HISTORICAL SKETCH BY COL CHARLES HORTON OF ACTION TAKEN BY THE 2ND IOWA CAVALRY IN THE BATTLE OF NASHVILLE
by General Hatch, was ordered to recross the Cumberland River on the 12th of December, and was assigned to a position on the right of General A. J. Smith's Corps. Everything being in readiness, the advance was ordered on the morning of December 15, 1864, and the result of the tremendous struggle which ensued went far towards the complete overthrow of the so-called Confederate Government and the restoration of peace. It was the greatest battle in which the Second Iowa Cavalry participated and the one in which the regiment won its highest honors. In this battle Colonel Coon commanded the brigade, while lieutenant colonel Horton (recently promoted from Major) commanded the regiment assisted by Major Schnitger and Captains Foster and Bandy; his battalion commanders. The compiler of this sketch feels that he is justified in trespassing somewhat on the limits assigned him in quoting from the official report of Lieutenant Colonel Horton, to such an extent at least as to show the most conspicuous features of the service performed by his regiment in this great battle. It will be noted that the regiment fought mainly dismounted on the first day and part of the second day of the battle.
HEADQUAR1ERS SECOND IOWA CAVALRY, VETERAN VOLUN1EERS,
GRAVELLY SPRINGS, JAN. 2,1865
GENERAL: I have the honor to make the following report of the operations of the Second Iowa Cavalry since the 15th of December, 1864, embracing the two days battle near Nashville, and the subsequent pursuit of the rebel General Hood. In obedience to orders from brigade headquarters, moved from camp on the morning of the 15th of December, 1864, at eight o'clock, men dismounted and horses following in the rear. After marching one mile, our brigade - the Second of the Fifth Division Cavalry Corps took position on the right of General A. J. Smith's Corps of Infantry, the Sixth and Ninth Illinois Cavalry on my left, the Seventh Illinois Cavalry on my right. Complying with the movements of the commands, my left moved forward, swinging the while to the left, the enemy's skirmish line falling back steadily before our advance. Their main line was found some four miles from town occupying formidable works on a commanding hill. By continually swinging to the left our brigade struck their left flank. The division battery ("I" of the Second Illinois) now galloped into position in an open field and opened on the works, evidently much to their annoyance, as the guns of both forts were immediately turned upon the battery and my regiment, which had been formed to the left and rear as support. Remained lying in this position, exposed to a galling fire from both forts for nearly an hour, losing two men killed and one wounded, when I received orders to move forward and join in an assault upon the first fort.
The regiment moved steadily forward. under a sever fire until within three hundred yards of the works, when the order to "Charge and take that fort!" from General Hatch rang along the line. With a shout the men sprang forward, and with a shout the fort was carried. Company G, Lieutenant Budd commanding, having been thrown out as skirmishers, were nearest the works, and consequently the first to enter. One man was knocked down by a blow from a musket just as he was scaling the works. One of General Smith's batteries shelled the fort after it was captured, six shells bursting in and over it after we had entered. Captured, here four brass Napoleons and sixty prisoners. Thirty killed and wounded rebels were found lying in the fort. Leaving a guard with the guns, I pressed forward after the retreating enemy, capturing many prisoners. Orders were now received from Colonel Coon to move by the right flank and charge the second fort, situated some seven hundred yards to our right on Conical Hill. The men were so eager in the pursuit of the fugitives from the first fort that I was able to rally only two hundred of them; with these I joined the brigade in the assault. The fort was defended with a stubbornness and gallantry seldom surpassed – the enemy only ceasing to use their artillery after the works were scaled. A short but desperate hand-to-hand struggle ensued after the works were entered. My colors, borne by the gallant Sergeant Hartman, Company F, were the first to float from the fort. The Sergeant fell mortally wounded while in the act of planting the colors on one of the guns. Seizing my hand as I bent over him, he exclaimed, "Major, tell my friends I died doing my duty." In this fort were captured two guns, with caissons; one battery wagon, and nearly one hundred prisoners. Notwithstanding my colors were the first to enter the works, it would be unjust to claim the guns or prisoners as my particular prize, as the different regiments of the brigade entered so nearly at the same time. Lieutenants Watson and Griffith, Companies I and D, who not having heard the order to rally in time to join in the assault on the fort, moved by the right and charged on our left flank, attacking and repulsing a force of rebels who were endeavoring to re-enforce the fort, now reported with some sixty prisoners each. Quartermaster Sergeant Beeson, with my bugler, Anderson, and two mounted orderlies (Truesdale and Winn) charged with the saber, killing and wounding several and taking some seventy prisoners. Number of prisoners captured during the day, two hundred and fifty. Regiment lost, while supporting the battery and charging the two forts, six men killed, and two commissioned officers and eighteen men wounded. . . . Moved again at daylight. . . . Found the enemy in strong force, occupying a line of hills on "Little Harpeth," four miles south of Franklin. General Hatch moved his division to the front, formed on the right of General Hammond. Second Iowa on the extreme right. The line moved at a walk for some three hundred yards, then the trot, and finally the charge was sounded. At the signal, all sprang forward; but the center found it impossible to carry the position on account of the steep and rocky hill side. They halted here, dismounted, and engaged the enemy on foot. Not receiving the order to halt, and having better ground in front, I pressed forward, charged up the hill and through a thick wood, until we reached the enemy's left and rear, who now opened on me with grape and canister from the batteries. Wheeling the regiment to the left, I ordered the charge upon the battery to our left, but the horses were poor and so much blown that they could only raise a slow trot, perceiving which, the enemy charged us in turn, but were handsomely repulsed with the carbines.
A strong force of rebels were now reported passing through the gap between my regiment and the balance of the brigade. The fact that the day was dark and rainy, and that they wore rubber ponchos, and were many of them dressed in blue, had led my men to believe them to be our own troops, so they were nearly in the rear of the Third Battalion before the mistake was discovered. Company K, Sergeant John Coulter commanding, were nearly surrounded, and were compelled to cut their way out with the saber. Sergeant Coulter, with Corporal Heck and privates Black and Anderson (same company), charged the rebel color guard, and, after a desperate hand-to-hand struggle, in which Heck and Black were killed, and Coulter and Anderson badly wounded, the colors of Rosse's Brigade were captured and borne triumphantly off by the Sergeant. Eight dead rebels, lying within the space of a few yards, attest the desperate nature of the conflict. After a few moments' close fighting, in which the saber and butts of guns were freely used, the rebels fell back. The regiment being somewhat disorganized, I withdrew from the range of the artillery to reform and communicate with the brigade. Although I found the enemy too strong to drive, I held my ground and finally compelled them to vacate their position on the hill. General Hatch now pressed them on the pike, capturing three pieces of artillery. My loss during the engagement was seven killed, eight wounded and thirteen captured. Several others were captured, but made their escape, in some instances returning with their guards as prisoners. Regiment captured in all some fifty prisoners. . .
Of the conduct of the officers and men, I can only speak in terms of highest commendation. Where every soldier (officers and men) deserves special mention, it is hard to discriminate. I will only make special mention of Lieutenant Sydenham, Regimental Adjutant, and my battalion commanders, Major Schnitger and Captains Foster and Bandy, to whom I am greatly indebted for the efficient, prompt and gallant manner in which all my orders were executed. Appended is the loss sustained by the regiment during the campaign, sixteen killed, four officers and twenty-nine men wounded; thirteen prisoners.
I am Sir,
Very Respectfully, your obedient servant,
CHARLES C. HORTON,
Lieutenant Colonel Second Iowa Cavalry,
Commanding Regiment 19
To GEN. N. B. BAKER,
Adjutant General of Iowa.
Report of Adjutant General of Iowa, 1865, Vol. 2, pages 937 to 940 inclusive.