Saturday, March 12, 2011

Henry Vineyard- Battle of Spanish Fort Ala.

There are a lot of men stated within this report, but I will only highlight the man of my interest, but I’m sure others will enjoy reading this report because of the other names stated within.

Numbers 78. Report of Lieutenant Colonel William B. Bell, Eighth Iowa Infantry, of operations April 8.

In Front of Spanish Fort, Ala., April 9, 1865.

CAPTAIN; In compliance with instructions I have the honor to make the following report of the part taken by the Eighth Iowa Veteran Volunteer Infantry in the action of Spanish Fort, April 8, 1865:

About 5 p.m. on said day, in compliance with the directions of Colonel J. L. Geddes, commanding brigade, I proceeded with my regiment from its position in line to the extreme right of our line, with orders to deploy two companies and advance them well up the ridge of slope on the enemy's extreme left and effect a lodgment on the crest of the hill, if practicable, and hold the position if possible; to hold the remainder of my regiment in rear and under cover of the line of works partially completed across the swamp on our extreme right to the bay, but not to expose the regiment, and to commence the deployment and advance of these skirmishers at 6.10 o'clock. I formed my command in obedience to the above instructions, and at precisely 6.10 o'clock I ordered Company A, Captain Henry Muhs commanding, and Company G, Lieutenant Henry Vineyard commanding, to move around the right of the works in the swamp above referred to and deploy forward on the center, which order was promptly and gallantly executed by Captain Muhs, who commanded the line of skirmishers.

The line advanced through an almost impassable swamp, thickly strewn with fallen trees and brush, and in which the water and mud were very deep, and this under a heavy fire from the enemy. The left of the line gained the crest of the hill, attacking the enemy on his flank,; the right moved forward by a left turn, attacking the enemy in his rear. In the meantime I ordered Lieutenant Ball, commanding Company H to advance his company around the right of the works and move forward in support of Company A and G, then hotly engaging the enemy. I had now executed all the orders that I had received from Colonel Geddes, except holding the position if possible. I soon became convinced that the best way to secure that end was to push forward my entire force, for the reason that the fire from our forces in the rifle-pits would protect the left flank, and a swamp the right flank of my regiment, leaving us only our front to contend with.

I, however, dispatched Lieutenant Clark, of Company E, to report the above facts to Colonel Geddes, and requested orders, which I awaited for some time. The regiment was impatient to go to the assistance of their comrades, who were fighting in full view and but a short distance off, and, believing that to wait longer for orders was dangerous, I ordered the regiment forward over our works. The movement was executed with as much regularity as could be expected considering the nature of the ground. As soon as the regiment gained the crest of the hill where our skirmishers were the fight commenced in full force, but of such a character that it is difficult to describe. The regiment moved by the right flank in rear of the enemy's rifle-pits, and carried them for a distance of 500 yards, either killing, wounding, or capturing the entire force of the enemy occupying the same. One thing that was very much in our favor was that the enemy's works from their extreme left for a considerable distance up consisted of a series of small pits without direct connection with each other.

This enabled us to attack them in detail, and we had carried a considerable portion of their works before their main force was aware that we had turned their left. We here witnessed the spectacle of dying in the last ditch, as quite a number of the rebels refused to surrender and were shot in their ditches, and on the other hand quite a number of them who were taken prisoners, ought, in justice to our men to have been killed as they would first fire at our men after begin ordered to surrender, then throw up both hands and surrender. At the time we had carried some 500 yards of the enemy's works, and were yet advancing in them by the right flank, Colonel Geddes, came up and directed me to place my command outside the enemy's works and facing toward them using them for breast-works and to throw out a company as skirmishers to my right and front, which orders were promptly complied with.

After making some further disposition Colonel Geddes placed Colonel Turner, of the One hundred and eighth Illinois (whose regiment had by this time come up to our support), temporarily in command. Soon after this Captain Kettenring, of my command, reported the enemy advancing in heavy column. They advanced until within thirty or forty yards of us, calling out "we surrender," and then fired on us. When they got within twenty-five yards of us I ordered my command to fire and fix bayonets, which was done with a will. The enemy broke and ran, but soon after rallied and returned, and when within fifty yards of us halted. I ordered two companies to give them a volley, which caused them to break, and we saw them no more. Soon after this Colonel Geddes returned, formed his brigade and marched it through the fort and to the bay beyond, after which by his direction I moved my command to camp.

I claim for my regiment the honor of making the attack, and of being the only regiment that engaged the enemy inside of his works; also of capturing 3 stand of colors, 5 pieces of artillery, and 450 prisoners, 7 of them commissioned officers. I have receipts for 350; the remainder were turned over to the troops most convenient to our rear. My regiment might have had a greater number of flags had they been less anxious to engage the enemy. Where all do their duty it is a difficult and delicate matter to make any discrimination. The several companies of the regiment were commanded by the following officers; Company A, Captain Muhs; Company B, Captain Kettenring; Company E, Lieutenant Clark; Company F, Lieutenant Harper; Company G, Lieutenant Vineyard; Company H, Lieutenant Ball; Company I, Sergeant Taylor; Company K, Captain Weeks. I would respectfully present to the favorable notice of the colonel commanding brigade the following-named officers; Captain Henry Muhs, who was conspicuous for his coolness while in command of the skirmish line; Lieutenant Henry Vineyard, commanding Company G in skirmish line, who was wounded in the arm early in the engagement, but continued in command of his company until he received a wound which broke his leg and will probably prove fatal.

Captain Weeks, who was conspicuous for his bravery throughout the engagement; Captain Kettenring, who was severely wounded while bravely leading his company; Lieutenant Gardner, who took command of his company after Captain Kettenring was wounded and led it through the engagement with ability; and Sergeant Betz, Company G, who took command of his company after Lieutenant Vineyard was wounded and handled it well. I am under obligations to Adjutant Marsden for valuable assistance rendered me in communicating instructions to the command. In addition to the names above mentioned, many enlisted men deserve honorable mention, but they are so numerous that it would make this report too voluminous.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Lieutenant Colonel Eighth Iowa Veteran Vol. Infty., Commanding Regiment.

Note. To be captains by brevet.

First Lieutenant Henry Vineyard, of the Eighth Iowa Volunteers, for faithful and meritorious services during the campaign against the city of Mobile and its defenses, to date from March 26, 1865.

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