Sunday, January 24, 2010

Colonel William W. Lowe


W. W. Lowe, at the time of being mustered colonel of the 5th Iowa Cavalry, or Curtis Horse, was a captain in the regular army, which is all I know of him.

The 5th Iowa Cavalry is not strictly an Iowa regiment, for a majority of the men composing it are not citizens of Iowa. The regiment was organized at Benton Barracks, near St. Louis, Missouri, early in 1862, and in pursuance of an order from the War Department, "directing the organization of a cavalry regiment, to be called the Curtis Horse." It was made up of troops from Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois. M. T. Patrick was its lieutenant-colonel, and a Nebraska man; Carl Schaffer de Boernstein, William Kelsay and Alfred B. Brackett were its majors, the two former being from Iowa, and the latter from Minnesota. Companies E and F, and parts of Companies A, B, C and H, are from Iowa. One company of the regiment, (L) known as the Irish Dragoons, had seen service, and had proud antecedents. It formed part of the command of Major Zagonyi, at the time he made his brilliant charge into Springfield, Missouri, during the Fremont Campaign. In the charge, it lost its captain severely wounded, and its first-lieutenant killed.

The 5th Iowa Cavalry left St. Louis for the front, on the 8th of February, 1862, and first served in Tennessee. Indeed, the head-quarters of the regiment were maintained at Forts Henry and Donelson and vicinity, a principal portion of the time from the 12th of February, 1862, till the 5th of June, 1863, when they were transferred, by order of General Rosecrans, to Murfreesboro. The services of the 5th Iowa, for the first year and a half, were more arduous than brilliant. The regiment was kept constantly on the scout. It took part in no severe engagements, where the dead and wounded were counted by scores, and consequently gained little distinction. While serving in North Western Tennessee, the following are among the most important operations of the regiment.

Immediately after the fall of Fort Donelson, a detachment of the 5th Iowa under Lieutenant-Colonel Patrick moved up the Tennessee, by order of General Grant, to destroy the Memphis and Ohio Railroad-bridge, over the Tennessee River. The object of the expedition was successfully accomplished; and this was the regiment's first march. March 11th, Captain Craft led a battalion of the 5th Iowa to Paris, Tennessee, with a view of dispersing a rebel force under Colonel Clay King, who was enforcing the rebel conscript-law in the neighborhood. This expedition resulted in quite a serious engagement, in which the regiment lost its first men killed in battle; seven were killed and wounded. Late in March, 1862, Companies C, I and M, of the regiment, were detached, and ordered on duty with the Army of the Tennessee, then lying at Savannah. Major Brackett commanded the detachment, which was absent from the regiment for the period of five months.

The first serious misfortune which [befell] the regiment was the loss of its gallant major, Carl Schaffer de Boernstein. He was mortally wounded in the evening of the 6th of May, near Loughridge's Mills, Tennessee, and died the next day. On the 3d of May, a detachment of the regiment, under command of the major, had marched, by order of Colonel Lowe, beyond Paris, to the neighborhood of the Obion River, for purposes of reconnoissance. On the 6th instant, the detachment had completed its marching for the day, and gone into camp. Having thrown out pickets, they began preparing their supper, when they were startled by firing on the picket-line. The men seized their guns, and, under the direction of the major, formed line of battle; but they were almost instantly assaulted by a superior rebel force under Colonel Clayborne, and, after a short struggle, completely routed. The major was shot while cheering his men to continue the struggle. Lieutenant William T. Hays, the regiment's historian, pays this gallant officer the following tribute:

The untimely death of Major Schaffer was deeply deplored by the regiment. A nobleman by birth, he left his fatherland on account of political troubles, and sought an asylum in the land of the free; and, in defense of the country of his adoption, he poured out his blood on the battle-field. Only a short time before his death, he had succeeded to his paternal titles and estate of the Barony of Boernstein. The gallant major had preferred service in the army of the United States, to a life of inglorious ease. His body was forwarded to Dubuque, Iowa, and attended to the tomb by a larger concourse of citizens than had ever assembled there before on a similar occasion."

Captains Haw and Van Minden were wounded in this same engagement, at Loughridge's Mills.

From the 10th of May till the latter part of August, 1862, the 5th Iowa continued on the scout, but without any thing happening worthy of special mention: during this time, Colonel Lowe had command of Forts Henry and Donelson, and also of Fort Heiman.

On the 26th of August, the rebel Colonel Woodward attacked Major Hart at Fort Donelson, with a force, numbering about six hundred. Colonel Lowe, who was at the time at Fort Heiman, marched to the major's relief; but before his arrival the enemy had been repulsed. He at once started in pursuit, and came on the rebel pickets near the mines of the Cumberland Iron Works. A sharp engagement followed, in which the regiment lost twelve killed and wounded: all the casualties were from Company B. Lieutenant McNeely was severely, and Lieutenant Summers mortally wounded.

Of Lieutenant Milton S. Summers, Lieutenant Hays says: "A more gallant officer never drew sword for his country. Riddled with balls, he fell from his horse near the enemy's cannon, and was surrounded by a crowd of them, who attempted to bayonet him; but, although unable to rise to his feet, he cut at his assailants with his sabre, and split one of them from the shoulder to the centre of his body, and cut the hand of another nearly off. He fought with his sabre till it become so bent as to be useless, and then shot five times with his revolver, when the crowd of rebels, pressing on him from all sides, wrenched his pistol from his grasp, and made him a prisoner. When taken, he had seven minnie balls in his body, and a bayonet-wound in his thigh." Lieutenant Summers was a native of Illinois, and a resident of Glenwood, Mills county, Iowa.

After this affair at the Cumberland Iron Works, the rebel forces remained in the neighborhood of Fort Donelson for many weeks, giving constant annoyance to the Federal troops. Several expeditions were sent out to disperse them, and thus the Fall and Winter, and following Spring passed. On one of these expeditions, Lieutenant Gallagher, of Company L, was killed.

On the 5th of June, 1863, the 5th Iowa Cavalry left its old field of operations for one which, if it did not promise greater activity, promised better reward. General Rosecrans summoned it to Murfreesboro. That general was about assuming the offensive against Bragg, and the 5th Iowa was among the troops the Government gave him, to enable him to push his operations to success. The regiment arrived at Murfreesboro on the 11th of June, 1863, and served under General Rosecrans till he was superseded. It was the only Iowa regiment in the celebrated Army of the Cumberland. Rosecrans began moving his army about the middle of June, and, from that time till the rebel army was flanked and forced from its intrenchments, the 5th Iowa was constantly in the saddle, and riding from one wing of the army to the other. After Bragg had been forced back across the mountains, the regiment was stationed in the rear, to protect the line of communications, and to guard supply-trains to the front. During the months of July and August, it served, a chief portion of the time, at Murfreesboro; but, on the 6th of September, except Companies I and K, left for McMinnville, Tennessee.

Early in October, 1863, the rebel General Wheeler appeared in Middle Tennessee, threatening General Thomas' communications to the rear. He had crossed the mountains, and was hourly looked for at almost any point along the line of the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad. Accordingly, on the 4th of October, Colonel Lowe, who was at the time in camp with his regiment near Winchester, received orders to move in the direction of Murfreesboro. On the 6th instant, he reached Tullahoma, where he learned that Wheeler was in force at Wartrace. He accordingly proceeded to Duck River Bridge, where he left his train, and then moved rapidly against the enemy. They were found in force in the woods near the town, and engaged and driven in the direction of Shelbyville. The 5th Iowa made pursuit, pressed them through Shelbyville and to the Tennessee River, which Wheeler succeeded in crossing, by breaking his force up into small detachments. Having thus escaped, he re-organized his troops, and moved out through Tuscumbia. It was this same force which fought Sherman's advance at Cherokee and other places, while that general was on his way from Corinth to Chattanooga.

After Wheeler had been driven across the Tennessee, the 5th Iowa Cavalry turned on the forces of Roddy, reported in the vicinity of Huntsville and Athens, but after marching as far as Salem, Tennessee, turned back with its division to Maysville, Alabama, where it arrived on the 17th of October, and went into camp. In November following, Major Young of the 5th Cavalry performed a most successful raid along the Tennessee River, for which he received the special thanks of Major-General Thomas. The fruits of the expedition are given thus by Lieutenant Hays:

"In this expedition, in which the 5th Iowa Cavalry bore so prominent a part, a rebel captain and eight soldiers were captured, nine large ferry boats captured and destroyed, (eight of them from under the enemy's guns) two hundred fine mules and horses captured, one mill in the possession and employ of the enemy destroyed, and contrabands brought in to complete the organization of a regiment then forming at Maysville."

The following is from General Thomas:

Commanding 2d Cavalry Division, Maysville, Alabama.

" * * The major-general commanding directs that you tender his thanks to Major Young, for the brave, energetic and prudent manner, in which the expedition was conducted."

Major J. Morris Young is a native of Indiana, and an Iowa man, having entered the service from Page county.

The month of December was passed in scouting through Northern Alabama, principally along the Tennessee River. During the operations of this month, Sergeants McGuire and Ireland, and Private Ireland, of the 5th Iowa Cavalry, were the heroes of a story which deserves to be related at length.

"On the 19th of December, Major Brackett sent Sergeants McGuire and Ireland, and Private Ireland, all of Company H, to Paint Rock, with letters and dispatches. When within four miles of Paint Rock, the party were captured by twenty-one guerrillas, and taken to the mountains, where they were stripped of their clothing and money. Private Ireland, who had charge of the dispatches, secreted them inside his drawers, where the enemy failed to find them. Next morning, the prisoners were left under guard of two guerrillas, while the balance of the gang went down the mountain to watch for more booty. Our brave boys watched their opportunity, sprang on the guards, took their guns away from them, and told them to go down the mountain and give no alarm, and their lives should be spared; but, after going about fifty yards, the guards drew their revolvers, (which our men, in the excitement, had overlooked) and commenced firing, but without effect. Our men then fired, killing both the guerrillas, and made their escape to camp. The bodies of the guerrillas were found next day, where they fell, their companions having decamped in such haste as to leave them unburied."

The 5th Iowa Cavalry re-enlisted as veterans in December, and in the following month were granted veteran furlough. Returning to the field in March, the regiment lay at Nashville (except a part of it, which guarded railroad at Pulaski) till the 8th of the following July, when it joined General Rosseau at Decatur, preparatory to starting on the celebrated Alabama raid. This was a most daring undertaking, and it will be interesting to know the troops composing the command. They were the 8th Indiana, 2d Kentucky, 9th Ohio, 5th Iowa and 4th Tennessee, (all cavalry regiments) and a section of artillery.

The object of this expedition was to make a diversion in favor of General Sherman, then well on his way to Atlanta, and to destroy important lines of rebel communication. It was a complete success, and was made with less sacrifice of life and property than any other like expedition of the war.

General Rosseau, equipped with fine horses, and with five days' rations of bread and bacon and fifteen of sugar and coffee, marched quietly out of Decatur, in the afternoon of Sunday, the 10th of July, and the first night rested in Summerville. Taking a south-easterly course, his line of march lay through the following points: Summit, Blountsville, over Sand Mountain, Ashville, Springville, Jackson's Ford, Talladega, Stone's Ferry across the Tallapoosa River, Dadeville, and Lochepoga on the line of the West Point and Montgomery Railroad. This was the objective point. The march progressed without accident, until the arrival at Springville, on the Coosa River, in the evening of the 13th of July. The 5th Iowa Cavalry was, at the time in question, rear-guard, and was some three or four hundred yards behind the main column, when Captains Curl and Wilcox, riding forward in the interval between their own regiment and the mule-train, were ambushed by guerrillas. Being ordered to surrender, they turned back their horses to escape, when the marauders fired, killing Captain Curl instantly, and seriously wounding Captain Wilcox

Crossing the Coosa at Jackson's Ford, so christened from General Jackson having crossed at that point during the Creek War, the command marched in the direction of Talladega, and, during the day, destroyed some extensive rebel iron works. At Talladega on the line of the Blue Mountain and Selma Railroad, General Rosseau burned a large depot, stored with cotton and extensive rebel supplies, and destroyed the telegraph and the railroad for a considerable distance. Lochepoga was finally reached in the evening of the 17th instant This, as I have said, was the objective point. It was situated on one of the chief arteries of the Confederacy — that connecting Atlanta and the East with Montgomery and the Gulf. Its destruction would be an irreparable damage to the enemy, and was a misfortune they never looked for.

The work of destruction was at once begun. All that night, one-half of the command worked tearing up the road and burning bridges and trestle-work, while the other half watched for the enemy, and rested on their arms. Near Chehaw, some ten miles west of Lochepoga, was a long line of trestle-work, which, on the morning of the 18th instant, Major Beard of the 6th Iowa Cavalry, with a small command, was sent out to destroy; but he met the enemy twelve hundred strong a few miles out, and was driven back. Reinforcements were sent for and came up, when an engagement ensued, which resulted in the defeat of the enemy and the complete destruction of the road. That same afternoon, the 18th, General Rosseau left Lochepoga, moving in the direction of West Point on the Georgia and Alabama line. He passed through Auburn, and as far east as Opelika, destroying the road all the way.

The enemy were now filled with alarm; for rumor had magnified the Federal force to fabulous numbers, and they looked for a direct advance on Atlanta. Rebel troops were therefore summoned from every quarter to West Point, where they were to make a desperate stand. But Rosseau left them watching, and quietly took himself in the direction of the Federal lines. Leaving the West Point road at Opelika, he marched in a north-easterly course, and, passing through La Fayette, Rock Mills, Carrollton and Villa Rica, reached the Federal pickets at Sweet Water Bridge, at noon of the 22d of July. That evening he marched into Marietta.

The results of this expedition are summed up as follows: It was out thirteen days, "during which time the command marched three hundred and eighty miles, entirely in the enemy's territory, destroyed thirty-five miles of railroad, five large depots filled with cotton and supplies for the rebel army, one shot and shell manufactory, one locomotive and train of cars, and captured many valuable horses and mules, inflicting a loss on the enemy estimated at twenty millions of dollars. All this was accomplished with a loss to us of one captain and four privates killed, and one captain and eight privates wounded. All the above loss was in the 5th Iowa Cavalry, except one man of the 8th Indiana Cavalry, wounded," ample evidence, showing the part that regiment bore in the brilliant and successful raid.

After a few days' rest, the 5th Iowa Cavalry started on the McCook raid to the rear of Atlanta, a history of which luckless affair will be found in the sketch of Colonel Dorr and his regiment. The regiment lost in this raid one hundred and twenty-one officers and men in killed, wounded and captured. Lieutenant Andrew Guler was killed, and Lieutenant William T. Hays, the regiment's historian, captured. Next in its history is the advance on Jonesboro, which the regiment, with the cavalry troops under Kilpatrick, led. In this movement, it lost nineteen killed and wounded, the largest list of casualties in proportion to the number engaged that was sustained by any regiment in the engagement.

On the 8th of August, 1864, by special order of the War Department, the veterans of the 5th Iowa Infantry were consolidated with the 5th Iowa Cavalry, and thus the noble 5th Infantry lost its organization. The two commands were united early in September, and, not long after, were sent back to Nashville to be re-mounted and re-fitted for the field. At Nashville, the regiment took part, under General Thomas, in beating back Hood from that city; and, finally, after several weeks' rest, joined General Wilson in his brilliant march through Alabama and Georgia. It is now stationed near Macon, Georgia, with the prospect of being soon mustered out of the service.

SOURCE: Addison A. Stuart, Iowa Colonels and Regiments, p. 621-30

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