A. F. Sperry.

History of the 33d Iowa infantry volunteer regiment. 1863-6 online

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Online LibraryA. F. SperryHistory of the 33d Iowa infantry volunteer regiment. 1863-6 → online text (page 1 of 17)
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3241 85 B

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year one thousand eight
hundred and sixty-six, by


in the Clerk's office of the District Court of the United States, in and for
the District of Iowa.




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Little Boa A.a lib


('ami' \m> (i LBJUBOH 100


TO I'"i:i BKZTB ami Bai i; v

■ ami (>rr Alain 118


Down South 120

To Spanish Fort 128

Siege of Spanish Fokt 131

Hither and Thither 118

Up the Tombigbee 153

Delay and Disappointment 167

Darkness to Light 174

Home Again 184


Field and Staff Officers 197

Casualties 19S

Roster of the Regiment 205

Promotions 219

Official Reports • 22-5



FRO&I HOM I. TO -i • I. mi [8,

The 88d iowa Infantry Regiment was organised under the
Presidential call of Jane, IH62, for additional volunteers to aid
In putting down the Great Rebellion. The number ami place
of rendezvous of the regiment were designated, with those of
other regiments from the State under the same call, by procla-
mation of Governob Kjrkwoodj and after some uncer-
tainty, Sami i.i. A. i:i< i:, iif ( tokaloosa, then Attorney < leneral
ni the stat.-, was appointed it- colonel.

Tii.' man date ">t" the rilling up ami organisation of the
companies waa about the 20th of August. The companies
which, some time after reaching rendezvous, were lettered as
a, I and <i, were from Marion <'"imty; 15, F and H from

imty, and < ', 1 >, E and K from Mahaska County.

The roll "f th<' regiment in full, will be found in the Appendix.

The manner of organizing the companies was much like that

used for other regiments. Persons more than ordinarily

patriotic or ambitious, obtained recruiting oommisaionfl from

the Governor, and by personal solicitation among their


acquaintances and others, obtained the requisite number of
enlistments. Public meetings were held ; and the already-
deep and intense patriotic excitement was fanned and
strengthened by speeches, songs, martial music, and all other
available and proper means. But a brief effort was required.
In most cases, those who had recruited the companies received,
by common consent, the first positions, and the remaining
company-officers were tilled by election.

The Fair Grounds just north-west of the city of Oskaloosa,
were selected as the place of rendezvous, and named Camp
Tuttle, in honor of Brigadier-General J. M. Tuttle, of Iowa.
Within the first week of September all the companies arrived
there ; and in a few days each of them had erected its own
barracks, from lumber furnished by the Government. The
bai'racks were of uniform style: — square, or nearly so; of
rough boards, unpainted, without floors, windows or chimnies,
and lined around the inside with tiers of bunks. Each bar-
rack contained one company.

The first duty of the regiment was to learn the drill. With
no previous military experience, Colonel Rice applied himself
to the study of the regulations and tactics with such intense
and unremitting attention that he soon made himself an
excellent drill-master ; and he always gave his personal care
and effort to the instruction of the regiment. From four to
eight hours a day were devoted to this ; and it was not long
till the result was apparent in the discipline and proficiency of
the command.

Meanwhile, there were frequent parties of visitors to camp —
the relatives and friends of the regiment; and the good cheer
and delicacies that so abounded then were remembered many
a time afterward, when the perils and privations of a soldier's
life were no more prospective, but present realties. There was

1 ROM II"' B

naturally, much grumbling at the Ian and otrcun

in < lamp Tuttle; k>U( afU'r the n ^inniit had -<•«•!« 11 y< :ir <.r two

of active service, and knew what hardships really were, It
mmon remark among os thai If we were only back
Camp Tuttle, we would make ourselves comfortable as dams

;it high tide.

•■• iii th moon of the itii day of October, our regim

, into the United Bti rvice, by Lieutenant

Chas, .1. Bail, of the Regular Army, it wai an Imp ro a ai ve

scene. The day was clear and beautiful; and ae the mellow

of the sun approached more nearly to the horizon, the

wire drawn np in long double lines In camp, and the

ssary examinations followed. Several who wen now

nevertheless determined to go with us; and

did go with us, and made i and efficient soldiers as

any of the rest. The examination over, the clear and ringing

: Lieutenant Ball pronounced the oath of enlistment,

the upraised hands (ell to the p isition of "attention;" and the

88 I [own Infantry, was part of the gnat (Jnited States Army.

As speedily as possible the regiment was supplied with

Clothing, arms and equipment-. The gong flpgt furnished

were the Bmooth-bon muskets, which some months afterward
were exchanged for Enfield rifles. A brass band, under the
lership of acting Drum-Major A. J.. Ellis, was organi I
and put on <lrill; and it continued to play, upon occasion,
until the commencement of the Yazoo Pass Expedition, when

it failed entirely ; and from that time all attempts to revive it,

• organize another, proved utterly unsuccessful^or rather,
there was never much earnest effort made in that direction.
< )ur dress-parades in damp Tuttle were frequently attended by

crowds of spectators ; and often the lino of the battalion i -
would be so long there was not room for it inside the camp-


ground. Greatly in contrast with this was the thinned and
shortened line which remained to us after three years of

On Thursday morning, the 20th of November, we left Camp
Tuttle, under orders "for active service in the field." A large
concourse of relatives and friends had gathered to say good-
bye. Such partings come but once in a life-time,

"Who could guess
If evermore should meet those mutual eyes?"

But cheerfully, buoyantly, the regiment marched away,
strong in the consciousness ot a great and noble cause. If they
should return, this day would yet be re-called with pride and
pleasure; if they should fall — but that they left to Him who
guides the destinies of nations and of men.

The march to Eddyville, ten miles, over a muddy road,
under knapsacks which bore down heavily on unaccustomed
shoulders, was one of the hardest we ever had. Taking the
cars at Eddyville we reached Keokuk that evening; and at
about ten p. m., to the music of our brass band playing on the
deck of the steamer Northerner, we bade adieu to Iowa.
Now came our first experience of that stowing away of sol-
diers like freight in a boat, which afterward became so familiar
that nothing better was expected. Yet that very stowing and
packing away of human beings in this manner, even leaving
entirely out of view the greatly increased risk of accident, has
caused more suffering and death than many a hard-fought

Passing down the river without any very remarkable inci-
dents, we reached St. Louis in the night of the 21st. Colonel
ltice reported to Major-General Curtis, then in command
there ; and next morning we marched through town up to
Schofield Barracks, near Fremont's residence, on Chateau

I ROJ Ml I-.

Avenue. Accustomed to the manlfestatioi t at

iluu-.i, \\r Were NOlllewllut \e\-d that th-Te U BS allllo it

appearance of welcome for us In 8t Louis, Bn1 Qeneral Cur-
tts, as we marched pad him In cadeo p of regular

rythmic (all, « iplimented the appearance of the reglmenl

very highly.

r want of room, < fempantea < I and n were Beparated from
the rest, and assigned to qnartera two or three squares distant.
Company 1 1 was detailed on provost-duty ; and the remainder
of the regiment was put on guard at the Qratiol Street and
Myrtle Street Military Prisons, under tin- general supervision
of Colonel Rice. The duty was rather hard for raw soldiers ;
and Boon tin-re was much sickness in the regiment, The con-
dition of the barracks -which, heated up at night, grew i
and chilly before morning -was undoubtedly one of the
causes of dlse

Drill- cai race In a while, and parad gaslonally; but

guard-mounting was by far the most Important ceremony of
the day. The pass system was somewhat strict; hut most of
ns (bund means, nevertheless, to circulate about town quite
:V ■ ■. ly. There were hut few ex ooooofl committed, however;
and the reglmenl was much praised, as the most quiet and
orderly one that had been In the rity. So passed our brief
period of "fine soldiering." There was hard duty here, in
some respects, but there was "style" and convenience; and
the days of really "active service " were yet to come.



Saturday night, the 20th of December, we lay down in our
bunks to sleep, as usual. Thoughts of the pleasant soldiering
in the city, yet in store for us, were common in many minds,
as it seemed to be the general opinion that we would remain
in St. Louis, for some time. But about mid-night a "change
came o'er the spirit of our dreams." There was a general
waking-up in the barracks ; and the cause of it was an orderly
going the rounds to notify the regiment to " be ready to
leave, to-morrow morning at 8 o'clock, for down the river."
Active service was coming now. Well, no regiment was more
ready or able for it than we.

Next morning hurried letters were written home, ere we left
what seemed to us our last hold on civilization ; and at 8 A. m.
we embarked on board the steamer Howena. In the morn-
ing of the 24th, we landed at Columbus, Kentucky. An
attack was expected here, and we were to help repel it.
Piling overcoats and knapsacks on the levee, we marched out
on the "bottom" below town, and formed line of battle.
Remaining in line till about the middle of the afternoon, we
were ordered to throw up breast-works. At this, our first
attempt toward fortification, we worked faithfully till some

li i LI n \. 7

time in the night, and then tumbled down to -deep, without

we were.

Things now began to aeem, to u i hands, very modi

like soldiering. To make lb'* ra^- m< <n» agreeable, a heavy

r.iin Ml daring the night; and next morning tin- ground ire

slept "ii was several inches under water. The hydrostatic bed

may be a great luxury, but doubtless much depends on the

manner iu wbieb the principle Is applied.

.v \t >iay u.i- Christmas. We pnnond it In waiting for the
attack, bat no attack came. Mr. Forest Doom ed to have
changed his mind, in a few days oar new wedge tents were
ted, and we were therefore better axed. Hut on New
\ rt morning, the regiment was ordered oat to Union City
Tennessee, to meet an attack expected there. Alter our arri-
val there, In the evening, the alarm was Bounded, all rushed

to arm-, and battle seemed imminent, but nothing really

happened. Some tiring by our own men was the cause.

Union City was a nice little place, and our men remembered
it with pleasure. Perhaps, one reason of their liking, was
the lad that it abounded with meat, chickens, bread, potal

and other eatable.-; and we there took our first Lessons iu forag-
ing -lessons well learned and fully remembered, to thesoITOW
of many a sneaking old rebel who was "just as good a I'nion
man as any body."

While there, one of our men accidently shot oil' the end of
his finger; and Doctor Scott, our assistant surgeon, was called
on to amputate it. Having none of the customary Instru-
ments at hand, the doctor immediately seised a chisel and
maibt, and performed the operational a single blow. Much

(mi was made of it afterward; but the actual results were
apparently a- satisfactory B8 though the amputation had been
done in the regular professional way.


Companies A, F and I, were stationed out about a mile from
Union City, to guard a bridge, until the 3d of January, 1863,
when the whole regiment returned to Columbus. On the 7th
we were ordered to leave, and struck tents and got ready.
After waiting for some hours, contrary orders were received,
the tents were put up again, and we staid till morning,

Then, being stowed away on the steamer John D. Perry,
we started to follow the general progress of the war, down the
river. About noon of Sunday, the 13th, we reached Helena,
Arkansas, which place some of the boys profanely denomi-
nated " Hell-in-Arkansas " — a name more intimate acquain-
tance, inclined to justify ; and leaving the boat as soon as we
could, in mud and discomfort, we pitched our tents on a
devastated garden in the center of tbe town.

Next morning a more suitable place having been found, our
camp was moved to the bank of the river, some half-a-mile
south of town. Ordered from Columbus to form part of the
expedition then organized to move against Arkansas Post, our
regiment had arrived at Helena behind time; and as the Post
was then too nearly stripped of defense, Colonel Bussey, the
commandant, detained us there.

Mud and misery were now the order of the day, with rain,
snow, cold and discomfort for variations. We wondered if it
always stormed at Helena. On the 24th, orders came for us to
prepare five day's cooked rations, and hold ourselves in imme-
diate readiness to start for Vicksburg. The next day, Sunday,
saw us busily occupied all the time in cooking meat, baking
up the flour already issued, and generally getting ready. The
boats were there, the order was positive, and we were sure
the wishes of many of us to "get into an actual battle
and see how it seemed" were likely to be realized. But we


never Btarl >r other ch ing I th of tin-

nil there \\ e remained.

These Were not the most | . 1 . : i ~. 1 1 1 1 lla>'8 ill tin- WOrld, >\'-ll for

9oldior8. Though it seemed t-> rain most ( »f the tin tin-
cold was frequently severe ; and for want of any better accom-
modation, we had to go to the u i- and gather brick*

• "f u ., and make chimneys t<> our tents,

ma were scarce for us, at any rate -and we were com-
pelled to u'" int'> tin- cypress swamps, some lialf-a-inil<- from

camp, and bring up the wel wood on our backs, to burn.
The mud was excessive; and a^ we were not yel provided
with rubber biank< ts, and had not learned, by three year
soldiering, how to do without almost every thing, and"ii\
up" in any circumstances, we were of course decidedly

Bui this state of things was noi to last forever. While we
were here, < leneral < Irani passed down the river to Vicksburg,
with a portion of his army. The Bight of the fleet loaded with
troops, with colors flying, bands playing, and men Bhonting
and cheering, was a new and grand one t < » as; and to the great
displeasure of Colonel Bice, the regimeni all broke camp and
scattered up ami down the levee, t<> get a better view. Full

many a hOUTOf extra duty wa- the penalty. Some thought

this was paying tOO dearly for the fir-d view of the "pomp

and circumstance " of war, when we soon found ourselves on
a fleet, and part of an army, and helping too, though distantly,
in the reduction of Vicksburg.


( l.i IRING 01 r I HE PASS.

By inspection of the map one will see thai the Coldwater

River of >i i — i — i i »j »i , empties into the Tallahatchie, and this

. . r, which cuter- the Mississippi, a few miles

. Vlcksburg. en miles below Selena, on the eastern

of the river, there opens from tin- BiissisBipp] ti) the Coid-

i narrow channel, called the Yazoo Pass. Two miles

inland it enter-, a beautiful sheet of water, which from its

; . i- oamed Moon Lake; and apparently passing

through the lake, it continues to the river.

The p;i>-, thou-h very deep, i- hut ahout 00 feet wide on an

Formerly, it i- -aid, very small oafl occasionally

were run 09 it, transporting cotton and plantation BUppli

later, the EMate of aDasisalppi had cut it off from the

d-ippi Kivi-r i>y a levee, to prevent it- overflowing the

low and level country through which it passes. (Jeneral
:indin^ it nee.— ;iry to n-e nil means for the reduction

. bad determined to attempt to open a common!-
ii to the Vasoo River, through this Pass; and for this
purpo-. : edition w oised.

toi i i bmary, 1- 8, s small detail from the differ-
Helena, wen! down and cut the levee at the


head of the Pass. The Mississippi was then very high ; and
the swift waters rushed through the narrow opening so fiercely
as to flood the adjacent swamps. On the 9th of the month,
our regiment went down to Moon Lake, on a "mosquito
boat" and small transports, to join other troops in clearing
out the Pass, that it might be more nearly fit for navigation.
The rebels below us had felled trees across and into the chan-
nel, to obstruct the expedition as much as possible; and these
had all to be taken out. Raftsmen and lumbermen were in
demand, and Colonel Rice's previous experience on the river,
came in excellent play. Lieutenant-Colonel Wilson, afterward
major-general, was the engineer-in-chief, and performed his
duties faithfully.

This was now peculiar soldiering. Heavy fatigue-details
were made each day, or twice a day. The men had to get at
the logs in the channel, cut them in two, or get them apart in
some way, and then fasten ropes to them, by which to draw
them out. Brigadier-General Washburne, in uniform distin-
guished from the others, only by the star on his shoulder, gave
his general attention to the work, and would at times lay hold
on the ropes, and pull with all the power of a two-hundred-

To counteract the effects of so much hardship and exposure,
rations of whisky w r ere occasionally issued. Those of the
men who did not drink, gave up their ration to those who did,
and thus some of the latter got " gloriously fuddled." This
was before the day of rubber blankets with us; and we
had to sleep on the ground, or on such flooring of weeds, corn-
stocks, boards, &c, as we could gather, with only our woolen
blankets for shelter. Rain was abundant. But once in two
weeks were there twenty-four consecutive hours of dry


weather. Under foot was mud and water, and that continu-

Small boats accompanied us, bearing the rations, head-
quarters, Ac. Of these boats, the Hamilton Belle, an old
Keokuk ferry-boat, seemed most undaunted and serviceable.
Her draught was so light, and her power so great, we used to
say she could run in a furrow on a heavy dew.

As the work of clearing progressed, wo marched further
down the Pass, through the woods and swamps. A part of the
regiment one night started to move further down, and dark-
ness overtook them in the midst of a swamp. No place could
be found, out of water, where a man could lie down ; and
they had to turn back in the night, tired, wet, and grumbling,
and hunt a place to sleep. But even out of discomforts they
made fun. Their camp was chosen close to the brink of the
i toss. During the night, one of the longest and slimmest men
among them, the flag-staff of the regiment in fact, got up, in
the dark and before he was well awake walked off into the
deep water of the channel. Fortunately a good wetting was
all the consequence; and great was the merriment at Jack's
unlucky attempt to sound the river.

But the most cheering event that happened was the arrival
of the mail. None hut those who have been in similar cir-
cumstances can imagine how anxiously each one waited to
hear his name called when the letters were distributed, or how

great was hi- disappointment at learning there was noth-
ing for him. Words of love and fond reinemliranee may seem
hut little to their writers, but to him who is far away from all

he loves, and surrounded only by discomfort and dangers,
they ;ire doubly dear.

< "oinpanie- ( ; and I', were left behind the regiment for nearly
a week, to dear out a particular drift. During tin- time a


detail from these companies went out a short distance after
forage, and several of company B were taken prisoners by a
small body of rebels hovering- near; but all or nearly all of
them, were returned to the regiment before the expiration of
our term of service.

This part of the country, swampy as most of it is, has
some of the richest plantations in the State. We foraged a
great deal. Beef was so abundant that sometimes cows were
killed for the sake of the liver; for none of us were particularly
desirious to be very saving of rebel property. The forward-
ness of the season seemed odd to us, when we thought of the
time of the year. In one of our camps there was a peach tree
in full bloom on the 14th of February. Letters we wrote in
the midst of budding Spring would reach home a month later,
in the snows of mid- Winter.

On the afternoon of the 18th, Companies G and B were
ordered a few miles further down the Pass, to Alcorn's planta-
tion, to re-join the regiment, as there was supposed to be some
danger of a rebel attack. Reaching Pettit's plantation about
dark, they made arrangements to camp for the night, and
went to work to cook their suppers; but just as they were
about to commence eating, a renewed and more urgent order
came, and they had to start off supperless. That was a queer
march, in utter darkness, in single file along the narrow top of
the levee which was the most practicable road just then ; but
it ended at last, in General Alcorn's cotton-press, where the
rest of the regiment was camped.

Next day we took formal possession of the general's negro-
quarters, one company to a hut. Now came a general cleaning-
up-time, our first for two weeks; and most of us experienced
what is generally considered one of the last stages of poverty
— washing our only shirt, and going to bed while it dries.


"Hard-tack" had now entirely lost Its novelty, and almost
any thing else was welcomed Instead. An old negress on the
plantation had ■ quantity of meal ; and the regiment kept hei
overwhelmingly busy, baking corn bread, at 25 cents a pone,
[uently the »l« >« »r of her cabin would be crowded three deep
by hungry soldiers waiting for their chances to buy.

The <'1<1 genera] bad a small corn-mill in hi- ootton-pn
rigged to be worked by mule-power. At Bret, for some cans
other, the mules were not t<> be round ; so the men laid their

Shoulders t<i the wheel by turns, and trotted merrily round the

track, to grind their corn, it was a hard way of serving the
country, however; and when at last the mules were found,

they put at work with little rest <>r metvy.
The Pa - heiiitf now cleared out, there was other work before

as. After -umc delay which seemed to us unnecessary, we
went on board the Hamilton Belle and another small boat,
on the morning of the 28d; and before night reach Helena,
and entered our old camp there, glad enough to get back to it.
But our real was not long.



On the 24th of February, we received two month's pay — the
first installment since we were mustered in; and on the
evening of the same day we embarked on the fleet that was to
convey us down the Pass. Part of the regiment went on the
steamer Citizen, and the remainder, with head-quarters, on
the Lebanon No. 2. Brigadier-General Clinton B. Fisk,
was in command of the brigade. The fleet consisted of two

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Online LibraryA. F. SperryHistory of the 33d Iowa infantry volunteer regiment. 1863-6 → online text (page 1 of 17)