Sunday, January 17, 2010

Colonel Datus E. Coon


Datus E. Coon is a native of New York State, and is thirty-four years of age. He was, in the summer of 1861, a resident of Mason City, Cerro Gordo county, Iowa. He entered the service as captain of Company I, 2d Iowa Cavalry, and, on the 14th of September of the same year, was promoted to a majority in that regiment. If he ever held the lieutenant-colonelcy of his regiment, I have failed to learn it. He was commissioned colonel of the 2d Iowa Cavalry on the 1st day of May, 1864. Much of the time since promoted to his present rank, he has been in command of the 2d Brigade, 5th Cavalry Division, the command of General Edward Hatch. He is reputed a gallant and efficient officer.

The point of chief interest in the history of the 2d Iowa Cavalry, during the colonelcy of Colonel Coon, is that which relates to the Fall and Winter Campaign against General Hood, in Tennessee. The time covered by these operations embraces fully three months; for the advance of Forest into Tennessee near Waterloo, Alabama, late in September, 1864, may be regarded as a part of Hood's grand flanking campaign. From the 30th of September to the 5th of December, the skirmishes and engagements of the 2d Cavalry are enumerated as follows: Shoal Creek, Alabama, November 9th, 1864; Aberdeen, Alabama, November 17th; Butler Creek, Alabama, November 19th; Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, November 22d; Campbellville, Tennessee, November 24th; Linnville, Tennessee, November 24th; Mount Cannel, Tennessee, November 29th and New Franklin, Tennessee, November 30th.

At the time Forest crossed into Tennessee, as above stated, the 2d Cavalry was stationed at White's Station, and at once marched with its brigade for Clifton, on the Tennessee River. Arriving there, it found General Washburne, who had come by boat from Memphis, and was directed by him to start in pursuit of the raider. From this time till the 18th of October, the regiment was on the scout, but failed to find the enemy. Returning then to Clifton, it remained a few days in camp and then started again on the scout; and thus its time was passed until the advance of Hood made its appearance opposite Florence, Alabama.

The brigade command of Colonel Coon, to which was attached the 2d Iowa, took a distinguished part in the operations to resist Hood's advance into Tennessee, and also in driving the rebel army from the State. The skirmishes and engagements, which I have given above, were fought while Hood was marching on Nashville. For the part taken by the 2d Iowa in the battles of the 15th, 16th, and 17th of December I refer to the official report of Major C. C. Horton, who was in command of the regiment. After first stating that his regiment with its brigade moved out from camp and took up its position on the right of General A. J. Smith's Corps, the Major says:

"Their main line was found some four miles from town, occupying formidable works on a commanding hill. By continually swinging to the left, our brigade struck their left flank.

"The division battery (I, of the 2d Illinois) now galloped into position in an open field and opened on the works, evidently much to their annoyance, as the guns of both forts were immediately turned upon the battery and my regiment, which had been formed to the left and rear as support. Remained lying in this position, exposed to a galling fire from both forts for nearly an hour, losing two men killed and one wounded, when I received orders to move forward and join in an assault upon the first fort. The regiment moved steadily forward under a severe fire until within three hundred yards of the works, when the order to 'charge and take that fort' from General Hatch, rang along the line. With a shout the men sprang forward, and with a shout the fort was carried. Company G, Lieutenant Budd commanding, having been thrown out as skirmishers, were nearest the works, and consequently the first to enter. One man was knocked down by a blow from a musket just as he was scaling the works. One of General Smith's batteries shelled the fort after it was captured, six shells bursting in and over it after we had entered. Captured here four brass Napoleons and sixty prisoners. Thirty killed and wounded rebels were found lying in the fort. Leaving a guard with the guns, I pressed forward after the retreating enemy, capturing many prisoners.

"Orders were now received from Colonel Coon to move by the right flank and charge the second fort, situated some seven hundred yards to our right on a high, conical hill. The men were so eager in the pursuit of the fugitives from the first fort, that I was able to rally only two hundred of them: with these I joined the brigade in the assault. The fort was defended with a stubbornness and gallantry seldom surpassed — the enemy only ceasing to use their artillery after the works were scaled. A short but desperate hand-to-hand struggle ensued after the works were entered. My colors, borne by the gallant Sergeant Hartman, Company P, were the first to float from the fort. The Sergeant fell mortally wounded while in the act of planting the colors on one of the guns. Seizing my hand as I bent over him, he exclaimed, 'Major, tell my friends I died doing my duty.' .

"In this fort were captured two guns, with caissons; one battery-wagon, and nearly one hundred prisoners. Notwithstanding my colors were the first to enter the works, it would be unjust to claim the guns or prisoners as my particular prize, as the different regiments of the brigade entered so nearly at the same time. Lieutenants Watson and Griffith, Companies I and D, who, not having heard the order to rally in time to join in the assault on the fort, moved by the right and charged on our left flank, attacking and repulsing a force of rebels who were endeavoring to reinforce the fort, now reported with some sixty prisoners each. Quartermaster-Sergeant Beason, with my bugler, Anderson, and two mounted orderlies (Truesdale and Winn) charged with the sabre, killing and wounding several, and taking some seventy prisoners. Number of prisoners captured during the day, two hundred and fifty. Regiment lost, while supporting the battery and charging the two forts, six men killed, and two commissioned officers and eighteen men wounded.

"December 16th. — Moved with the brigade, early in the morning, again taking a position on the right of General Smith's Infantry: slight skirmishing during the morning. About 2 o'clock P. M., in compliance with orders from General Hatch, I sent Captain Bandy with the 3d Battalion to draw one gun of Battery I up a steep hill, utterly impassable for horses. The gun was dragged to the top of the hill and planted in such a position that it commanded a battery which had greatly annoyed our infantry lines during the day. In a few moments the rebel battery was silenced, and their infantry wavering and falling back. Colonel Coon then ordered the brigade forward, and poured volley after volley into their retiring columns. I now received orders to remain with the battery, assist in taking the gun down the hill, and then join the brigade. Lost during the day, one commissioned officer slightly wounded.

"December 17th. — Moved again at day-light on the Franklin pike, General Hammond having the advance: found the enemy in strong force, occupying a line of hills on ' Little Harpeth,' four miles south of Franklin. General Hatch moved his division to the front; formed on the right of General Hammond, 2d Iowa on the extreme right. The line moved at a walk for some three hundred yards: then the trot, and finally the charge was sounded. At the signal, all sprang forward; but the centre found it impossible to carry the position on account of the steep and rocky hill-side. They halted here, dismounted, and engaged the enemy on foot. Not receiving the order to halt, and having better ground in front, I pressed forward, charged up the hill and through a thick wood, until we reached the enemy's left and rear, who now opened on me with grape and canister from the batteries. Wheeling the regiment to the left, I ordered the charge upon the battery to our left; but the horses were poor and so much blown that they could only raise a slow trot, perceiving which the enemy charged us in turn, but were handsomely repulsed with the carbine. A strong column of rebels were now reported passing through the gap between my regiment and the balance of the brigade. The fact that the day was dark and rainy, and that they wore rubber ponchos, and were many of them dressed in blue, had led my men to believe them to be our own troops, so that they were nearly in the rear of the 3d Battalion before the mistake was discovered. Company K, Sergeant John Coulter commanding, were nearly surrounded, and were compelled to cut their way out with the sabre. Sergeant Coulter, with Corporal Heck and Privates Black and Anderson, charged the rebel color-guard, and after a desperate hand-to-hand struggle, in which Heck and Black were killed and Coulter and Anderson badly wounded, the colors of Rosse's Brigade were captured, and borne triumphantly off by the sergeant. Eight dead rebels, lying within the space of a few yards, attest the desperate nature of the conflict. After a few moment's close fighting, in which the sabre and butts of guns were freely used, the rebels fell back. * * * My loss during the engagement was seven killed, eight wounded, and thirteen captured. Several others were captured, but made their escape, in some instances returning with their guards as prisoners. The regiment captured in all some fifty prisoners.

On the 19th instant, the 2d Iowa met and engaged the enemy at Rutherford Creek, and, on the 25th, near Pulaski. But they continued their flight rapidly southward, and succeeded in crossing the Tennessee in detatchments. Many officers of the 2d Cavalry are mentioned in the highest terms for their conduct during this campaign, and among others are Major Schnitger, Captains Foster and Bandy, and Adjutant Sydenham.

After the above operations had closed, Generals Smith, Schofleld, and Wilson were ordered to concentrate their respective commands at Eastport, on the Tennessee River, preparatory to a renewal of the campaign against the enemy in Mississippi and Alabama; little more was done in this quarter, for Schofleld was soon after summoned to North Carolina to co-operate with Sherman, and Thomas ordered to Tennessee to "assume general control of the defenses of our line of communication in the rear of the Army of the Mississippi." The results of the campaign are thus summed up by General Thomas:

"There were captured from the enemy during the various actions of which the foregoing report treats, thirteen thousand, one hundred and eighty-nine prisoners of war, including seven general officers and nearly one thousand other officers of all grades, seventy-two pieces of artillery, and – battle-flags. During the same period over two thousand deserters from the enemy were received, and to whom the oath was administered. Our own losses will not exceed ten thousand in killed, wounded and missing."

With the above campaign, closes the interesting portion of the 2d Cavalry's history. It did not march with Wilson on his celebrated march through Alabama to Macon, Georgia.

SOURCE: Addison A. Stuart, Iowa Colonels and Regiments, p. 577-82

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