Thursday, January 21, 2010

Colonel John Wesley Noble


John W. Noble was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in the year 1831, and is a son of Colonel John Noble, a distinguished citizen of that State. His education is liberal and thorough, and was acquired at Yale College, New Haven. His profession is the law, which he first studied in the office of Hon. Henry Stansbury of Ohio, and afterward at the Cincinnati Law School. In 1857, he came to Iowa and settled in the city of Keokuk, where he formed a law partnership with Henry Strong, Esq. From that time until the breaking out of the war, he practiced his profession with great success, and in the opinion of most competent judges was, without regard to his age, one of the best read lawyers in his district. In the spring of 1861, the firm of "Strong & Noble" ranked only second in ability and business, to the many law firms in the city of Keokuk. In August, 1861, John W. Noble entered the service as adjutant of the 3d Iowa Cavalry. He held that rank till the 18th of November, 1862, when he was mustered to the majority of the 2d Battalion of his regiment. Early in May, 1864, he was made lieutenant-colonel, and in the following June was mustered colonel, vice Colonel H. C. Caldwell.

For several months before he was commissioned colonel, and while he held the rank of major, Colonel Noble commanded his regiment — or rather the 1st and 3d Battalions of it. These battalions were under his command in rear of Vicksburg, during Sherman's advance on Jackson, on the march to Canton, and the raid made by Colonel Winslow of the 4th Iowa Cavalry from near the Big Black River through the country to Memphis. The last named expedition was made in August, 1863, and we resume the history of the regiment from that date.

On the 26th of August, the 1st and 3d Battalions of the 3d Iowa were embarked on boats for Vicksburg, but they had proceeded no farther than Helena, when they were ordered by General Grant in person, to debark and report to General Steele, then marching on Little Rock. It will be remembered the 2d Battalion of the regiment, with the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Caldwell, had marched with the cavalry division of General Davidson from Arcadia, and that it now formed a part of General Steele's forces. On the arrival of Major Noble the regiment was therefore re-united after a separation of nearly two years. From September, 1863, until the following February, the histories of the 1st and 3d Iowa Cavalry regiments are nearly the same. They served in the same department, and took part in the same operations; but on the last named date, the 3d Iowa having re-enlisted, came North on veteran furlough. Since that time the histories of these regiments have been widely different.

While en route for the front, after the expiration of its furlough, the 3d Iowa Cavalry was stopped at Memphis, and, in the latter part of April, 1864, was brigaded with the 4th Iowa and 10th Missouri Cavalry. These troops constituted "Colonel Winslow's Brigade;" and by their gallantry in six important expeditions they have made their name distinguished.

An account of the operations against General Forest in the spring and summer of 1864, I have given elsewhere, and I need not detail them here. The 3d Iowa took part in all these operations, and sustained its reputation for gallantry. In the disastrous affair of General Sturgis near Guntown, Mississippi, the regiment lost five killed, eighteen wounded, and forty-nine captured. In speaking of the conduct of his regiment in this engagement, Colonel Noble says:

"My officers and men behaved universally so well that I can not make much distinction among them. But, for their aid in getting a new line to force the enemy at one particular emergency, I deem Captain Curkendall, of Company D, and Lieutenant McKee, of Company B, worthy of particular notice. Major Jones was constantly at his post, and did all a good and brave officer could. If occasion offers, I hope to bring the merits of others of the brave men more prominently forward than I can do now."

Lieutenants Thomas J. Miller and Reuben Delay were both wounded in this engagement and captured.

The loss of the 3d Iowa Cavalry in the expedition made by General Smith against Forest to Tupelo, Mississippi, was one killed, seventeen wounded, and one captured. Major Duffield and Captains Crail, Brown, McCrary and Johnson, are mentioned for special gallantry.

The history of the operations against General Sterling Price in Missouri, in the fall of 1864, is one of great interest, and the brilliant part which the 3d Iowa Cavalry and its brigade sustained in it I give in full.

Colonel Winslow's Brigade had only returned from its second expedition under General Smith against Forest, when it was ordered in pursuit of Price: indeed, it was re-called from Oxford, Mississippi, if I mistake not, for this express purpose. The brigade left its camp near Memphis, at two o'clock on the morning of the second of September, and, crossing the Mississippi, marched to Brownsville, Arkansas, when it arrived on the 9th instant. Here the command rested till the morning of the 18th, awaiting the arrival and organization of the infantry command of Major-General Mower. On the 18th, the march was resumed northward, and, passing through Austin, and Searcy, and crossing the White River fifteen miles below Batesville, and Black River at Elgin, entered Missouri at Poplar Bluffs. Price was now well into Missouri, living liberally, and inviting his rebel adherents to join him. From Poplar Bluffs, Winslow's Brigade marched east to Cape Girardeau, and proceeded thence by boat to St. Louis, where it arrived on the 10th of October.

At this date, there was great alarm, both in Southern Iowa and Eastern Kansas; and the militia in both States were being organized and disciplined to meet the invader. Dollar-men along the border in Iowa, (I do not speak for Kansas) who, during the whole war, had hugged closely to their business and about their firesides, and who had thought of nothing but their per centage, now looked anxiously over into Missouri, and talked loudly of patriotism. I could not pass without paying the patriots this compliment.

Winslow's Brigade rested only one day in St. Louis to refit; then pushed up the Valley of the Missouri River, on the direct road to Independence. The command struck the enemy's trail at Franklin, only thirty miles west from the Mississippi; and at that time Price was at Lexington. On the 22d instant, they reached Independence, where they formed a junction with the cavalry command of General Pleasanton. That same evening the brigade was thrown to the front, and encountered the enemy's rear-guard; for Price was now only a few miles distant from Independence. Of the operations of the 3d Iowa Cavalry that night, Colonel Noble says:

"My regiment, though not having the advance, was dismounted, sent to the front, and immediately engaged the enemy on the Kansas City Road, fighting and driving Clark's rebel brigade a distance of five miles, from five o'clock until nine and one-half P. M., when my command was relieved. The command rested on the field for the night in the face of the enemy, having marched from twelve o'clock on the night of the twenty-first, without water or forage for our animals."

The next morning, the 23d, the 3d Iowa Cavalry was in the saddle by four o'clock, and pressing the enemy. The 10th Missouri and 4th Iowa Cavalry had the advance. It will be remembered that, as early as the 20th instant, General Blunt, under orders from General Curtis, had moved out from Kansas to Lexington and engaged Price's advance. Pleasanton, with his cavalry, soon after struck him in rear, and from that time till the 23d, the date of the battle on the Big Blue, the rebel general was between two fires. It will also be remembered that it was on the Big Blue that the invading army was defeated and disorganized. In this splendid victory, the brigade of Colonel Winslow contributed not a little. Early in the day, Company A, of the 3d Iowa, charged the enemy in a strong position, and captured a stand of colors and several prisoners; and later in the same day, the entire regiment, in company with its brigade, "joined in the gallant mounted charge against the enemy in column of regiments, which was continued through farms and over the prairie for five or six miles." The loss of Price here was extremely severe, and, as I have said, his army was demoralized.

The history of the pursuit, during the two subsequent days, Major B. S. Jones gives as follows:

"Having, at day-light, [the 14th] joined the Army of the Border under General Curtis, we marched early, constantly and rapidly in a southern direction after the retreating enemy, down the line dividing Missouri and Kansas, over extensive prairies, dotted with devastated farms and lonely chimneys, which marked the ravages of war. We marched without halting, until three o'clock A. M. of the 25th, when we reached Trader's Post on the Osage River: there we found the enemy, and eagerly waited for morning. The enemy, having been routed from his position on the river, was followed up at a gallop for several miles by Winslow's Brigade, in the following order: 10th Missouri, 4th Iowa, 3d Iowa, 4th Missouri, and 7th Indiana Cavalry. When he attempted to make a stand, we formed on the open prairie in two lines of battle, supported by eight pieces of artillery.

"My command was formed in line of battle with the brigade, in column of regiments, in their order of march, and constituting the left centre of our whole line. We charged the enemy, breaking his right and centre, killing, wounding and capturing many of his men. Among the captured were Generals Marmaduke and Cabell, the former by Private James Dunlavy, of Company D, and the latter by Sergeant C. M. Young, of Company L — both of the 3d Iowa Cavalry. Companies C, D and E captured three pieces of the enemy's artillery. The whole of my command did nobly on that field, as also on all others, and the highest commendations are due to every man and officer. The remainder of the day was one continual charge upon the enemy, resulting in his complete rout. We rested on the open prairie over night, near Fort Scott, Arkansas."

The charge made by Winslow's and Philip's Brigades, on the 25th instant, against the command of General Marmaduke and near Mound City, was brilliant in the extreme. It was in this charge, and after the rout of the enemy that Marmaduke and Cabell were captured. General Marmaduke was holding Price's rear at the place above designated, and had formed his division in line to check our advance. But he had chosen his position badly. It was at the foot of a gentle slope, and in front of a small creek, skirted with brush. The charge was made down the slope at full run, with the 10th Missouri in the lead, that regiment being followed by the 4th Iowa, and the 4th by the 3d. The sight was a magnificent one. When the 10th came under the withering fire of the enemy, it recoiled slightly; but the 4th dashed on through its line, wheeling partially to the right, and followed closely by the 3d. The 4th Iowa was the first to strike and break the enemy's line. In an instant, the whole rebel line was shattered and fleeing in confusion. The charge was so sudden and impetuous that Marmaduke was left without a command, and a straggler; and thus he was captured. Cabell was captured in like manner. Private Dunlavy, the captor of Marmaduke, was a new recruit, and I am told is a bit of a boy. His home is in Davis county. Sergeant Young is twenty-four years of age, and a native of Ohio.

Immediately after this brilliant charge General Pleasanton issued the following complimentary order:

"General Orders No. 6.

"Head-quarters Cavalry Division,
Fort Scott, Kansas, Oct. 26th, 1864.

"The major-general commanding this division, composed of troops from the Department of Missouri and Winslow's Brigade of cavalry, congratulates the officers and men upon the brilliant success which has crowned their untiring efforts, in this decisive campaign. The battles of Independence, Big Blue and Osage river, have resulted in the capture of Major-General Marmaduke, Brigadier-General Cabell, four colonels and nearly one thousand prisoners, (including a large number of field officers) ten pieces of artillery, seven thousand stand of arms, the destruction of a large portion of the enemy's train, and the routing of their army. The gallant action of Phillip's Brigade of Missouri Cavalry, and Winslow's Brigade, in capturing eight of the enemy's guns on the Osage, was so distinguished as to draw praise from the enemy. ***** The regiments of the 4th Brigade [Winslow's ] are authorized to place upon their colors 'Big Blue and Osage.'

"By command of Major-General Pleasanton, etc."

Resting one day at Fort Scott, Winslow's Brigade continued the pursuit, following Price through Arkansas and the Indian Territory, to a point on the Arkansas River about forty miles above Fort Smith. They failed to overtake the enemy, and soon after turned about, and marched to St. Louis, via Fayetteville and Springfield.

During the Missouri Campaign, the 3d Iowa Cavalry suffered the following loss: six men were killed, and two officers and forty-one men wounded. Lieutenant and Adjutant James H. Watts was shot near Independence, on the 22d of October, and died soon after of his wounds. First Sergeant Lewis G. Baldwin was mortally wounded in the same skirmish. In the battle on Big Blue, Captain J. D. Brown, of Company L, and twelve enlisted men of the regiment were wounded; and, in that known as the Osage, four enlisted men were killed and twenty-four wounded.

In December, Winslow's Brigade left St. Louis and returned to Memphis, where it remained till the 21st instant, and then joined General Grierson in his raid through Mississippi. The route which Grierson followed was as follows: Marching east till he struck the Mobile and Ohio Railroad at Shannon Station, he then turned south and moved down the road until reaching Okalona. From Okalona, he marched south-west, passing through Bellefontaine and Lexington, and arriving at Vicksburg on the 5th of January, 1865. Hood, it should be borne in mind, had already been frozen out at Nashville, (for he is reported to have said that the cold contributed more to his defeat than General Thomas) and was hunting head-quarters in Northern Mississippi and Alabama. The object of Grierson's raid was to destroy Hood's supplies, and his lines of communication, and this was most effectually done. Immense stores and railroad property were destroyed.

Only a portion of the 3d Iowa Cavalry accompanied General Grierson on this expedition. Colonel Noble commanded the detachment, which consisted of eleven commissioned officers and three hundred and nine enlisted men. From Vicksburg, the 3d Iowa returned by boat with its brigade to Memphis, and soon after sailed for Louisville, Kentucky, where the regiment was again united. The regiment's next and last campaign was that made under Brevet Major-General Wilson from Chickasaw on the Tennessee River, to Macon, Georgia, A history of this brilliant march will be found in the sketch of Colonel Winslow, of the 4th Iowa Cavalry.

The enemy were first met on this march at Six-Mile Creek, twenty miles from Montevallo. Here the 3d Iowa charged and broke the enemy's line, and captured one hundred prisoners. The subsequent engagements were those at Ebenezer Church, Selma and Columbus; and in all of them the regiment was conspicuous. Its loss, from the time it left Chickasaw till its arrival at Macon, was about forty, or nearly twenty per cent larger than the loss of either of the other regiments of the brigade. Captain Thomas J. Miller of Company D, who fell at Columbus, was the only commissioned officer of the regiment killed. He was a young man of steady habits, and of much promise. Entering the service as a private of Company D, from Davis county, he was first orderly to Colonel Bussey, then sergeant, and then lieutenant and captain. It will be remembered that he was severely wounded on Sturgis' disastrous expedition against Forest. I am told that he said, when his regiment returned to the front from its veteran furlough, that he should never return alive. He was killed by the concussion of a shell, which grazed his breast as it passed him, and while he was standing in front of his company, just before the charge was ordered. Captain B. F. Crail was severely wounded in the first engagement at Six-Mile Creek, and Lieutenant J. J. Veatch slightly, at Ebenezer Church. These were all the casualties among the commissioned officers. Sergeant John W. Delay of Company I, was killed at Columbus.

And thus the 3d Iowa Cavalry closes its brilliant history in the War of the Rebellion; for Lee has surrendered, and Johnson; and Davis, the head of the Confederacy, is captured.

Colonel Noble is a small, black-haired, black-eyed man, with good education, good ability, and of remarkable energy and .courage. All declare him to be a perfect gentleman, and a model soldier.

I am told that, as soon as news came of the firing on Fort Sumpter, Colonel Noble began studying military law and tactics. From that time forward, he devoted his entire energies to military matters; and, to-day, he is the best versed in military law of any officer from Iowa. He has, in addition to his many other excellent traits, a kind heart, and is watchful of the interests of his men. He has no superior among the Iowa colonels.

SOURCE: Addison A. Stuart, Iowa Colonels and Regiments, p. 597-606

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