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Sean Chick

Oliver Boardman Letter (6th Iowa Infantry)

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Below is the text of a long letter by Oliver Boardman of the 6th Iowa Infantry. There are some rather colorful descriptions of the battle. Boardman had high praise for Sherman's bravery.

 

Owl Creek Pittsburg Tennessee Apr 24th.. 1862 Henry and Jane I shall write to both at once as it is too expensive under the circumstances to write two letters when one would answer the purpose if it is only large enough I had laid in apretty good supply of paper postage stamps tobacker &c before the battle but they were all destroyed then beside numerous other articles the consequence is I am pretty near broke and apoor prospect of pay day it will be as much as I can do to keep myself in to tobacco especialy if they shouldnt pay us for some time. XX the health of the soldiers here is just tolerably good the weather has been wet and bad for the last two weeks bad weather and the excitement of the battle was too much for agood many of the boys but I have kept my health yet so far I dont know how much more I could go through without making me sick. one year ago I dont believe I could have went through one fourth as much as I have here within the last two weeks. but I expect to go through as much in the next two if providence admits. the two days of the battle was about the hardest I ever put in and the nights were not much better we had no blankets and it rained both nights in fact it has hardly stopt since. it took some time to clear the field of the dead and wounded and we have cut down considerable timber prepareing for another attack but I dont think they will attack us here again but I think we will attack them before long perhaps as soon as the roads gets so that our canon can be moved then look out for another Pittsburg battle I will give you a little description of my experience in the battle we had here the other sunday and monday although I have seen and heard so much about it that I am tired of thinking about it but it may interest you alittle and it may be some time before I write again so I will tell you what I can in this letter I saw the most of the battle monday though I was in rather the tightest place sunday our Regt is in general Sherman's division and on the extreme right we were the farthest from the river and came very near being cut off from the main body. ther was several rebel Regts in our Camp before we were out of sight we didnt have very far to go to get out of sight either they fired in to us, that is their sharp shooters or skirmishers did, the flanking or out side Company of each Regt generaly goes ahead especialy in thick timber. to feel their way or to keep the Regt from running into atrap then there is whole Regts of sharpshooters occasionaly that works on the same princible only on a larger scale they scatter out and go on their own hook considerable pick off the gunners while they are working the batteries find out the position of the enemy &c I suppose it was their sharp shooters that fired into us before we were fairly out of our Camp but they didnt kill many of our men we didnt return the fire although they kept it up whenever they could see any one of us to shoot at it wouldnt have done to get into an engagement there there was only three Regts of us together and completely surroun but the timber was very thick and by watching close we got out of it. we didnt get into a regular fight until we had got two or three miles from our Camp our skirmishers had been firing into them more or less from the start Company [J?] was the skirmishers in our Regt they had one Lieutenant badly wounded and two or three privates slightly we had only two or three men in our Regt killed so far which was about twelve oclock but there was several wounded too in our Company. you must not think that because we had not been fighting there had been none going on. if you do youd miss it. they commenced early in the morning and of all the noise ever made I think this would have taken the lead once in awhile it would stop for a few seconds or breaths and be so still that you could have heard apin fall (in the mud) then it would break out with a roar that could have been heard all over the continent if they had listened close enough. but the worst of all was the enemy was making the most noise. they had at least two men to our one our forces were so scattered they couldnt fight to any advantage I think it was bad management in the generals having us so scattered when they almost knew we were going to be attacked our pickets had been skirmishing alittle with them for two days before the attack I think the generals put too much confidence in our own strength our line of Camps was at least four miles long and they were scattered around through the woods with about a brigade in a place without any regularity about it the consequence was when they attacked us with such aforce they kept us scattered most of the day and took a good many prisoners besides getting possession of a great many of our Camps we occupied more ground than we could hold against such aforce. it encouraged the rebels and they fought desperately whooping and yelling like they were possessed they said our brigade was the only one that stopt or checked them any length of time up to twelve oclock and our Regt was about all that done any good in our brigade there were several Regiments that helped us some but it seemed as though they couldnt fire more than two or three rounds till they would give way and another would come up and try it with the same success but that wasnt the way we done we lay within about eighty yards of them and held them there two hours and a half in spite of their reinforcements officers and everything else we could hear their Commanders once in awhile shouting to their men to forward boys forward but when they would jump up and make to wards us we would have such a fair view of that we could just mow them and they fall back into there old position which was a good one they were on lower ground than we were. they kept getting reinforcements until we were almost surrounded. general Sherman said we had done all that could be done and we would have to get out of there we done so what there was left of us but we left agood many of our boys there. we were badly used up but the only wonder to me is that any of us got out of it. the balls flew so thick that I believe if I had swung my hat I could have caught it half full at one sweep they flew around us like bees swarming there never was so much noise but what we could hear them whizing and once in awhile they would whiz so close that I could feel their breath in my face but I didnt get a mark from them anywhere but there were several of the boys that got scratched there was a bomb shell burst right close in front of us alittle piece struck Ed. Weed on the rist but it didnt hurt him much Ben Kimler got aball through his hat rim close to his head many others got scratched a little but as a general thing the balls over us although they shot very low there was close shooting done on both sides I never thought they did do such low shooting in battle from what I have always heard I thought they shot three times as high as they did here. by going around throug the woods and noticing the marks on the trees you would see fifty balls low enough to kill a man to where you would see one too high I dont believe in such low shooting I can tell you its not very plesant a fellow cant tell but what every minute will be his next &c we were considerably worsted sunday though not whiped by any means but there was agreat many discouraged. in fact it did look a little discourageing to most any one they didnt gain as much in the afternoon as they did in the fore noon our forces were more together and were pretty near amach for them still they kept working their way slowly toward the landing they were determined to get there. they kept rallying and charging but to no effect apart of General Buels force got there in time to be of some assistance and afew siege pieces and the old gun boats that we had there talked loud and long to them and by giving them plenty of grapes and everything else that was good they concluded to let us alone till morning. I was not with the our Regt any more from sunday evening until tuesday I found Ed Med though and Charley Claver and Henry Roberts and several others of the Regt this was sunday night and monday we done some good fighting Henry Roberts was is our color bearer we fought in part of two other Regts we had a lieutenant from our Regt to command us as a company. our whole force moved toward the enemy by aflanking movement our line was about two miles long I dont know how many men deep but not a great many. they didnt have very far to go till they came to the enemy when the engagement became general I was on the right wing our line ran north and south and we moved to the west where I was we came up to where our men had abattery to work on some of the enemies guns trying to dislodge them there was about two Regts of us staid there to protect our battery I got to see some tall cannonadeing the rebels battery was not over four hundred yards from ours which is pretty close for cannon especialy where it is in the open field like it was there they sent afew men over to take our battery at the point of the bayonet but there was to many of us protecting it they didnt succeed they then plant another battery there but we had as many as they had in fact the most of of our artillery was there in the course of time. they had such a good chance to work on the rebel infantry from there it was an open field or woods for amile and it was not over half that distance to where they were fighting. our artillery had a good position and they couldnt get us out of it it was as much as their infantry could do to attend to ours without noticeing our artillery. but their artillery worked hard to get us out of our position. they had three or four batteries to work on us but the most hurt they done was in killing a great many of the horses they didnt hurt many of the guns nor kill many men we had the advantage of the ground we were on aridge and alittle over the top so that by laying down the balls, grape, shell, and such likes would most all pass over us or struck before they got to us but I tell you they made music, whenever they shot these canisters filled with pieces of chaines slugs of iron bolts and every thing else they could find. it was hard to tell where they would go they would explode and fly every way just as apt to fly into our ranks as any other place. it would be useless to tell you that there was no noise about these times I expect. I couldnt describe the sight let alone the noise. it put me in mind of aharder thunder storm than ever I saw. [?] of aright dark night we lay far enough away to be out of the smoke and see all that was going on I couldnt see our artillery of course for the smoke only when they fired then it would flash so that I could see very plain all that was close around there would be flash after flash and peal after peal then for about abreath or two it would be in total darkness I wached the rebels battery and it was the same I would look off to the left and I could see the infantry from both sides maneuvering our men slowly driving them back it was astrange sight to me and one long to be remembered. about eleven oclock or a little after our sharp shooters succeeded in picking the gunners off that were working the rebels batteries that we had been so long at work at and alot of our men that lay there close went forward and took possession that ended the fight where we were we then went to where the infantry were. and after fighting until about three oclock had the pleasure of seeing the enemy driven from the field the cavelry then took our place and followed them as far as the could for the swamps. there was none of us hurt that day but Charley Claver he was wounded slightly. General Sherman was the bravest man that I saw during the whole engagement he was alwas where the balls were flying thickest he was as often between the two fires as back of us. the rebels had some brave Commanders I noticed. I dont know whether I got to see Beauregard or not I saw several moving around cheering their men but I couldnt tell one from another. there is two missing from our Company yet. they are Josh [?] and [?] Miles the most of our Cedar boys got off well old man Catern arrrived here afew days ago he looks well and hearty but he didnt find many of his Regt here. if you get as tired of reading this letter as I am of writing it you will never want to hear from me again but I couldn't help it whenever I get to writing I cant stop till I am tired out my paper got wet too thats whats the matter with it. I want you both to write forthwith immediately no more at present Oliver Boardman

https://digital.lib.uiowa.edu/islandora/object/ui%3Atestcwd_21464_2_9

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Oliver Boardman entered the Sixth Iowa Volunteer Infantry as Private, and mustered out as Sergeant. A member of Company E, Boardman was attached to the bulk of the regiment that waited for the enemy to come to them; then withdrew north and northeast, maintaining loose contact with Sherman's Fifth Division through most of Day One. And the bulk of the 6th Iowa remained east of Owl Creek throughout Day One.

The most interesting unit of the 6th Iowa during April 1862 was Company D. Attached to the single gun of Lieutenant William Mussman (Behr's Morton Indiana Battery) Company D (and Company K) found itself on the wrong side of Owl Creek on April 6th, yet managed to get across Owl Creek in company with Mussman (and it appears the single artillery piece was put to use after the other five pieces belonging to Behr were captured, although details are scant.

https://www.nps.gov/civilwar/search-soldiers-detail.htm?soldierId=BC378583-DC7A-DF11-BF36-B8AC6F5D926A  Oliver Boardman's entry.

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