Today in History:

81 Series I Volume III- Serial 3 - Wilson's Creek


Numbers 10. Report of Lieutenant Colonel William H. Merritt, First Iowa Infantry.

DEAR SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by the Iowa troops in the late hotly-contested battle of Wilson's Creek.

At 6 o'clock p. m. of the 9th instant the First Regiment of Iowa Volunteers, under command of Lieutenant Colonel William H. Merritt, Colonel J. F. Bates being sick, united with the forces at Springfield under command of General Lyon, and commenced the march to Wilson's Creek, 12 miles distant. Arriving within 3 miles of the enemy's camp, and in close proximity of their pickets, the order was given to halt. The troops lay on their arms until 3 o'clock a. m. of the 10th instant, when they advanced on the enemy's lines. About 5 o'clock a. m. our advanced skirmishers engaged the enemy's pickets and drove them in. The First Missouri and First Kansas Volunteers, and a battalion of regular infantry, under command of Captain Plummer, with Totten's battery, very soon engaged a considerable number of the rebel forces.

Du Bois' battery took position a short distance east of where the enemy were being engaged, and the Iowa troops were drawn up in line of battle on its left. A brisk fire was commenced and kept up for thirty minutes. The enemy responded promptly with a battery in the ravine, but their shot passed from 10 to 100 feet over our heads. Detailed Company D, First Lieutenant Keller commanding, and Company E, First Lieutenant Abercrombie commanding, to act as skirmishers in advance of my line. Ordered to advance over the hill, engage the enemy, and relieve the First Regiment Kansas Volunteers. In advancing to engage the enemy, met the First retreating in confusion. They broke through our line on the right, separating Companies A and F from the balance of the command. While in this confused received a murderous fire from the enemy's infantry. Gave the command to fall back and reform the line. The din of fire-arms and the loud talking of the retreating troops drowned my voice, so that the command could not be heard on the left. Led the two companies, A and F, over the hill, halted them, and ordered them to about face and fire on a squadron of the enemy's cavalry advancing to charge on a section of Totten's battery. The fire was executed with promptness and effect, and after receiving the discharge from the battery the enemy retired in double-quick time, leaving a number of dead and wounded on the field. Ordered Companies A and F to hold their position until further orders, and then returned to companies I, C. H. K. G, and B, who had been left facing the enemy's line. Found our troops advancing under a galling fire from the enemy's infantry. After repulsing the enemy they fell back in good order. Ordered Major A. B. Porter to proceed to the rear and take command of the four companies, A, F, D, and E, there stationed. Held our position in front for five hours, alternately advancing and retiring, as the approach and repulse of the enemy made it necessary to do so. In every charge the enemy made we repulsed them, and drove them into the ravine below. About 12 o'clock m. the order was given to retire from the field, which was done in good order. As we retired over the hill we passed a section of Totten's battery, occupying a commanding point to the right, supported on the right by Companies A, F, D, and E, of the Iowa troops, under command of Major Porter, and on the left by one company of regular infantry, under command of Captain Lothrop. This command