banks.
In the meantime, those troops who had retained their organizations had hurried back, and a little after day-light had formed a line of battle about one and a half miles west of Pleasant Hill. At about ten o'clock of the following morning, the 32d Iowa, with its brigade, (which, by the way, had been put under arms a little after mid-night,) was ordered to the front, to report to General Banks. That officer turned it over to General Emery, who, sending it out on the Mansfield road, stationed it in the extreme front. Its position was on a small rise of ground, and at right angles with the road. In its rear was heavy timber, and in its front, open fields, which descended to a ravine. Beyond the ravine was timber, in which the enemy was already deployed in line of battle. As I have elsewhere stated, the 32d held the extreme left, and on that regiment's right was the 27th Iowa. The 24th Missouri held the right, and between that and the 27th, was the 14th Iowa, drawn up across the road. Between the 32d and 27th Iowa, was a small ravine, putting down into the one in front, which rendered the position of the 32d in a manner isolated. What made it still worse for the 32d Iowa was the timber, extending nearly up to its left, affording a fine cover for the approach of the enemy's flankers. A few yards in front of the 14th Iowa was the 25th New York Battery, double-shotted, and ready to receive the enemy. I would like to omit its mention; for, on the first dash of the enemy's cavalry, it fled to the rear, breaking through the ranks of the 14th Iowa, and knocking down and injuring several men.
After the line of battle was formed, skirmishers were sent to the front, who promptly engaged those of the enemy; and thus the day passed till about four o'clock in the afternoon, when the enemy's cavalry, galloping from their cover down into the ravine, made for the New York Battery. But when the head of the charging column came up the slope in front, it was received by a volley from almost the entire brigade. It seems hardly possible; but so accurate was the aim that, as was afterward learned by wounded men left in the enemy's lines, only four men of the front company escaped being either killed or wounded. Following this cavalry charge, came the enemy's infantry, in double line, when the desperate struggle begun.
To convey to the mind of the reader a true idea of what followed is impossible; but facts can be stated, which is more than the penny-a-liners, who first recorded the events of the battle, were able to do. Their accounts were disgusting; for so far were they from being correct that they even omitted to mention the names of the troops that did the chief fighting, while they recorded the names of many that fled at the first onset of the enemy. Iowa saved General Banks' army from rout and capture, and yet her brave sons, in any account that I have seen, were no where mentioned. The brigade of the irascible Colonel Shaw held the centre of the Union line of battle — it may be said, constituted that line; for the brigades on both its right and left were not only refused, but thrown many yards to the rear; and as soon as the enemy advanced they retired still further. In this position Colonel Shaw's Brigade received the enemy's infantry, which came up the slope leading to the ravine, in a long, unbroken line. Cheered with the recollections of their successes of yesterday, and seeing but a handful of men in their front, they came with a shout and at double-quick, confident of speedy victory, but their charge was repulsed. They charged once, twice, thrice, and were each time repulsed with slaughter. Disappointed but still determined, they then sought the flanks; when followed the most stubborn and gallant fighting of the day — especially on the part of the 32d Iowa. Making a detour through the woods to their right, (and they met no opposition, for the troops stationed in that quarter had long since retired) the enemy's skirmishers suddenly appeared in the rear of the 32d Iowa. The situation was most critical. Pressed in front, and the enemy closing on its rear, the regiment might have surrendered with honor; but Colonel Scott had been ordered to hold that position at all hazards, and it was not to be yielded. Swinging the left wing of his regiment round hastily to the rear, so that it formed an acute angle with the main line of battle, he presented a front on all sides to the enemy, and was still able to hold his position.
In the meantime, the 24th Missouri, on the right, was flanked, when Colonel Shaw, sending to General Smith for reinforcements, received orders to fall back, as the enemy was already in his rear; but Colonel Scott, from the isolated position of his command and from the fact that the balance of the brigade had yielded considerable ground, failed to be reached by the orderly sent to notify him of the order to retire, and he was left on the ground he had defended so gallantly. He was now surrounded on all sides by the enemy's lines; and why he with his command was not overwhelmed and captured I can not understand. Finally the Union forces rallying drove the enemy back to his original line, when Colonel Scott and his regiment were found on the ground they had been ordered "to hold at all hazards." For more than two hours it had been supposed by all that the regiment was captured; and the surprise and joy of its friends at finding it again in the Federal lines was unbounded. If in the history of the whole war there be an instance equal in all respects to the above, I have failed to learn it.
That I have in no way exaggerated the heroic conduct of the 32d Iowa in this engagement, its list of casualties is evidence. The regiment lost in killed and wounded more than one hundred and sixty, which, excluding the losses of its own brigade, exceeded the losses of General Banks' entire army. More than two-thirds of the 32d Iowa were put out of battle.
Lieutenant-Colonel Edward H. Mix was killed; and a majority of the line officers were either killed or wounded. Among those killed were Captain Amos B. Miller, Captain H. F. Peebles; Lieutenant Thomas O. Howard and Adjutant Charles H. Huntley. Captain Ackerman, and Lieutenants Devine and Wright were severely wounded.
Among the enlisted men, distinguished for their merit, who fell in this engagement, were Sergeants Hull, Goodell and Kane; Corporals Ballou, Modlin and Pettibone; Privates Anderson, Hoyt, Hewett, Hutchinson, Wood, and many others.
The night after the engagement, General Banks in council with his chief officers declared it impossible for the expedition to proceed further, and the next morning begun the memorable retreat. It is not so strange that the rebel chiefs, during that same night, came to the conclusion that the result of the day's fighting was against them, and that further resistance to the advance of the Federal army at that point was useless; for they had been defeated, notwithstanding the lack of energy (I can not say spirits) and co-operation on the part of the Federal general officers. Before day-light on the morning of the 10th of April, both armies began to retreat; and, to facilitate their flight, the Confederates spiked several of their cannon. But they soon learned their mistake, and returned, their advance reaching the hospitals, in which the Union wounded had been left, at about nine o'clock in the morning. From that time until General Banks reached Simmsport, they remained his master; and had it not been for an insignificant lieutenant-colonel who rescued the gun-boat fleet and transports they might have been his captors; for these he was not allowed to abandon.
On the return of the Red River Expedition, Colonel Scott tendered his resignation, which was reluctantly accepted, on the 31st of May, 1864. He was impelled to this course, I am informed, from the loss of his health in the recent campaign, and from the urgent claims of his family, which was broken up and in need of a home. He is at present living on his farm in Story county, and engaged in sheep-raising and horticulture. The following is from the history of the regiment published in the Adjutant-General's report for the year 1865:
"On the 14th of July was attacked by the enemy at Tupelo, Mississippi. Repulsed him with a loss to the regiment of four men wounded. July 15th, the regiment started back to La Grange, and camped at Old Town Creek, where it was attacked by the enemy, again repulsing him. Arrived at La Grange July 22d and at Memphis on the 24th. Left by railroad for Holly Springs, Mississippi, August 4th, and after marching to Waterford, Abbeville, Oxford, and back to Holly Springs, arrived at Memphis on the 30th.
"From September 5th to October 4th, the regiment was on the move to Jefferson Barracks, De Soto, and other points, and from October 2d to the 18th it was constantly marching to different points in Missouri. October 25th it left Saint Louis, Missouri, on transports for Nashville, Tennessee, and on arriving at that point immediately began intrenching. * *
"The regiment has traveled five thousand five hundred and ninety-four miles, two thousand three hundred and thirty-two miles of the distance on foot with the army. Its aggregate present for duty is three hundred and fifty-nine. Aggregate when mustered into service was nine hundred and eleven. Has received since muster-in two hundred and seventy-seven recruits: lost ninety-three men in battle, one hundred and seventy-seven by disease, one hundred and twenty-two discharged, twenty-nine transferred, and one missing. It is armed throughout with good, serviceable Springfield rifled muskets and complete accoutrements. Health and condition of clothing and camp equipage of the regiment is good."
Later, the regiment fought at the battles around Nashville, and then accompanied Smith to New Orleans, and took part in the capture of Mobile. During these operations it was commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel G. M. Eberhart a son of the Rev. S. R. Eberhart formerly chaplain of the 12th Iowa Infantry. He is reported a most excellent officer.
I have seen many of the "Iowa colonels," and among others, Colonel John Scott. This is how it happened. The old Gladiator, which was returning me to my regiment at Memphis, stuck on a sand-bar above Devil's Island; and I put into Cape Girardeau for better quarters. On walking up into the St. Charles, I saw, perched in a chair in the north-east corner of the bar-room, a man that attracted my notice. His chair was tipped against the wall, one foot stuck on the front stretcher, and the other thrown across the leg thus supported. His elbows were resting upon the arms of the chair, his head thrown forward, and his hat drawn over his eyes. In the small space between his lap and his face was a newspaper, which he was reading. I thought I never saw a man doubled up so before, and walked round to take a better look at him; when, my impudence attracting his attention, he looked up to me as much as to say: "Who are you?" A prominent trait in his character I read in that glance.
Colonel Scott is a man of middle size, and compactly built. His hair and whiskers are more red than sandy, and his eyes gray and sharp. His round, florid features are set off by a pair of gold-mounted spectacles.
I believe him to be among the ablest and best informed men of Iowa; and yet he has that sort of something about him which has kept him back. It may be the trait to which I have alluded; for he is incorrigibly suspicious, and never gives his confidence to a stranger. When I wrote to him for information relative to his biography, he replied: "If I can be convinced that the book is not to be a catch-penny affair, I will furnish data;" but I could never convince him of that, and for what I have I am indebted to one of his friends. One thing is certain, Colonel Scott was never intended for a politician; and why, I believe, we heard no more of him in the army is, he always stayed at his quarters, and minded his own business. I venture the assertion that he never asked to be made a brigadier-general. Had he less of the negative about him, it would be well; for, with the same honesty, he would be a much more popular and useful man in society.
Colonel Scott's military record is without blemish. He was brave, a fair tactician, and a good disciplinarian.
SOURCE: Addison A. Stuart, Iowa Colonels and Regiments, p. 475-86
Thursday, December 31, 2009
Colonel John Scott