History of Clayton County
27th Iowa Top Banner

Contributed by Carol Ellis
Descendant of Herman Droge, Company D

(NOTE: The history of Clayton County started off with a list of men that served in the 27th. Since they are listed in the rosters, this portion has not been repeated. ej)

The Twenty-seventh Iowa Volunteers had nearly as varied an experience in the matter of climate as the distinguished explorer after the remains of Sir John Franklin, who received his orders to proceed to the polar regions whilst bathing in the Gulf of Mexico. This regiment performed its first active service in Northern Minnesota, about the latitude of Quebec, and before it closed its career of usefulness and honor its hardy troops had made a voyage on the Gulf, from the Balize to Mobile Bay. They had seen the Mississippi River where it looked like an insignificant stream, and where, having received the waters of a continent for the liberties of whose mighty people they had taken up arms, it swept by many channels into the sea. It was recruited in the Third Congressional District, and a good proportion of the men were from Clayton County. The various companies rendezvoused at Dubuque, where they were mustered into the service of the United States Oct. 3. The roll at this time bore 952 men and forty officers, making the aggregate of the regiment nearly 1,000.

Within a week from entering the service the regiment was ordered to report to Major-General Pope, to take part in the campaign against the hostile tribes of Indians who were at that time threatening the frontier generally, and were especially waging their savage warfare in Minnesota. The Indians had been defeated, however, before the Twenty-seventh arrived; so after a short stay it proceeded to Cairo, Ill. Remaining there but a few days, it embarked on transports and moved down the river to Memphis, where it reported to General Sherman, and Nov. 22 it went into temporary camp in the rear of that city. Soon orders were received to march with Sherman to assist Grant in the Vicksburg campaign.

This march was promptly begun, although the men were but poorly armed and equipped. They complained of their arms not a little, but Colonel Gilbert had the tact and nerve to satisfactorily silence all complaint. In the Vicksburg campaign, while others were acquiring renown in active operations, the Twenty-seventh and other regiments were performing less brilliant but valuable service in guarding lines of communication and in preventing rebel incursions into territory wrenched from rebel authority by the victories of 1862. The Twenty-seventh was posted in detachments at various places on the railway not far from Jackson. Colonel Gilbert being in command of that post. In June it moved to Moscow, where it remained for two months performing similar duties.

During the spring the regiment was saved from destruction by the heroism of two Union women. The troops were being transported by rail from Bethel to Jackson, Tenn. The guerrillas had partially destroyed a railroad bridge by fire, and then, as the structure was about to fall, extinguished the flames, so that the troop train might be run upon it and dashed to fragments. Two noble women walked ten miles, unprotected, and by waving of lanterns arrested the eye of the engineer and secured the salvation of the regiment from a horrible fate, as the train was running at a high rate of speed. The women refused any compensation, merely asking an escort home.

Aug. 20, the wishes of the regiment to be taken into more active service were gratified, and it took part in the successful expedition against Little Rock. Then the command went into quarter at Memphis, where it remained till the close of January, 1864.

Earlier in this year the regiment moved down the river to Vicksburg, whence it took part with Sherman in his great Meridian raid. After a few days' rest at Vicksburg on its return from this raid, it joined General Banks in his Red River expedition. In this the command displayed conspicuous gallantry. Then followed a brief campaign in Mississippi, after which the regiment proceeded to Missouri. Here, under Rosecrans, it marched over a great part of the State, without accomplishing anything in particular. Then they fought against Hood, in Tennessee, under General Smith. Colonel Gilbert was promoted Brigadier-General for the gallantry he displayed in the battle of Nashville. The regiment joined in the pursuit of Hood, marching southward as far as Pulaski. After a short time in camp at Eastport, the troops embarked Feb. 9, for New Orleans. Moving down the Tennessee, the Ohio, and the Mississippi, they disembarked at Chalmette, a short distance below the Crescent City. Remaining in camp two weeks it again embarked, and sailed down the river and across part of the Gulf of Mexico to Dauphin Island, Ala, on the sands of which it went into encampment.

March 20, the regiment moved by transport across Mobile Bay, and ascended a river about twenty-five miles, thence marching northward against Mobile. In this Mobile campaign General Gilbert narrowly escaped death from a torpedo buried in the road, and which was exploded by his horse tramping over it. The General was soon after brevetted a Major-General for general gallantry in the siege of Blakely. The Twenty-seventh was in due time mustered out, and at Clinton, Iowa, was disbanded in August, 1865, after traveling more than 12,000 miles.