Friday, September 21, 2012

September 19, 1862

September 19, 1862

Battle of Iuka
Western Theater

Gen. Sterling Price had set out from Tupelo, Mississippi with his Army of the West on Sept. 11, and on Sept. 14 he captured the town and the vast Federal supply depot there. He is also in a position to block the railroad east---or to dash northward to join Bragg in Kentucky. However, Price plans to coordinate a junction with Gen. Earl Van Dorn’s 7,000-strong Army of West Tennessee in order to attack the Federals at Corinth. But Grant decides to not wait to be attacked, and moves first. 
Grant moves to trap Price.

Price is not very surprised when Grant, now in Corinth, sends two forces after him: Gen. Edward O.C. Ord, with three small divisions of the Army of the Tennessee, and Gen. William Rosecrans, with the Army of the Mississippi (2 divisions). Rosecrans takes the road that approaches Iuka from the southwest and Ord from the northwest. However, Rosecrans has the longer route, and over poorer roads. Rosecrans informs Grant (who is riding with Ord’s troops) on the night of the 18ththat he is still 20 miles out of Iuka. Grant orders Ord to close within a few miles of Iuka and to wait: when Rosecrans arrives in the afternoon, and opens his attack, then Ord will move in when he hears the sounds of battle, hopefully being able to strike at the Confederate rear. Price, in the meantime, has received a message from Van Dorn that they should march south to rendezvous and combine forces.
Maj. Gen. Sterling Price, CSA

Late on the afternoon of this day, Price is preparing his army to set out when Rosecrans approaches. Price sends out his best division, under Gen. Little, who deploys Gen. Hebert’s brigade (followed by Martin’s) and these troops run into Sanborn’s Union brigade. Early in the fighting, Gen. Little is killed by one bullet. Price takes personal command and brings up the rest of Little's division. Sanborn places the 11th Ohio Battery as the linchpin of his line, and Hebert’s troops—mostly Louisianans, Arkansans, and Texans—hit the Union line. After three attempts, the charging Rebels capture the Ohio battery. Of the 54 men and 4 officers of the 11th Ohio, 46 men and 3 officers are dead, as are most of the horses. But the six guns are in Southern hands.  But soon both Yankee divisions are on the field. The rest of Little’s line comes in also, and Green’s and Martin’s Mississippi brigades charge, but are stopped by a remarkable stand by the 5th Iowa and 11th Missouri. Grant and Ord, only about 4 or 5 miles away, are deceived by an acoustic shadow: neither of them hears any sound of battle, and give up on Rosecrans attacking today—so Ord never moves in to support Rosecrans. It is a small battle, and a Union victory by default, but Grant is unable to trap and destroy the Rebel army, as he had hoped.

This is a remarkably bloody battle: both armies lose nearly a third of the forces engaged in the short space of two hours.
Maj. Gen. William Starke Rosecrans, USA

This evening, Price simply leaves his position and marches his army out on the road south, left unwatched by Rosecrans. On the morning of Sept. 21, Grant’s troops find themselves facing empty trenches. Rosecrans mounts a pursuit, but soon finds that pursuit is futile. Union Victory (marginal)

Losses:     Killed       Wounded     Captured or Missing      Total

North          144              598                     40                                   790

South          263             692                     561                                1,516

—Alexander G. Downing, a sergeant in the 11th Iowa Infantry, under Gen. Ord, relates the events of the day, and of his regiments only "action":
At noon the Eleventh Iowa was on a high piece of ground in open field awaiting orders. Some of the boys started fires to boil their coffee, and the rebels, seeing the smoke, opened with a few shots from a battery of four-pounders. Then our battery of heavy guns, lying in front of us, suddenly opened up on them and soon put them out of business. But the boys put out their campfires in short order. When the rebels first opened fire upon us, I was lying on the ground resting my head upon my knapsack and a ball passed just over me, striking the ground at my left. That was a closer call than I cared to have and I did not think of taking a nap again.

—Sharpsburg, Maryland: Lt. Josiah Marshall Favill, of the 57th New York Infantry, writes in his journal of the day after Lee’s army has vanished over the Potomac, giving perhaps one of the most vivid descriptions of a battlefield after a battle:
At eight o’clock the next morning, the 19th, the men on the skirmish line, suspecting by the stillness in front that something was up, advanced and found the enemy gone. Immediately the men stood up and all was excitement. . . . Advancing over the hill we found it covered with dead, mostly our men, but just below in the sunken road over which we originally charged, the rebel dead lay in regular ranks, so close together that it was hard to believe they were not living men in line of battle. Most of them had turned black with the two days’ exposure and it required more than a glance to convince ourselves they were not negro troops. A lot of the gallant Fifty-seventh fellows lay scattered about the hill, the ditch, and cornfield. Amongst them, conspicuous for his neatness and soldierly appearance, was Sergeant Risley, of Co. E, firmly grasping his musket, his features almost as natural as in life, and his appointments perfect in all respects. He was a fine fellow, much above the average in intelligence, and a splendid soldier, and like a soldier died, his face towards the foe. Several men were shot while climbing a rail fence near by, and some of them stuck fast, looking in one or two cases, from a distance, exactly like live men. There were men in every state of mutilation, sans arms, sans legs, heads, and intestines, and in greater number than on any field we have seen before. About noon Colonel Brooke directed me to bury the dead in front of our brigade, and with a strong fatigue party I immediately went to work. In one long grave we buried fifty-three U. S. soldiers gathered on this side of the sunken road, and in two others respectively, one hundred and seventy-three, and eighty-five rebel soldiers; we dug the ditches wide enough to hold two bodies, feet together, heads out, and long enough to hold all those the men had collected. When they were all carefully laid away, we threw over them some army blankets gathered on the field, and then replaced the earth. How many shattered hopes we buried there none of us may ever guess. War is certainly a dreadful thing, and a battlefield an ugly blot on civilization.

The country people flocked to the battlefield like vultures, their curiosity and inquisitiveness most astonishing; while my men were all at work many of them stood around, dazed and awe-stricken by the terrible evidence of the great fight; hundreds were scatered over the field, eagerly searching for souvenirs in the shape of cannon balls, guns, bayonets, swords, canteens, etc. They were all jubilant over the rebel defeat, of course, and claimed for us a mighty victory. I was much amused at the way they stared at me. Had I been the veritable Hector of Troy, I could have scarcely excited more curiosity than while in command of this burial party.

Our brigade moved down to the foot of the hill, immediately after it was known the enemy had decamped, and prepared hot coffee for the first time in three days. . . . While our losses are heavy, they are said to be a mere bagatelle to those of the right wing. Twenty thousand men, it is claimed, were killed and wounded during the battle, which seems too enormous to be true. . . . The whole loss of the regiment is something over a hundred, which is wonderful, considering the fire they were exposed to.
The Sunken Road at Antietam today

Battle of Boteler’s Ford: Maryland - On the Potomac River, Boteler’s Ford is where Lee’s army crossed from Maryland back into Virginia. Lee leaves a large brigade of artillery (45 cannon) under Brig. Gen. William Pendleton, in addition to two infantry brigades to guard the ford. Federal troops attack the Rebels, and capture 4 guns.


—Jonathan Lewis Whitaker, a Union army surgeon at a hospital in southern Pennsylvania, writes home to his wife Julia:
Matters are progressing very nicely at this place, we are living very easy, patients are getting well very fast. . . . We are expecting a new lot now very soon. O what terrible fighting they are having down in Maryland for the last 5 days and it still goes on killing off human beings by thousands every day and bringing grief & desolation to so many families, to as many fathers & mothers, so many young wives, and fatherless children, God in mercy grant that as this is being the hardest and bloodiest field, that it may also be the last, that our affairs may be so ordered in the wisdom of providence that wars and bloodshed may come to an end. But as His ways are unsearchable and His wisdom past finding out so that we cannot understand why he is so afflicting us as a nation, yet we do believe (as we must if we trust in Him), that he has some wise end in view. . . . Whatever it may be, may it be the prayer of all good men that it may be speedily accomplished, that we may once more become a united people whose God is the Lord, and blessed with peace and prosperity.

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