Tuesday, September 29, 2009



Elliott W. Rice, a younger brother of the late General Samuel A. Rice, who died in the summer of 1864, of a wound received at the battle of Jenkins' Ferry, is a native of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, where he was born on the 16th of November, 1835. In 1837, he removed with his father's family to Belmont county, Ohio, where he made his home till the year 1855. He was regularly graduated at Franklin College, Ohio, in 1854; and immediately after entered the Law University at Albany, New York. In 1855, he came West, and became a law-partner of his late brother at Oskaloosa, Iowa.

Early in the spring of 1861, General Rice enlisted as a private in the 7th Iowa Infantry; but was, on the 30th of the following August, promoted to the majority of the regiment. He served with his regiment with that rank till after the battle of Fort Donelson, when he was commissioned colonel, vice Colonel Lauman promoted to brigadier-general. This promotion was endorsed by the almost unanimous voice of the officers of his regiment, and was a high compliment to his military talent and worth. One of the brightest pages in General Rice's military history was made prior to the date of his colonel's commission, on the battle-field of Belmont. The enemy had been forced through the low, timbered bottoms that skirt the west side of the Mississippi above Columbus; they had been driven back to their encampment, and beyond, to the banks of the Mississippi below Columbus; their camp had been burned, and their flag—Harp of Erin —captured, when word came, "we are flanked." Colonel Lauman had already been wounded and taken to the rear. At the very moment that orders were received to fall back, the enemy rallied in front, and Lieutenant-Colonel Wentz fell, mortally wounded. Under these circumstances, Major Rice took command of his regiment to conduct the retreat. He had already been severely wounded, though he said he was not hurt. Placing himself at the head of his regiment, which he had hastily re-formed, (for all just then was confusion) he dashed through the lines of the enemy that had been interposed between the Federal forces and the landing, disregarding all calls of "surrender!" In the terrific enfilading fire through which he passed, his horse was pierced with twenty bullets; his sword-scabbard was shot in two; his sword-belt shot away, and his clothes riddled; but he saved a remnant of his regiment, and brought it safely back to the transports. His gallant conduct in this engagement made him the idol of his regiment.

The history of the 7th Iowa Infantry, subsequently to the battle of Fort Donelson, when Major Rice was promoted to colonel, is briefly as follows: — For three weeks after the battle, the regiment rested in rebel barracks, constructed by the enemy for winter quarters. Then, marching back to the Tennessee, it took the steamer White Cloud at Metal Landing for Pittsburg.

As already stated, the 7th Iowa fought at Shiloh with the 2d, 12th, and 14th Iowa regiments. It was commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel J. C. Parrott, and lost in the engagement thirty-four in killed, wounded and missing. Lieutenant John Dillin, a resident of Iowa City, was killed, and no other commissioned officer of the regiment was struck. After the fall of Corinth, and the pursuit of the enemy to Boonville, the 7th returned and established, with its brigade, what was known as Camp Montgomery. Here the regiment passed the chief portion of its time till the battles of Iuka and Corinth.

At the battle of Corinth, the 7th Iowa suffered severely, the list of casualties amounting to one hundred and twenty-three. In speaking of the conduct of his officers and men in the engagement, Colonel Rice said:

"I must make special mention of Lieutenant-Colonel Parrott, who, with great bravery and coolness, cheered and encouraged the men to renewed vigor. * * * It is with pleasure that I make favorable mention of almost all my officers who were engaged in the two day's battle. Major McMullen did efficient service until he was wounded and disabled, on the evening of the 3d. Captain Conn, although wounded, remained with his command through both day's battle. Captains Hedges and Mahon, left in camp sick, left their beds and came on the battle-field on Saturday, and did efficient service. Their companies were well commanded Friday by Lieutenants Dillon and Sergeant. Lieutenant Gale displayed great gallantry, and was severely wounded in the battle of the 4th, after which the company was bravely led by Lieutenant Morrison.

"Captains Irvin and Reiniger performed their duties nobly. I must also mention Lieutenants Hope, Loughridge, Irvin, McCormick, Bennett and Bess. Captain Smith, who was killed in the last hour of the battle of the 4th, was one of the most promising young officers of the service. He was brave, cool and deliberate in battle, and very efficient in all his duty. Color-Sergeant Aleck Field was wounded in the battle of the 3d: afterwards the colors were borne by William Akers of Company G, who was also wounded, when they were carried by George Craig, of Company B. All of the color-guard, with the exception of one, were either killed or wounded. Sergeant-Major Cameron, severely wounded, must not escape favorable mention for his brave and valuable services on the field.

"While it is a pleasure to report the noble and heroic conduct of so many of my officers and men, we mourn the loss of the gallant dead, and sympathize deeply with the unfortunate wounded. More than one-third of those taken into action are wounded, or lie dead beneath the battle-field. With this sad record, we can send to Iowa the gratifying word that her unfortunate sons fell with faces to the enemy. * * * * * "

For nearly a year and a half prior to the month of October, 1863, the 7th Iowa Infantry remained at and near Corinth, Mississippi; but, at the above named date, marched with General Dodge from Corinth to Pulaski. In the winter of 1863-4, the regiment re-enlisted and came North on veteran furlough, and, on its return to the field, marched to the front with the 2d Iowa, via Prospect, Elkton and Huntsville.

In Sherman's celebrated Atlanta campaign, Colonel Rice commanded his brigade, composed of the 2d and 7th Iowa, the 52d Illinois and 66th Indiana, (the same that he had commanded for nearly a year before) and, at the battles of Resaca, Lay's Ferry, Rome Cross Roads, Dallas, Kenesaw Mountain, and Nick-a-jack Creek, distinguished himself. For his gallantry and promptness to duty, he was recommended by General Sherman for promotion to a brigadier-general, and was appointed and confirmed to that rank, his commission dating the 20th of June, 1864.

The engagement on Oostanaula River is worthy of special mention. Crossing his brigade in the face of the rebel General Walker's entire Division, he drove it in disgrace from the south bank of the stream, and secured a position which was generally believed to have necessitated the evacuation of Resaca.

Of the different regiments in his command, the 7th Iowa Infantry suffered the most severely in this engagement. The regiment was moving through heavy timber, when it was suddenly charged by a whole brigade of rebel infantry. The charge was gallantly sustained, and a counter-charge made, which resulted in driving the enemy from the field. The loss of the regiment here was between sixty and seventy.

The preliminaries to the battle of Dallas are briefly as follows: Having arrived at Kingston, a small railroad station about eighty miles south of Chattanooga, the enemy were found posted across the Etowah River, in the Allatoona Mountains. Their position, which was one of great natural strength, was to be carried by a flank movement; and General McPherson, moving south-west, reached and crossed the Etowah River, and marched directly for Atlanta. The enemy, when advised of the movement, abandoned their position on the Allatoona Mountains, and pushed for Dallas, some thirty-five miles south of Kingston. Hardee's rebel Corps, leading the advance, reached Dallas and strongly fortified itself before McPherson's arrival. What followed is well given by an officer of General Rice's command:

"At early dawn, on the 28th of May, the two contending armies were on the qui vive. All looked forward for the deeds the day might bring forth. Heavy skirmishing was kept up, which, at times, almost swelled into volleys; and, at short intervals, stretcher-men, with their precious burdens going to the rear, attested the accuracy with which the 'Johnny rebs' handled their long Enfields. At four o'clock P. M., the threatening storm burst out in all the fury of battle, just on the extreme right of Logan's Corps, where it sounded like the wind roaring through a pine forest. The breeze wafted it dismally toward us. On came the wall of fire, nearing us at every instant, until it broke in all its violence on our front. Here was the rebel right. Their assaulting column reached along the whole line of Logan's Corps, and over on to Dodge's front far enough to engage Rice's Brigade, which was posted hi the front line. The rebel forces consisted of Hardee's Corps—three divisions. Their men were told that we were one-hundred-day men; and their charge was a desperate one. In front of Rice's Brigade (two regiments being in line, the 2d Iowa and 66th Indiana) there was a brigade of the enemy, known as the Kentucky Brigade, consisting of the 2d, 3d, 5th, 6th, 7th and 9th Kentucky Infantry. They charged in columns six lines deep, and, as they neared our works, yelled in that unearthly style peculiar to themselves. They were met by men who were equal to the emergency. Not a man left the works, unless he was wounded. They stood there like a wall of iron, their comrades from the reserve carrying ammunition to replenish their exhausted supplies. Yet still the rebel hosts poured up to the works, those behind being cursed by their officers and rushed up so as to prevent those in front from falling back. Thus they continued, hoping against hope, and all the time being mowed down like grass by the fire of our brave veterans, and the grape and canister of Welker's Battery. Pushing forward till they were almost hand-to-hand, they continued the deadly struggle for one hour and a half; when, completely exhausted, they broke and fled, amid the loud huzzas of our splendid fellows. I never wish to know a prouder day than that.

"Our brigade that day fought for the first time behind breast-works. Although they had built miles of them, this was the first chance to use them. Too much praise can not be given to Colonel Rice, who was ever where the danger was the thickest, mounted on his magnificent gray. He looked the personification of the brave soldier. His example appeared to inspire the men: they fought as only the best and bravest of soldiers can fight, and never left the works.

"After the action, I noticed him riding to the different regiments to ascertain, I suppose, the extent of our casualties. He was everywhere met with loud and prolonged cheers; but he modestly attributed it all to them, and kindly thanked them for their great bravery. Such men as he are not made of the ordinary stuff. Though young in years, he is already a veteran-hero of nearly a score of battles; and has, since this campaign, made a reputation for himself and the brigade he so gallantly commands, unequalled by any in this army."

No one has been a warmer admirer of the gallantry of General Rice than myself, whenever it has fallen to his lot to meet the enemy; but still I think it hardly just to say that the reputation of himself or of his brigade was "unequalled by any" in that magnificent Army of the Tennessee. The general himself would not claim this; nor would the author, from whom I have quoted, on sober reflection. He wrote under the inspiration of recent victory.

General Rice, I believe, most distinguished himself on the memorable 22d of July before Atlanta. In that engagement, though assaulted by an entire division of Hardee's Corps, he held his ground firmly, and inflicted most bitter punishment upon the enemy. Besides capturing one hundred prisoners of war, and six hundred stand of arms, he buried in his front, on the morning of the 23d, one hundred and twenty of the enemy's dead, which is evidence that his brigade placed nearly one thousand rebels out of battle.

After General Dodge was wounded before Atlanta, the division to which General Rice's brigade was attached was assigned to the 15th Army Corps: since that time, the services of the general and, I may add, of the 7th Iowa, are the same as those of General Logan's command. Marching first in pursuit of General Hood back nearly to Dalton, and round through Snake Creek Gap, they then returned, and, with the other troops, pushed through to Savannah, and thence north, through South Carolina and North Carolina to Raleigh.

The operations of the 7th Iowa in rear of Savannah, are thus given by Lieutenant-Colonel Parrott:

"December 11, moved to the rear, and encamped on Anderson's plantation, where we remained in camp until the 21st, keeping up all the time a lively skirmish on the picket line. On the night of the 19th, my regiment was ordered to effect a crossing of the Little Ogechee. The regiment marched to the vicinity of the river, Company A, being detailed to carry boards for the purpose of crossing sloughs, and Company B to carry a boat for the purpose of crossing a detachment to reconnoitre the opposite bank. Major Mahon, with four picked men, crossed the river, and from his reconnoissance it was found impossible to cross the regiment on account of swamps and morasses on the opposite bank. At 12 midnight, the regiment was ordered back to camp.

"December 20th was quiet all day. December 21st, reports were in circulation, at an early hour, that the enemy had abandoned his stronghold on the Little Ogechee. The brigade was ordered to move to the front, and at 2 P. M. entered the city of Savannah without firing a gun, the enemy having made a hasty retreat."

The only time I ever saw General Rice was in the summer of 1862, and not long after he had received his colonel's commission. He was in company with Captain, now Major, Mahon, and on a visit to some Mends at Camp Clear Springs, Mississippi. He was dressed in a brand-new uniform, and I thought him a gallant and handsome looking officer.

He is a man of middle size, and has a fine form. His complexion, and the color of his hair and eyes, are much like those of his late distinguished brother. He Is reputed a more brilliant man than was his brother, but not so able. His neighbors say he has one of those minds that learn from observation, rather than from hard study. When he entered the service, he was so young that he had had little opportunity to gain distinction. He has made a brilliant record in the army; and his friends expect that his course in civil life will be equally brilliant.

Source: Addison A. Stuart, Iowa Colonels and Regiments, p. 171-8

No comments:

Post a Comment