Friday, July 17, 2009



Charles Leopold Matthies was the first man in the State of Iowa, and in the United States, to tender a military company to the Government, to aid in crushing the rebellion. The tender was made by letter through Governor Kirkwood, on the 9th day of January, 1861. The general can not be prouder of the distinction which this act has secured him, than is the State of Iowa.

General Matthies is a Prussian by birth, and was born in Bromberg, on the 31st day of May, 1824. When sixteen years of age, his father, an affluent fanner, sent him to the University at Halle, where he received a thorough military education. On leaving that University, he returned home; and, from that time till he reached his twentieth year, he labored on his father's farm. At the age of twenty, he entered the Prussian army; and, in 1847, served in the campaign against the Insurrectionists, (the Poles) under General Miroslawski. In 1848, he resigned the commission which he had won by his good conduct, and a few months later emigrated to America, arriving in New York in the spring of 1849. In the latter part of the same year, he came to Iowa, and settled in Burlington, where, engaging in mercantile pursuits, he has made his home ever since.

General Matthies entered the volunteer service, as captain of Company D, 1st Iowa Infantry — that noble regiment which, by its heroism at Wilson's Creek, established the military prowess of the State. He was not present in that engagement; for, in the latter part of July, he received notice of his promotion to the lieutenant-colonelcy of the 5th Iowa, and at once left to report to that regiment. After the death of Colonel Worthington, he was promoted to the colonelcy. He shared with his regiment the fatigues and hardships of the Missouri campaigns; was with it at Island No. 10, and during the siege of Corinth; and yet, prior to the battle of Iuka, his name was hardly known outside of his own brigade. It was his courage and gallantry in that sanguinary battle that made him distinguished in his army corps, and earned for him the commission of a brigadier-general.

After the evacuation of Corinth, the 5th Iowa, under Colonel Matthies, joined in the pursuit of Beauregard to Boonville, and returned thence to Clear Springs, near Corinth. Late in June, it marched to Ripley with its division; returned immediately to Rienzi, and, on the 10th of July, marched back to Clear Springs. From Clear Springs it changed camp to Jacinto, and, from that point, marched against Price at Iuka, in the evening of the 18th of September, 1862. With the exception of the last, the regiment met the enemy in none of these movements.

General Rosecrans, by incautiously pushing his advance too far, precipitated the battle of Iuka on the afternoon of the 19th of September, when, in accordance with pre-arranged plans, it should have been fought on the morning of the 20th. General Grant first arranged to fight the battle as early as the morning of the 19th instant; and, with that understanding, the forces of Ord moved out from Corinth in the afternoon of the 17th, and the evening of the next day came up with, and drove in the enemy's pickets. But at that hour the chief part of Rosecrans' command was still at Jacinto, and the time for making the attack was changed. General Price, divining Grant's plan of concentration, hurried out from Iuka in the afternoon of the 19th, and threw his entire army against Rosecrans, hoping to overwhelm him before Ord could come up; and thus it happened that Rosecrans fought alone the heedless battle of Iuka. There is another version of this affair, which, judging by the authority from which I receive it, is doubtless the correct one: that Rosecrans, ambitious, and desirous of superseding General Grant, moved up against Price for the express purpose of bringing on a battle and winning glory, well knowing at the time that he was disobeying orders. Any other general, except the magnanimous Grant, would have at once relieved him and put him in arrest.

The 5th Iowa under Matthies, together with the 10th, 16th and 17th Iowa, the 10th Missouri and 80th Ohio, were among the troops in the van of Rosecrans' forces, and were the first to encounter the enemy. The struggle which ensued was protracted and desperate in the extreme; indeed, for courage and endurance it has few parallels. No pen can do more than credit to the 5th Iowa Infantry for its heroism in this terrible engagement. During the fore part of the day, while en route from Jacinto to Iuka, this regiment led the advance of the 3d Division, and, for more than six miles, continued to drive back the enemy, who, in small force, made repeated stands. When the enemy were finally met in force some three miles southwest of Iuka, the 5th Iowa was one of the first regiments in line of battle; and, from that time until it fired its last cartridge, it maintained its position. Its list of casualties is proof of its gallantry. It lost in killed, wounded and missing, from an aggregate of four hundred and eighty-two that went into the fight, two hundred and seventeen men. Fifteen commissioned officers were killed and wounded; and, of the enlisted men, thirty-four were killed, and one hundred and sixty-eight wounded. Lieutenants Lafayette Shawl and E. M. Holcomb were killed, and Captains John Albaugh and Joel Brown, and Lieutenants R. F. Patterson, J. W. Casad, A. L. Mateer, A. Ellis, J. E. Page, Benjamin Jarvis, A. B. Lewis, S. S. Sample, J. E. Pangborn, W. C. Huber and W. H. Colton were wounded. Lieutenant Mateer died of his wounds soon after the battle. Among those mentioned for special gallantry were Lieutenant-Colonel Sampson, and Lieutenant and Acting-Major Patterson, and Lieutenant Marshall. Nearly all were equally deserving of mention.

The 5th was General S. Hamilton's pet regiment; and, after the battle, Colonel Matthies enclosed to him his official report, to which he received the following reply:

"NEW York, October 27th, 1862. " Colonel, C. L. Matthies, 5th Iowa Infantry:

"My Dear Colonel: In sending to me the report of the brilliant conduct of the 5th Iowa at Iuka, September 19th, 1862, you have given me a very great pleasure, as well as paid me a great compliment. When I read the newspaper accounts of battles in the vicinity of Corinth, though still sick, my heart thrilled with pride and satisfaction at the splendid conduct of the regiments composing my old division, especially that of the 5th Iowa and 26th Missouri.

"To show you how well understood it is, the 5th Iowa has become a household word with us, and my youngest boy, a prattler of four years of age, when asked what company he belongs to, says, (and he breakfasts in his knapsack) 'Company A, Fifth Iowa—papa's pet regiment.'

"I am under orders from Washington, and though I may not again have the honor to number the 5th Iowa among those under my command, I shall always point to its conduct, as an evidence of the character of the troops from that State, and how kindly they respond to, and confer honor upon those who have diligently endeavored to look after their welfare, discipline, and instruction, which I honestly think I may claim a share in having done. Feeling, Colonel, that their honor is my honor, I shall watch their future career with the same interest I watched over them when a part of my command. Write my compliments and kind remembrances to all. Believe me, very truly your friend,

"SCHUYLER HAMILTON, "Major-General Volunteers, U. S. A"

The 5th Iowa Infantry next engaged the enemy at Corinth- October 3d and 4th, 1862; and, from that date until the 24th of April, 1863, the time of Colonel Matthies' promotion to brigadier-general, its history is the same as that of the 10th and, I might add, that of the 17th Iowa; for these three regiments served in the same division.

After receiving, in April, 1863, a brigadier's commission, General Matthies was ordered to report to General McPherson, who assigned him to the command of the 7th Division, 17th Army Corps; but this order being soon after recalled, he was given command of the 3d Brigade, 3d Division, 15th Army Corps, which he commanded, under General Sherman, from Grand Gulf to Jackson and thence to the rear of Vicksburg. He continued in command of this brigade until the death of Colonel Boomer, of the 26th Missouri, when he was sent back to his old army corps, and given command of the 3d Brigade, of the 7th Division. On leaving the command of General Sherman, that officer honored him with an autograph letter, in which he complimented him highly for his efficient services. His new command was composed of the following troops: the 5th and 10th Iowa, the 26th Missouri and 93d Illinois—four as gallant regiments as ever met the enemy in battle. In the latter part of January, 1864, he was given command of a temporary division, made up of different regiments of the 15th Army Corps, with which he marched to East Tennessee, to aid in driving back Longstreet, who was then threatening Knoxville. Returning from this expedition, he was assigned to an important command, with head-quarters at Decatur, Alabama. He had charge of the Nashville and Decatur Railroad as far north as Linnville, and of the Memphis and Charleston Railroad as far east as Huntsville. He removed his head-quarters to Decatur, on the 1st of May, 1864, and at once began fortifying that place. The works which he erected were of the most imposing character;—so formidable that General Hood, in his flanking tour north, did not essay their capture. In the latter part of May, 1864, the general tendered his resignation, which was reluctantly accepted.

I should not close this sketch without stating briefly the distinguished part General Matthies sustained in the operations around Chattanooga, in November, 1863. General Bragg was defeated in the evening of the 24th, and his only hope, on the morning of the 25th, was to save his baggage, stores and artillery. The point on Mission Ridge that commanded the road over which these must pass was on Grant's extreme left, and, during the entire day of the 25th, the divisions of Ewing, John E. Smith, Morgan L. Smith and Jefferson C. Davis had sharp and sanguinary fighting for its possession; but it had been so strongly fortified, and Bragg had massed his troops there to such an extent that, all efforts on the part of General Sherman were fruitless. There was no harder fighting done on any portion of Mission Ridge or Lookout Mountain, than was done on this point; and acts of individual gallantry, on the part of the Union troops, were numerous. Colonel Holden Putnam of the 93d Illinois, although not an Iowa man, deserves special mention; and nothing can give the Iowa troops, who fought with him on Mission Ridge and at Champion's Hill, more pleasure than to meet his name on these pages. His was the first regiment of General Matthies' Brigade to scale the hill from the White House and assault the enemy in their strong works. His command was instantly repulsed; but, undaunted, he rallied his men, and, seizing the colors, dashed on to the top of the hill in spite of all remonstrances. He was shot dead instantly, through the head. The 26th Missouri soon followed the 93d Illinois, and then the 5th and 10th Iowa, with General Matthies in person; and still the enemy, rejoicing in the strength of their numbers and position, maintained their ground. The 2d Brigade of the same division now came up; but in a few moments after the enemy, emerging in strong force from the railroad tunnel near by, and with their movements concealed by dense brush, suddenly made their appearance in rear of the right flank, when a retreat was ordered. The command was, "For God's sake, get out of this!" It was on that hill-top that General Matthies was wounded; and it was that wound, together with the exposures and hardships of the previous campaign, that broke down his health, in consequence of which he tendered his resignation. He was an excellent officer, and had a reputation for promptness and trustworthiness that but few enjoyed in his division.

General Matthies is a little above the medium in size, with a full breast and heavy shoulders. He has mild, gray eyes, and a round, full, good-natured face. To look at him, you would not take him for a foreigner; but he no sooner speaks than he betrays his nativity. He has never been able to master the accent of our language. He is one of those men whom to know is to like. His sanguine temperament, and earnest, open-hearted disposition enables him, in his happy moods, to talk and laugh with extreme good nature, and, in his less happy ones, to hate and berate his enemies most intensely. He was always on kind and familiar terms with every soldier of his command, and his familiarity in no way interfered with his discipline. The soldiers loved "old Dutchie," he was so good and brave.

I can not take leave of General Matthies without relating the following: When the division of John E. Smith was in camp back of Memphis, late in February, 1863, the general chanced one day to be general officer of the day. At about seven o'clock in the morning of the day in question, a captain, whose 2d lieutenant had deserted to the enemy the night before, and whose 1st lieutenant was enjoying himself in the city, arrived on the picket-line to relieve the old picket-guard. The captain left his reserve in charge of a sergeant, while he went to distribute the first relief at the different posts, and give proper instructions. In his absence, the officer of the day made his appearance. Having at some point stole his way through the lines, he came riding down the road at full speed, and was on the reserve before the sergeant could get his men in line to receive him. The general, who was dressed in a common soldier's overcoat, and without any scarf or other insignia of his office, began administering a rebuke for negligence; but was quickly cut short by the sergeant, who replied, "How did I know who you was? you haven't got any scarf on; I thought it was a soldier just coming in from foraging." "Well, well," said the general, "I know; but — you must be on the watch for guerrillas."

SOURCE: Stuart, A. A., Iowa Colonels and Regiments, p. 131-8

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