CHAPTER 8 – IUKA
Sep. 16th. We have entered Iuka, Miss. The enemy fled without a fight. Gen. Armstrong’s Cavelry overtook and captured some of their rear guard. It is said they had a lot of negro women and children, with them and that our officers made the prisoners carry the negro babies back to camp. There must be some truth in the report, as it is so generally spoken about today. It is said that the prisoners were Dutch, and as the days are hot and the roads dusty, they carried their burdens under much protest. Iuka is a beautiful little town among the rolling pine hills, with its fine springs a health resort. No houses have been destroyed. The enemy attempted to burn the large warehouse adjoining the R.R. Depot today. The warehouse contained a large amount of supplies, but did not have time to do so, before our cavelry entered and extinguished the fire. We entered with our First Mo. Brigade, by sunrise this morning and went into camp; both Brigade and Battery, rested two or three days quietly.
Sept. 23rd, 1862. We are ordered out and have formed line of battle several miles from town.
Sept. 24th. We shifted our position several times and late this evening had orders to double-quick back to town, as the enemy were about to enter the town, by another road, and that it would take some very fast marching to beat them, as couries continued to arrive with orders to hurry up, and that our line of battle near the town had been met and driven back. Our grand old First Mo. Brigade, upon which it seemed everything depended, was to keep up the double-quick movement, and that they were in a run at times. It was hot and dusty, and the boys suffered dreadfully under their burden. Their uniforms were made of heavy goods and they carried a heavy blanket, forty rounds of ammunition, bayonet canteen and musket. Wade’s battery kept close to the heels of the brigade.
Gen. Little at the head of his invincible First Mo. Brigade, was in time; the victorious enemy were within a half mile of town. As Gen. Little passed through in double-quick and formed a line of battle on a run, in the edge of the woods near town, and without water or a moments rest, they moved forward with that brave old 3rd Louisiana Regiment that had stood with the Missourians so many times in battle and was never known to flinch; also Whitfield’s Texas Legion and a Battalion of Arkansas Troops, all on our left moved forward in one line together, under the immediate eye of our dear “Old Pap.” He was happy. The old guard was just in time and he knew what would happen in a few minutes; when his tired, hot, and thirsty veterans met the invaders, under their able Gen. Rosecrantz.
This grand old 1st Mo. Brigade, that has never lost a fight, were in the worst possible condition to meet the enemy; they were almost overcome with heat, as they had been on a run for three miles or more, and it was cruel to lead them against such a brave victorious foe, fresh, and well supplied without giving them water and thirty minutes rest. But they must go forward in this brokendown condition, without a minutes rest and they must win; the brave foe must be beaten and hurled back; otherwise old Pap’s retreat will be cut off, as we see it and his command routed. The line continues to go forward, they now enter the timber that surrounds the little town; the sun is now disappearing behind the trees; all is quiet for a moment, now the skirmish lines are popping away; now the long deadly vollies of musketry from ten thousand guns have turned loose, the earth trembles; the Rebel Yell goes up, from all along our lines; the death grapple is on, and the small arms continues to roar. Our battery is close up under fire, but we are in the woods and cannot get a position to help our men. Another Yell is given, which tells us the enemy has given away and is falling back. They soon rally, and as our lines move forward, the fierce contest is renewed. This time our gallant Louisiana, Texas, and handful of Arkansas men who were on our left, ran up against an Ohio Battery, but they never haulted until they got possession of the guns, after a bloody hand-to-hand fight, with dreadful loss; again the enemy is forced back all along the line.
It is now eight o’clock, and it is very dark in the woods; the fight is still raging, the minie balls fall in showers around our battery, as we remain haulted in the road behind our line of battle. We cannot get into position to help our infantry on account of the heavy timber. A volly frightened the team on our Battery forge, and they wheeled short around in the road and broke the tongue of the forge. The smith was until midnight putting another on, as he had to work as noisless as possible, to keep from drawing fire of the enemy.
Our hearts are bowed in sorrow, as we stand here under fire, to hear that our gallant and honored leader Gen. Henry Little, is killed. This is a bloody desperate fight at close quarters, with bayonets at time. Many brave men have fallen.
At ten o’clock the fighting is over, except along the skirmish line, where a few shots still ring out.
At twelve o’clock we are ordered to fall back, and we find that Pap is on a retreat. This is so much regretted; so many of our brave men have given their lives, in battle and to no purpose. Our dead and wounded are left in the hands of the enemy, the cries of our wounded, for water and help, are left to be supplied by the invading stranger’s hands, far away from their homes and loved ones, who would love so much to be with them. We move back quietly, without the loss of any property, to Baldwin, on the railroad.
The enemy ran on to our rear guard once to test its mettle, and was severely chastised and were satisfied to let us retire in peace. Gen. Little’s 1st Mo. Brigade and Wade’s Battery have seen about twenty months of hard service, drilling marching, counter marching often all day and all night, through all kinds of weather, forming lines of battle several times, often in one day. Skirmishing, light and heavy, they had fought with success the battle of Elk Horn and had always conducted themselves in such fine military order, that their General who had taken such pride in training them was truly proud of them. He felt like he could depend upon them in any emergency. Old Pap had come to the same conclusion, our success is equally due to the help of the invincible 3rd Louisiana and Whitfield’s Legion and Battalion of Arkansas boys, in driving back the victorious enemy, and saving Old Pap, when it seemed his star was about to go down; it was a feat that Gen. Price and other officers that knew the situation of our army, could never forget.
Gen. Little stayed with his men in their victorious charge and was instantly killed by a minie ball passing through his head, while the shout of victory was ringing in his ears. We will miss him so much, for he took such good care of his men. His body was quietly layed to rest that night, in a hastily prepared grave in Iuka.
Wright Shamburg and VonPhul, who are bright soldierly men, will perhaps leave us now, for other places of duty, and they will be sorely missed. For we have been accustomed, since we left Springfield, Mo. to see them speeding up and down our line, while on the march delivering orders. Other brave men and officers will be sadly missed from among us. Our loss is placed at six hundred in all of the best men in the Southern army, men that cannot be replaced.
The battle of Iuka was like the Elk Horn battle, an open field fight, no breastworks, just what the Southern soldiers want, as we are bitterly opposed to using the spade, we hope our invaders will always fight us openly. The dead bodies of our beloved comrades, we trust will be properly buried and our wounded gently cared for. Our own physician, Dr. Lucius McDowell has stayed behind to attend the wounded, and doubtless some of our Brigade doctors have done the same.
The 3rd Louisiana Regiment was in the hard fought battle of Oak Hills near Springfield, Mo. and ran over Siegle’s Battery and took it away from him in that fight. The Mo. Troops have learned that they can depend at all times on Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas Troops. Whenever a line of battle composed of these troops rush forward in a charge, the enemy would have to get out of the way to avoid a bayonet fight, all along the line, for those men will never stop until they locked bayonets, which the enemy will learn to their sorrow as often as they test the matter.
Sept. 26th. We are at Baldwin, have rested four days. Our rations are of the best, as our commissary is filled with captured rations. We were payed off while here, by the State of Missouri for our services in the Missouri State Guards. I served four months in the cavelry and received $48.00. It was Mo. State paper money, and we found that it was worth as much as Confederate paper money. It came as a surprise to us as we had been without money two years and found that we could live without it. The Southern soldier seldom gave a passing thought about his pay, money had not the least bit of influence in controlling his actions. They wanted State Rights, which meant secession, and government by the people and for the people, which the South believed was guarenteed to her by the Constitution of the Federal Government. For this principle, we are fighting and are willing to die; we may finally be starved and overpowered and forced to bury our principles, perhaps forever.