The Vinton Eagle,
Vinton, Benton Co., Iowa
Wed., June 24, 1863
Camp of the 13th Iowa Volunteers.
in the rear of Vicksburg,
June 8th, 1863.
Editor Vinton Eagle:--Judging from the appearance of your last received
issue (May 27th) that you are recovering from your surfeit of ‘Army
correspondence,’ I will try in my ‘weak way’ to enlighten your readers as to the doings
and whereabouts of our Iowa soldiers in general, and the 13th in particular.
The 4th, 5th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 15th, 16th, 21st, 23d, 24th,
25th and 28th are occupying their appropriate places in our semi-circular lines
in the rear of Vicksburg.
All excepting the 11th, 13th, 15th and 16th participated in the hard
marching and severe fighting, of the recent movement on Jackson, and back to this
place. That movement has already passed into history, and, as I was not with
them, I can only say that, always in the front, and participating in every
fight, their dead falling on every bloody field, and their wounded lying in every
hospital, our brave Iowa troops have won for their State, their Government,
and themselves, a reputation of which all may justly feel proud. Their losses
have been heavy.
Daniel Artist and ___ [Benjamin] Binder of Capt. [William F.] Pickerill’s
Co. were killed--all that I know to have come from Benton County. Mr. B. was
entirely unfit for duty, by reason of protracted illness, and became exhausted
by his exertions in making the first charge at the battle of Champion Hill (I
believe) and was ordered to stay behind, the second time. But, it is
supposed, was afterwards ordered into ranks, by some officer, who was gathering up
stragglers, and so, he went faintly, but bravely, to his death, and a comrade
found his body, among the slain of another regiment. Our Regiment, and the 3d
Brigade to which we belong have taken a very insignificant part in the recent
operations. Staying two weeks at Holme’s Plantation--leaving that place May
11th--going slowly down to Grand Gulf--staying there a few days, thence back to
Young’s Point, on board of transports, up the Yazoo to Haine’s Bluff,
immediately back to Young’s Point, across to Warrenton,--out behind Vicksburg, lying
one day, when the shells passed very frequently, and closely over head, two
Companies skirmishing--one man of the 11th killed, and one seriously wounded,
that evening, moved three or four miles further toward the right; the next
morning still farther and up to Gen. Carr’s Division hospital, where we halted for
two or three hours. The sights there were too much for the stomach filled
with half a cracker--and hunger--and for the first time in my life I felt faint,
at the sight of blood. There were shattered legs and arms, fractured skulls
and faces from which the ‘human divine’ had departed forever. Surgeons plied
their dreadful work, rapidly treating the most desperate cases first and in
quick succession, sending from their tables, the mangled victims of civil
war--such remnants, of themselves, as could be retained with life. I saw one fine
looking fellow carried off, minus both arms close to the shoulders.
Close by, a man was nailing the lids on some rough boxes--a dead man in
each.--The greater part of the wounded were lying on loose cotton, under a large
booth made from the limbs of trees.
They had no blankets, or cots, and no change of clothing. But there were
no complaints, and no groans.
These, were the terrible fruits, of two badly planned assaults, upon the
enemy's breastworks, a day or two before.
A week later, I passed the same hospital, when of course, things were
Thence, we retraced our steps, to our old position, at our home, running
the gauntlet, of ‘Whistling Dick’s,’ angrily delivered conchoidal,
salutations. Three days later, we form part of an exhibition, under command of Gen. F.
P. Blair and make a ‘raid’ a little beyond Mechanicsville, encountering the
advance of a small force under Johnson, which fell back as we approached. No
fight in them, so we return by the way of the Yazoo bottom, capturing horses,
buggies, mules, cattle, sheep, and everything we could eat, or carry away, and
burning large quantities of cotton, (marked C. S. A.) cotton gins, mills, &c., &
c., making it impossible, for an enemy to subsist upon the country, while
approaching our rear. There was considerable, unlicensed, individual plundering
but no instance of personal violence, being offered to any person no matter
how offensively he talked.
I had the excellent opportunities, for watching these operations, and saw
much, that ought forever to disgrace the perpetrators, and the best, that can,
be said of them, is that they might have done worse, and more.
I never before understood what is meant by the term, ‘brutalized soldiery.’
On the evening of the fifth day from commencing our march we reached Haine’
s Bluff having marched nearly one hundred miles, over very hilly roads--dust
four inches deep--sun scorchingly hot--water scarce, timber shutting out the
wind, and altogether making the trip as uncomfortable, and exhausting, as it
could well be.
We left Haine’s Bluff three days ago, and are now in our proper position,
in the right center of Gen. Grant’s army.
I visited the 8th, Col. [James L.] Geddes, and found much to admire, in
the skill and neatness with which the steep side hill had been transformed into
terraces for his men to camp upon. Bullets whistle over their heads almost
incessantly, and heavy siege guns reply, as often as any thing worth a shot can
be seen. The Col. kindly led me out in front of the breast works by a covered
way, (simply a trench deep enough to hide a man, while walking erect.) At one
point he said, ‘here the 13th Regulars, made a gallant charge, and lost
heavily.’ ‘They are buried all around us.’ A little further we peered through a
little port hole, by the aid of a glass, seeing the court house, rebel forts
and rifle pits, a sort of intermediate pandemonium.
Look steadily a moment at any part of that ground and you will see a puff
of smoke and a bullet is sent after somebody, but not a man to be seen. The
25th, Col. Wood stationed on the extreme right, more than repaid my visit, by
affording the best view, I have yet had, of the river front of Vicksburg. As
usual we went forward into the trenches, which approach the rebel works, by zig
zag lines, sometimes, being cautioned to ‘squat’ and ‘hurry’ past an
exposed point, and then more leisurely, stopping to look through a port hole. At
one of them, we were not more than two hundred yards, from their ‘Whistling Dick,
’ which sunk the Cincinnati, a few days ago, and can throw a shot three
miles, with terrible effect. One of the Colonel’s boys gave a specimen of the ‘
grit’ of another--a comrade, who was working, pick in hand, when a butternut
managed to crawl up and fire through Yankee’s porthole. Our hero of the pick
dashed at him, and compelled him to retreat. In double quick sending a volly of
curses after him. The weather is getting hotter every day but there is
comparatively little sickness in the army here. All seem confident of ultimate and
not far distant, success. Some ‘Boy’ I see has taken me in hand in the
EAGLE--Permit me to remind him, that if he wishes to establish the reputation of an
honorable newspaper controversialist, he will do well to enclose only the
language of his opponent between his quotation marks. Any thing else is a
species of lying. Thus much for his own good.
For the benefit of the company to which we both belong, I will say I never
tried to please them by my letters, and never claimed to speak their
sentiment. On the contrary, I well knew they would be disliked by many, and that is
the way I wrote ‘for promotion.’
P. S.--Since writing the above, I learn that a severe fight occurred
yesterday and the day before at Milliken’s Bend, in which the rebs under Price were
repulsed with the loss of from 200 to 400 prisoners. The newly raised colored
troops behaved splendidly. It is impossible for me to give the details of the
affair at present. But the enemy has certainly lost heavily. I also learned
that John Legan, ---- Brewster, ---Mossman, and young Somers, of Capt. Shutts’
company, of the 28th, were killed and Parmeter was wounded in that terribly
disastrous charge. Capt. S. was practically in command of the regiment in
their late charge on the breastworks here. The Col. and Major showed the ‘white
feather,’ so the soldiers say. Honor to whom honor is due says
[Daniel Artist of Co. G, 5th Iowa Infantry, enlisted at 21, and was killed in
action at Champion Hill, May 16, 1863; Benjamin Binder enlisted at 31 in Co.
G, 5th Iowa Infantry, and also died in the action at Champion Hill on May 16,
1863. Capt. Pickerill led Co. G, 5th Iowa Infantry.
"Whistling Dick" was a cannon used by the Confederates in the defense of
Vicksburg, purportedly so named because of the sound the gun made when fired. For
more interesting information on this weapon, check out:
John Legan served in both Co. A, 28th Iowa Infantry, and
Co. D, 8th Iowa Infantry, was killed at Champion Hill.
Amos N. Brewster, Co. A, 28th Iowa Infantry, killed at Champion Hill.
James H. Shutts, Capt., Co. A, 28th Iowa Infantry, resigned June 9, 1863.
Francis H. Mossman, Co. A, 28th Iowa Infantry, was killed in
action at Champion Hill on May 16, 1863.
Willam H. Summers, Co. D, 28th Iowa Infantry,
died of his wounds from Champion Hill on May 18, 1863.]
Source: "Roster and Records of Iowa Troops in the Rebellion, Vols. 1 and
3." Civil War and Iowa: Greyhounds and Hawkeyes. CD-ROM. Creston, IA: O. J.
Sue Trout Reisdorph