Co. A, 35th Iowa Infantry
Red River Campaign, 1999
Not to be used for any commercial purposes.
(c) 1999 Doug Dobbs on behalf of author
(His diary, and
if he should lose it, the finder would be so kind as to return it
at once, and oblige him.)
April 8. On the cars all day travelling I know not where. Time seems
suspended as the miles slowly roll by. Weather quite warm for the time of
year. A few small rain showers but no big storms as we roll along.
April 9. A little after midday we arrive at a small village in Louisiana
and are marched a short distance to our bivouac. Men are arriving from all
directions and are not yet in any military order. I suspect all this will
change as our officers arrive. No sign of enemy activities so we must be
well away from their lines. Weather still very warm for April, especially
for Northern boys.
April 10. Cloudy this morning - cooled off a little during the night so I
used my blanket to advantage. Rumor has it we will take a short railroad
trip today to the main battalion camp, where we will probably soon begin a
April 10 (afternoon): We were formed into companies today and put on
flatcars for a short railway trip. Arrived mid-afternoon at Nachitoches,
Louisiana and marched a short distance to a meadow where our battalion is
gathering. I volunteered for guard duty in hopes of getting it over with,
have just been relieved and am now relaxing in the company street. Weather
very warm now, a few high clouds and the sun very strong.
April 11, Sunday - No different from any other day in an army on campaign.
Aroused before daylight by 1st Sgt kicking my right foot. Roll call, then
cooked breakfast (leftovers from last night's ration issue), then did a
little company drill and skirmish drill. We are now to be in readiness to
march in half an hour's time.
(Afternoon) - Just arrived at our bivouac after today's march - about 8
miles. Mostly along shaded roads but some in a strong sun. Roads dry but
rough. Started out with wet feet due to yesterday's bivouac being an open
meadow. Had two skirmishes with the Secesh today, fortunately none of our
men seriously wounded.
April 12, Monday - Chilly last night but another fine day dawning - maybe
it won't be so hot today as yesterday. Captain said today that yesterday's
march was 9 miles, which it felt every bit as long. Got another good ration
issue last night, the wagon train is keeping well up with the army. Today's
march is supposed to be short - we'll see how short it is.
(Afternoon) - I am writing now from the town of Pleasant Hill, Louisiana,
which we have just seized from a Rebel occupying force. Our march was short
but very tiring once the heat of the day came on, but few men fell out and
we pitched into the enemy with great vigor. After a brief struggle, their
infantry retired followed by the cavalry, and the town is ours. The boys
are off "prospecting" and generally rejoicing in their triumph, but I wonder
how much longer it will be before we see these Rebels again as they retired
in good order. We must now look to our equipment and prepare ourselves for
the next phase of the campaign.
(Evening) - An unexpected pleasure has arrived - the first mail since the
beginning of the campaign. Two letters and a package of sugar cookies from
my dearest Mistress K. at home. I will ask the 1st Sgt to issue the cookies
out to all the boys at roll call tomorrow - they'll need the energy for a
quick march. The letters contain the latest news from home and the
tenderest sentiments from K. What a treasure I have in her and I hope the
Lord will preserve me in health to return as her husband when my National
duties are done.
April 13, Tuesday - Weather still warm, more clouds today than yesterday. I
wonder if a storm may come up today or tomorrow? We are in fine fettle
after a good feed and night's sleep and are eager to press on toward
Mansfield this morning. Issued the cookies to the men at roll call this
morning and they were very appreciative.
(Noonday halt) - very hard marching this morning over atrocious rutted
roads. We were held up a few minutes when a horse went through a rude
bridge, but it was quickly repaired and the march continued. A sharp
skirmish with Secesh cavalry, but they quickly cleared the way when the Col.
formed the battalion in column of companies and commenced firing by company.
That put the fear of God into them and we continued on the trail which we
are told leads to Shreveport!
(evening) - our camp is in the woods on a forest path with a spring about a
furlong away. The march here from noon was short but very hard due to
extreme heat. The Captain says we marched six and one-half miles today but
it feels much more. Cloud cover is variable and we may have rain tonight or
April 14, Wednesday - Cloudy this morning and the breeze is freshening. I
wonder if rain is coming?
(In camp) - Marched 8 miles today (1 due to the staff misreading the map),
then had a sharp skirmish with the Rebs at the town of Mansfield. Their
force was mainly cavalry and was quickly routed. We are now camped in a
patch of woods on the edge of a clearing and are resting and preparing to
receive rations. A couple of heavy showers today but the sky is now
clearing with a fresh breeze. Should be good sleeping weather.
April 15, Thursday - Awakened this morning before daylight, as our officers
expect we will have to defend today the ground we captured yesterday. Sky
clear early at night but overcast this morning.
(noonday) - Sharp skirmish with the Secesh this morning on the same ground
we took yesterday, and we were forced to retire. Began a march in retreat
over the same ground we covered yesterday. Cloudy this morning but clouds
are breaking and sun is coming through. Air cooler than earlier in week.
We are marching well even if defeated and will no doubt make a stand at
Pleasant Hill if not earlier.
(afternoon) - Stopped in a patch of woods on a logging path about halfway
back to Pleasant Hill. Looks like we will encamp here tonight although the
officers aren't sure. There are rumors that the Rebs may try to drive our
pickets tonight, so we are to keep our arms and accouterments handy.
(evening) - We are merry after a good feed as rations have arrived, and are
finishing our chores before bedtime. Thankfully the wind has stopped as it
may get quite cold. No sign of the enemy so perhaps we will pass a peaceful
April 16, Friday, noonday - passed a chilly night, but dry, in our forest
camp. Arose before dawn and were surprised by Reb cavalry while in the act
of cooking breakfast. Our own cavalry held them off long enough to form the
battalion, after which we faced down a battalion of enemy infantry who let
us pass without engagement. We then marched a distance to a rude bridge
crossing a creek where our company was deployed as skirmishers to clear the
approach on the left of the road. We went about 100 yards into the woods
and were fired upon by Secesh cavalry with shotguns, but a few rounds from
our rifles soon settled the issue and we flanked them to the left. We
engaged more Rebs across the creek, then were obliged to retreat across the
bridge without destroying it due to the close pressure of the enemy. Having
reformed, we proceeded to a swampy spot which we did our best to obstruct
with deadfall and felled trees. We then marched the last few miles to
Pleasant Hill and are camped in our camp of a few days past, expecting to be
pressed again soon by the enemy's forces.
April 17, Saturday - An extremely cold night and my throat is a little sore
this morning. We have lost a few men to desertion during the night and the
spirit of the men seems to be flagging. Our Captain says we will shortly
move one-half mile toward the enemy and build breastworks to hold them.
April 17, Saturday (evening) - Left camp this morning and marched about one
and one-half miles out of town to a good site for defensive works. Built
two lines of shallow trenches with headlogs and awaited the enemy, who were
not long in coming. We met cavalry and artillery and finally their infantry
attacked in line about four o'clock in the afternoon. It was a very hot
fight for nearly an hour but they never gained even our first line of works.
Our first line's fire decimated them and as they wavered our second line
came out of its works and flanked them, followed by the first who drove them
until a truce was called to collect the wounded. 'Twas a glorious day for
old Uncle Sam but we will be forced to leave our works tonight as the enemy
is expected to come on again in greater force, and I hear our Navy must
retire as the river level is falling. I suppose history will say this
campaign is a failure, but it is no such thing for the gallant boys of the
old 35th Iowa.
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Copyright 1999 Doug Dobbs
Last revised:March 19, 2001