Your telegraphic dispatch informing me that two more regiments of volunteers were required of this State, reached me on the 17th inst. I immediately ordered the ten companies selected as the Second Regiment to rendezvous at Keokuk by the 25th inst., there to be mustered into the service of the United States. I have also selected the companies to form the Third Regiment, and I have sent orders to them to rendezvous at the same place by the 3d of June proximo at furthest.
I hope both regiments will be promptly at Keokuk by the time named. The want of telegraphs and railroads in the interior of our State causes delay in the transmission of orders and the movement of troops, or these regiments would be at the place of rendezvous much sooner.
Notwithstanding the difficulties of transportation, the companies selected to compose the Second Regiment had all reached Keokuk before the date indicated in the Governor's order. There they were mustered into the service on the 27th and 28th days of May, 1861. The regiment was fortunate in the selection of its first field officers, who soon justified the good judgment shown by Governor Kirkwood in appointing them, by the skill and ability displayed in preparing the regiment for active service in the short time which elapsed before they were ordered to take the field against the enemy. Col. Samuel R. Curtis, a member of Congress from the First district of Iowa, resigned that office to accept a commission as Colonel of the Second Iowa Infantry. He was a graduate from the Military Academy at West Point, but had many years before resigned from the army to engage in civil engineering. Upon taking command of his regiment, he at once proceeded to instruct the officers and men in the details of their duty as soldiers. So promptly and well was this instruction given, and received, that the Second Regiment was the first to take the field, the First following but one day later, and the Third but a few days thereafter. On the 13th day of June, 1861, Colonel Curtis received a telegram from General Nathaniel Lyon ordering him to at once move the troops under his command into the State of Missouri, with specific instructions to take military control of the lines of the Hannibal and St. Joseph and North Missouri Railroads.
Colonel Curtis states — in his official report to General Lyon — that he received the order at one o'clock a. m. and that at five o'clock a. m. the Second Iowa was embarked on board the steamer Jennie Deans. Landing at Hannibal, Mo., the same day, Colonel Curtis at once proceeded to take military possession of the railroads indicated, using for that purpose the Second Iowa Infantry, the First Iowa Infantry, (which had followed from Keokuk and reached Hannibal on June 14th,) a detachment of the Sixteenth Illinois Infantry numbering 450, and 250 Home Guards which he found stationed at Hannibal upon his arrival there, making in all a force of about 2,700 under his command with which to execute the order of General Lyon, a seemingly impossible task, considering the length of the lines along which this small army was to be distributed; but without hesitation the order was obeyed. As he advanced, small forces of the enemy were encountered and quickly overcome; flags, munitions of war, prisoners and supplies were captured, and loyal and peaceable citizens assured protection. Leaving detachments to guard the bridges, buildings and other railroad property from destruction, he pressed forward, and at the conclusion of his report said, "I arrived at St. Joseph June 15, 1861, and encamped a short distance below the city on the bank of the Missouri River. I had thus in fifty-six hours from the time your dispatch reached me at Keokuk taken military possession of the entire road and established a sufficient guard along the line to protect it, and at the same time scattered and disorganized the rebel forces that were mustering through this portion of Missouri." Colonel Curtis then gives in detail the disposition of his troops at the various points along the line of the railroad. Upon his arrival at St. Joseph, he found a force of 650 Union troops which had been sent there by General Lyon. When the expedition started from Hannibal, Colonel Curtis was not aware of the presence of these troops at the other end of the line. While they did not directly co-operate in his expedition, the fact that they were already in possession of the city when he arrived there was an important factor in the success of this most remarkable military achievement. The promptness with which the order was obeyed alone saved this important line of railroad for the transportation of Union troops and supplies, and prevented a more prolonged resistance by the rebel forces in that portion of the State of Missouri. Colonel Curtis was promptly promoted to the rank of Brigadier General and later was given the rank of Major General. The Second Iowa Infantry thus began its military career under an able leader whose influence and example was an inspiration to the splendid officers who subsequently became its commanders, succeeding each other in vacancies caused by promotion, by death on the battlefield, and by disabling wounds. The regiment rendered important service during the campaign in the summer of 1861 and most of the winter of 1862. The principal points from which it operated were as follows: St. Joseph, Mo.; United States Arsenal, St. Louis, Mo.; Bird's Point, Mo.; Ironton, Mo.; Pilot Knob, Mo.; Jackson, Mo.; Fort Jefferson, Ky.; Benton Barracks, St. Louis; Military Prison, McDowell's College, St. Louis. Leaving the last named station on the 10th day of February, 1862, the regiment was transferred by boat to Fort Donelson, Tenn., where it participated in the siege and capture of that stronghold and opened the way for the passage of the Union troops up the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers. The regiment was at that time under the command of Col. J. M. Tuttle from whose official report to Col. J. G. Lauman, commanding the Brigade to which the Second was attached, the following extracts are taken:
When we arrived at the top of the hill nearly opposite the right of the enemy's works, in pursuance of an order from you, I deployed companies A and B as skirmishers. They immediately crossed a ravine in front of our line, and skirmished until night, when they were called in. In the meantime the regiment was assigned position on the extreme left of our forces, where we spent a cold and disagreeable night, without tents or blankets. We remained in this position until 2 o'clock P. M. of the next day, when we were ordered to storm the fortifications of the enemy in front by advancing the left wing of the regiment supported a short distance in the rear by the right wing. I took command of the left wing in person and proceeded in line of battle steadily up the hill until we reached the fortifications without firing a gun. On reaching the works, we found the enemy flying before us, except a few who were promptly put to the bayonet. I then gave the order to fire which was responded to with fatal precision until the right wing with Lieutenant Colonel Baker arrived, headed by General Smith, when we formed in line of battle again, under a galling fire, and charged on the encampment across the ravine in front, the enemy still retreating before us. After we had reached the summit of the hill beyond the ravine, we made a stand and occupied it for over an hour. * * * * * * * * *
Soon afterwards I retired from the field owing to an injury received as reported among the casualties of the engagement, leaving Lieutenant Colonel Baker in command until the following morning, when the enemy gave signal for a parley, which was succeeded by the enjoyable intelligence that they had surrendered the fort. We were then ordered by General Smith to take the post of honor, in marching to the fort, where we placed our colors upon the battlements beside the white flag of the enemy, for which generous consideration the General has our hearty thanks.
The compiler of this history has before him the original telegram from Major General H. W. Halleck, addressed to Adjutant General N. B. Baker of Iowa, dated at Department Headquarters, St. Louis, February 19, 1862, which reads as follows:
The Second Iowa Infantry proved themselves the bravest of the brave. They had the honor of leading the column which entered Fort Donelson.
Colonel Tuttle then goes on to mention by name those who especially distinguished themselves by coolness and bravery in the assault upon the fort. Of those in the most responsible positions, he mentions Lieutenant Colonel Baker, Major Chipman and Adjutant Tuttle, and says of them:
They were gallant to perfection. Lieutenant Colonel Baker had a ball pass through his cap and come out near his temple, Major Chipman was among the first to fall severely wounded, while cheering on the men of the left wing, and refused to be carried from the field, but waved his sword and exhorted the men to press forward. Captains Slaymaker and Cloutman fell dead at the head of their companies before they reached the entrenchments. Near them fell Lieutenant Harper. His death was that of a true and brave soldier. Captains Cox, Mills, Moore and Wilkins were at the head of their companies, marked examples of gallantry and efficiency. Lieutenants Scofield, Ensign, Davis, Holmes, Huntington, Weaver, Mastic, Snowden and Godfrey — in fact nearly all of my officers, commissioned and non-commissioned — deported themselves nobly throughout the engagement. Sergeant Major Brawner deserves very honorable mention for his gallant conduct. Surgeons Marsh and Nassau also deserve the highest praise for their skill and untiring devotion to the welfare of the wounded. Dr. Nassau was particularly noticed for his bravery on the field, taking off the wounded during a heavy fire from the enemy. I cannot omit in this report an account of the Color Guard. Color Sergeant Doolittle fell early in the engagement, pierced by four balls, and dangerously wounded. The colors were then taken by Corporal Page of Company B who soon fell, dead. They were again raised by Corporal Churcher of Company I who had his arm broken just as he entered the entrenchments, when they were taken by Corporal Twombly of Company F, who was almost instantly knocked down by a spent ball, but he immediately rose and bore them gallantly to the end of the fight. Not a single man of the Color Guard, but himself, was on his feet at the close of the engagement.
Thus, in its first great battle, so important in its results, the Second Iowa Infantry bore such a conspicuous part as to be accorded the post of honor by being placed in the vanguard of the troops who took possession of the stronghold they had fought so bravely to subdue. The news of the splendid manner in which they had sustained the flag of their country was heard with glad acclaim, mingled with mourning for the gallant dead, throughout the State of Iowa, and served as an inspiration to those who were rallying to the defense of their country, and eagerly waiting for the opportunity to take the places of their fallen comrades.
On the 19th day of March, 1862, the Second Iowa Infantry disembarked at Pittsburg Landing, Tenn., and went into camp. On the 6th and 7th days of April, 1862, the regiment participated in the great battle of Shiloh under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Baker, Colonel Tuttlle [sic], having won the rank of Brigadier General at Donelson, being placed in command of a brigade composed of the Second, Seventh, Twelfth and Fourteenth Iowa Infantry. In his official report Tuttle says, "Lieutenant Colonel Baker distinguished himself for bravery and ability on the field." He further states that, "The officers deserving special mention in this report are so numerous that I will confine myself to the field officers alone."
Diligent search of the files in the office of the Adjutant General of Iowa, of the copies of reports published by Adjutant General Baker, and of the War of the Rebellion records published by the War Department, fails to reveal the report of Lieutenant Colonel Baker of the part taken by his regiment at Shiloh. Surviving officers of the regiment state that such report was made, and that it contained special mention of the meritorious conduct of many of the officers and enlisted men, but it seems to have been unaccountably lost. Recourse is therefore again had to the Brigade Commander's report to show how well and bravely the regiment fought at Shiloh:
On the morning of the 6th, my brigade, under the direction of Gen. W. H. L. Wallace, commanding Second Division, formed line on the left of his division. We had been in line but a few moments when the enemy made their appearance and attacked my left wing (Twelfth and Fourteenth Iowa) who gallantly stood their ground, and compelled their assailants to retire in confusion. They again formed under cover of a battery, and renewed the attack upon my whole line, but were repulsed as before. A third and fourth time they dashed upon us, but were each time baffled and completely routed. We held our position about six hours, when it became evident that our forces on each side of us had given way so as to give the enemy an opportunity to turn both flanks. At this critical juncture, General Wallace gave orders for my whole brigade to fall back, which was done in good order. The Second and Seventh retired through a severe fire from both flanks, and reformed, while the Twelfth and Fourteenth, who were delayed by their endeavors to save a battery which had been placed in their rear, were completely surrounded and compelled to surrender.
The two regiments of Tuttle's command — the Second and Seventh Iowa — which had escaped capture, reinforced by fragments of other regiments, constituted an important part of the line of last resistance at Shiloh on the 6th of April, and again the regiment occupied a post of honor. On Monday, the 7th, the Second Iowa was placed under the orders of General Nelson and made a bayonet charge in a most gallant manner, the enemy giving way before them. It will thus be seen that the regiment well sustained at Shiloh the record it had made at Donelson.
After the battle of Shiloh, the regiment took part in all the operations leading up to the investment and siege of Corinth, and in the siege of that place, which was finally evacuated by the enemy on the 30th of May, 1862. The regiment was stationed at Camp Montgomery, near Corinth, Miss., during the remainder of the summer of 1862 — co-operating with the operations of the First Brigade Second Division of the army of the Mississippi — until the 3d day of October, 1862, when it became engaged in that fierce and bloody contest which lasted for two days, and in which its percentage of loss — in proportion to the number engaged — was greater than at Donelson or Shiloh. The compiler of this history considers that the publication of the official report of the part taken by the regiment in the battle of Corinth is requisite, in order that its heroic record may not be abridged, and the report is herewith given:
Headquarters Second Iowa Infantry,
Rienzi, Miss., Oct. 5, 1862.
Col. T. W. Sweeney, Commanding First Brigade, Second Division, Army of the Mississippi.
SIR: In compliance with your order, I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by the Second Iowa Infantry regiment in the engagement which took place at Corinth, Miss., on the 3d and 4th instant:
The regiment went into battle on the morning of the 3d commanded by Col. James Baker, with three field, two staff, and twenty-one line officers, and three hundred and twenty men, making an aggregate of three hundred and forty-six. In the first day's battle near White House, which was most stubbornly contested, the loss of the regiment was very heavy, particularly in officers. In this action three Lieutenants were killed — First Lieutenant John G. Huntington of Company B, First Lieutenant Thomas Snowden of Company I, First Lieutenant Alfred Bing of Company C. Enlisted men — Corporal Wesley H. Henderson. Privates—John W. Dunn, Marion French and James G. Mansell, making a total of seven killed. Wounded — Colonel James Baker (mortally); Second Lieutenant V. P. Twombly, severely. Enlisted me — thirty-one; missing, two; making an aggregate of forty-two killed, wounded and missing in the first day's engagement. In the engagement of the 4th, Second Lieutenant George W. Neal of Company H, Corporals Henry A. Sieberlich, A. Stevenson and Jacob A. Moles; Privates — John M. Renz, John Clough, W. W. K. Harper, W. M. Summers, Charles E. Walker, John W. Downes and Franklin Prouty, were killed. Wounded — Lieutenant Colonel Mills (mortally); Captain N. B. Howard of Company I (slightly); First Lieutenant C. C. Parker of Company F (severely); Second Lieutenant George W. Blake of Company K (dangerously); Second Lieutenant Frank M. Suiter of Company B (severely). Enlisted men — Forty-four; missing, one; captured, one; total killed, wounded and missing in both days' engagement, 108.
In this protracted and desperate engagement, in many respects the most desperate of the war, the officers and men displayed the most laudable gallantry and heroism. Colonel Baker fell mortally wounded on the first day, at the very time his regiment was charging on the retreating enemy with the greatest enthusiasm and fury. He remarked as he was being borne from the field, "Thank God when I fell my regiment was victoriously charging." Lieutenant Colonel Mills was wounded in the second day's engagement, while fighting with the most conspicuous courage and coolness. He was loth to leave the field. Better or truer officers never fought. Exposed to every danger, they were ever conspicuous for their cool, daring courage, and the patriotic ardor of their souls, which inspired every officer and soldier under their command. Colonel Baker expired on the morning of the 7th at 11 o'clock and Lieutenant Colonel Mills on the 12th at 7 o'clock. May their memory ever be cherished by their countrymen. Lieutenants Huntington, Snowden, Bing and Neal fell at their posts fighting like heroes. They died as becomes patriots; fully as much can be said of the enlisted men who fell. All honor to their memory.
Among those who distinguished themselves was Adjutant Geo. L. Godfrey, who was always to be seen and heard charging- along the line upon his horse shouting to the men to be cool and steady. He is one of the most valuable young officers with whom I have ever met. Captains Cowles, McCullough, Mastic, Howard, Ensign and Davis were marked instances of bravery and efficiency upon the field and reflected great credit upon themselves and their commands. Captain Holmes, on account of a wound received in battle of Fort Donelson, was unable to take command of his company during the engagement. Conspicuous for bravery were Lieutenants Parker, Duffield, Marsh, Wilson, Tisdale, Suiter, Hamill, Hall, Blake, Duckworth, Ballinger, Twombly and McCoid. After Lieutenants Parker and Twombly of Company F were wounded, Sergeant James Ferry took charge of the company and rendered most satisfactory service.
Too much credit cannot be bestowed upon our excellent First Assistant Surgeon Elliott Pyle — then in charge of the medical department of the regiment — who was most indefatigable in his attentions to the wounded, nor upon our Quartermaster Sergeant John Lynde, who was ever present upon the field to supply the wants of the men. Sergeant Major Campbell distinguished himself throughout the battle for coolness and bravery.
Color Sergeant Harry Doolittle, while supporting the colors, was again wounded, and Color Corporals Henry A. Seiberlich, G. C. Phillips, G. B. Norris, J. C. Urie and John H. Stewart were all wounded while supporting the old flag.
I join with you, and my countrymen, in the deepest regret for the gallant slain. Their sacrifices make our Constitution still more valuable to the civilized world. While we mourn their loss we can rejoice that they died like true heroes for their beloved country. How precious their memory. How sacred their dust. They died for the cause of Christianity and constitutional liberty. After the fall of Lieutenant Colonel Mills, which took place about 9 o'clock on Saturday, the command devolved upon myself. There were thirty-one prisoners and one stand of colors captured by the regiment.
I have the honor to be, Colonel, your most obedient servant,
JAMES B. WEAVER,
After the battle of Corinth, the regiment, now decimated in number by its heavy losses in battle, continued in active service in the states of Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia, during the fall, winter, spring and early summer of 1862 and 1863, and contributed its full share to the success of the operations against the enemy, up to, and culminating in, the fall of Atlanta and the march to the sea, and on to Washington. During this period of its service, it participated in the following engagements:
Little Bear Creek, Alabama, November 28, 1862. Town Creek, Ala., April, 1863. Resaca, Ga., May 14 and 15, 1864. Rome Cross Roads, May 16, 1864. Dallas, Ga., May 27, 28 and 29, 1864. Kenesaw Mountain, Ga., June 10 to 30, 1864 (Siege). Nickajack Creek, Ga., July 4, 1864. In front of Atlanta, July 22, 1864, and siege of Atlanta to August 27, 1864. Advance on Jonesboro, Ga., August 30, 1864. Jonesboro, Ga., August 31, 1864. Eden Station, Ga., December 7, 1864. Little Ogechie, Ga., December 10 to 20, 1864. Savannah, Ga., December 21, 1864. Columbia, S. C, February 15 and 16, 1865. Lynches Creek, S. C, February 26, 1865, and Bentonsville, N. C, March 18 and 21, 1865. This ended the fighting record of this veteran organization. On the 24th day of May, 1865, the regiment reached Washington, D. C, thus completing a triumphant march, which will be forever memorable in the military annals of the world. The regiment participated in that great military pageant — the grand review in Washington — and remained in camp near that city until early in June, 1865. It then proceeded to Louisville, Ky., where it was mustered out of the service July 12, 1865, having served the United States Government well and faithfully for over four years. It then proceeded to Davenport, Iowa, where it disbanded July 20, 1865, and the survivors returned to their homes. The subjoined roster, with the record of service paragraphed opposite each name, together with a summary of casualties, list of those confined in Confederate prisons, and buried in National Cemeteries, makes up a record of bravery, of suffering and fortitude, that will compare favorably with that of any regiment, from any State, in that Grand Army of the Republic, the survivors of which are now venerable with age, and whose numbers are rapidly diminishing with the passing years.
At the date of the completion of this historical sketch — August 20, 1907 — relatively few of the nearly two thousand men who, first and last, marched and fought with this splendid regiment, remain upon earth. When this history and revised roster shall have been published and ready for distribution, a still smaller number of survivors will remain to peruse it, but a great and grateful commonwealth will have discharged its duty in preserving for all time this record of faithful and patriotic service of the men whose brave deeds are herein recorded, to be read and cherished by their children, and children's children, and by all the patriotic sons and daughters of Iowa, to their latest posterity.
Samuel R. Curtis was born in Ohio, February 3, 1807. In 1827, he was appointed to a cadetship at West Point. After graduating, he served as Second Lieutenant in the Seventh Infantry for a year, and then resigned to engage in civil engineering in Ohio. He was Colonel of the Third regiment of Ohio Infantry Volunteers in the Mexican war. At the beginning of the War of the Rebellion, he was living in Keokuk, and was the representative in Congress of the First of the then two Congressional Districts of Iowa.
Upon the organization of the Second Iowa Infantry, he was unanimously elected Colonel of the regiment. He rose to the rank of Major General, and rendered distinguished service as the commander of the Army of the Southwest. He won a decisive victory over the rebel army at the battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas, and was afterwards in command of the Departments of Missouri and Arkansas'. He never lost a battle.
SUMMARY OF CASUALTIES.
Total Enrollment 1433
Died of wounds 24
Died of disease 121
Discharged for wounds, disease and other causes 361
Buried in National Cemeteries 69
SOURCE: Roster & Record of Iowa Soldiers During the War of the Rebellion, Vol. 1, p. 91-7