BENJAMIN F. GUE
VOL. II, THE CIVIL WAR
Contributed by Carol Ellis
Descendant of Herman Droge, Company D
The Twenty-seventh Iowa Infantry -- This regiment was made up of companies recruited largely in the counties of Allamakee, Clayton, Delaware, Floyd, Buchanan, Mitchell, and Chickasaw. The Twenty-seventh went into camp at Dubuque in August, 1862, and was there organized by the appointment of the following officers; Colonel James I. Gilbert, Lieutenant-Colonel Jed Lake, Major George W. Howard and Adjutant C. A. Comstock. Soon after the regiment entered the service it was ordered to to Minnesota to assist in protecting the frontier from the terrible massacre there inaugurated by the Sioux Indians. General Pope was in command of that department. Colonel Gilbert was sent with his regiment to Fort Snelling, and was soon after sent, with six companies, one hundred twenty-five miles northwest of Mille Lac to superintend the payment of an annuity to a tribe of Indians. He returned to St. Paul on the 4th of November and learned that Major Howard with the four companies left at Fort Snelling had, during his absence, been sent to Cairo, Illinois, where he was ordered to join him. The united command was soon after sent down the river to Memphis to join General Sherman's army.
Not long after the army moved into central Mississippi to operate against Vicksburg. The Twenty-seventh regiment was sent to the Tallahatchee River to guard the Mississippi Central Railway between that stream and Waterford. Parties of Confederate cavalry were hovering near the railroad and on the 20th of December one of them made a dash on the regimental hospital, captured eleven men of the Twenty-seventh, hurried off some fifteen miles and paroled them. The surrender of Holly Springs with its army stores, by Colonel Murphy, compelled the abandonment of the expedition against Vicksburg and the regiment was sent to Jackson, Tennessee.Soon after it joined General Lawler's command to reinforce General Sullivan's army beyond Lexington, making a hard march the first week in January amid mud and cold winds, camping at night in freezing weather without shelter. Early in the morning without breakfast and shivering with cold the army started in pursuit of the retreating enemy, but the Confederates escaped, and our troops were returned toward Jackson. The weather was very severe, the army was without tents and many of the men had no blankets. To add to the suffering the command was without rations and had to subsist on corn meal obtained from the farmers along the line of march. The hardships and sufferings of this midwinter march brought to the regiment an amount of sickness and death that surpassed its losses in any battle in which it engaged. Each company buried many members and several officers were compelled to resign to escape a similar fate. The winter was a gloomy one, almost every day of which was saddened by the death of a comrade.
The second campaign under General Grant against Vicksburg was now under way and many Iowa Regiments were sharing in the marches, battles and victories which marked its onward progress. Others were performing important but less brilliant service in guarding lines of communication, and holding captured territory wrested from the enemy. Among these was the Twenty-seventh, now posted in detachments at points on the railroad in the vicinity of Jackson, where Colonel Gilbert was in command of the post. Early in June, the regiment was sent to Moscow where it remained for two months guarding railroads and posts, occasionally having a brush with guerrilla bands to vary the monotony of camp life. As the news of great battles and victories in other parts of the country reached them, the officers and men longed for the time when they might share in the excitement and glory of more active service in the field. On the 20th of August, 1863, marching orders came, the regiment broke camp and passed through Memphis on the way to join General Steel's army then moving on to Little Rock, Arkansas, and participated in that campaign and the capture of the city, remaining near that place about two months on guard and picket duty, Colonel Gilbert being most of the time in command of the brigade. In November it moved to Memphis, remaining there until near the end of January, 1864. Although the Twenty-seventh did not take an active part in any battle during the year 1863 its losses from other causes were large; from death, discharge and transfer to invalid corps it lost one hundred eighty-eight men. When it left Memphis there were two hundred seventy less officers and men on its rolls than when it entered the service. Of these, sixty-four had died during the year 1863, and one hundred eight had been discharged for disability.
On the 26th of January 1864, the regiment embarked on transports and moved down the river to Vicksburg, where it became a part of a brigade commanded by Colonel W. T. Shaw of Iowa, made up with one exception of Iowa regiments.Soon after it was sent to join General Banks' Red River expedition.The regiment participated in many of the skirmishes and general engagements of that disastrous campaign. In the Battle of Pleasant Hill, where Shaw's brigade stood like a rock against the terrible onslaughts of the enemy and rolled back the tide of disaster that threatened to stampede the army, the Twenty-seventh regiment was long and heavily engaged. Among the wounded were Colonel Gilbert, Captain J.M. Holbrook and Lieutenants Brush, Smith, and Granger. In the retreat from Grand Ecore the Twenty-seventh was one of the regiments under General Smith which protected the rear of the army and had several engagements with the enemy. Near Alexandria there were several skirmishes before the city was evacuated and burned on the 13th of May. A severe battle was fought at Yellow Bayou, where the Confederates were defeated with heavy loss. The Twenty-seventh had four men killed and thirteen wounded. Soon after it moved to the mouth of Red River and was transported by steamer to Vicksburg and ten days later was in the expedition under General A. J. Smith which was sent to dislodge General Marmaduke, who was blockading the Mississippi at Greenville. On the 16th of June after a sharp engagement the enemy was defeated and the blockade raised. In the latter part of June the Twenty-seventh took part in the expedition against Tupelo and shard the hard marches and skirmishes of the campaign. The Battle of Tupelo began at six o'clock on the morning of July 14th, lasting until noon, when the enemy was defeated with very heavy loss. Our regiment was here engaged and had one man killed and twenty-five wounded. It was also in the Oxford expedition under General Smith and returned to Memphis the latter part of August. The next service was under General Rosecrans in Missouri, who made series of rapid marches in pursuit of Price into Arkansas, traveling nearly seven hundred miles in forty-seven days but accomplishing nothing of importance. Early in December General Smith's forces were sent to Nashville to reinforce the army under General Thomas operating against Hood's army. In the Battle of Nashville, fought on the 15th and 16th of December, where General Thomas won a great victory, Colonel Gilbert had command of a brigade in which were the Twenty-seventh and Thirty-second Iowa regiments, commanded respectively by Lieutenant-Colonel Jed Lake and Lieutenant Colonel G. A. Eberhart. This brigade did excellent service in the engagement and joined in the pursuit of the defeated Confederates. Colonel Gilbert was soon after promoted to Brigadier-General. During the year 1864 many changes had taken place in the Twenty-seventh regiment; several officers had resigned, and the losses from death, discharges and transfers had been about eighty. On the other hand many recruits had been secured, so that there were about eight hundred names on the roll.
In February the regiment was sent down the river to the Gulf of Mexico and to Dauphin Island, near Mobile Bay, and soon after joined General Canby's army in a movement against Mobile. While on the march, to open communication with General Steele, General Gilbert had a narrow escape from death by a torpedo buried in the road which was exploded by his horse walking over it. After joining General Steele's army the Twenty-seventh regiment did good service during the siege of Blakely, skirmishing by day and extending the parallels by night, continually under fire. On the 9th of April under Major Howard it joined in the assault which resulted in the surrender of the fort and garrison. General Gilbert's brigade captured six hundred prisoners and eight pieces of artillery. Soon after this victory the brigade joined the Sixteenth Corps marching upon Montgomery, where it remained more than two months. On the 16th of July, 1865, the Twenty-seventh began the journey home by way of Selma, Jackson and Vicksburg and up the river by steamer to Clinton, where it was mustered out on the 8th of August. General Gilbert was brevetted Major-General, serving until the close of the war. Colonel Lake, in his farewell address to the regiment as it was disbanded, states that it had traveled since it entered the service a distance more than 12,000 miles.