Thursday, September 20, 2012

Dedication Exercises at the Fifteenth Iowa Regimental Monument: Shiloh National Military Park

November 22, 1906

9:25 A. M.

Music Fifty-fifth Iowa Regimental Band

Major H. C. McArthur, Fifteenth Iowa Regiment

Governor Cummins, Members of the Iowa Commission, Comrades of the Old Army, Ladies and Gentlemen:

“Truth is mighty, and will prevail.”  The principle of truth, justice and right did prevail on this battlefield in 1862, and, we are happy to say, again in this year 1906, else survivors of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Iowa Volunteers would not be present on this occasion with survivors of other Iowa regiments to recognize heroic action, pay homage for noble deed and valuable service rendered in preserving the best Government on earth. With you, Governor Cummins, and the noble people of our beloved State, we rejoice at the completion of this monument with the exact truth inscribed thereon. It is a good omen when patriots are honored and patriotism exalted. It did not, however, require this monument to convince the survivors of the Fifteenth Iowa Volunteers of the willingness and desire of our people to honor her sons who, in this, the first great field fight of the war, and up to that time the greatest battle of modern times, bore the stars and stripes in victorious conflict. Our citizens, though crowded with the busy cares of life, remember well, how forty-four years ago, the sixth and seventh of last April, armies were contending here over a principle vital to the very existence of our government; and that Iowa had eleven regiments engaged upon this battlefield who did nobly in defense of the flag. This ground is made sacred and historic by deeds of valor and sacrifice in the noblest cause — human liberty. We celebrate the achievements of patriot heroes. The nation's life had been assailed, defenders sprang to the call, ready to die that the nation might live. Although one of them from 1861 to 1865, and proud of the distinguished honor, I claim nothing unduly when I say the members of the Fifteenth Iowa Infantry Volunteers deserve the approbation so freely bestowed. What your soldiers bore of danger here, no one can adequately describe. The command arrived at Pittsburg Landing from St. Louis, Missouri, about daylight on Sunday morning, April 6, 1862; soon artillery was heard in the distance, the command, in light marching order, was hurriedly disembarked, forming line on top of the hill. About eight o'clock A.m., General Grant arrived, and while conversing with Colonel Reid of the Fifteenth Iowa, a staff officer approached in great haste, reporting General McClernand's right sorely pressed and desiring reinforcements. Colonel Reid with the Fifteenth and Colonel Chambers with the Sixteenth Iowa, were directed thither. Between eight and nine o'clock A.M., both regiments were put in rapid motion toward the point designated. The recollection of that march to this point of attack, is as vivid to my mind as if made but yesterday. We hear again the command of the officers, the roar of distant artillery and musketry; we see dashing orderlies, the rapid advance, the forming line, the charging column, the wounded, the dying, the dead. Oh, how plainly we see, in panoramic view, the scenes of that morning.

How well do we remember the discouraging remarks made by the wounded and stragglers — a very trying experience for new troops on the eve of battle. A terrible volley of musketry in advance satisfied us the fighting line was not far away.

“Hotter and fiercer grows the din,
Deeper the panting troops press in.”

 While marching through yonder field the band struck up “The Girl I Left Behind Me.” This familiar tune seemed to nerve the men to step with firmer tread, determined to do their duty when the battle’s front was reached. We were marching in column of fours, therefore unprepared to resist attack, neither thinking that —

“In these woods there waiting lay
Hidden lines of dingy gray,
Through which we must cleave our way.”

The front of the column had passed two-thirds across that field.

“Hark! on the right a rifle rings,
A rolling volley back it brings.
Crash, crash, along the line there runs
The music of a thousand guns,
Spurring the panting, steaming steed,
Dash orderlies at top of speed.”

The discharge of artillery in our very faces was the nature of our reception. We formed line of battle from the flank, the Sixteenth Iowa promptly taking position on our right, and for two hours, from ten to twelve o'clock, forenoon, these two Iowa regiments had their engagement, unsupported on the right or left by any other troops. They had been ambushed some distance back of the front general line of battle by a Confederate force which had passed through a gap in our line, which we now know existed to a damaging extent, between the left of Sherman and McClernand's right; although so unexpectedly assaulted, officers and men behaved with great gallantry. Another hath said: “Seldom, if ever, had older troops withstood the shock of battle with greater fortitude or more heroic courage than did these new Iowa regiments.”  The men were unused to war. This was their first experience in skirmish or battle. The command had received their arms but a few days before. No opportunity of learning their use until brought face to face in mortal combat with a very active foe. The blast of artillery and volley of musketry, coming so unexpectedly as it did, together with the formation in which we were moving, the wonder of it all is, the command had not been driven in utter confusion from the field. Not so, however. Under a raking cross-fire the regiment was changed from flank to line of battle; moved forward like veterans, forced the enemy from their concealments, and held this position for two hours, until, to escape capture, it was ordered to retire. The casualties of our regiment, 206, as per the revised records of Iowa, discloses the character of our engagement. The time the enemy was held in check evidences the staying quality of these Iowa boys — worthy followers of the older Iowa troops. This proved a bloody baptism for the regiment, but glorious in patriotic achievement. Officers and men counted no effort too great nor dangerous, nor sacrifice too dear while defending the “old flag.”

“How they cheered and how they rallied,
How they charged mid shot and shell,
How they bore aloft the banner,
How they conquered, how they fell.”

Nowhere on this field, nor in any other field of battle for the Union, was the honor of Iowa put in jeopardy by the action of her soldiery, and upon no field of conflict did she achieve greater honor for stalwart bravery and patriotic devotion than on this historic ground. They were battling for the unity of the nation, for the very life of the Republic.

War, dread war; here on that eventful day it was indeed a reality; it seems like a dream, yet terrible. Intervening time has to a great extent healed the wounds caused by cruel war. We thank God it is so. We hope and believe no future act will mar the beauty of the dear old flag, stain its purity or degrade its authority. It is a guarantee of protection to ourselves and children within the confines of every civilized nation on earth. Isn't such a flag, with such complete and happy protection, a precious boon? Its authority was upheld on this hotly contested ground by the Union army, and Iowa troops contributed their full share toward the grand result.

The commonwealth of Iowa believing her soldiers performed their duty here faithfully and well, have, in a spirit of magnanimity and patriotism, caused these monuments to be erected — a glorious consummation of generous desire and noble intention. This expression of their gratitude and confidence is greatly appreciated by the survivors of the Fifteenth Iowa Veteran Volunteers. It is a very great satisfaction in being fully assured, as we are, that the memory of our fallen comrades who gave their last and best measure of devotion, their lives, that the Union might be preserved, and that the deeds and sacrifices of all are enshrined in the hearts of a grateful people. We are happy in the belief that this block of granite must defy the corroding touch of time if it fully represents the lasting gratitude the people of Iowa have for what her patriotic sons did here on April 6, 1862. And now, here upon this spot made memorable and sacred by loyal sacrifice in a noble cause, to you, Governor Cummins, the members of the Iowa Shiloh Commission, and through you to the citizens of patriotic Iowa, in behalf of the survivors of the Fifteenth Iowa Volunteers, and for those whose white tents are pitched on ,”fame’s eternal camping-ground,” I thank all most heartily and sincerely for this magnificent monument, a testimonial of our good conduct, devotion to duty, flag and country in time of national peril.

Rev. S. H. Hedrix of Allerton, Iowa

“May the grace of our Father rest upon all. May we continue to move under the banner of the wings of His love, and all that we think, say and do be approved by Him, and all be kept in the knowledge and love of the truth in this world, and saved to an eternal home in heaven in Jesus’ name.  Amen.”

SOURCE:  Alonzo Abernathy, Editor, Dedication of Monuments Erected By The State Of Iowa, p. 207-11

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