Fifth Iowa Infantry History
“Although a soldier by profession,
I have never felt any sort of fondness for war,
and I have never advocated it,
except as a means of peace.”
“We have shared the incommunicable experience of war.
We felt, we still feel, the passion of life to its top.
In our youths, our hearts were touched by fire.”
Oliver Wendall Holmes
It is no accident that the Fifth Iowa Volunteer Infantry was recognized as one of the top 300 Union regiments of the War Between the States. They served with distinction in a number of pivotal battles and there is no doubt that they merit a position of priority in any list of preeminent “fighting regiments.”
The patriots of the Fifth Iowa Infantry organized at Burlington on July 15, 1861. They moved to Keokuk, two weeks later, and then on to St. Louis, Missouri. They were initially attached to Fremont’s Army of the West and the Department of Missouri.
The regiment participated in an expedition to northeastern Missouri in August of 1861. The following month they moved toward Columbia. They served in Fremont’s month-long campaign against Springfield, Missouri, which began on October 4th. Following operations against New Madrid, Missouri, they participated in the attack on Island No. 10. An expedition to Fort Pillow followed in April. With their sister regiment, the Fifth Iowa Cavalry, they joined in the siege of Corinth, Mississippi. That fall they marched to to Iuka and participated in the battle on September 19th. At Iuka, where the regiment fought under General Rosecrans, the Fifth Iowa sustained the heaviest loss of any regiment in that battle (its casualties amounting to 37 killed, 179 wounded, and 1 missing). Among the dead were five line officers. General Rosecrans said in official dispatches that “the glorious Fifth Iowa bore the thrice-repeated charges of the rebel left with a valor and determination seldom equalled, never excelled by veteran soldiers.”
“Oh, I am heartily tired of hearing about what Lee is going to do.
Some of you always seem to think
he is suddenly going to turn a double somersault,
and land in our rear
and on both of our flanks at the same time.
Go back to your command,
and try to think what are we going to do ourselves,
instead of what Lee is going to do.”
“They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance.”
Final words of General John Sedgwick
In the Battle of Corinth on October 3-4, the Fifth Iowa Infantry helped repulse a Confederate effort to recapture the key railway hub. They joined in the Union pursuit of the unsuccessful attackers and throughout the Fall of 1862 into January of the new year, were part of General Grant’s central Mississippi campaign. Following duty at Memphis, they were part of the expedition up Yazoo and the operations about Fort Pemberton and Greenwood.
Their next battle was at Port Gibson, on the first of May. This was a violent month, with successive battles at Raymond, Jackson, and Champion’s Hill, on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The monumental siege of Vicksburg followed, with the Fifth Iowa Infantry providing some key assaults on heavily fortified positions. Out of the 350 men engaged in the vicious fighting at Champion’s Hill, the regiment it lost 19 killed and 75 wounded. Vicksburg surrendered on the Fourth of July. After duty at Vicksburg, the regiment returned to Tennessee, from which they conducted operations against the Memphis & Charleston railroad in Alabama.
They next shed blood at the battle of Chattanooga, fought November 23-25, 1863. During the battle, they fought with distinction at Tunnel Hill and Missionary Ridge. At Missionary Ridge, the Fifth Iowa’s casualties in that battle included 2 killed, 22 wounded, and 82 captured or missing. They joined in the pursuit of the Confederate Army of Tennessee and marched to the relief of Knoxville as the year closed.
With the end of their three year enlistments approaching, the surviving members of the regiment were offered an opportunity to reenlist, and see the war through to its inevitable conclusion. Those who did reenlist were granted a furlough during April and May. Non-Veterans were assigned to guard the railroad until June 15th. They were mustered out July 30. The remainder of the regiment moved to Huntsville, and on to Kingston, Georgia where they performed guard duty until July 30th. This distinguished infantry regiment was consolidated with the Fifth Iowa Cavalry on August 8, 1864, and the veterans served until the final victory.
During the war, the Fifth Iowa Infantry lost nine officers and 108 enlisted men to battle, and two officers and 131 enlisted men to disease.
“If the Confederacy falls,
there should be written on its tombstone:
Died of a Theory.
I think I understand what military fame is;
to be killed on the field of battle
and have your name misspelled in the newspapers.”
William Tecumseh Sherman
[For a much more detailed history of the reigment, please read the account written by the great-great-grandson of Corporal Sherman Thomas Kirk.]
This page is dedicated to the memory of John Spencer Moore, Fifth Iowa Volunteer Infantry veteran.