Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Official Reports of the Battle of Shiloh: No. 20. Col. Joseph J. Woods, 12th Iowa Infantry.

No. 20.

Report of Col. Joseph J. Woods, Twelfth Iowa Infantry.

April —, 1862.

On the morning of April 6, the rebels having attacked our advanced lines at Shiloh, Tenn., the Twelfth Iowa Infantry was rapidly formed and joined the other regiments — the Second, Seventh, and Fourteenth — of the Iowa brigade, being the First Brigade, under Brigadier-General Tuttle, of the Second Division, under General Wallace. The brigade was marched to near the field beyond General Hurlbut’s headquarters and formed in line of battle, the Second and Seventh on our right, the Fourteenth on our left. The Eighth Iowa, of Prentiss’ division, was on the left of the Fourteenth, forming an angle to the rear with our line. An open field lay in front of our right. Dense timber covered our left. A small ravine was immediately behind us. In this position we awaited the approach of the enemy. Soon he made a bold attack on us, but met with a warm reception, and soon we repulsed him. Again and again repeatedly did he attack us, trying vainly to drive us from our position. He failed to move us one inch from our position. On the contrary, we repulsed every attack of the enemy and drove him back in confusion.

Thus matters stood in our front until about 4 p.m., at which time it became evident, by the firing on our left, that the enemy were getting in our rear. An aide-de-camp rode up and directed me to face to the rear and fall back, stating, in answer to my inquiry, that I would receive orders as to the position I was to occupy. No such orders reached me, and I suppose could not. The Second and Seventh Iowa had already gone to the rear, and on reaching the high ground between our position and General Hurlbut’s headquarters we discovered that we were already surrounded by the enemy, caused by no fault of our own, but by the troops at a distance from us on our right and left giving way before the enemy. Seeing ourselves surrounded, we nevertheless opened a brisk fire on that portion of the enemy who blocked our passage to the Landing, who, after briskly returning our fire for a short time, fell back. A brisk fire from the enemy on our left (previous right) was going on at the same time. Seeing the enemy in front falling back, we attempted by a rapid movement to cut our way through, but the enemy on our left advanced rapidly, coming in behind us, pouring into our ranks a most destructive fire. The enemy in front faced about and opened on us at short range, the enemy in our rear still closing in on us rapidly. I received two wounds, disabling me from further duty. The command then devolved on Captain Edgington, acting as field officer. The enemy had, however, already so closely surrounded us that their balls which missed our men took effect in their ranks beyond us. To have held out longer would have been to suffer complete annihilation. The regiment was therefore compelled to surrender as prisoners of war.

Lieutenant-Colonel Coulter was much reduced by chronic diarrhea and Major Brodtbeck was suffering from rheumatism. Being myself the only field officer on duty, at my request Captain Edgington acted as a field officer, the duties of which he performed in an able and efficient manner.

Quartermaster Dorr, though his position did not require him to go into action, volunteered to do so, and throughout the day behaved in a brave and gallant manner, daringly, if not recklessly, exposing his person to the enemy. He made himself very useful in carrying messages and spying out the positions and movements of the enemy and firing on them as occasion offered. Energetic and efficient in his own department, he would fill a higher one with credit to himself and honor to the service.

Adjutant Duncan proved himself on this, as on all occasions, a faithful and efficient officer.
Captains Earle, Warner, Stibbs, Haddock, Van Duzee, and Townsley performed well their part, as did all the lieutenants in the action, in a prompt and willing manner.

The non-commissioned officers and men stood bravely up to their work and never did men behave better.

In the death of Lieutenant Ferguson, of Company D, the regiment lost one of its best-drilled officers and a gallant soldier. It also lost a good man and a good officer in the death of Lieutenant Moir, of Company A.

 Colonel Twelfth Iowa Volunteers.

First Brigade, Second Division.

SOURCE: The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume X (Serial No. 10), Part I, pages 151-2

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