Thursday, June 20, 2013

Iowans on the March

As some of my previous postings have noted, soldiers in the trans-Mississippi were involved in some incredible marches. One of these marches is documented in Jeffrey L. Patrick’s Campaign for Wilson’s Creek: The Fight for Missouri Begins. The book is part of
the McWhiney Foundation Press’ “Civil War Campaigns and Commanders” series, consisting of shorter books about a variety of topics. Patrick’s book is a clearly written study of the Wilson’s Creek campaign. Notably, it includes a number of helpful maps and sidebars with biographical data about prominent campaign participants.

Patrick’s description of the march is based partly on Missouri in 1861: The Civil War Letters of Franc B. Wilkie, Newspaper Correspondent. Edited by Michael E. Banasik, this excellent source focuses on the activities of the 1st Iowa Infantry during the Wilson’s Creek campaign; in the second half of the book, Wilkie chronicles the later 1861 fall campaigns.

While crossing the Osage River on July 11th, Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon learned that Brigadier General Franz Sigel’s force was retreating to Springfield after the battle at Carthage with Confederate forces in pursuit. Lyon ordered a forced march to Springfield to rescue Sigel and his men. The 1st Iowa Infantry led the way for Lyon’s force and pulled out shortly afterwards at 5:00 a.m. on July 11th.  Ten hours later, the 1st Iowa had logged 27 miles. Following a break of about three hours, the soldiers again took up the march and by 3:00 a.m. on July 12th, they had traveled an additional 21 miles. A two-hour break followed and then the soldiers trudged another five miles. At this point, a courier arrived to announce that Sigel’s force had arrived safely in Springfield. So, from 5:00 a.m. on July 11th to the morning of July 12th, the 1st Iowa infantry marched 53 miles. The men sustained themselves in part by singing “Happy Land of Canaan,” a tune enhanced by the addition of over 200 verses.

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