Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Colonel Cyrus H. Mackey


Cyrus H. Mackey is twenty-eight years of age, and a native of Illinois. He is a lawyer by profession, and, at the time of entering the service, was a resident of Sigourney, Keokuk county, Iowa. He was made lieutenant-colonel of the 33d Iowa Infantry the 10th of August, 1862, and served with that rank till the 18th of August, 1863, when he was commissioned colonel of his regiment. He was not however mustered to that rank till the 22d of April, 1864. The 33d Iowa has been under his command a chief portion of the time since entering the field; for Colonel, afterward General Rice was in command of the brigade to which the regiment was attached.

To give in detail the operations in which the 33d Iowa has taken part can not be done with interest; for they are recorded elsewhere in these pages. From the time of entering the field to the present, the 29th and 33d Iowa regiments have served together, and the history of one regiment is nearly the same as that of the other. It accompanied the White River and Yazoo Pass Expeditions, and marched with General Steele on the Little Rock and Camden Campaign. The regiment most distinguished itself at the battles of Helena and Saline River, or Jenkins' Ferry, the former fought on the 4th of July, 1863, and the latter on the morning of the 30th of April, 1864.

The following is from Lieutenant-Colonel Mackey's official report concerning the battle at Helena:

"The men, after having been constantly engaged for six hours, were very much exhausted. From eighty to one hundred rounds of ammunition had been expended to the man. The loss of my own regiment was: killed on the field, seventeen; wounded, fifty-two; taken prisoners, seventeen. Three men were taken at Battery C. Eight of the wounded have since died from their wounds. I went into the engagement with five hundred men. The officers and men of the entire command behaved themselves splendidly. The force we had to contend with was at least five to one, and I feel perfectly safe in saying that the regiment took as many prisoners as we had men in action. They all did so well that it is a difficult matter for me to attempt to particularize who did best.

"I take particular pleasure in mentioning the names of Major H. D. Gibson, Captain John P. Yerger, Captain John Lofland, Lieutenant Cheney Prouty, and Captain L. W. Whipple. The manner in which these officers conducted themselves is deserving of the highest praise.

"I would also call your attention to the good conduct of 2d Lieutenant Sharman, of Company G, who had command of the picket-guard. He succeeded in holding the enemy in check until we were fully prepared to receive them, brought his guard all off except a number that were killed and wounded in good order, and joined the regiment. He was wounded in the head very severely, but I think not dangerously."

For the part taken by the 33d Iowa on the Camden march and in the different skirmishes and actions in which it was engaged, I refer to the reports of its commanding officers. From the time Steele left Little Rock till after his arrival at Camden, the regiment was commanded by Major H. D. Gibson, and the following is from his official report:

"Prior to the arrival of our forces at Prairie de Anne, the part taken in any engagement by my regiment was entirely unimportant. On arriving at Prairie de Anne, I was ordered to form line of battle and move to the left of the 50th Indiana, which was done. I was then ordered to form column by division, and in that order I moved forward on to the prairie. While crossing a slough in the timber joining the prairie, a shell from the enemy's gun exploded near the regiment, killing one man and breaking several guns. On reaching the open ground, I again deployed, sending forward two companies as skirmishers, with instructions to move steadily forward, which they did, driving the enemy before them, the regiment moving to their support. In this order I moved forward till the regiment rested where the enemy's artillery first opened fire. It then being dark, the skirmishers were ordered to rest in place, and the regiment retired two hundred yards to unexposed grounds and bivouacked. At 11 o'clock P. M. the enemy dashed upon the skirmish line, but was repulsed without injury to us. The transactions of the following day are unimportant. On the morning of the 13th of April, we moved, in connection with the entire forces, through and to the west of Prairie de Anne, our skirmishers steadily driving the enemy before them. On approaching their works on the Camden and Washington road, the enemy hastily withdrew. From that time till the morning of the 15th, nothing worthy of note transpired.

"On the 15th day of April, my regiment led the advance of the infantry. Two companies were deployed as skirmishers on either side of the road, and, having moved forward two miles, were fired upon by the enemy. The skirmishers moved forward, driving them, assisted by a howitzer, until they came within range of the enemy's artillery, which was opened upon us, wounding four men. My regiment supported the 2d Missouri Battery on the right. Having taken this position, I sent forward three sharp-shooters from each company to assist the skirmishers, and annoy the enemy's gunners. After an engagement of two hours the enemy withdrew from his position, after which the march was resumed. At about two miles distant, we were again fired on; and while awaiting orders a shell from the enemy's guns burst near my regiment, dangerously wounding one man. A sharp skirmish was kept up for two and a half miles, when the enemy withdrew from our front. Our entire loss in killed and wounded, when we reached Camden, amounted to one killed, and four wounded."

Colonel Mackey reached Camden on the 19th of April, and assumed command of his regiment. The following is from his official report concerning the part taken by his regiment in the return to Little Rock.

"Nothing of particular interest took place from the time of the evacuation of Camden until my arrival at Saline River. On the evening of the 29th, at 6 ½ o'clock P. M., I was ordered to the rear on the Camden road to support Colonel Ingleman's Brigade, an attack being anticipated during the night. I stood at arms during the entire night, the enemy making no particular demonstration, although in speaking-distance. Night very dark and raining most of the time.

"About 4 o'clock A. M. on the 30th, I received orders that, as soon as the 43d Illinois Infantry on my left was withdrawn, I should retire about three-fourths of a mile toward the river, and take position covering the passage of the troops while crossing. This movement I executed without being discovered by the enemy. This position I occupied half an hour when the enemy made his appearance. The skirmishers immediately engaged them, holding them in check for half an hour. When I was relieved by the 27th Wisconsin Infantry, I marched my command to a new position, one mile in the direction of the crossing. In twenty minutes the engagement became general, and I was ordered to the support of the 50th Indiana Infantry on the left. From this time until the close of the battle, the regiment was almost continually engaged.

"As to the conduct of both officers and men of my command, I cannot speak in terms too high. To attempt distinction would be injustice to my command, as all did their duty nobly. A short time before the close of the action I received a wound in my right arm, which compelled me to quit the field, the command of the regiment devolving upon Captain Boydston, Company A, who, at the close of the engagement, marched the regiment off in good order."

In the desperate engagement at Jenkins' Ferry, the loss of the 33d was severe. Eight enlisted men were killed, and six officers and ninety-seven enlisted men wounded. There were also twelve missing; making the total loss of the regiment one hundred and twenty-three. The commissioned officers wounded were Colonel Mackey, Captains Comstock and Totten, and Lieutenants Conner, De Garmo and Kindig. Captain P. T. Totten and Lieutenant T. R. Conner were both mortally wounded. The former was shot through the thigh, and the latter through the neck. The subsequent history of the 33d is nearly the same as that of the 29th Iowa.

SOURCE: Addison A. Stuart, Iowa Colonels and Regiments, p. 497-500

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