Fifth Iowa Volunteer Cavalry Home Page

"My object in war was to exhaust Lee's army.
I was obliged to sacrifice men to do it.
I have been called a butcher.
Well, I never spared lives to gain an object;
but then I gained it, and I knew it was the only way."
General Ulysses S. Grant

In response to an officer who deplored killing brave adversaries:
"No, shoot them all, I do not wish them to be brave."
General Stonewall Jackson

When the call for volunteers to "preserve the Union" went out, brave men rallied to the thirty-eight star flag of the United States of America. Among these patriots were the men of the 5th Iowa Cavalry, which were drawn together from companies raised in four different states. Companies A, B, C and D were organized in Omaha, Nebraska, during the fall of 1861. Company E formed at Dubuque, Iowa. Company F gathered together in Missouri, initially identified as the Fremont Hussars. Fellow Missourians came together as Company H at Benton Barracks a few days after Christmas. Companies G, I and K were assigned to the regiment, having been formed as the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Independent Companies, Minnesota Cavalry at Fort Snelling. The final two companies with their colorful names were also from Missouri; Companies L (Naughton's Irish Dragoons) and M (Osage Rifles) enlisted in the war effort at Jefferson City and St. Louis respectively. The fact that the unit was comprised of men from numerous locales played a role in the regiment's initial name. Rather than being identified by a State loyalty, the regiment was organized as "Curtis Horse," by order of General Fremont, and in honor of General Curtis, who was in command of the Missouri area.

"The company is the true unit of discipline,
and the captain is the company.
A good captain makes a good company,
and he should have the power to reward as well as punish.
The fact that soldiers would naturally like
to have a good fellow for their captain
is the best reason why he should be appointed
by the colonel, or by some superior authority,
instead of being elected by the men."
General William T. Sherman

"No matter what may be the ability of the officer,
if he loses the confidence of his troops,
disaster must sooner or later ensue."
General Robert E. Lee

Upon their organization as a regiment, each of the companies was trained by the officers who had enlisted them or been elected from among their ranks. Prior to their incorporation into the Fifth Iowa, Naughton's Irish Dragoons had already distinguished themselves in the Battle of Springfield. The new regiment served at Benton Barracks, Missouri until February of 1862, learning the rudiments of cavalry warfare. In the early days of February, the Fifth Iowa Cavalry advanced toward a key Confederate position in northwestern Tennessee. The unit played a significant role in the dramatic capture of Fort Henry and the subsequent fall of Fort Donelson. These battles were a dramatic shock to the Confederacy, and provided a major setback to southern plans to hold Union forces at bay in the west. The following week, the regiment was sent on an expedition to destroy a key railroad bridge over the Tennessee River.

"This is a very suggestive age.
Some people seem to think that an army
can be whipped by waiting for rivers to freeze over,
exploding powder at a distance, drowning out troops,
or setting them to sneezing;
but it will always be found in the end
that the only way to whip an army
is to go out and fight it."
General Ulysses S. Grant

"In camp, especially in the presence of an active enemy,
it is much easier to maintain discipline
than in barracks in time of peace.
Crime and breaches of discipline are much less frequent,
and the necessity for courts-martial less.
The captain can usually inflict all the punishment necessary,
and the colonel should always."
General William T. Sherman

Most of the following year was spent on garrison duty out of Forts Henry and Heimen, performing critical duty in this militarily important region. Duties such as the repair of roads and erection of telegraph lines was interrupted by a number of skirmishes, including combat at Agnew's Ferry, Dresden, Lockridge's Mills. The most significant military undertaking of the year was the successful siege and capture of Corinth, Mississippi. This was another critical blow to the Confederate States, as Corinth was a particularly important railway juncture for the South. The Curtis Horse occupied Corinth on May 30 and participated in the pursuit to Booneville the following two weeks.

"War loses a great deal of its romance
after a soldier has seen his first battle.
I have a more vivid recollection of the first
than the last one I was in.
It is a classical maxim that it is sweet and becoming
to die for one's country;
but whoever has seen the horrors of a battlefield
feels that it is far sweeter to live for it."
Colonel John S. Mosby

The following month, the regiment was redesignated the Fifth Iowa Cavalry, an act which would later cause some dissension between the various states seeking "credit" for the men within her ranks. The first half of 1863 saw a move to Fort Donelson as the regiment's base of operations. Engagements during this year included Waverly, Stewartsborough, Lebanon, the Tullahoma Campaign, Guy's Gap, Fosterville, the Expedition to Huntsville, Wartrace, Sugar Creek and an expedition to Decatur to destroy boats on the Tennessee River.

"...there is, of course, such a thing as individual courage,
which has a value in war, but familiarity with danger,
experience in war and its common attendants,
and personal habit, are equally valuable traits,
and these are the qualities with which
we usually have to deal in war.
All men naturally shrink from pain and danger,
and only incur their risk from some higher motive, or habit;
so that I would define true courage to be
a perfect sensibility of the measure of danger,
and a mental willingness to incur it,
rather than that insensibility to danger
of which I have heard far more than I have seen.
The most courageous men are generally
unconscious of possessing the quality."
General William T. Sherman

In February of 1863, the regiment was involved in the destruction of Bridge, Mobile and Ohio Railroad, further crippling the infrastructure of the South. Even as they were ruining Confederate transportation and communication links, they were playing a major role in the building of Union roads and telegraph lines. The new year of 1864 began well for the initial members of the Fifth Iowa Cavalry, as their three year enlistment drew toward its close and the regiment was "veteranized." The majority of the men reenlisted, enticed by the promise of new Spencer repeating rifles, as well as a cash bonus. Still, even with these lures, it is doubtful that as many would have remained in uniform were it not for the furlough which offered them a much needed escape (albeit temporary) from the hardships of war. All those eligible for veteran furlough were released between January 7 and April 24, while those with insufficient service time awaited their return in Nashville. During this furlough period, Companies G, I and K were detached from the regiment and redesignated Brackett's Battalion, Minnesota Cavalry.

"Wounds which in 1861,
would have sent a man to the hospital for months,
in 1865 were regarded as mere scratches,
rather the subject of a joke than of sorrow.
To new soldiers the sight of blood and death
always has a sickening effect,
but soon men become accustomed to it,
and I have heard them exclaim on seeing a dead comrade...
'Well, Bill has turned his toes to the daisies.'"
General William T. Sherman

Following their furlough, the men of the Fifth Iowa Cavalry returned to the war with renewed vigor. They participated in Rousseau's Raid from Decatur on the West Point and Montgomery Railroad which occurred July 10-22. Even more significantly, they shared in the Siege of Atlanta, immortalized by the most stirring scenes in the film "Gone With the Wind," which lasted from July 22 to August 25. During the siege, they comprised a portion of the forces in McCook's Raid on the Atlanta and West Point Railroad. A number of skirmishes also took place during these months, including Lovejoy Station, Clear Creek, and Jonesboro.

"...a great many men, when they smell battle afar off,
chafe to get into the fray.
When they say so themselves
they generally fail to convince their hearers
that they are as anxious as they would like to make believe,
and as they approach danger they become more subdued.
This rule is not universal,
for I have known a few men who were always aching
for a fight when there was no enemy near,
who were as good as their word when the battle did come.
But the number of such men is small."
General Ulysses S. Grant

In September, a unit with a proud history of its own, the Fifth Iowa Infantry, was consolidated with the regiment and designated Companies G and I. The regiment participated in operations against General Hood in northern Georgia and Alabama between September 29 and November 3. After this, they rode in the Nashville Campaign, fighting a series of engagements which culminated in the Battle of Nashville which occurred December 15-16. They pursued Hood until after Christmas.

"The men of both Lee's and Johnston's armies
were like their brethren of the North,
as brave as men can be;
but no man is so brave that he may not meet
such defeats and disasters as to discourage and dampen
his ardor for any cause,no matter how just he deems it."
General Ulysses S. Grant

The first months of 1865 were fairly uneventful, with the regiment operating out of Gravelly Springs, Alabama. However, all of this changed when the Fifth Iowa Cavalry became a part of the Second Brigade, Fourth Division of Wilson's Cavalry Corps. General Wilson had a vision for just how effective a highly mobile cavalry force could be against an enemy. Wilson's Raid on Macon was a superb military exercise. Even acknowledging that the South's resources were nearly exhausted, the raid exceeded every expectation or hope. As members of Wilson's force, the regiment participated in a number of engagements, most significantly the capture of Selma (one of the Confederacy's key armaments manufacturing centers), Montgomery (the initial capital of the fledgling Confederate States of America), and Macon itself. Following these dramatic exploits, the regiment performed garrison duty in north Georgia and in Nashville until they were mustered out on August 11, 1865.

On Nov 21, 1864 President Abraham Lincoln sent a letter
to Mrs Lydia Bixby of Boston,who had lost five sons in the war:
"Dear Madam, I have been shown in the files of the War Department
a statement of the Adjutant-General of Massachusetts
that you are the mother of five sons
who have died gloriously on the field of battle.
I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine
which should attempt to beguile you
from the grief of a loss so overwhelming.
But I cannot refrain from tendering to you
the consolation that may be found in the thanks
of the Republic they died to save.
I pray that our Heavenly Father
may assuage the anguish of your bereavement,
and leave you only the cherished memory
of the loved and lost,
and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid
so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom."

During the war, the Fifth Iowa Cavalry lost 7 officers and 58 enlisted either killed or mortally wounded. Disease, historically a less forgiving foe than one's enemy, accounted for the deaths of 2 officers and 179 enlisted.

Responding to someone who hoped "the Lord was on the Union's side,"
Lincoln stated: "I am not at all concerned about that,
for I know that the Lord is always on the side of the right.
But it is my constant anxiety and prayer
that I and this nation should be on the Lord's side."

"Duty is ours; the consequences are God's."
General Stonewall Jackson

The members of the Fifth Iowa Cavalry acquitted themselves well throughout the course of the War Between the States. They, and their descendants, deserve to be proud.

"There is a true glory and a true honor,
the glory of duty done,
the honor of the integrity of principle."
General Robert E. Lee

"We have good corporals and sergeants
and some good lieutenants and captains,
and those are far more important than good generals."
General William T. Sherman

This page is dedicated to the memory of Corporal Chauncy W. Stroud (United States Cavalry) by his great-grandson Chaplain Robert C. Stroud (United States Air Force). A note on the military career of the veteran to whom this page is dedicated.

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