Thursday, January 28, 2016

"I was left for dead...": Captain Michael Ackerman at the Battle of Pleasant Hill

Heavily engaged at Pleasant Hill, the 32nd Iowa Infantry’s regimental history has many eyewitness accounts of the fighting there. In 2015, I promised to occasionally feature these, and today excerpts are presented from a commissioned officer’s testimony:

“Captain Michael Ackerman, of Company A, now Clerk of Courts at Howard, South Dakota, and who was left on the field, terribly wounded, and without other notice for more than twenty-eight hours than that of the rebels who robbed the dead and wounded says:--

‘Late in the evening of April 8, in the camp among the old graves, some of us were discussing the defeat of our troops in the advance, and their demoralized condition as they came into our lines. In this party were Lieutenant Col. Mix, Captains Miller and Peebles, Lieutenant Howard, myself and others. Colonel Mix, looking up, said: ‘There I see the moon over my right shoulder. It is a good omen for me. I need not fret.’ Within twenty-four hours Colonel Mix lay dead on the field of the hard-fought battle; Miller, Peebles, and Howard, were mortally wounded; and I was left for dead, with my left knee and right hip crushed by the bullets that fell among us like hail upon the house top. My Company went into line of battle with thirty-four men, only five of whom answered the next roll-call; and half the Regiment was wiped out!

I fell near the close of the engagement, and soon after the Regiment left the field it had so gallantly and desperately held. I was stripped of my outer clothing. One of these vultures thrust his hand into my pocket, but drew it out covered with my blood, and with an oath left $85.00 there, which no doubt subsequently saved my life.

I rolled into a ditch near me to escape the still fast falling bullets, and about mid-night was helped out by a rebel chaplain, who was trying to care for the wounded. I crawled to a fire, was soon asleep, and did not wake until the sun was high in the heavens. Some one had thrown a dog-tent over me to shield me from the sun….the ground was all strewn with dead and wounded that it seemed that one could step from one to another as far as I could see, without touching the ground. Here and there a group of wounded were gathered about little fires that had been kindled by those able to partly help themselves….

About 9 o’clock that evening Captain Miller and myself were taken in an ambulance to a log house, and placed on the floor with a single blanket under us. Robert Mack, of my company, and eight or ten others were with us. We were in this house four days before we were discovered by the Surgeons who had been left to care for us,--they having two hospitals that required their continuous attention, and we were over-looked…. [After removing to a hospital] the wife of a rebel officer who lived in the neighborhood, a Mrs. Cole…came every week with such supplies as her home afforded, the tears running down her cheeks as she looked upon the starving men she could not feed!... [He was thankful for] the two army wagons loaded with sanitary stores, that came under a flag of truce, and for which the women at home have our blessings as long as we may live. And of things which my bloody money bought at the rate of one dollar for a chicken, one dollar per dozen for eggs, and four dollars per pound for tobacco. And of our parole, about June 17th, and a trip of seventeen miles in carts and jolting wagons to the boat on Red River, and of the opium and Louisiana rum the doctor gave me on the road, and how the entire fifty-two who started from Pleasant Hill that June morning, all reached New Orleans!”

Quote from: John Scott, Story of the Thirty Second Iowa Infantry Volunteers (1896), pages 149-153.

No comments:

Post a Comment