Another Letter from Quincy

John Quincy Adams Campbell
2nd Lieutenant, Co. B, 5
th Iowa Infantry

Excerpts from Ripley Bee (Ohio) , June 18, 1863

Battles of Jackson and Champion Hill – Narrow Escape and a Clean Pair of Heels “Retreat upon Vicksburg” – Disparate Charge upon the Rebel Works – “Somebody Blundered.”

On a Hill-Top, Back of Vicksburg, Miss., May 28, 1863.

John Quincy Adams Campbell

Fifth Iowa Volunteers Infantry

Photograph Credit: "The Union Must Stand,"
edited by Mark Grimsley & Todd Miller,
University of Tennessee Press.

On the morning of the 16th, at 9 o’clock we again pushed out for Vicksburg. After marching about 3 miles, we heard the booming of cannon ahead, and we concluded that our regular “every-other-day-fight” had begun. After pushing in about a mile, we came to our hospital and our brigade was formed in line on “double quick.” Logan’s Division was ahead of our – our other brigades in our rear.

We formed in front of our hospital, and advanced to the point where the road ascends the hill and enters the timber. At the time we formed, Hovey’s Division was fighting the rebels at the top of the hill and was driving them – they captured a rebel battery. They drove them back as far as the junction of the Jackson and Raymond roads, where the rebels were reinforced and began to drive our men back.

While Hovey was fighting on the Jackson road, Osterhaus' Division was fighting on the Raymond Road. When our brigade was brought up it was designed to support Hovey, but his division drove the rebels so rapidly that we were marched out into the open field, near the batteries, for a reserve, and rested for a while, on a low ridge.

We had been there for a short time, however, before we became aware from the firing, that the rebels were driving Hovey back. Logan, at the same time was entering the woods and attacking the rebels on the right of our line. The firing growing nearer and nearer, it was not long before Hovey soon sent for 'help,' and our brigade was divided and the 93rd Illinois and the 5th Iowa were sent up the hill to reinforce him.

Before we reached the top of the hill, the rebels had got so close that we had to 'double quick,' by the flank, up that hill to the summit, and then, (facing to the right) double-quick forward along the top of the ridge to where we did our fighting. As we advanced up the hill, and along the ridge, Hovey's men were breaking back through our lines, and the rebel bullets were following them in hot haste. Moving at 'double quick' as we did, and with their men rushing back past, it could not be expected that we would keep perfect line, but the boys went forward with a will.

When we reached the top of the ridge and were ordered to march 'by the right flank' (our front) along the ridge, the order was given to 'fix bayonets,' but there was so much noise and confusion, that not one out often heard the order, and the boys charged the rebels without bayonets.

The road lay along a back-bone ridge, while rib ridges protracted from it on both sides. Our demi-brigade charged on the right of the road, the left resting in the road. The rebels were on one of the side ridges, firing on the Indiana boys, who were in a ravine when we advanced. We chased the rebs off the ridge, and took possession of it ourselves, and used it as a breastwork - loading behind it and firing over it. We drove the rebels back and nearly silenced their fire, in our front, holding our position half an hour or more, when seeing that our line was only two regiments long, they commenced a flank movement on us, and were soon on the left flank of the 93rd Illinois, which was on our left. The 93rd, although this was their first fight, had stood up to the work manfully, but a flank fire was too much for them, and they did, as most troops do, on similar occasions - fell back in confusion. Their right company, however, staid with our regiment.

Our Colonel seeing the condition of affairs, wisely concluded, that we must get out of that soon or be gobbled and he gave the order to retreat. Our company is on the extreme left of our reg't. and we did not hear the order, and the first thing I knew of the retreat was when the Captain told me the Colors were going back, and I looked and saw them, going up the side of the rib ridge, back of us. We then concluded it was our turn to skedaddle and we (the two companies of our regiment, and the right company of the 93rd started back in promiscuous confusion. Knowing that the point of danger would be at the top of the ridge behind us, we cleared in uncommon time, I went over it, just as fast as it was possible and felt no compunctions of conscience at showing the rebels 'a clean pair of heels.’ The ‘zip’ ,‘zip’ of their balls past my head told me I was going none too fast for health and comfort. The right of the regiment moved off obliquely into the open field near Logan, while the left and the 93rd moved back over the ground they advanced on, and became more scattered. The right of our regiment continued the fight, while the left was rallied and placed behind the batteries for a support.

It was unfortunate for both our regiments, for the boys were doing the best fighting I ever saw them do, and if our line had been long enough, we would have defied the rebels to make us give an inch. To make matters worse, the 10th Iowa and the 26th Missouri, (the remainder of our brigade) were brought into line, under fire, and formed at the top of the ridge about the time we were forced back although they beat the rebels back, they (the rebs) soon served them the same trick they did us - flanked them and forced them to fall back with heavy loss.

Bad generalship (or none at all) did the work. If the whole brigade had been thrown in at once, our loss would have been much lighter, and we would not have been compelled to retreat, in order to prevent our capture. We however held the rebels in check long enough, to bring up our 2nd brigade, and get our batteries to work. The 2nd brigade charged the rebels and the batteries shelled them and it again came the butternuts' turn to retreat. At the same time, Logan got them started back on the right, and from that time on, it was a chase. Logan took a battery. This was the battle of Champion Hills. The rebels all estimated their force as high as 30,000. Ours was about 20,000 or less. For account of killed, wounded, &c., see papers - Also as to prisoners and cannon taken. I was well satisfied with the general result of the fight, but not with the manner our brigade was handled by our generals. Our loss in the brigade was 500 our of 1600. Our regiment lost 94 killed and wounded - the 10th Iowa, 167. Capt. Poage was killed in this fight.

Campbell, John Q. A..
Age 23. Residence Newton, nativity Ohio.
Enlisted June 24,
1861, as First Sergeant, Mustered July 15, 1861.
Promoted Second Lieutenant Dec. 9, 1862. Re-enlisted
and re-mustered Jan. 5, 1864.

Campbell's diary and letters are published in:
The Union Must Stand: The Civil War Diary of John Quincy Adams Campbell, Fifth Iowa Volunteer Infantry (edited by Mark Grimsley and Todd D. Miller)

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