Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Nineteenth Iowa Infantry

This regiment was raised under the call of President Lincoln, issued July 2, 1862, after the failure of McClellan's campaign against Richmond. The companies were raised principally in the counties of Lee, Jefferson, Washington, Louisa, Van Buren and Henry. The regiment numbered 982 and its field officers were Benjamin Crabb, colonel; Samuel McFarland, lieutenant-colonel and Daniel Kent, major. It was sent to Rolla, Mo., in September and some time later became a part of the Third division of the army of the frontier, under command of General Blunt.

In the battle of Prairie Grove, the Nineteenth did its first fighting and sustained the reputation won by Iowa soldiers on so many bloody fields. Early in December, 1862, General Blunt's army was lying at Cane Hill, Ark., while General Herron, with the Second and Third divisions, was at Twin Springs, more than 100 miles distant. General Marmaduke had united his army with General Hindman's, and the latter now proposed to strike and overwhelm Blunt's army before Herron could come to his assistance. General Herron received a dispatch from Blunt December 13th, to hurry to his help and in a few hours his divisions were on the road, and he sent his cavalry in advance to Blunt. He marched his infantry 110 miles over mountain roads in three days, and on the 7th was within fifteen miles of Cane Hill. In the meantime General Hindman with a superior force, had placed his army between Blunt and Herron. As Herron advanced, Hindman opened a fierce attack upon his regiments sent to aid Blunt, and drove them back in confusion. General Herron formed his line of battle and opened on the enemy a heavy artillery fire from his batteries well placed. The Twentieth Wisconsin and Nineteenth Iowa were ordered to charge a rebel battery. They moved across the open field in a splendid charge, with fixed bayonets, up a steep hill, drove the supports and captured the guns. McFarland was leading the Nineteenth in as brave a charge as was ever made when a bullet pierced his heart and he fell dead from his horse. The two regiments were overwhelmed by superior numbers and driven back with heavy loss. The rebels in turn charged on our batteries with great bravery and were met with a fire that hurled them back in confusion. General Blunt, in the distance, heard the heavy artillery fire and at once set his army in rapid motion for the battle field, marching the last five miles in half an hour. He fell upon the enemy's left with great fury. Fifty cannon were now pouring shot and shell into the ranks of the rebels, while infantry was charging upon other parts of their line. Night put an end to the conflict, and under cover of darkness the confederate army retreated towards Van Buren, with a loss of not less than 2,000. The loss of the union army was 1,148. The Nineteenth Iowa lost 198 men and some of its bravest officers.

The First Iowa cavalry and the Twentieth Iowa infantry also did good service in this battle. Major Kent was promoted to fill the vacancy occasioned by the death of the gallant McFarland and Capt. John Bruce became major. The regiment remained on duty in that part of the country for many months. In June, 1863, it joined Grant's army in the Vicksburg campaign, sharing in its hard marches, battles and glorious victories. In September a portion of the regiment and the Twenty-sixth Indiana, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Leake, of the Twentieth Iowa, was on duty near Morganza, La., when they were attacked by greatly superior numbers and after a vigorous resistance were compelled to surrender. Two-thirds of the regiment had been left at other points and the organization therefore remained intact. Long afterwards the prisoners were exchanged and joined their old regiment at New Orleans. Its last service was in the campaign which captured Mobile, and at that city it was mustered out in July, 1865, proceeding to Davenport, where it was disbanded.

SOURCE, Benjamin F. Gue, Biographies And Portraits Of The Progressive Men Of Iowa, Volume 1, p. 103-4

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