November 22, 1906
11:25 A. M.
Music: Fifty-fifth Iowa Regimental Band
Introduction of speaker by Captain Charles W. Kepler. Mr. Kepler said:
“If it were permissible for any eulogy to be pronounced upon any one particular regiment or its commander, I would say, as I did not belong to that regiment, that Colonel Shaw, who commanded the Fourteenth Iowa, would be entitled to it. Captain Matson, a warm personal and intimate friend of Colonel Shaw, will read a communication from Colonel Shaw which he is unable to deliver in person.”
Colonel W. T. Shaw, Fourteenth Iowa Regiment
Captain Daniel Matson, after explaining the inability of Colonel W. T. Shaw to be present at the exercises, read Colonel Shaw's address:
Men and Survivors of the Fourteenth Iowa:
Under the weight of eighty-four years, together with the partial loss of sight, and a broken limb, which renders it impossible for me to get about without assistance, I am unable to be present on the occasion of the dedication of the Iowa monuments on the battlefield of Shiloh.
It would give me great pleasure to meet you and once more greet my companions in arms, on the spot made sacred by the blood of the members of our regiment who fell on April 6, 1862. But I am subject to the orders of the Great Commander, who forbids my being with you. I can only send you a few words of greeting. I shall be with you in spirit, and I know that you will enjoy your meeting together.
If the service rendered to our country by Tuttle’s brigade and the Eighth Iowa, at this point, constituted the sum of their work, which it did not, it were sufficient to cover them with imperishable renown. The fact that this command held the center of the Federal lines for an hour and a half after both wings of the Union army had been driven back, enabled General Grant to form a new line of defense and hold the enemy at bay until night closed the first day of the eventful contest.
This fact is clearly established by official data, which shows that the Fourteenth Iowa surrendered to the brigade under Chalmers, which constituted the right of the Confederate lines and of Bragg’s corps, while the Twelfth Iowa surrendered to Pond’s brigade, which constituted the extreme left of the Confederate forces; thus showing that the entire rebel army had surrounded and enveloped our little command.
Having served with General Bragg in Mexico, I was personally acquainted with him. At the time of our surrender he recognized me, and asked me how many men we had. Not knowing the full extent of the Union forces enclosed by the rebel lines, I replied, “About five hundred.” Bragg expressed his disgust in language more forcible than elegant, and said: “We have lost an hour and a half in this affair,” when he immediately gave orders for the Confederate troops to deploy towards the river and press the Federal forces.
This proves clearly that the entire Union army had been swept back from the field to the new line around the Landing, leaving our command as the necessary sacrifice for our salvation. There can be no doubt but that the obstinate courage of the troops composing “The Hornets’ Nest Brigade,” in holding their position without wavering for hours after their supports on the right and left had given away, stayed the rebel advance, and made victory possible the next day for us.
Colonel Tuttle, having withdrawn the two right regiments of the brigade, the Second and Seventh, sent orders to Colonel Wood, of the Twelfth, to about-face his command and fight the enemy approaching from the rear. Seeing the Twelfth executing this movement, I called on Colonel Wood and asked him what he meant. He repeated the order he had received from the brigade commander and added, “I expect further orders.” I received no orders from anyone. I left Colonel Wood and returned to my regiment and for a time we held the line; realizing that we were isolated and alone, I attempted to withdraw my regiment and retire, following the rest of the brigade, but being pressed by the enemy was compelled to about-face to check his advance. Again we attempted to retire and again were so closely pressed that I was compelled to about-face the command and for the third time we were hotly engaged, once more checking the foe. From this point, we retired to the camp of the Thirty-second Illinois, where being surrounded I surrendered to the Ninth Mississippi Infantry, Major Whitfield commanding. The following letter will be of interest, showing his estimate of and admiration for the brave men who composed the “Hornets’ Nest Brigade”:
CORINTH, MISS., April 10, 1884.
Colonel W. T. Shaw,
My Dear Sir:
I cannot exaggerate the expression of my regret when I learned that you had visited the Shiloh battlefield on the sixth and seventh instant, and I had missed the opportunity of meeting you again and knowing as a friend the man and officer who won my admiration as an enemy.
Our encounter at Shiloh is one of the most striking episodes of my war experience. It was a curious vicissitude of war that repaid with captivity the courage and gallantry that held its position last upon the field when you held your regiment and part of another fighting gallantly in open field with perfect line and well dressed ranks, long after both the regiments on your flanks had fled and yielded only when assailed both in front and rear. The fortunes of war owed you something better. But after all one can never safely count on any reward save that which comes from the satisfaction of knowing that we have performed our duty well. I was very much in hope that you would extend your visit to Corinth and accept from me for a few days that hospitality you once declined as a prisoner, because it could not be shared by your “boys.” I even heard that you were coming over and I placed a man to intercept you and bring you direct to my house, where my wife had prepared a chamber for you and swung the camp kettle with some very excellent Glen Levat and lemon, in waiting, on the mantel. But you did not come and I seek refuge from my disappointment in writing this letter to you, which I trust will find you reciprocating my desire for a more intimate acquaintance.
Very truly yours,
F. E. Whitfield.
When we arrived in Corinth as prisoners, Major Whitfield's father, who resided there, hunted me up and asked me to take a seat in his buggy and go with him to his house. He stated that his son had been wounded and brought home. He said further, if agreeable to me, he had influence at army headquarters to pass me through the lines to our army. I was forced to decline both his hospitality and good offices in securing my liberty, believing that my services were necessary to my men during their captivity; and believing that it was my duty to remain with them to share their privations and imprisonment. This I have never regretted.
When I surrendered my command, no private or officer had offered to yield until I decided that further resistance was useless. During the three years that I commanded the Fourteenth Iowa I never gave an order or command that was not promptly obeyed. There is not a single act of the regiment that I cannot look back to with pride whether it be on the many well fought battlefields on which they were engaged, in camp or on the march. It was a soldierly and brave organization, and to no incident in its career do I now look back, over the long stretch of years that have intervened, with more pride and satisfaction than that after their retreat and struggle for near half a mile, fronting to the rear and repelling the enemy, over broken and heavily timbered ground, surrounded and pressed on all sides by an overwhelming and victorious enemy, I was able, when necessity compelled it, to surrender with closed ranks and lines well dressed. The Fourteenth Iowa at the time of its capture was reduced to about two hundred men.
In closing, let me join you in expressions of appreciation for the liberality shown by our state in commemorating upon imperishable granite and bronze the record of your services upon this battlefield. For many years, until the infirmities of age compelled me to give place to younger men, it was my pleasure to labor to secure the creation of “The Shiloh National Military Park,” together with this recognition by our state. Now that it is accomplished, it gratifies me beyond expression.
I am the only surviving colonel of the eleven who commanded the Iowa troops at Shiloh. For this kind interposition of Divine Providence, I trust I have due regard; and today, in the quiet of my home, far from Shiloh’s field, I speak to you men of the Fourteenth. It is fit and proper that you and I, in this manner, remember our fallen comrades. It is fit and proper that our great commonwealth erect these monuments to commemorate the valor of the Iowa regiments which upheld the flag of their country and the reputation of their state, upon this battlefield.
As a final word I can only say I know that you will remain steadfast in support of the cause for which you fought on this field; that in your everyday life you will be faithful to every trust reposed in you, and that you will teach the lessons of patriotism to those who follow you.
I will not say farewell, for I hope to meet you again in my home, where a warm welcome awaits you.
Rev. S. H. Hedrix of Allerton, Iowa
“May the God of all wisdom and consolation abide with the dear Colonel who sends these words of cheer, and may it be with us all as we go from this place. May every one of us resolve that while life shall last we shall do everything in our power to consecrate and keep new the great bright fruits of God, that shall keep us free and lead us in the great prosperity that has attended us since the days of this historic struggle; and may the lord in his mercy have compassion on us in our weakness. Keep and direct us forever in Jesus’ name, and bear us at last to a home in Heaven, a home that shall be ours throughout eternity. Amen.”
SOURCE: Alonzo Abernathy, Editor, Dedication of Monuments Erected By The State Of Iowa, p. 228-33