Civil War Louisiana (CWLA)

Civil War Louisiana (CWLA)
CWLA seeks to provide an online resource of any and all material of the Civil War relating to Louisiana with a special interest in the war in Acadiana in southwest Louisiana.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

32nd Iowa at the Battle of Pleasant Hill

From the History of Iowa From the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the Twentieth Century Volume 2, pages 320-321 is the following account of the 32nd Iowa at the Battle of Pleasant Hill. Pleasant Hill was fought on April 9, 1864 following the Federal disaster at the Battle of Mansfield the day before. The 32nd Iowa's brigade was posted at the very front of the Union line across the road to Mansfield. It faced several attacks to his front by Texas Cavalry but was hit in its flank by the Texas brigades of Walker's Division.

Senator W. V. Allen of Nebraska, then a private in Company G, gives the following graphic account of what followed:

“The cloud of smoke from our guns hung for a moment in the breeze, then rose, revealing to us the sickening sight of riders and horses lying in a promiscuous heap of dead and dying. Their warm life-blood was forming little pools, which uniting, ran away in streams, while the pitiful neighing of dying horses, and the sorrowful cries and appeals of the dying soldiers for help and water was a sight to make the soul sick. While we were contemplating this horrible picture there debouched from the opposite woods three strong lines of infantry, the division of Churchill, Parsons and Majors, with wings spread out like a great fan. Their bayonets were fixed ready for use and they carried their guns at right shoulder shift. It was our time to turn pale. There were two of them to one of us, three strong lines to our single line. They broke forth in the ‘Rebel yell,’ which was simply a cheer from fine voiced men, a high piercing noise like the call of a woman made at long distance. It differed from the cheer of our men, which was heavier, heartier and more uniform [Blue emphasis added by me]. They brushed aside our skirmishers and dropped their guns to the position of a charge. They were to fall upon and crush in our center by the fury of their assault and the machine strength of numbers, while other portions of their army were to envelope, overlap and crush our flanks, and thus rout if not capture our entire army. Their success the previous day had made this, to their minds, not an impossible feat. Banks, always fruitful in blunders, had sent back to Grand Ecore a large part of the Thirteenth Corps and all our cavalry except one brigade, which being roughly handled early in the fight was unfit for offensive service when needed; so that when the enemy struck us in full force with his assaulting columns, we were weakened fully by this reduction of our numbers. We were ordered to shield ourselves as best we could from the enemy’s fire, and reserve our own, until he approached within a few rods of us. The chivalrous Shaw was at his best. His usually dull eye kindled with an unnatural fire, and his unusually homely countenance grew almost beautiful in contemplation of the death struggle that was at hand. He rode along the line giving his orders as coolly as if on dress parade. ‘Aim low, boys; it is better to wound than to kill, for it will take two good men to carry a wounded man from the field,’ he said. Above the din of the gathering storm, again rang out the voice of Shaw as the Rebels approached us. [321]‘Fix bayonets,’ he said, and in an instant every man’s bayonet was ready for use. The Rebels were upon us. The noise of 1,600 Springfield rifles rang out in unison as 1,600 minie balls sped into the enemy’s ranks to do their deadly work. He was strong and stopped, but rallied and again renewed the assault with additional fury. Another volley thrown full and fair into his ranks caused the enemy to reel and stagger like a drunken man, but he rallied to renew the attack. The assault was repeated and another made, this time along parts of the line the bayonet was used; but each assault was repulsed with great loss of life and limb on both sides. So the fighting went on, on other parts of the field. Our right wing was crushed in and driven back to the reserves, and this made it necessary to retire Shaw’s Brigade a distance to keep a connected line. The order was given, and the Twenty-fourth Missouri, Fourteenth and Twenty-seventh Iowa drew back, but Adjutant Charlie Huntley, brave as a lion and mild as a woman, while bringing the order to the Thirty-second was killed, and the order never reached the regiment. Having previously orders to hold the position at all hazards there was but one thing for Colonel Scott to do, and that was to hold his position unless wrenched from him by the enemy. The regiment at our left had been withdrawn, leaving both flanks of ours exposed. For more than an hour this regiment alone was fighting ten times its number. Everywhere in front, on the flanks and in the rear the contest raged with great fury and loss of life. Nowhere in ancient or modern warfare can be found an instance of more heroism than was here exhibited. Up to this time the enemy had been the assailant, but now that he was weakened, the time came for us to take the offensive. General Smith had made all preparations to receive the advancing foe; and as the human tide came rolling up the hill, almost to the muzzle of his guns, a sheet of flame flashed along his lines and swept the front like the besom of destruction. Hundreds fell dead and dying before that awful fire. Scarcely had the seething lead left the guns when the word ‘charge’ was given and 7,000 men precipitated themselves upon the shattered ranks of the enemy. Emory’s division was pushed forward and joined the Sixteenth Corps, driving the Rebels rapidly down the hill to the woods, there they broke and fled in confusion. The victory was won, and our troops followed the enemy until night put an end to the pursuit.”

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Coppens' Zouave Battalion

Coppens' Zouave Battalion
Lt. Colonel George Coppens (seated) and brother, Captain Marie Alfred Coppens.Image sold at auction on Cowan Auctions, for $14,375