So, what was it like to participate in the greatest march of the war? And, how many men actually made it all the way to the battlefield? Colonel Joseph Bloomfield Leake’s report contains some interesting observations about the 20th Iowa Infantry’s role in the epic march from near Springfield, Missouri, to the Prairie Grove battlefield. Leake noted that “On the morning of December 4, the condition of the regiment was as follows: Present, 30 commissioned officers, 3 of whom were sick; 637 enlisted men, of whom 22 were sick.” After describing the march into Arkansas, Leake continued by writing “We then marched on rapidly until we arrived at the battlefield between 11 and 12 o’clock on the morning of December 7, a distance of nine miles. The regiment thus marched the distance of 100 miles in eighty consecutive hours, the last fifty-three and one-half of which we accomplished in thirty-one hours. Very much of the command marched with shoes so much worn that their feet were upon the ground, and were badly bruised and cut up by the stony road. Many of the boots furnished at Camp Lyon fitted the feet of the men so illy that they became inflamed and blistered by the continuous marching, and a few carried their boots in their hands, and marched to the field in their bare feet, whilst many fell out by the way, unable to march further. Under these circumstances, we went into the engagement with only 270 men enlisted men, and twenty-three commissioned officers.” This means that the regiment suffered a loss of 42.4% of their enlisted men on the march and 7.7% of their commissioned officers [I included the sick in the totals].
Source of quotes: Janet B. Hewett, Noah Andre Trudeau, and Bryce A. Suderow, eds., Supplement To The Official Records Of The Union and Confederate Armies (Wilmington, NC: Broadfoot Publishing Co., 1995), Vol. 4: pp. 43-44.