Wednesday, December 16, 2009



George Augustus Stone is a native of New York State, and was born in the town of Schoharie, on the 13th of October, 1833. In 1839 his father removed with his family to the then Territory of Iowa, and settled in Washington county. Here young Stone resided, attending common school a principal portion of the time, till 1849, when he removed to Mt. Pleasant. After completing his studies at the Mt. Pleasant schools, he was received into the banking house at that place, and, in 1851, was appointed cashier of the bank, which position he held till the spring of 1861. Early in the spring of 1861 he assisted in recruiting Company F, 1st Iowa Infantry, Captain Samuel M. Wise, and on its organization was elected its first lieutenant. He served with his regiment in Missouri during its three month's term of service, and took part in the battle of Wilson's Creek.

Lieutenant Stone's term of service in the 1st Iowa expired in August, and, in the following October, he was commissioned a major in the 4th Iowa Cavalry, with which regiment he served till the 10th of August, 1862, when he was promoted to the colonelcy of the 25th Iowa Infantry.

In November, 1862, Colonel Stone's regiment arrived at Helena, Arkansas, whence it sailed, in the latter part of December following, on the expedition against Vicksburg by way of Chickasaw Bayou. Chickasaw Bayou was its first engagement. Its second was Arkansas Post, and there, like the 26th Iowa, it suffered severely, losing in killed and wounded more than sixty. The regiment was attached to Hovey's Brigade, of Steele's Division — the division which did the fighting and captured the strong-hold. It served as a support to the 76th Ohio, and just in rear of that regiment charged through an open field in the face of a withering fire from the enemy's artillery and musketry. Passing the enemy's obstructions, it advanced to within one hundred yards of their works; and in that position engaged them for nearly three hours, and until the garrison surrendered. So cool and gallant was its conduct, that a Texan colonel, captured with the garrison, remarked: " I was almost sure those were Iowa troops."

Five commissioned officers were wounded in this engagement — Captains Palmer and Bell, and Lieutenants Stark, Orr, and Clark. Nine enlisted men were killed, among whom were Sergeant Zickafoose, and Corporals Wilson and James W. Thompson. Adjutant S. P. Clark, who was wounded severely in the leg, was conspicuous for his cool and gallant conduct "He earned and received the praise of the entire regiment." Privates Hiram Payne and B. F. Weaver, who bore the colors of the regiment, earned and received equal praise.

After the Deer-Creek-Sun-Flower-&c. expedition, the 25th Iowa marched with Sherman, via Jackson, to the rear of Vicksburg; but, like the 26th Iowa, failed to meet the enemy till it arrived before the doomed city. Being in the same division with the 26th Iowa, its services before Vicksburg were nearly the same as those of that regiment. In the charge of the 22d of May, it was one of the front regiments in the charging line, and, with its colonel in the advance, moved against a strong fort on the north side of the city. It passed unfalteringly through the galling fire that met it as it moved upon and along the hights in plain view and within shot range of the enemy, but was unable to carry the rebel works, and after holding its position till night was, with the balance of the division, ordered to retire to the position it occupied in the morning. On that day, Private Isaac Mickey, of the enlisted men of the regiment, most distinguished himself.

An account of the march on Jackson, Mississippi, and the evacuation of that city by Johnson, after the fall of Vicksburg, having been given in other parts of this volume, I need simply state that the 25th Iowa took part in those operations. After the termination of that expedition, the regiment returned with its division to the Big Black River, where it remained till the 23d of September following, when it moved with General Sherman on the march to Chattanooga. The 1st Division of the 15th Corps, to which the 25th Iowa was attached and which was commanded by Brigadier-General P. J. Osterhaus, was the only one that engaged the enemy on this march. The fighting, which was not severe, took place at and between Cherokee Station, Alabama, and Tuscumbia, and, to give an idea of its character, I quote from the official statement of Colonel George A. Stone:

"On Sunday evening, October 25th, at Cherokee, our division received marching orders for 4 A. M. next day; and accordingly the division moved at the hour indicated, in the direction of Tuscumbia, in light marching order, and in fine fighting condition. The 1st Brigade, Brigadier-General C. R. Woods commanding, had the advance, and ours, the 2d Brigade, Colonel A. J. Williamson commanding, the rear. General Osterhaus' orders were very imperative and strict concerning the tactical arrangement of battalions, as the enemy, but some three miles in front of us, was composed entirely of cavalry, and our equal fully in numerical strength. About two miles from camp we met the enemy's skirmishers, and here formed line of battle, the 1st Brigade on the right, and the 2d on the left, with one of the other divisions of our corps as a reserve. My position was on the extreme left, and, n accordance with orders, I formed a square to repel cavalry, first, however, having covered my front properly with skirmishers. Our skirmishers pushed the enemy so vigorously and our lines followed so promptly, that, after a short resistance, he fell back to another position some four miles to his rear, and made another stand. The same disposition was made again by our division, the same sharp, short fighting, and the same result — the retreat of the enemy. We continued this skirmishing during the entire day, and renewed it on the 27th, literally fighting them from Cherokee to Tuscumbia. We entered the town at 3 P. M. on the 27th."

The 25th Iowa in these operations lost only one man — Sergeant Nehemiah M. Redding — who was killed on the skirmish line. Other regiments suffered more severely. In this connection I should state that there had been fighting on the 21st of the same month, on the entrance of Osterhaus' Division into Cherokee Station. It was in the affair of that day that the lamented Colonel Torrence, of the 30th Iowa, was killed.

Returning to Cherokee on the 28th instant, Colonel Stone marched thence with his regiment back to Chickasaw Landing, and crossed the Tennessee with his division, on the 4th of November. The march from that point to Chattanooga was continued without incident. The division of Osterhaus not arriving till the evening of the 23d of November, and being too late to operate with Sherman above Chattanooga, was ordered to report to General Hooker, who, on the following day, was to assault the enemy on Lookout Mountain. For the part taken by the 25th Iowa in the engagement on and around Lookout Mountain, on the 24th of November, I again quote from a statement of Colonel Stone:

"At 9:30, A. M., I had orders to go to the front, just under a point of rocks on Lookout Mountain, to support the guns of Battery I, 1st New York Artillery, now in position, and two of which guns were protected by being hastily casemated. This position I retained during the day, and on account of the admirable place for defense, and the inability of the enemy to sufficiently depress his guns, I found at dark I had not lost a man.

"Nothing could exceed the grandeur of this battle from the point at which we viewed it. [The position of the 25th Iowa was at a point on the north end of Lookout Mountain]. Every gun from Raccoon Mountain to Moccasin Point was in plain view, and our lines of infantry so close that acquaintances were easily recognized. At 12 M., the grand attack began, and soon the smoke of the battle hung over and enveloped the mountain, like a funeral pall; and the whole battle, like a panorama, passed around and before us."

This was the first battle whose progress the 25th Iowa had witnessed without being engaged; and the recollections of that afternoon will never be effaced from the memories of the regiment. But the scenery of the following night was even more terribly magnificent; for the fighting continued around and up the mountain until long after mid-night.

In the engagement on Lookout Mountain, the regiment suffered no loss: nor did it, in that of the following day on Mission Ridge. In the latter it was not engaged, being detached, with the 26th Iowa, for the purpose of anticipating an attack, which it was supposed two regiments of rebel cavalry designed making on the left. But it followed in pursuit of General Bragg's flying forces to Ringgold, and engaged the enemy there in their strong works, on the morning of the 27th of November.

Ringgold, which is planted among the broken, irregular hills of Northern Georgia, is about twenty-five miles south of Chattanooga. On a line of these hills the enemy had taken up an intrenched position in considerable force, which, contrary to the expectation of General Osterhaus, they held stubbornly. To dislodge them it became necessary to deploy the division so as to carry the works by assault. The position of the 25th Iowa, in the assaulting line, was at the front and on the extreme left in an open field. On the hill in its front were the enemy, protected by abattis and breast-works. A point of this hill, which was rocky and in places precipitous, extended down to the field where the 25th stood in position. Up this the regiment was to charge. On rugged points, both to the right and left, the enemy's infantry were posted, so as to rake by a right and left flanking fire the assaulting party. In front of the regiment were two rebel colors, defended doubtless by two rebel regiments. This then was the position of the 25th Iowa, when the advance was sounded.

The contest now began along the whole line, and lasted for about an hour; when the enemy, no longer able to withstand the cool, steady valor of their assailants, fled from their works and hastened on to Dalton.

The loss of the 25th Iowa at Ringgold was twenty-nine wounded. None were killed. Of the twenty-one officers who entered the fight, seven were struck.

After the battle at Ringgold, the 25th Iowa marched back to Chattanooga, and thence, via Bridgeport, to Woodville, Alabama, where, with its brigade, it went into Winter quarters. It remained in Winter quarters, however, only about a month; for, on the organization of General Matthies' temporary Division to march to the relief of Knoxville, it was assigned to that command, and on the 11th of February, 1864, broke camp and again took the field. It was rumored when the division left Bridgeport, that it was to march only to Chattanooga, where, being relieved by other troops, it would be permitted to remain on guard-duty. But there was in store no such good fortune; for, on the morning of the 16th instant, it resumed the march eastward in the direction of Cleveland.

It was now the season of the year when the Southern Winter was breaking, and the alternating rain and sunshine, and cold and heat did not contribute to the good nature of the troops; and, as they trudged on through the mud, their minds soured at what they called the injustice of the commanding general. "He don't care a d—n, as long as he can ride a horse," and "If I could catch him a-foot, if I didn't give him an appetite for his hard-tack," and other like expressions were not unfrequently heard on this march. No veteran infantry trooper will wonder at these spiteful ebullitions; for it should be remembered that these troops were all of the 15th Corps, who, during the three past months, had marched nearly four hundred miles, and fought in three hard battles.

After the march to Cleveland, which resulted in nothing of special interest, the 25th Iowa returned to Woodville, where it remained till its division left for the front to join General Sherman in his grand campaign against Atlanta. The events of that campaign, in which the 25th Iowa took an honorable part, will be found elsewhere, as will also the history of Sherman's march from Atlanta to Savannah, and from Savannah to Raleigh, North Carolina.

In the operations of General Sherman in his march from Savannah to Raleigh, the capture of Columbia, South Carolina, is conspicuous. The credit of this affair belongs to the Iowa Brigade of the 15th Corps, to which the 25th Iowa Infantry was attached.

The question as to who was entitled to the honor of having first planted the American Flag on the Capitol buildings at Columbia, has been in some doubt. It is claimed by Justin C. Kennedy of the 13th Iowa, and by Colonel George A. Stone. The following I believe to be correct history: The 15th Corps' Iowa Brigade, commanded by Colonel G. A. Stone, forced the enemy back and captured the city; but in the meantime, Lieutenant-Colonel Kennedy, with a few men, crossed the Congaree in a rickety boat, and, hurrying on to the city, succeeded in first gaining both the old and new Capitol buildings. The banner of the 13th Iowa, in the hands of Colonel Kennedy, was the first to wave from the buildings; but the first American Flag was that belonging to the 31st Iowa, which was planted by the hands of Colonel Stone. But Iowa's brave sons should not allow jealousies to sully their fair lame. It is enough for the State to know that her soldiery received the surrender of Columbia.

For several weeks after the battles around Chattanooga, Colonel Stone commanded the Iowa Brigade. He also commanded this brigade on the march from Savannah to Goldsboro and Raleigh. He is an excellent young officer — prompt, precise and sprightly. He is a middle-sized man, with black hair, and merry, brown eyes. In appearance, he is quite youthful I never saw him but once, and that was while I was in the service, and just after he had succeeded to a brigade command. A stalwart captain was riding by his side, and both were enveloped in ponchos; for it rained in those days about Bridgeport. The captain I took for the commander, and the colonel for an aid, or orderly.

The colonel is proud and ambitious, and is happily free from that self-importance — a sort of pseudo-dignity — which seems to afflict army officers conversely in proportion to their merit.

SOURCE: Addison A. Stuart, Iowa Colonels and Regiments, p. 407-14

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