Herman C. Hemenway Letter - July 25, 1864
27th Iowa Top Banner

History of Buchanan County, Iowa 1842 to 1881
Transcribed by Tommy Joe Fulton and Peggy Hoehne

pages 205-206


EDITORS CONSERVATIVE: - Since my last, dated at Moscow, Tennessee, the Twenty-seventh has added another to the list of its marches, and lost no credit by its conduct on the battlefield. On the fifth instant, a force of fifteen thousand, consisting of two divisions of infantry, a brigade of colored troops, the usual proportion of artillery and cavalry, all under the command of General A. J. Smith, moved from Lagrange. Tennessee, in a southerly direction. We marched from Davis' mill, our first camp, by daily marches of ten or twelve miles, through Riply to Pontotoc, which we reached on the eleventh. Here the enemy showed themselves for the first time, and on the roads leading to Okolona. Resting over the twelfth, the army took up the march for Tupelo, eighteen miles distant, early in the morning of the thirteenth. This day the enemy attacked our rear and made desperate efforts to destroy the train, but were beaten off at all points with severe loss. The Twenty-seventh was the advance of the infantry, and saw nothing of these fights. The enemy showing so decided a disposition to display his powers, General Smith disposed his troops in fighting order, in a good position, and camped for the night. Early next morning skirmishing commenced along the lines, and further disposition of troops for a general engagement was made. The attack began, along a large part of the line, at about 7 o'clock, and lasted till 10 o'clock. Two regiments of the second brigade were used as a reserve protection to the train, and the Twenty-fourth Missouri and Twenty-seventh Iowa to the front, to support batteries. The Twenty-seventh was little exposed to fire, it being in a hollow and the bullets, shot and shell passing over our heads. Only a very few were wounded. The repulse of the enemy was decisive, with an estimated loss of five to one.

At night we were called out to repel an attack on our left, which was done quickly, after the preliminary "brilliant" operation of shooting a few of our own pickets, who were very gallantly holding their own position.

The next day the return march was taken up. The enemy attacked our rear and train, but as usual were handsomely beaten. They, however, followed closely with cavalry and mounted infantry; drove in our cavalry pickets, and planting a gun on a hill commanding our camp, threw in shell with great precision. The Fourteenth and Twenty-seventh Iowa were at once put in line, and advanced through woods, brambles and creeks, emerging into a large cornfield. These regiments formed the right - other regiments and dismounted cavalry being on the left. We advanced steadily through the field, delivering fire as occasion offered, the enemy retiring before us to the crest of a hill beyond. After resting awhile, a part of the regiment laying down to avoid bullets, grape, and canister, a further advance was made and the enemy left. This was his last appearance with any considerable force.

The Twenty-seventh lost, during the raid, about thirty men which was a greater loss than that sustained by any other regiment of the division. G. R. Parish, company C, was struck with a spent ball but is now on duty. S. McKinney and N. Eddy, company H, lost each a finger.

What was the object of the expedition I do not know; but the results are a loss of about three hundred and fifty men, in killed, wounded, and missing. The enemy's loss is variously estimated at from one to three thousand. This disparity is accounted for by the fact that the enemy, in all cases, by the generalship of our command, were forced to make the attack. They were in all attacks repulsed - in no instance did they drive us from our position.

The return was not a retreat; it was intended from the start, and deliberately executed. I infer that the true object of the movement was to divert the attention of Forrest. I will add that the colored troops bore an honorable part in these fights, and have proved their reliability. The Third division took the advance at Collierville and arrived here on the twenty-third, well worn out. It is currently rumored that we are booked for another move at once, and it is probably true.

The general health of the regiment is as good as could be expected.

H. C. H.