Western College Reporter
Western College, Linn Co., Iowa
August 15, 1863
In rear of Vicksburg,
June 30, 1863
This morning many miles from home in an enemies country, finds the 22nd
Iowa lying under the brow of a hill supporting the 16th Ohio Battery Co. which
occasionally plays an active part in the siege of this most renowned Rebel
City, which has been the cause of so much trouble to western troops within the
last eight months.
We have now been here since the 1st of May which makes one month and
eleven days. In this time a great deal has been done for the demolishing of this
place, and bringing Gen. Pemberton to terms by an unconditional surrender of
Vicksburg, and his army. But as yet it appears that the place is no nearer ours
to-day than when we first layed siege to it. This may be absurd for Vicksburg
will fall, and sooner or later our forces will have possession of it. It may
be in a few days or weeks, and may not be for a number of months, we cannot
tell here much more about the matter than you can, as we know but little of
what is going on our side of our Brigade, except by rumor. The fate of Vicksburg
though is sealed to a certainty. But we must have patience, for the taking
of this strong hold will of necesity be a matter of time with Grant as he knows
too well the result of one rash move or misstep on his part, Gen. Grant at
this time has a double work to perform. While he is assaulting the rebel works
in front he must also defend his rear and none but those who have realized the
amount of labor and toil to be undergone at such times as this can form the
least idea of matters around Vicksburg, let it be remembered that we have not
the enemy on the open field, when there defeat would probably be but the work
of a few hours or a day, but we must attack him in his fortifications, of which
this is one of the strongest in the whole southren confederacy, this is a
fact undeniable, and consequently we must wait till they are compelled to
surrender from mere starvation.
You may ask why does not Grant mass his forces and crush the Rebbels at
once, and not allow them to get the upper hand of us and get away as they did at
Ft. Henry and Donalson [Donelson], just let me say here, that crushing the
rebels at Vicksburg is not such an easy matter as some would suppose.
I suppose no doubt you have already heard of several unsuccessful charges
made on their works, especially the one made on the 22d of May, when so many
of our brave boys fell, killed and wounded, by the rebel guns sending a pang to
the breasts of a mother, sister, or brother, as the case may be, striking
them as unexpectedly as a thunderbolt from the heavens.
I stated, their works were strong, yes they are strong indeed, and are
built something after this fashion, their lines commence at Hains Bluff [Haines
Bluff], on the Yazoo river and encircles the town, striking the Mississippi
about three miles below the landing, making in length about five miles of
fortifications. The first or outer line is principally built of forts about four
hundred yards apart. Each one of these are connected to the other by a rifle
pit, thus allowing the rebels a free passage from one to the other without any
particular damage from our men. These forts are all open in their rear. Back
of this line, is a second, about three hundred yards distant, and built similar
to the first, with its forts bearing directly on those in the front row.
Thus you see, should our men be successful in taking the first line, the rebels
could play on them from the second with almost as deadening effect as before.
Yet after all this we are crowding them rather closely in some places. “Gen.
Sherman” holds one or two miles of their line on our right wing and is making
daily advance on them, as are “Gens. Logan” and "Carr," who now have their
ditches or pits rather, within fifty yards of the rebels, in some places we are
within ten feet of them which makes it rather warm work sometimes, as they
frequently throw hand Grenades over among our men, thus hindering them from work a
few moments, when our men soon put a stop to it by returning the compliment.
One or two forts have been undermined and blown up by Gen. Logan. I
understand there are several more ready to be experimented upon, and I expect about
next Saturday, the 4th of July, we will find what virtue there is in powder.
While we are playing on them from the land, Admiral Porter is doing good
work with his gunboats and mortars from the river. Night after night and day
after day, do the shells fall in and around the town. Killing men, women and
children. One of the rebel pickets told our men the other night the citizens
were compelled to dig caves in the banks to protect them from our shells, the
houses are nearly all deserted leaving them to the fun of our mortars. The
picket also said one of the shells fell into one and bursted. Killing Gen.
Pemberton’s wife and children, and since he has lost every thing near and dear to
him, they call him a traitor and coward. They must fight till every morsel of
food is exhausted. How true this is, we cannot tell, as we have nothing but
the rebels word for it. My opinion is however that they will surrender before
their food is gone, probably before they get ready, as things have a little of
that appearance just now.
Our wounded boys, as far as we can learn are doing well. I am sorry to
say that Jacob Bollenbaugh, Frank Berger, and G. F. Heminger are dead, Frank
Berger died while on this road up the river, the other two died after reaching
Memphis. We also got word last night that Mr. John T. Davis had died, his
Father had just come down the evening before to take care of him when his son was
taken from him. Jonathan Largent, who was wounded some time ago, in his right
arm, has since died. John Olsten also died, of desease. When we left
Millikens Bend, as yet we had not lost a man, but two months has made a great change,
in Co. H. Since the 1st of May we have lost 14 men killed and died. 23 yet
in the hospital wounded. Our Co. has suffered the worst of any in the Regt.
The general health of the army here at present is comparatively good, much
better than one would expect to find it at this time of the year, although I
believe our Regt. has more sick now, than at any time I have known before. The
weather is quite warm, and has been for the last month, we have but little rain
in this locality, which I think is one cause of its being so sultry. Things
seem very quiet this morning.
W. A. Stiles
[Fort Henry in TN surrendered to Union forces on Feb. 6, 1862; Fort Donelson,
TN, surrendered Feb. 16, 1862.
I found nothing to substantiate the claim that Confederate General
Pemberton's family was killed at Vicksburg, or were even at Vicksburg. Perhaps
has information on that.
William H. Stiles enlisted at 19 on August 5, 1862, as Fifer, and remained
with the regiment until mustering out at Savannah, GA, on July 25, 1865.
Jacob Bollenbaugh died June 8, 1863, of his wounds.
Benjamin F. Berger (probably Frank) of Co. H died of his wounds June 8, 1863.
George F. Heminger died of his wounds June 8, 1863.
John T. Davis died of his wounds June 23, 1863.
Jonathan Largent, arm amputated, died of his wounds June 24, 1863.
John Olston died June 26, 1863 at Vicksburg.]
Sue Trout Reisdorph
Source: From the Roster of the Twenty-Second Iowa Volunteer Infantry.
"Roster and Records of Iowa Troops in the Rebellion, Vol. 3.” Civil War and
Iowa: Greyhounds and Hawkeyes. CD-ROM. Creston, IA: O. J. Fargo, 2000.