Letters of Pvt. John W. Hiatt
Company F, 28nd Iowa Infantry

Courtesy of David Balding
Mission Viejo, California
Punctuated for Reading Clarity

The Hiatt Family were Quakers and lived in Indiana. John and Martha (Gray) were married and moved in a covered wagon to Iowa when the oldest little girl, Amanda, was a baby. They bought a farm near the Iowa River at Helena and built a home there. John was a wagon-maker. Martha and John had three little girls, Amanda, Nettie(Alnetta), and Josephine.

John was 32 years old when, in 1862, he volunteered for the Tama County, Iowa, 28th Regiment Corps F. His youngest daughter, Mary, was 11 months old at the time. He was wounded May 16, 1863, at the battle of Champion Hill, south of Vicksburg, Mississippi. His letter on page 102 was written as he lay dying in the field hospital. John Hiatt died of his wounds on June 7, 1863.

May 5th, 1863 -- Ten miles NE of Port Gibson

Through the blessing of god, i once more have the privilege of addressing a few lines to you, and it is a privilege that i esteem very highly. My health is good, but i am very tired, not having any rest in the past week. One week ago today, we started from smith's plantation in louisiana and marched all day and half the night through rain and mud. The next day we marched on to the mississippi river and went down and landed near the fort at grand gulf, and on thursday we lay on the transports in fair view of the fort and witnessed the great fight. There were seven large gun boats engaged in it. The fight commenced at 5 o'clock a.m. And lasted till 2 p.m. Our boats silenced all the guns in the fort except one that they could not silence, so they had to withdraw. That evening we got off of the boats. All ran the blockade and got down to us; and the next morning we went aboard of the boats and sailed 8 miles down the river and landed and started on a march in the direction of port gibson, miss. We marched that day and all night. Just at daylight we stopped and the most of us got our breakfast before we were called on the battlefield, some being a bit slow, missed their breakfast. We were in almost the hottest of the battle during the whole day. We took off our knapsacks when the battle commenced and at night we had to go back four miles to get them. We drove them all day and when we took their last piece of artillery you never heard such hollowing in your life as there was there. I have no knowledge of our loss, but from what i seen i would judge that the rebel loss was far the greatest. The next morning there were three hundred dead rebs, found in two piles where they had been carried out, besides many that were left on the field.

John fielding, i suppose is killed though i do not state it for a certain fact. He was in the ??? Corps which went in advance of the army except a front guard and it is reported that a man belonging to co. F. And 28th reg. In the pioneer corps had his leg shot off by a cannonball, and died soon afterward, and he was the only one from our company that was with the pioneers. There were three killed and twenty wounded in our regiment. The balls and shells flew thick over us all day. The battle field is as broken a piece of land as you ever saw, the ridge was cleared, cultivated land and the ravines had some timber and was so thick with cane from five to 20 feet high that a man could hardly get through them. The rebels took the advantage of the cane breaks and we took the advantage of the hills in the open field.

The rebel prisoners say that our regiment cut them up worse than any reg't on the field. When we were called up to relieve another regiment, they were just preparing to make a change on us and they heard our officers give the command to fire low. They were then commanded to lie down, but that done no good. We fired so low that we just raked, and many of them found it so hot that they climbed up in the trees to get out of the hail of ball and shot. There was one of their company that went into the battle with 70 men and in the evening, there were only 15 of them left under command of an orderly sergeant and he delivered them up as prisoners of war. It is said by many that was in the battles of ft. Henry donaldson pittsburg landing and iuka that this beat all the musketry fighting that they ever saw. I have neither time nor space to give you a full history of our adventure. This small sketch will have to answer for the present.

We marched 20 miles yesterday and are lying over today for our provision train. We are now 25 miles south of vicksburg and are marching to the north. Last saturday biggs and i marched together about two hours. His division is now about 7 miles ahead of ours, he was in good health. His division was in the rear at the time of the battle of port gibson so he was not in it. I don't know whether you can read this or not, but it is the best that i can do now, for i am out of ink and don't expect to have a chance to get any more till the blockade is raised at vicksburg.

Respectfully yours, john w. Hiatt to: martha y. Hiatt

Champion Hills, Mississippi
May 20, 1863

My dear companion:

It is my privilege once more to try to write a few lines to you. I am now in the hospital between Jackson and Vicksburg which is placed on the battlefield of Champion Hills...twenty-five miles east of Vicksburg.

I was wounded early in the engagement. My wound was pronounced a fatal one, but still I have some hopes of recovering. The battle was on Saturday, the 16th of May. I am informed that our dear brother Biggs fell a sacrifice in the same battle. John Rockenfield (survived) got wounded in the hip. The ball remains in him, but if the weather donít get too hot, I think his chance is pretty fair. John Snap, duch Roseys man, fell dead on the field with five others of our company. I am not able to write much at this time. I received two welcome letters from you the next day after the battle and one from Moses and Mary. I was not able to read them, but I could not stop until I read them all through. I also got two papers, but was not able to read them.

My wound is through the right side of the chest. I cannot lie down at all, from the fact that it sets me to coughing and that hurts me so that I cannot stand it. It is very tiresome sitting braced up all the time. We are well taken care of as could be expected under the circumstances. The greatest trouble is; we cannot get such nourishment as we should have. Our provision train is behind and we have to depend on foraging and all we can forage is corn meal and mutton and beef which is made into soup for the wounded. We have had to go a great deal of the time on beef or mutton soup alone. I think our provision train will be up in a few days. Our division is seven miles in advance of this place towards Vicksburg, guarding the bridge across Black River. The are no troops here, only those belonging to the hospital. We hear almost a continual roar of cannonading at Vicksburg. I know not the number of the wounded at this place, but there is a great many and a horrible sight to behold; a sight that never want to see again.

We gained a complete victory here, but it was by heavy loss on both sides. I suppose many more lives will have to be sacrificed before Vicksburg is taken. I must now draw my lines to a close, by bidding you all farewell.

Truly yours John W. Hiatt To my beloved wife M. Y. Hiatt

Note: John W. Hiatt was wounded May 16, 1863 at the battle of Champion Hill and died June 7, 1863. This is his last known letter.



In the field near Vicksburg, Mississippi
June 12th, 1863

Mrs J. W. Hiatt

It is with sorrow and pain that I sit down to inform you of the death of your husband. You have, I suppose learned before this that he was wounded in action at Champion Hills, Miss. on the 16th of June. I was so situated that I could not go to the hospital to see our wounded. It was not supposed by the surgeon that Mr. Hiatt could recover at the time he was wounded.

We had to leave all our wounded and march forward toward Vicksburg, so I could learn nothing from them until yesterday. Our men who were sent to take the wounded to the river, returned to Camp and informed me that he died, but could not tell me when he died, but I think the hospital records will show...The members of the company as well as the Officers deeply feel his loss as a kind and benevolent man, a faithful soldier and true patriot.

Should you desire any information hereafter concerning him, I will cheerfully endeavor to give it as far as I can.

Yours Respectfully,

Theo. Schaeffer, Lieutenant
Co. F. 28th Reg.
Iowa Vol. Infantry

 


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