16th Iowa Infantry Regiment
Forming the 16th Iowa Infantry Regiment
Bedford joined the 16th Iowa Infantry Regiment early in 1862. The regiment was slow to form as the small young state of Iowa had already raised fourteen infantry and five cavalry regiments. Unlike the other regiments, the 16th Iowa consisted of older recruits, mostly married men. They had heard of the Northern failures in the east, and felt that their help would be needed after all to preserve the Union.
The regiment was formed over the course of six months and included recruits from all across the state. However, the majority of the volunteers came from the southeastern portion of Iowa, the same region as Bedford. George was mustered into to Company F of the 16th Iowa Regiment in January 1862.
By March the regiment was ready to be deployed, however they lacked a critical component: they had no chaplain. Eager to get into combat, the regiment made do without, claiming that it was a moral regiment and that having a chaplain would be redundant. Furthermore, they claimed, there was only one deck of cards for the entire regiment so they couldn’t get up to much mischief!
The Battle of Shiloh
With virtually no training at all, Bedford and his regiment were rushed to the Battle of Shiloh on 6 April, 1862. When they arrived on the banks of the Tennessee River they given their first batch of live ammuntion. However, they had no time to familiarize themselves with firing muskets. Broken Union soldiers were running and retreating as fast as their legs could take them. The booming cannon and the crack of Confederate muskets greeted the fresh 16th Iowa Volunteers. To their credit, the Iowans kept formation and pressed on to meet Johnny Reb amid the havoc around them without having the faintest clue what to expect in combat.
An aid-de-camp of General McClernand erroneously ordered the 16th into a position badly exposed to Confederate fire. Still, they formed their battle line just as the Confederates approached. They stood firm and delivered a deadly volley. The unit fought hard and despite having to withdraw back to the river, they kept order and discipline, a true testament to a unit with absoultely no prior shooting practice let alone combat experience.
The next day they helped push the Confederates back, earning a hard won victory for the unit’s first battle. The 16th had survived its first test, but casualties were high. Colonel Alexander Chambers, the 16th Iowa’s commander, was wounded along with 17 dead and over 100 dead. Bedford’s Company F fared well, all things considered, with only 17 wounded (including the Captain Edward Frazer) and no deaths.
Incidentally, my great x3 grandmother's husband (my great x3 grandfather) Edward Bentley was in the 14th Iowa Volunteer Regiment. Bentley missed Shiloh by a year, but the 14th earned fame defending the Hornet's Nest at Shiloh. Bentley will be the focus of my next family Civil War project, along with my dad's side of the family from West Virginia.