Monday, May 29, 2006

Sep 19, 1862 - Remember not just who but what they went through

From a transcription of the diary of Lieutenant Colonel Ezekiel Silas Sampson:

Sampson was from Sigourney, Iowa. Forgive the choppy and sometimes difficult to follow text. I have copied it here as I received it in a transcription of the original (in possesion of one of my cousins).

August 31st were mustered. Had a heavy shower in afternoon. Received letter from J.H.Sanders informing me that Governor Kirkwood had commissioned me Lieutenant Colonel of the 5th Iowa.
September 1st received commission and was qualified.
September 2nd entered upon the duties of my new position. Leaving my Company is like leaving home and my friends.

Lieutenant Colonel E.S. Sampson had been commissioned Captain of Company F, 5th Iowa Infantry Division at Keokuk on April 26th of the previous year.

September 4th served as brigade officer of the day. Bought a horse from William Carpenter - owe him balance of $60.00.
September 7th in evening struck tents and loaded up and held ourselves in readiness to march in a moment's notice. Rebels reported in large force at Booneville.
September 8th continued prepared to move until 4 o'clock pm. When we unloaded tents and pitched them on old camping ground.
September 11th at 10 pm orders came to prepare two day's rations, have teams hitched up at 2 am load up at 3 and prepare to move at 4.

Much of the previous entries in the diary, which begins in August 1862, are like this. Marching, setting up camp, being prepared to move, not moving, striking camp, pitching camp, looking for supplies, dealing with weather... etc.

September 12th visited camp at post 3am. Had returned to camp but a few minutes when firing was heard on Monmethe Road. Mounted and rode over as soon as possible and found that a Company of rebel cavalry of 40 or 50 had made a dash on our most advanced post and driven the sentinels in and taken one prisoner. Post occupied by Company B the sentinels fell back on their reserve about 1/2 mile distance. On the 12th, 13th, 14th, and 15th had all camp equipage loaded up ready to move. On the 15th there was a skirmish with our pickets of Sullivan's Brigade. On 16th train sent to Corinth with only having sufficient transportation, entrenching tools and three day's rations.

September 17th had orders to prepare two day's rations in Haversacks and prepare to move by 3. Raining.
September 18th left camp at 4 am, very rainy about 5 o'clock. Halted 6 am remained along the road feeding our horses from neighboring field and roasting corn for ourselves until nearly sundown. When we returned 1/2 mile and bivouacked in field of tall grass. Just as we got back a man of Company I placed in our hands a prisoner to be taken to Colonel Sanborn. Rested fairly.

And then we arrive at Iuka...

September 19th reveille at 4 took up march again for Iuka at sun half hour high - morning clear. Marched on passing a small entrenchment. Across the road fallen trees on the left side. Made a day or two by the enemy. Marched on to about 6 miles of Iuka. Halted, formed line of battle on right side of road. Ohio battery on left and the artillery commenced cutting brush and masking artillery. Soon orders came in to move forward.

In short time General Rosecrans came in with Sanborn's Division on a road intercepting ours on the left. Shortly three Companies from the right of our Regiment were ordered formed as skirmishers. I was at this time riding at the left of rear of Regiment. Colonel Matthies rode back and told me three companies had been ordered forward as skirmishers, I had better see if General Hamilton did not want someone to command them.

I rode briskly forward and met General Price's Aid de Camp coming for a commander for the skirmishers. I immediately went forward to General Hamilton who directed me to follow the cavalry to move ahead but if they met with an resistance to throw the skirmishers forward and push through.

I deployed Company E on the right and D on the left and held Company A as a reserve on the road. In a short distance I found there was so much cavalry to possess I assembled the skirmishers to allow them to fall in rear of cavalry. At this junction, just as the head cavalry had crossed a small creek in site of a large white farm house. The enemy skirmishers fired when they wounded a Lieutenant and Private. I immediately moved my skirmishers past the cavalry and deployed them as before. As I rode to the right in site of house, balls swithering freely. Company D hurried rapidly around to left under cover of brush and timber and routed them.

Had one man Lieutenant Jones wounded in hip. When I rode up to house found citizen there denied that the rebels had fired from his house. Said there had been two Companies near there - moved the skirmishers briskly forward twice to the lines and gave me very valuable assistance. We deployed as skirmishers and drive the scouts of the enemy before us until we were relieved about 3 o'clock by 6 Companies of the 26th Missouri under Lieutenant Colonel Hellman on foot. Where we were retired there was a house after the boys drive the rebels from it and helped themselves to the bread, butter and preserves.

We killed two of the enemies and wounded several. One was dead in a peach orchard, another was dying on the left in a low swampy place of brush and timber. I asked him a few questions which he answered freely. As I was passing through this swamp a grape vine caught me around the neck and jerked me from my horse, I wasn't hurt - it only halted me for a moment.

Soon after we were relieved - someone found in a small log house on the road a jar of cream and some cornbread. I got a glass of cream and a small bite of bread. We were all very hungry. After we got this, someone told us there was a woman in the other room. I didn't see her. In nearly every houuse we passed there was a table set as though they had been feeding the rebel soldiers. Men, women, and children had generally fled on our approach. We had not passed the house where we got the cream but about a half mile when a heavy volley was fired by the rebels into our skirmishers causing them to fall back double quick. The brigade was immediately deposed in order of battle.

The 11th Ohio battery was on the road, our Regiment on the right, 48th Indiana and 4th Minnesota to the left, 26th Missouri, 17th Indiana Sesame near where our left rested was a very small unfinished, not old looking school house and a road on a ridge running parallel with our line. Left on the crest of the hill and right on the slope to the West timber with tall underbrush of oak and pines, some places especially to rear of our right uncommonly dense and difficult to pass through. While we were forming we could hear the rebels forming and they were picking us with grape which went mostly over. Suddenly we formed and the battery fired a half a dozen shots. When the whole rebel line opened fire of musketry which was very severe on the battery. Our line opened in return except one Regiment which mostly reserved its fire. The sound of the tramping of the many through the leaves and brush of the line and the menditious force. (Often under curtail they had three lines.)

Enemies moved steadily forward shouting vociferously. Heard above the din and roar of arms. From the tremendous volley fired into us it would seem the enemy relieved each other with new Regiments frequently. Soon our battery was silenced. Half of the men and nearly all the officers either killed or wounded and the 48th Indiana Regiment of horseback. We had poured into the enemy with our wilfilled rifles and by the din of the 4th Companies of the 36th Missouri such a good fire as to cause them to move and fall back.

Twice we moved forward over the crest of the hill pouring into them our incessant fire. They would fall back and then return apparently with a fresh line firing in destructive volleys. Then there was battle in all this terrible realities. The lines of the contending armies swayed back and forth. Twice we moved forward firing a most destructive fire into the enemy. As we raised the rest of the hill their fire was terribly destructive on us.

We fell back to the first position where we continued firing until our cartridges were exhausted. We soon were enveloped in clouds of smoke. The roar of arms, shouting of contending armies, swithering of bullets were constant and deafening. The screams and the groans of the dying and wounded could scarcely be heard. The Regiment on our left 48 gave way. The enemy rushed forth upon the battery which had sometime been relieved. More than half of the men being either killed or wounded and from the most destructive fire from the left which nearly struck them to the earth.

Four companies of the 26th were brought in at the request of Colonel Matthies but when they were approaching them Colonel Brown was badly wounded. Colonel Matthies tried to get them in line with our Regiment but it was too hot a fire. They came promptly up and commenced firing, fought well but were forced back a short distance. Our Regiment had fixed bayonets at the commencement of the action and were continually ready to receive or make a charge.

I instructed the right wing not to fire until the enemy came near. When they fired it told fearfully upon the ranks. I was close to the line on the right wing. Not off of my horse and making every effort to keep them in line and to keep men in line in two ranks to prevent them from getting into confusion and backing to the rear. Many whom I ordered to the ranks who were coming to the rear would show me they were wounded. Lieutenant Marshall 2nd Missouri also on the right doing noble service.

When our cartridges failed, we fell back through very thick brush to an open field. Of very high grass but a short distance to our rear. Just as we came to the edge of the field the 11th Missouri passed up towards the enemy into the brush in the direction of the line we had occupied, and we soon heard their volley firing out upon the enemy but it was now quite dark. We returned across the field stopping a short time behind a fence then around on the road and obtained a fresh supply of ammunition. On the way we passed the 10th Missouri and part of the 26th under Colonel Hellman.

Near the road was a great crowd of stragglers, the 48th Indiana, 6th Iowa and 80th Ohio, and a few from other Regiments. Nearly all of our Regiments were with us except the killed and wounded. It had now been dark some time - we distributed cartridges by candle light. We were directed to remain where we were. Harry Lumbuck of my old Company gave me a bit of hard cracker and sugar which I divided with Lieutenant White who had none.

We were near the hospital and could constantly hear the groans of the wounded. We lay down near the road to get a little rest expecting a hard day's work on the morrow. The ambulances were running all night moving the wounded to the rear. I visited the hospital once in the night. It was a bloody sight. I noticed two lying on the ground who had just had their legs taken off above the knees.

About 11 o'clock there was quite a brisk picket firing. We had our horses saddled and everything ready to work. During the remainder of night we were quiet, not withstanding the great bustle, stir and passing of ambulances within a few feet of where we lay, I slept quite soundly.

Between 3 and 4 o'clock on the morning of the 20th we moved a short distance and formed a line of battle right in line of road. Stanley's Division had the front. We remained in line until break of day - moved a short distance to the rear, halted in road and those who were fortunate enough to have coffee made coffee and ate. My old friend of Company F gave me a cup of tea and some crackers which were delicious.

Here we heard from whom we supposed had been killed. Here during our hours of halt, the scenes of the evening before and the night were fully discussed - everybody talking. The fact that those present were so fortunate to exist left not withstanding their sorrow for their comrades told what they were doing, saying, how acting when the fatal shot struck them.

After our meager repose the brigade returned again toward town and passed back by the hospital and along the road into the battlefield where details were made to convey the wounded still on the field and to bury the dead of both armies; the Colonel being engaged away from the Regiment. I was obliged to remain most of the time with it.

As we passed by the hospital saw quite a pile of legs, arms, hands and feet which had been amputated and thrown together. From here on the dying and dead were stretched along the road. At first they were all blue uniforms but when we approached the rebel line of battle the butternuts lay in profusion. Between the line, blue and butternut were intermingled. The ground, grass and bushes were smeared and spattered with blood and limbs and mangled bodies lay thick around.

Saw two rebel brothers lying one partly on the other. I thought they had found a file with the bottle as shot of grape. The rebel corps were very black in the face supposed to have been caused by being intoxicated at the time of death. When in close contact the men said they could smell whiskey on their breath.

Saw Lieutenant Holcomb and acting Lieutenant Lister. The expression of Holcomb's countenance was firm and tense. Lister had the appearance of having bled to death. He was shot through the thigh and had tied a strap around his leg to stop the blood. To see so many noble boys lying dead on the field caused one to reflect that the glory of the field was dearly bought. Saw most of the dead and wounded of Company F either on the field or along the road or near the hospital and passing in the ambulance. Remained on the battlefield until about noon, then leaving a detail to finish burying the dead returned to Jacinto road 6 miles and bivouacked for the night. Boys had plenty of fresh beef and sweet potatoes.

With all our advances in technology, medicine, and efficiency in killing each other... I don't think that war has really changed all that much in 143 years.

Ezekiel Silas Sampson, my great-great-grandfather (his daughter was my father's much beloved and fondly remembered "GrannyBird"), went on writing in his diary until spring of the following year, including the battles of Champion Hill and Vicksburg, but then he stops writing...

... except for lists of the names of the dead and wounded.

On this Memorial Day let us not simply remember our own loved and lost warriors but the hell we as a society put them through by not working towards real solutions to the common problems we, all societies, face in this world.


Caeli said...

This is totally off topic and I couldn't find an email address. But when I was trolling around the INternet doing a search on Ezekiel Silas Sampson it looked like you had stated that you are related to him?

(my great-great-grandfather (his daughter was my father's ...)


He is my 3rd Great Grandfather...


Do you know a Charlie Larimer? He is my first cousin and lives in Chicago...

I just wanted to know if we perhaps are related?

If not.. sorry to have troubled you :>)


Andrew C. White said...


I have not met Charlie in person but we have emailed and discussed our common heritage. I guess this means you and I are cousins also.

E.S. Sampson was my third great grandfather also. His daughter Ellen, known as "Bird," was my fathers grandmother.

My email address is acwhite at taconic dot net