Garth Hagerman Photo/Graphics
Garth Hagerman Photo/Graphics

Civil War Journal of Samuel Oliver Bereman, page 7

In the 4th Iowa Cavalry
July, 1863s.o. bereman

July 1st

On duty, Took the mail down to the Landing. After night was sent around to the Col. of the 12th Mo. three miles to the right, got back at 12 oclock.

July 3rd

The rebels had up a flag of truce today and the firing ceased. It is rumored that they will surrender. A good many stories are afloat about their living on mule meat & rats &c. I am considerably unwell at present. The weather is very hot.

July 4th

Good news! "Vicksburg taken". The rebels surrendered. I was down to the lines and saw them march outside their lines, stack their arms & flags and march back as prisoners of war. Got well! These 32 000 prisoners & a great number of cannon & small arms. I suppose they thought we would celebrate the 4th by a bombardment of their works & thinking "discretion the better part of valor" surrendered. I was sent with a dispatch to the landing after night, got back at 12 oclock. The 15th Corps left in the afternoon & went out toward Black river. We are going for Johnson[sic].

July 5th 1863

Left camp at noon and went to join Gen. Sherman near Big Black. The 15th Corps, the 13th Gen. Ord. & the 9th Gen. Parks are here. It is reported we are going to Jackson where Johnson[sic] is falling back to. Sherman is in command of the expedition.

July 6th

Lay by till 4 oclock when we moved down to the river at Messengers ferry and camped. A part of the force has crossed.

July 7th

Went down to Gen. Ords last night with orders. Had to go through the woods most of the way, found him camped near Bovina Station two miles from Black river Bridge. I had orders to be back by sunrise which I did having ridden nearly all night. We immediately crossed the river & started towards Jackson. Marched 14 miles and camped at Bolton Depot where Johnson has been camped lately. I found a letter written by a confed. to his friends saying they would cross the river on the 5th & attack the Yankees. If they had it would have been the last attack they had ever made. It was just what we wanted to get them across the river.

July 8th

Layed by till in the afternoon when we started out & marched till 12 oclock & stopped within a mile of Clinton. The advance of the army had a skirmish here. It was very dark when we stopped & we just lay down by the side of the road & went to sleep - Gen. - staff - & all.

July 9th

Went into Clinton this morning and stayed all day.

July 10th

Marched to within a mile and a half of Jackson where we found the rebel fortifications. Gen. Steel engaged the enemy in the center, but did not have much fighting. I saw Co. K. today for the 1st time since I left them. I was very glad to see them. It seems like being away from home to be away from the co. They have been detailed as Escort for Gen. Parks.

July 11th

We have invested the city today. Gen. Ord on the right & Parks on the left & Steele in the center. Gen. Parks had considerable fighting. It looks like another siege.

July 12th 1863

The fall opened this morning at 7 oclock all around the lines with Artillery & musketry. I went with Capt. McCoy, Aid-de-Camp around to the extreme right to Gen. Saumans Div. He had just met with a terrible repulse as he had advanced on to the rebel works & was just falling back when we found him. It was the hottest place I ever saw. Dead and wounded men & horses were laying in every direction. Gen. Sauman[sic] seemed perfectly wild with grief at his loss. James Ritner of the 3rd Iowa was killed. That regt. was said to have numbered only 175 men after the fight.

Sauman has been suspended & severely reprimanded, but I do not blame him as he was only acting in obedience to orders to advance his Div. It was not his fault that he was not strong enough to take the position.

In the evening I was sent to Gen. Parks and had to remain there till after dark to pilot the Gen. to Shermans Hd. Qrs. It is about three miles & no road except a dim path through the woods.

We were passing a place where we had been butchering cattle for the troops & a bad stench greeted our sense of smell. An Aid who was riding with the Gen. remarked that he thought it was here that our forces had a fight as they were coming around before reaching Vicksburg, and that it was the stench of the battlefield.

"Orderlie" said he to me, "were you with that army then?" "I was" said I. (The 9th Corps was not with us then) "Did you not have a battle near here? "Oh yes, right on this ground, and if it were light enough you could a good many graves just ahead of us" "I thought so" said he, & then he went on dilating on the horrors of the battle-field. I knew very well what it was that smelt so, & any one ought to know there would not be much stench from a battlefield two months old. So I ventured the remark that we had been killing some beef-cattle there a few days before, which let some light on the subject, & the Gen. laughed heartily at the mistake of the "dashing Aid".

When we arrived at Shermans I was told that I could go to bed as Gen. Parke thought he could find the way back alone. So I unsaddled my horse and was soon wrapped in the arms of Morpeus, but had slept but a short time when I was aroused and had to return with him. He let me ride ahead all the way & he played orderly which would have been "real nice" if it had been daylight so some body could have seen us. As it was, it was so dark that it was with difficulty that we found our way. Arriving at Hd. Qrs. about 2 oclock I was again dismissed & went over to where the co. K. was camped & "retired to my virtuous couch.

July 13

Stayed with the co. till nearly noon, when I started back with an engineer, who is having a good road cut through. Not much firing today.

July 14

On duty again. About dark was sent off to Col. Busseys Hd. Qrs. He commands the Cav. force & is camped five miles north of the city. He is starting on an expedition to Canton. Got back to camp at midnight. There is good news from all quarters. Port Hudson is taken. Lee & Bragg both whipped & 15 000 prisoners taken! Bully for us!

July 15th

Not much firing today. Got two letters, one from Ind. & one from Brother Billy. He is in Hospital at Memphis Tenn. & is doing very well.

July 16th

Heavy firing today on both sides. The enemy threw shells clear over our camp which is a mile and a half from their lines. Two men of the 25th Iowa were killed while the regt. was lying in reserve half a mile from our lines. Gen Steele had to move his Hd. Qrs.

July 17th 1863

We arose this morning and found - "We'd a nest without a brood". The city was evacuated. Nothing left of any consequence, except one 32 pounder Parrot and it was dismounted by a shot from one of our guns. I think Gen. Sherman was outgeneraled this time, & I think he thinks so too for he looks "down in the mouth". I went into the city this afternoon. It looks natural - but badly burned. It seems the soldiers have a spite at this place, for they went to burning houses as soon as they got in to it. Gen. Frank. P. Blairs Div. moved in to town. He has his Hd. Qrs. at the State House.

July 18th

Our men captured 500 prisoners today. They were pursuing them & captured them about 15 miles east of there.

July l9th

On Duty. All the Gen. Officers met at Blair's Hd. Qrs. and had a "big drunk". Blair himself was dead-drunk, & Gen. Ewing, Brother-in-law to Sherman, was so drunk that he vomited all over the floor. It is enough to disgust a decent soldier. I dont think Gen. Sherman drinks - if he does, he is never under the influence of it much, and I know that his Staff Officers never drink before him. I was sent to Blairs after night, & from there to Gen. Ord's who has moved back 4 miles on the Raymond road with orders for him to march back to Vicksburg. Got to camp at 1 oclock. One hundred more prisoners came in today.

July 21st

The prisoners started back to Vicksburg under the escort of the 35th Iowa. I saw one poor fellow have his leg amputated today. The rebels had planted some torpedoes in Pearl River and some of the prisoners knowing where they were, were made to lift them out, & in doing so this fellow had his knee shattered by the explosion of one of the infernal things. The 9th and 13 Corps started back towards Vicksburg. It is thought we will start tomorrow.

July 22nd

Received orders tonight to be ready to march at three o' clock In the morning.

[The following undated passage has no page number, and doesn't seem to belong at this point in the timeline. In my typewritten transcript, it is in this position, so I shall keep it here, rather than speculate on its correct location.]

It was here that I fired my first shot in the war. It was not the shot that was heard around the world, but it raised old ned all the same. I was roaming around some little distance from camp thinking I might see some game to try my revolver on & all I could find was a yellow dog. He looked awful mean & hungry and ugly & I knew he was no union dog so I let him have it. Of all the terrible howling or yelling that I ever heard he took the lead. The shot & the yells raised the alarm in camp and they all rushed out to see what the row was about. Capt. Spearman came on ahead & seeing me asked if I had seen anybody shooting down that way. I replied that I had not seen any body shoot - but had heard the shot fired. He suspicioned me & after some further questioning asked to see my revolver. That gave me away entirely as one round was gone & the fresh burnt powder told the tale. He ordered me under arrest & gave me a terrible lecture about firing against orders & wasting my amunition &c. But nothing further came of it.

[We now return you to your regularly scheduled journal.]

July 23rd

Started back at daylight and left Jackson "alone in it's glory". Arrived at Clinton at one oclock where we went into camp till morning.

July 24th

Started early. As we were marching along quietly, we saw smoke issuing from a cotton-gin. Now Gen. Sherman is very much opposed to this promiscuous burning of houses & property. When he saw the smoke from the gin he naturally supposed some one had just fired it. So spurring his horse, he dashed furiously towards it & caught a soldier in the very act. He was greatly enraged and called loudly for a rope to hang him on the spot but no rope being in sight, he drew his saber & seemed about to cut him down. The soldier asked if he would not hear him. "What have you to say" thundered the Gen. "I had orders from my Lieut. to fire the gin" said the soldier. "Where is your Lieut. What regt. do you belong to?" "I belong to the 35th Iowa, & the regt. is just ahead of us."

The "halt" was sounded & the prisoner was marched to his company & his Lieut. confronted. But he had orders from the Major commanding the regt. So the Major was sent for & asked for his authority for burning property. He had no authority & so had to pay the penalty.

He was told by the Gen. to take off every thing which indicated an officer & was released, but the Major was stripped of his sword & sash & shoulderstraps, and put under guard. He was told that he would be courtmarshaled & shot - if such was the sentence.

Camped tonight at Bakers Creek or Champion Hills where McPherson had his great Battle in May. It must have been terrible as the scarred trees and many graves plainly attest.

July 25th

Came on this morning to the R.R. bridge across Big Black which we crossed and went across to the Messenger Ferry road and camped at Parson Foxes where we were encamped before starting to Jackson. It is sixteen miles to Vicksburg & two and a half to Black river. We had a small skirmish today with a Staff Officer -Capt. Dayton. Our Sergt. - Housel - fired his revolver at a crane "which was against the rule", and the Capt. ordered us to tie him up to a tree by the thumbs which we positively refused to do. The Capt. got very wrathy and swore he would tie the whole of us up. We knew he could'nt do it by himself - but the 13th regulars would be here soon, & we knew they would be glad of a chance to tie us up, so two of the boys proceeded to tie him up, but he was released under arrest. I believe in discipline - but dont believe in being made a dog of by a petty staff officer.

July 26th

Lay in camp and fixed up a shelter to sleep under. We have a very nice camp in a beautiful oak grove on the edge of a large meadow facing the south. Rained hard this P.M.

July 27th

On duty. The different divisions of this Corps (the 15th - the 9th & 13th are not with us) are scattered over about twelve miles of territory so it takes considerable riding to get round.

July 28th

Rained very hard today. The weather is very cool and pleasant considering the time of the year. The nights are especially cool & one can not sleep without considerable coverings.

July 31st 1863

Four of the orderlies got furlougs today & will start home tomorrow. There a great many soldiers going home on furlough now which indicates a rest in camp awhile. Got two letters from home also my descriptive roll from the co.