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27th Iowa Top Banner

Pleasant Hill, LA

April 9, 1864

2nd Brigade, 3rd Division, 16th Army Corps,
January 1864 to December, 1864.

Detachment Army Tennessee -- Joined from Army Tenn For Red River Campaign

Major Gen. Andrew J. Smith
Brig. General J. A. Mower

Second Brigade
Col. William T. Shaw

14th Iowa, Lieut. Col. Joseph H. Newbold
27th Iowa, Col. James I. Gilbert
32d Iowa. Col. John Scott
24th Missouri, Col. James K. Mills

Grand Ecore, La., April 15, 1864

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report that at 10 a.m., April 9, 1864, I was ordered to report with my brigade, consisting of the Fourteenth Iowa Infantry, Twenty-seventh Iowa Infantry, Thirty-second Iowa Infantry, and Twenty-fourth Missouri Infantry, to Major-General Banks. By him I was ordered to proceed with my command to the front, and report to Brigadier-General Emory, which I did at about 10.30 a.m. Brigadier-General Emory ordered me to relieve Brigadier-General McMillan, who was posted on the left of the Mansfield road and at right angles to it, in a dense thicket, with an old field in front dotted over with small pines. About 100 yards to his front and on his right were four guns of the Twenty.fifth New York Battery. Brigadier-General Dwight's command was posted on McMillan's right, and diagonally to his rear. On the right of the New York battery was a ridge, which completely commanded McMillan's whole line and the town, and which also covered the approach of the enemy. I therefore deemed it proper to occupy this ridge with the Twenty-fourth Missouri Infantry, and relieve General McMillan with the balance of my brigade. This was accordingly done and General McMillan retired. This left a gap on my left and also threw my right beyond General Dwight's support, but with this disadvantage I considered the position better than the one occupied by the troops I had relieved. At this time General Smith came up, to whom I pointed out the position of my forces, which was approved, except that he ordered me to move my main line farther to the right, which brought three companies of the Fourteenth Iowa in and on the right of the Mansfield road; this, consequently, left a greater gap on my left. General Emory was aware of the changes by my brigade, but I cannot learn that he gave any orders for a corresponding change of Dwight's brigade. General Emory at this time left the front, and I saw no more of him till after dark that night, these dispositions having brought Dwight's brigade in the rear of my second regiment, and nearly perpendicular to my line of battle.

At this time my skirmishers were heavily engaged, and an attack appeared imminent. I deemed it prudent to consult with General Dwight, as General Emory had left that part of the field, and I could neither find him or any of his staff. I accordingly went along the line of his brigade to the place where he had his brigade flag, but could neither find him nor any of his staff, when I was informed by some officers that they had seen an officer near a house in the rear, trying to get a tent pitched, whom they understood to be General Dwight. I accordingly rode to the place, and after much difficulty, I aroused an officer who was pointed out as his assistant adjutant-general. From him I learned that General Dwight was away, but said he would send me word as soon as he returned. After waiting some time, I again went to his headquarters, but was unable to learn where he could be found. The enemy's skirmishers had now (3 p.m.) passed my right, and my skirmishers were pressed so closely that it had become necessary to support them with another company. I again went in search of General Dwight, and this time found him after a great deal of difficulty. He appeared to understand my position, and promised to send the necessary support; this he not only failed to do, but withdrew farther to the rear. At about 4 p.m. General Stone rode to the front. I rode with him along my line, showing him the change that had been made from Emory's original line and the necessity of a corresponding change in Dwight's line. After examining this part of the field his remark was, "Your position is well chosen; it is admirable; it could not be better. I will see that your flanks are properly supported, for this position must be held at all hazards," and immediately passed to my rear, as supposed, to give the necessary orders, but no orders came. A few moments before 5 o'clock the enemy opened heavily on me with artillery, which was replied to feebly, for a few moments, by the Twenty-fifth New York Battery, when they limbered up and disgracefully left the field, leaving one caisson and one gun in the road, which were drawn off by Lieutenant Buell, of my staff. At the same time General Dwight fell entirely out of my sight to the rear. While my battery was leaving a dash was made by the enemy's cavalry to capture it, but they were so well received by the Fourteenth Iowa and Twenty-fourth Missouri that not a single man escaped, their leader, Colonel Bagley [Buchel], falling dead in the ranks of the Fourteenth Iowa. This attack was followed by their infantry, which advanced in two lines, extending beyond both my right and left. They advanced steadily and in good order across the open field in my front, until they got within easy range; then my whole line opened upon them, stopping their advance but not preventing them from replying vigorously to my fire, causing heavy loss. My men held their ground, keeping up a steady and well-directed fire, which soon compelled their first line to fall back in disorder. In the mean time fighting had commenced on my left, and our line to my left had fallen back, so as to enable the enemy to pass in rear of my left. They had also passed around my right and were firing on my flank, when their second line advanced, and I was again engaged along my whole front.

At this time I received an order from General Smith to fall back, as the enemy was getting in my rear. My staff officers having all been dispatched to different officers for support, and being myself on the right of my brigade, I had to ride to the left in rear of my brigade to give the order to withdraw. The brush and timber was so thick I could scarcely see 10 paces as I passed down the line. I sent the order to Colonel Gilbert, Twenty-seventh Iowa, to fall back as soon as the regiment on his right should commence retreating. I then pushed on to give the necessary orders to Colonel Scott, Thirty-second Iowa, when I met the enemy's forces entirely in his rear, preventing me from communicating with him. I was therefore compelled to leave him to act without orders. Hurrying back to the right, I found the Twenty-fourth Missouri had been compelled to change its front to receive the attack from the right; also that the enemy was pressing my front with overwhelming numbers, the ammunition of the Fourteenth Iowa and Twenty-fourth Missouri nearly exhausted, Lieutenant-Colonel Newbold, commanding Fourteenth Iowa, shot dead, his adjutant mortally wounded. I therefore considered it necessary to give the orders to fall back to the three regiments with which I could communicate, leaving Colonel Scott, Thirty-second Iowa, to extricate himself as best he could. Owing to the heavy firing and great loss of officers in the Fourteenth Iowa and Twenty-fourth Missouri, I was compelled to give the orders to the men in person to fall back, which, together with the thick brush, caused a temporary confusion in their ranks, but they rapidly reformed and were ready again to meet the enemy, but night had set in and the fighting ceased. My men fought well, holding their ground till ordered to retire, and although my loss was three times that of any other brigade on the field, they were still in such condition that the commanding general saw fit to give them the responsible post of covering the retreat of the army, which commenced at 1 o'clock the next morning, and was accomplished in safety.

I have to report the loss of many valuable officers and men. Among them I will mention Lieutenant-Colonel Mix, Thirty-second Iowa, in whom the State has lost a valuable citizen and the army a good soldier; and Lieutenant-Colonel Newbold, commanding Fourteenth Iowa, a Christian gentleman, and a brave, industrious, and conscientious officer, whose loss to his regiment is irreparable.

I cannot speak too highly of my regimental commanders. Of Col. John Scott, Thirty-second Iowa, it is sufficient praise to say that he is worthy to command the Thirty-second Iowa Infantry--a regiment which, after having been entirely surrounded and cut off from the rest of the command, with nearly one-half of its number either killed or wounded, among them many of their best and most prominent officers, successfully forced its way through the enemy's lines, and was in line ready and anxious to meet the enemy in less than thirty minutes. Of Colonel Gilbert, Twenty-seventh Iowa, and his regiment I can say that they did their whole duty. Although they had never been under fire before, they gave their fire with coolness and precision of veterans, and fully sustained the reputation of Iowa soldiers. Colonel Gilbert, although wounded early in the action, remained in command of his men until the fighting ceased. Of Lieutenant-Colonel Newbold, commanding Fourteenth Iowa, and his regiment, upon whose banners were inscribed Donelson, Shiloh, Siege of Corinth, and Corinth, they fully maintained the credit of a name already glorious in the annals of their country. To Major Fyan, Twenty-fourth Missouri, with his command and a detachment of Twenty-first Missouri (those heroes who had learned to fight under old Dave Moore), I cannot give too great praise for the successful manner in which they defended so long the important position that was assigned them--a position the most important in our whole line, and which, had it been defended less obstinately, might have endangered our whole army. The long list of killed and wounded, amounting to nearly 500, shows the desperate valor with which my men fought. My men were the first in the fight, the longest in the fight, and in the hardest of the fight, and were the last to leave the battle-field, and were ready and willing to remain and reap the fruits of a victory which they had so dearly purchased; but they were soldiers and must obey the orders of their superiors. To Captain Granger, Lieutenant Berg, and Lieutenant Buell, of staff, I return my warmest thanks for their able assistance during the action. My warmest gratitude is due to my orderly, Frederick Nolan, Company K, Fourteenth Iowa, for his constant presence whenever needed during the hottest of the action, and in the most exposed position.

In closing this report I have to state that, although under General Emory's orders, and the farthest advanced of any troops in the field, and skirmishing with the enemy for six hours before the attack commenced, I neither saw General Emory or any of his staff until after the fighting had ceased, nor was I able to find him, although I dispatched several messengers to him to report the situation of affairs. Inclosed herewith please find plan (*) of that part of the battlefield occupied by my brigade.

Colonel, Commanding Brigade.

Capt. J. B. SAMPLE,
Assistant Adjutant-General.

The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I--Volume XXXIV--In Four Parts. Part 1--Reports. Page 354-357

Grand Ecore, La., April 11, 1864.

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report the following list of casualties in the Twenty-seventh Regiment Iowa Infantry Volunteers at the battle of Pleasant Hill, April 9, 1864, together with remarks:

About 10 a.m. we were ordered into line. Moved 1 1/2 miles on the road to Shreveport and took position on the left center of the brigade, in the advance line, relieving the Fifteenth Maine Volunteer Infantry. Our line was established in the edge of a thick wood. Our men were ordered to lie down. An open field lay to our front. Company B was immediately thrown out as skirmishers. Firing was quite brisk among the skirmishers until 3.30 p.m., the enemy's skirmishers appearing at times and falling back. At 3.30 p.m. the enemy advanced in force. Our skirmishers fought well until overpowered and driven in. Immediately they resumed their place in the regiment, when the enemy steadily approached in strong columns. At this point a bold cavalry charge was made by the enemy along the Shreveport road. Our men remained quiet until they had approached to within short range, when a full volley was fired into the rebel ranks. The effect was telling. Riders reeled and fell senseless. Horses were struck as dead as if a bolt of heaven had riven the very air. The scene was an appalling one. Scarcely a man who made that charge but met death on the spot. The enemy had moved up on the left of the advance line in strong force. The line had already broken away to the left, and news came from my left that the enemy was flanking us. Already they were firing in our rear. Several shots had taken effect in the ranks of Companies B and G. The enemy advanced in our front in solid columns. We met them with a determined fire. Volley after volley was fired into their ranks. For two hours the rattle of musketry was incessant and deafening. Several shot and a number of shell struck immediately by us, bursting and wounding a number of men. About 5.30 p.m. the order was given to retire, but was not received by me until other regiments had retired, leaving both flanks of my regiment greatly exposed. We fell back in good order and in line until the enemy was discovered to be flanking us, when the line was broken, and we escaped through a narrow passage, the enemy pouring a sharp fire upon both flanks, and closing in rapidly on our rear. At this point a large part of those reported in the following list were killed or wounded.(*) We immediately formed line in the rear of supporting column and awaited orders.

I am well pleased with the conduct of the men on that occasion. I would like to mention the names of some of the officers and soldiers who distinguished themselves, but all conducted themselves so bravely and so well that I refrain from mentioning any save Capt. J. M. Holbrook, Company F, who, after having received a severe wound, led his company with distinguished gallantry until a second severe wound was received, and the regiment had reformed in the rear of the supporting column.

I have the honor to be, captain, very respectfully,

Colonel, Commanding Regiment.

Capt. C. T. GRANGER,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.

The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I--Volume XXXIV--In Four Parts. Part 1--Reports. Page 362-363