Monday, March 15, 2010

Seventeenth Regiment Iowa Volunteer Infantry

The ten companies composing the Seventeenth Iowa Infantry were ordered into, quarters at Keokuk, Iowa, between the dates January 25 and March 14, 1862, and were there mustered into the service of the United States by Lieutenant Charles J. Ball, United States Army, between the dates March 21 and April 16, 1862. The original roster of the regiment shows that it had an aggregate strength of 897 when the last company was mustered, and that additional enlistments of 61 men gave it an aggregate of 958, rank and file, before it left the state.

On the 19th of April, 1862, the regiment left its rendezvous at Keokuk and was conveyed by steamer to St. Louis, Mo., arriving there on the 20th and going into quarters at Benton Barracks, where it was provided with arms and the necessary equipage for active service in the field. With but little opportunity for drill and instruction it was hurried to the front, leaving St. Louis May 5th and proceeding by steamer to Hamburg Landing, Tenn., where it disembarked and marched to join the army then engaged in the siege of Corinth, Miss. The regiment participated in the siege operations until May 30th, on which date Corinth was evacuated, and then joined in the pursuit of the enemy. When the pursuit was abandoned, it returned to Corinth and, during the remainder of the summer, was engaged in perfecting itself in drill and discipline, and in watching the movements of the enemy, evidently making preparations to recover possession of Corinth and to drive the Union army out of the State.

On the 18th of September, 1862, the regiment marched in the direction of Iuka, Miss., and on the 19th became engaged in the desperate battle which was fought there. In this, its first battle, the regiment was subjected to an experience never repeated in its subsequent splendid service. The official report of the conduct of the regiment in the battle of Iuka was written by Captain John L. Young [see note 1]. He describes the position occupied at the commencement of the engagement; states that an order was given which one-half the regiment failed to hear and which resulted in separating the right from the left wing, just as the regiment came under the fire of the enemy. This was a critical situation for both men and officers who had never been under fire, and one which demanded the most prompt, capable and energetic leadership. But one of the field officers (Colonel Rankin) was present for duty, and he was disabled by having his horse shot under him early in the engagement, plunging him against a tree and rendering him incapable of remaining in command of the regiment. Captain S. M. Archer then assumed command, but he soon fell, severely wounded. The command then devolved upon Captain Young, who was with the right wing and who urged the men to maintain their position under the heavy fire of the enemy, which they did for a time, even advancing toward the rebel line. The following brief extracts from his official report will show that the Captain and the subordinate officers who were with him made a gallant effort to stem the tide of battle:

. . . About the time I mention as having lost sight of Colonel Rankin our men retreated without any command, which caused great confusion. They had not proceeded far to the rear, however, until I succeeded in rallying them, and got them back to about where our line was first formed. ... I then went to near the right of the right wing and urged the men forward. "We had proceeded but a short distance when a tremendous volley from the enemy caused a panic in the battalion, and with all my efforts and assisted by Captain D. A Craig (who was the only Captain I saw after Colonel Rankin left the field) could not rally them until they had retreated almost to the road near the old log church. I here succeeded in stopping them, got a line partly formed and marched them forward. By the time I had got them to our former line, I had, I should think, about 300 men, consisting of the right wing of our regiment and stragglers from the Fifth Iowa, Eleventh Missouri, Fourth Minnesota, Thirty-ninth Ohio and some others. I now held them near where our first line was formed for about three-quarters of an hour . . . .

Captain Young then proceeds to describe in detail the movements which followed, to the close of the battle. He shows that, owing to the blunder of some one higher in command, the men under his command were subjected to the fire of both Union and rebel troops, which caused another panic and retreat. He succeeded, however, in again rallying the men and keeping them in line until the retreat was sounded. In closing his report Captain Young says:

It may be that the foregoing would not add much to the reputation of a regiment, but this I cannot avoid. I give you a simple statement of the facts that came under my own observation, hoping to be able to give a better account of the Seventeenth Iowa in the next engagement. It is due to Captain Craig, company H; Lieutenants Garrett and Johnson of company A; Lieutenants Rice and Snodgrass of company I; Lieutenant Hull, company E; Lieutenant Morris, company F; Lieutenant Stapleton, company C, and one or two others, probably, who were with me through the entire engagement, to say that they acted in a very brave and unflinching manner and deserve great credit. I do not wish either to be understood as casting any insinuations upon any officer in the regiment, but I only mention those whom I saw in the engagement.

Brigadier General J. C. Sullivan, who commanded the brigade to which the Seventeenth Iowa was attached, says in his official report: "The Seventeenth Iowa Regiment was without a field officer, and Captain Archer, the senior Captain, soon fell, severely wounded, when Captain Young assumed command and did his duty nobly [see note 2]." There is nowhere a word of censure of the Seventeenth Iowa in the Brigade Commander's report. The unfortunate situation in which the regiment was placed, — without a field officer, its senior Captain disabled by a severe wound at the very beginning of the engagement, the regiment separated just as it came under the fire of the enemy, its officers unskilled in war and sorely in need of a full complement of field officers to lead and direct them, — these facts were well known to the Brigade Commander and led him to overlook the failure of the regiment to measure up to the high standard of excellence of which he well knew they would prove themselves capable under more fortunate conditions. Major General Rosecrans, however, considered it his duty to administer a severe reprimand to the regiment [see note 3] He was soon to have an opportunity to do an act of justice in commending the bravery of the officers and men of the Seventeenth Iowa, and in that order it will be observed that, in again referring to the conduct of the regiment at Iuka, he uses the fitting word "misfortune" instead of the harsh and unjust terms contained in his previous order. At the conclusion of Brigadier General Sullivan's report of the conduct of his brigade in the battle of Iuka, he makes the following statement: "I enclose reports received from commanding officers of regiments, together with a list of the killed, wounded and missing of my brigade. The regiments of my brigade engaged were: Tenth Iowa, Colonel Perczel; Seventeenth Iowa, Captain Archer; Eightieth Ohio, Colonel Bartilson, and one section of the Twelfth Wisconsin Battery, commanded by Lieutenant Immell.” [See note 4.]

The tabulated returns of casualties, by regiments, and the aggregate loss of the brigade, show that the Seventeenth Iowa sustained a loss greater than that of all the other regiments of the brigade combined [see note 5]. In his history of the regiment, Colonel Clark R. Wever, referring to its conduct in the battle of Iuka, makes the following statement: "In this our first real battle, considering the stupidity, mismanagement and confusion which characterized the greater part of the engagement, the regiment conducted itself in a manner of which all engaged feel as truly proud as of any subsequent engagement, notwithstanding the opprobrium cast upon it in orders announcing the results of the battle." [See note 6.]

The loss of the regiment at Iuka was one officer and three enlisted men killed, three officers and thirty-five enlisted men wounded, and four enlisted men missing in action, a total loss of 46, while the entire loss of the brigade was but 86. That the officers and men of the Seventeenth Iowa acquitted themselves well in this battle — when the facts, as shown, are taken into consideration — must be conceded.

Darkness put an end to the conflict at Iuka and, during the night, the enemy retired from the field, thus admitting defeat. The rebel general had not abandoned his intention to make another desperate attempt to regain possession of Corinth, notwithstanding his failure at Iuka. The concentration and movements of his army indicated his purpose to renew the struggle, and the Union troops were concentrated in the vicinity of Corinth, where they awaited the impending conflict. The Seventeenth Iowa, with the Second Brigade, Third Division, Army of the Mississippi, (the same command with which it had fought at Iuka,) lay in camp at Corinth on the morning of October 3, 1862. Early that morning Captain John L. Young, who was in command of the regiment, received an order from Brigadier General Sullivan, the brigade commander, to move his regiment towards the north to meet the enemy, reported to be advancing from that direction. While this order was being executed, Major Jabez Banbury, of the Fifth Iowa Infantry, was ordered by General Hamilton (commanding the Division) to take command of the regiment. Limitation of space will not permit the reproduction of Major Banbury's official report in full, but the following extracts will serve to show the splendid conduct of the regiment in the two days' battle of Corinth [see note 7]:


GENERAL: As directed by order of General Hamilton, I took command of the Seventeenth Iowa on the morning of the 3d instant, after the regiment had been marched about one-half mile north of Corinth by Captain Young. About 7 A. M. we were moved with the rest of the brigade to the breastworks two, miles north of town, and after changing position, company A, at about 2 o'clock, under command of First Lieutenant Garrett, was thrown out about three-fourths of a mile as skirmishers, and was engaged in a brisk skirmish of about an hour, during which time it did good service, leaving quite a number of dead rebels on the ground. Company B was also deployed as skirmishers in front of our regiment, and while out the regiment changed position, and it did not get to the regiment until the next day, after the battle on Saturday was over. This company under command of Second Lieutenant Hull, of company E, deserves great credit for the brave and unflinching manner in which it held its perilous situation until relieved. About 4:30 o'clock this regiment was placed on the extreme right of the brigade and ordered forward in line of, battle, and after marching about half a mile we were met with heavy fire from the enemy's batteries, which we found were not more than 100 yards in our advance. We also found the enemy in large force, supporting their batteries, which were three in number, and finding we were now some distance from the brigade and entirely unsupported, the enemy also having commenced a flank movement to our right, we fell back to the road and there joined the balance of the brigade. . . .

The Major describes in detail the further movements of the regiment on the firing line and in support of a battery, until the brigade was ordered inside the-fortifications, where the regiment was assigned to the duty of supporting batteries during most of the night. At an early hour on the morning of the 4th it again advanced in line of battle with the brigade, but, after proceeding some distance, was ordered to return and was given a new position on the defensive line. After taking this position, Major Banbury describes the part taken by the regiment during the remainder of the battle, as follows:

I remained in this position but a short time when I was ordered forward, just as the troops on our right were falling back quite fast, and with the balance of our brigade I marched the regiment forward to the brow of the hill, firing and driving the enemy before us. After firing and driving the enemy for probably twenty minutes, we were ordered to charge, which we did, taking quite a number of prisoners and capturing a rebel flag from the Fortieth Mississippi regiment. Corporal King, of Company G, was the first to, lay hands on the rebel colors and took the bearer prisoner and brought him to the rear of our lines.

I cannot speak in too high terms of praise of both officers and men throughout the regiment. Not a man in the entire regiment evinced the slightest inclination to shirk or fall back, and all, without a single exception, stood up to the work nobly and with an apparent determination to drive the rebels back at all hazards.

As the regiment was under your immediate observation during the entire engagement, I do not deem it necessary to mention any as deserving more mention, but will leave it for you to say whether any are entitled to more praise than that already received by this report.

I am, General, your obedient servant,

J. BANBURY., Major,
Fifth, Commanding Seventeenth Iowa Infantry.

Commanding Second Brigade, Third Division, Army of the Mississippi.

The following order was issued by General Rosecrans, commending the conduct of the regiment in the battle of Corinth and, to some extent, mitigating his harsh and unjust reprimand upon its conduct at Iuka [see note 8]:

General Orders No. 145.

Headquarters Army of the Mississippi,
Third Div., Dist. of West Tennessee.
Corinth, Miss., Oct. 23, 1862.

The General commanding cannot forbear to give pleasure to many, besides the brave men immediately concerned, by announcing, in advance of the regular orders, that the Seventeenth Iowa Infantry, by its gallantry in the battle of Corinth, on the 4th of October, charging the enemy and capturing the flag of the Fortieth Mississippi, has amply atoned for its misfortune at Iuka, and stands among the honored regiments of his command. Long may they wear with unceasing brightness the honors they have won.


C. GODDARD, First Lieut. Twelfth Infty.
Ohio Vols., Actg. Asst. Adjt. Gen.

The loss of the regiment at Corinth was 25 killed [see note 9] and wounded, but, until the last of the engagement, it was protected by breastworks and was able to inflict heavy loss upon the enemy with comparatively light loss to itself. Thus far it had lost 71 men in battle.

The regiment participated in the pursuit of the retreating rebel army for several days, when it was ordered to return to Corinth, remaining there until November 2d, when it started with its brigade and division on the great Mississippi Central Expedition, which General Grant had organized with Vicksburg as his objective point, and which penetrated far towards the southern border of the State, but was finally compelled to turn back on acount of the raid of a large force of rebel cavalry which destroyed the immense stores of supplies which had been accumulated at Holly Springs, Miss. The return march of the Union troops was marked by great suffering on account of insufficient rations and forced marches. The Seventeenth Iowa bore its full share of the hardships of this expedition.

On the 26th of December, the regiment with its brigade and division started from Holly Springs as a guard to 625 wagons, with which they proceeded to Memphis, loaded the wagons with provisions and returned as far as Collierville, Tenn., where they were relieved by other troops who took charge of the wagon train and guarded it back to the famishing army in the rear. Until February 8th, the regiment was engaged in guarding the Memphis and Charleston Railroad. It then marched to Memphis and, on March 2d, embarked on steamer and proceeded to Grand Lake, La. On March 8th it again embarked and was conveyed to Helena, Ark.

Its next expedition — a most difficult and arduous one, conducted on steamboats—was through the tortuous windings of Yazoo Pass and on through the Coldwater and Tallahatchie rivers to the vicinity of Fort Pemberton. General Grant then changed the plan of his campaign and the regiment was ordered to return to Helena, where it remained until April 17th, when it again embarked and was conveyed down the river to Milliken's Bend, where it landed on the 26th and took up the line of march for Grand Gulf, where it crossed the river on gun boats and moved rapidly to the front. It arrived at Port Gibson just at the close of the engagement there and pursued the retreating rebels to Black River.

The Vicksburg campaign was now fairly under way and battles were frequent. The Seventeenth Iowa had been engaged in several skirmishes but did not meet the enemy in force until May 12th, when it participated in the last of the fighting at Raymond and joined in the pursuit of the enemy. May 14th the regiment engaged the enemy at Jackson and, during the battle, executed a brilliant charge with fixed bayonets. Colonel D. B. Hillis commanded the regiment during this battle and wrote the official report. After describing the different positions his command occupied and its steadiness and good conduct as it advanced under the heavy fire of the enemy, Colonel Hillis thus describes the manner in which the enemy was dislodged from the ravine in his front and the capture of the fort [see note 10]:

You then ordered me to take the ravine, which I did by a bayonet charge at a double quick, breaking the enemy's lines, and pressing him up and over the crest of the next hill. Having reached this crest I ordered the regiment to cease firing, and commanded a halt. After having rested here some twenty minutes or more, I was ordered by you to throw forward one company in front of my line as skirmishers at a double quick to investigate the brush and woods in advance. This duty I intrusted to Company H, (Captain Craig) which they did skillfully, discovering no enemy, as he had fled in great confusion, abandoning his position, camp and fort, (containing four pieces of artillery,) which the captain entered, took possession of, and held until ordered into Jackson by General McPherson. The Captain, therefore, claims the honor of having first entered the works and taken possession of the guns. . . .

Colonel Hillis concludes his report as follows:

I went into the action with three hundred and fifty (350) men, and lost during the engagement 16 killed, 60 wounded, 3 missing and one disabled by a shell, making an aggregate of 80 men, or 23 per cent of my command. ... I cannot speak in too high terms of praise of the gallantry and zeal displayed by the entire command. So well did all do their part that none are deserving of special mention, unless it be Captain L. W. Houston, who, while suffering from a very painful and severe wound through his left fore-arm, and away from all assistance, seized a gun from one of three rebels, and brought the three into the hospital; and to, Lieutenant Colonel Wever, Captain Walden [see note 11] (who commanded the left wing, and had his horse shot under him,) and Adjutant F. Woolsey, to all of whom I am indebted for their coolness and assistance, and take pleasure in commending them.

The regiment had again demonstrated the fact that it had no superior among the volunteer organizations from Iowa or any other State, and had established a battle record which would have entitled it to lasting fame had its service terminated with the battle of Jackson. It had now been in the service but little over a year, had been engaged in four battles, many skirmishes, and arduous marches, and was in the midst of one of the greatest campaigns of the war, in which the valor, fortitude and endurance of its officers and men was to be tested to the utmost.

On the day following the capture of Jackson the regiment marched in the direction of Vicksburg and the enemy. The rebel army was stubbornly contesting against the advance of the Union army, and it was evident that another great battle was impending. The wounded were left at Jackson, in charge of Assistant Surgeon C. C. Biser, who was afterwards captured and, with the wounded who were able to be moved, sent to Richmond, Va. In his history of the regiment, Colonel Clark R. Wever describes the events which transpired immediately preceding the next battle in which it participated [see note 12]:

At Clinton we were detached from the corps, and ordered to remain to do picket and personal guard duty for General Grant, who had established his headquarters there. Tired, sore-footed and war-worn, we lay down at night congratulating ourselves upon our good fortune in being allowed a short respite, while the rest of the army were still "marching on"; but scarcely had our reveille been sounded on the day following, (May 16th) when the angry booming of a hundred [sic] cannon told but too plainly that there was more work to be done. General Grant ordered us to move with the least possible delay. We were immediately in the road, and marching in quick time for the theater of operations. The dust and heat were almost insufferable, and the road in places literally blockaded with teams. Within three miles of Champion Hills, very discouraging reports were sent to the rear. Everybody concurred in the opinion that the rebels had a very decided advantage, and bid fair to gain the day. An aide to General Grant rode back to us and ordered the brigade (two regiments only being present, the Tenth Missouri, and Seventeenth Iowa,) forward on the double quick. The order was immediately given by Colonel Hillis, and the boys threw away knapsacks, haversacks, blankets and everything (except guns and ammunition,) that could impede their march; pushed forward on a brisk run, and soon reached the scene of conflict.

The regiment so greatly distinguished itself at Champion's Hill, that the compiler, at the risk of having to give more meager description of future battles in which it was engaged, gives here the entire official report of its conduct in that hotly contested engagement:

Headquarters Seventeenth Iowa Volunteer Infantry,
Before Vicksburg, Miss., May 24, 1862.

CAPTAIN: — In compliance with Special Orders No. 27, from your headquarters, I herewith submit the following report of the part taken by my regiment (Seventeenth Iowa Volunteer Infantry) in the battle of Champion's Hill on the 16th inst. I arrived in the vicinity of the hills on which the battle was being fought about 2 p. m., and without having time to rest my men (who had that day marched 12 miles through dust, and under a burning sun, with knapsacks on their backs,) was ordered forward at a double quick. I established my line at a point midway up and on the north side of the hill, my right resting on the left of the Vicksburg road, in the rear of the Ninety-third Illinois (Colonel Putnam) which was severely pressed by the enemy's massed forces. In doing this my men suffered from the fire intended for the Ninety-third. As soon as my line was formed, Colonel Putnam moved his regiment out by the right flank, and left me fronting the enemy direct, some 40 or 50 yards only intervening. This position I held under a well directed fire, which my gallant fellows returned with interest, for about fifteen minutes, when I ordered an advance, which was executed with a heroism that I am proud of. This caused the enemy to give way, but he soon rallied, and again gave way, and in this way I advanced, driving him slowly, inch by inch, from the ravines and ditches in which he had effected a lodgement, up one declivity and down another, and finally onto the summit of the ridge along which the road runs, and charged him down the slope on the other (south) side, retaking four pieces of artillery, J. F. Waddell's Alabama battery. This battery had been taken earlier in the engagement by the Eleventh Regiment, Indiana Volunteers, but this splendid regiment had again to yield it, the enemy having massed his forces against it. After this charge, I commanded a halt and rectified my line, which had been somewhat deranged. All being quiet at this moment on my front, I ran back a short distance to get a horse (mine having been shot early in the engagement) but, being overcome by excessive labor and heat, I fell by the way, and by the time I returned to my regiment, which was in a few minutes, it had made another gallant charge, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Wever, routing the Thirty-first Alabama Regiment. In this charge a great many prisoners were taken, including the colors, color bearer and guard of that regiment, which colors are now in my possession. The enemy again rallied, but by this time the gallant Tenth Missouri was in position on my right, and we gave him two more charges, which put him in perfect rout. This then ended the fight, so far as we were concerned, and, I think, entirely. My regiment then, wearied and worn, with thinned ranks, rested on their arms until ordered into camp. It is worthy of note that in this engagement the regiment charged the enemy successfully five times, under the most galling fire from musketry and shell, and over ravines, and ditches that are very difficult of passage, and which afforded him excellent protection.

In conclusion, I feel that my command did their whole duty, and are worthy of all commendation. To my Lieutenant Colonel (Wever) and Adjutant (Woolsey) I am greatly indebted for their daring and assistance during the engagement. Both of these officers had their horses shot under them early in the fight. I cannot forbear mentioning in this connection specially for great bravery First Lieutenant C. W. Woodrow, Company K.; Second Lieutenant George W. Deal, Company G.; Second Lieutenant Tower, Company B., (whose gallantry resulted in the loss of his leg); First Sergeant Evan E. Swearngin, Company F., and Private Albert G. Trussel, Company G, who captured the colors and color bearer of the Thirty-first Alabama. In the engagement I had nine companies, one company (E) having been left back at Jackson on duty. My loss in killed, wounded and missing is 57 (25 per cent of the number engaged), as per list of casualties which I send with this report [see note 13]. We captured 175 prisoners, mostly Alabama and Missouri troops.

Colonel Commanding Seventeenth Iowa Volunteers.

A. A. A. G., 2d Brig., 7th Div. [See note 14.]

On May 20th the regiment reached Vicksburg and became part of the besieging force. On May 22d it participated in the assault on the enemy's works, but, being on the reserve line, lost but seven men. The assault was repulsed and the regiment was thereafter engaged in the regular siege operations, furnishing details for the trenches and, while performing this duty, suffered slight losses from the enemy's sharpshooters. Later in the siege, however, the regiment was ordered to perform a most hazardous and dangerous service, which is thus described by Colonel Wever [see note 15]:

On the 26th of June, General Logan sent to our division for two regiments to assist in holding and defending Fort Hill, which was then mined and in readiness for blowing up; the Seventeenth was one of the two designated. Early in the afternoon the fort was blown up, and the breach held by troops from General Logan's division, until 11 o'clock at night, when we were placed in the broken parapet, which we held until 2 o'clock A. M. of the 27th, with musketry alone, while the rebels were continually hurling hand grenades (6 and 10 pound shells,) into our midst. Here we lost 37 men killed and wounded; the killed were so charred and mutilated that their friends could scarcely identify them, and the wounds were terrible, very many afterwards proving fatal.

The regiment had now lost in battle, on the skirmish line, and in siege operations, an aggregate of 268 [see note 16]. Its losses by death from disease and by discharge for disability had also been heavy, but, undismayed, it was ready to go forward in the discharge of its duty, no matter how great the suffering and sacrifice it might still be called upon to endure. On the 4th of July, 1863, the long siege came to an end, Vicksburg had been surrendered and the Seventeenth Iowa entered the city and went into camp. Here it remained, doing garrison duty, until the 9th of September.

Upon the date last mentioned the regiment with its brigade and division proceeded to Helena, Ark., and on September 29th was ordered to Memphis, Tenn. There it joined the Fifteenth Army Corps, under command of General W. T. Sherman. On October 10th, the regiment, now a part of Sherman's army, moved to Glendale, Miss., and on October 17th started on the long march to Chattanooga, Tenn. Thirty-two days later — November 19th — the army reached its destination. At 2 A. M., November 24th, Sherman's army crossed the Tennessee river on pontoon boats and took position in readiness for the impending conflict. The Seventeenth Iowa, under command of Colonel Clark R. Wever, participated in the preliminary operations on the 24th, and on the 25th of November, 1863, was in that magnificent line of battle which swept Mission Ridge from base to crest, steadily driving the enemy and performing one of the greatest achievements of the war. In this battle the regiment fully maintained its splendid record for bravery and efficiency. Its loss was 12 killed, 32 wounded and 14 missing, total 58, thus increasing its aggregate loss in battle to 326. At the conclusion of his official report [see note 17], Colonel Wever makes special mention of the gallant conduct of Adjutant Woolsey, and First Lieutenant Geo. W. Deal. November 26th, the regiment joined in the pursuit of the enemy to Greyville, Ga., from which point it returned to Chattanooga, arriving there on the evening of the 29th.

On December 2d the regiment marched to Bridgeport, Ala., where it remained in camp until the 22d, and then marched to Huntsville, Ala., where it remained during the winter and spring of 1864, part of the time engaged in guarding large supply trains, collecting grain and provisions, and watching the movements of the enemy. On the 1st of April, 1864 a large majority of the regiment had re-enlisted as Veteran Volunteers, and it now became a veteran organization in name as well as in fact. It had at that time an aggregate strength of 352 present for duty, with 127 absent, including the sick in hospitals, and those on detached service, on leave of absence and furlough, making a total of 479 still borne upon the rolls of the regiment — just one-half the number with which it had left Iowa on the 19th of April, 1862 — less than two years before.

While at Huntsville, Colonel Wever was in command of the Post. He was subsequently detailed to take command of another brigade, and greatly distinguished himself by the manner in which he defended the Post at Resaca, Ga., holding out against superior numbers until reinforcements reached him, and the enemy was compelled to abandon the siege. In the meantime Lieutenant Colonel Archer was in command of the Seventeenth Iowa, which had been moved to Scottsville, thence to Stevenson, where its division was again concentrated and was moving to join the main army at the front, when the Seventeenth Iowa was again separated from its brigade and ordered to return to Tilton, where it arrived July 2d. Here it was assigned to the duty of guarding the railroad between Dalton and Resaca, a distance of fifteen miles, except at a point near Reseca where two companies of another regiment belonging to its brigade (the Tenth Missouri) were stationed. The regiment here had a most difficult and dangerous service to perform during the remainder of the summer. This duty was faithfully executed, and trains bearing supplies for the main army continued to pass over the road until the 13th of October, 1864, on which date the little garrison at Tilton found itself surrounded by a largely superior force of the enemy and, after a most gallant and heroic defense, was compelled to surrender. Captain William Horner of Company G (subsequently commissioned Major and Lieutenant Colonel) was on picket duty at the time the enemy appeared, and, being cut off from his beleaguered comrades, escaped with the thirty-one men under his command to the forest-covered mountains. These men, with those who subsequently escaped from their captors, constitute the number enrolled upon the worn and faded but distinctly legible old war paper which lies before the compiler of this historical sketch. It is entitled: "Return of the Seventeenth Regiment of Iowa Veteran Volunteer Infantry, Army of the United States, for the month of October, 1864." This old return is regularly made out, in compliance with military regulations. It is dated at Reseca, Georgia, October 31, 1864, and signed "William Horner, Capt, commanding the Regiment" and "E. E. Swearngin, First Lieutenant and Acting Adjutant." It shows three commissioned officers and forty-one enlisted men present for duty. In the proper places upon the return the following notations are made:

"During the first part of the month of October, 1864, the regiment was encamped at Tilton, Ga., on the A. and W. R. Railroad. At that point nothing of interest occurred until the 13th inst, when a corps of Rebel infantry, commanded by Lieutenant General Stewart, made their appearance around the command. The defense consisted of a Block House capable of holding 70 men; the remainder of the men, numbering 210, were placed outside in the trenches. An insolent demand for surrender, accompanied by a threat to massacre the entire garrison, if not acceded to, was made by the Rebel General, to which Colonel. Archer made the brief and pointed reply: 'If you want me and my men come and take us.' Eleven guns were placed in position by the enemy (12 and 32 pounders) and opened on the Block House. After holding the place seven hours, and with the Block House ready to fall and crush the whole force, it was surrendered to the enemy, and everything destroyed by them. Lieutenant Colonel Archer and Adjutant Woolsey were paroled. Several officers and men have since escaped. The regiment became veteran seven months (ago and have just received the order to go home. Forty-four men are left to accept of the furlough."

"The regimental and company records having been captured and destroyed by the enemy at Tilton, Ga., on the 13th of October, 1864, it is therefore impossible to give the names of absentees. Three hundred and one enlisted men missing in action."

The names of the officers missing in action (13 in number) are given on the return. Opposite the names of two of the officers notations are made, as follows:

“E. E. Swearngin {Captured at Tilton, Ga., Oct. 13, 1864, escaped below Rome, Ga., and got through safe to our lines.”

“Capt. S. E. Hicks {Captured Oct. 13, 1864, by the enemy, escaped Oct. 19, 1864. Drowned Oct. 21, 1864, near Rome, Ga., in attempting to get to our lines in company with Lieutenant Swearngin.”

Pathos and tragedy are combined in these brief notations. The closing scene in that unequal conflict shows that the Block House had been reduced to such a state of ruin that it was about to fall upon and crush its gallant defenders. With ammunition exhausted, and with the sword and bayonet the only means of defense against the overwhelming numbers of the enemy, there was no alternative but death or surrender. The brave and intrepid Colonel Archer was therefore fully justified in surrendering himself and his command, with the stipulation that they were to be treated as prisoners of war.

At the time of re-enlistment, the men had been assured that they would be sent to their homes and given a furlough of thirty days, to date from the time of their reaching the State of Iowa. They had eagerly and hopefully expected the fulfillment of that promise, but the exigencies of the campaign which ensued became so great that every soldier in General Sherman's army, who was able for duty, was needed at the front. The great majority of these faithful men of the Seventeenth Iowa were thus compelled to relinquish the hope of again seeing their homes and loved ones until the end of the war. It was only to the little band who had escaped capture or death that the promise was fulfilled. Of those who were carried into captivity, many died from wounds received before their capture, and from disease. The remnant of this gallant regiment, under Colonel Wever, subsequently joined Sherman's army at Savannah, marched thence to Washington and took part in the Grand Review. Finally, with the exchanged or released prisoners, these veteran survivors of the Seventeenth Iowa were conveyed to Louisville, Kentucky, where, on the 25th day of July, 1865, they were mustered out of the service of the United States. They then proceeded to Davenport, Iowa, where the regiment was disbanded and the men returned to their homes.

Among all the splendid regiments which the State of Iowa sent into the field, not one has a more honorable record of service than the Seventeenth. To those of its members who still survive, to their families and to all who shall come after them, this brief history is dedicated, with the hope and belief that; in connection with the revised roster of the regiment which follows, it will serve the purpose intended by the General Assembly of the State, in enacting the law providing for the preservation of the history of its military organizations, and the personal record of its soldiers.


Total Enrollment 1,085
Killed 45
Wounded 246
Died of wounds 24
Died of disease 97
Discharged for disease, wounds or other causes 263
Buried in National Cemeteries 76
Captured 315
Transferred 28

[Note 1.] War of the Rebellion Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 17, p. 109.

[Note 2.] War of the Rebellion Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 17, page 106.

[Note 3.] War of the Rebellion Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 17, page 76.

[Note 4.] War of the Rebellion Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 17, page 107.

[Note 5.] War of the Rebellion Official Records, Series I, Vol. 17, page 78.

[Note 6.] Adjutant General's Report, State of Iowa, 1864, page 454.

[Note 7.] War of the Rebellion Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 17, page 236.

[Note 8.] War of the Rebellion Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 17, page 171.

[Note 9.] Adjutant General's Report, State of Iowa,1864, page 454.

[Note 10.] Adjutant General's Report, State of Iowa, 1864, pages 444-5.

[Note 11.] Major Archer was absent on detached duty. Foot note page 445. Adjutant General's Report, 1864.

[Note 12.] Adjutant General of Iowa's Report, 1864, page 457.

[Note 13.] War of the Rebellion Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 24, page 10. Killed 5, wounded 51, missing in action 1. Total 57.

[Note 14.] War of the Rebellion Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 24, pages 63-4.

[Note 15.] Colonel Hillis had resigned May 30, 1863, and Lieutenant Colonel Wever had been promoted to Colonel of the regiment.

[Note 16.] Adjutant General of Iowa, 1864 Report, page 458. Adjutant General of Iowa, 1864 Report, page 449. Report of Major J. F. Walden, Comd'g Regt. at Fort Hill, June 25, 1863.

[Note 17.] Adjutant General of Iowa, 1864 Report, page 451.

SOURCE: Roster & Record of Iowa Soldiers During the War of the Rebellion, Volume 3, p. 3-13

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