The 22nd Iowa Infantry in the Assault on Vicksburg May 22nd, 1863
As the Union Army closed in on Vicksburg, Mississippi in the middle of May 1863, Major General Ulysses S. Grant decided to attempt to take the city by assault. The first such assault occurred on May 19th, and was repulsed, but Grant decided he would try again on May 22nd. The commanding general knew that a large Confederate army under General Joseph E. Johnston was within 50 miles of Vicksburg, and Grant wanted to take the important city on the Mississippi River before Johnston could arrive and reinforce Vicksburg’s defenders. Grant also noted that his men were confident that another assault would be successful.
In preparation for the assault, Union artillery opened fire on the Confederate defenses early on the morning of the 22nd, and continued with the bombardment for four hours. At 10:00 a.m., the attack began. Major General William T. Sherman’s 15th Corps attacked the Confederate left, on the north end of Vicksburg, Major General James B. McPherson’s 17th Corps attacked the center, and Major General John McClernand’s 13th Corps attacked to the left of McPherson.
One of McClernand’s units was the 2nd Brigade of the 14th Division. This brigade, under the command of Brigadier General Michael K. Lawler, consisted of the 21st and 22nd Iowa
Infantry regiments, plus the 11th Wisconsin Infantry. This brigade was assigned to attack the Railroad Redoubt (sometimes referred to as Fort Beauregard), a fortification that protected the Southern Railroad of Mississippi. General Lawler formed his brigade in two lines in a ravine about 150 yards east of the Railroad Redoubt, with the 22nd Iowa, under the command of Colonel William Stone, on the right of the front line and the 11th Wisconsin on the left. The 22nd was backed up by the 21st Iowa and the 11th was supported by the 97th Illinois from another brigade. Opposing them were the Alabama regiments of Brigadier General Stephen D. Lee, supported by infantrymen of Colonel Thomas Waul’s Texas Legion.
Lawler’s battle line charged ahead with fixed bayonets, and immediately took casualties from Confederate musket and artillery fire. The line pressed on, about 50 men of the 22nd as well as some members of the 21st made it through the ditch in front of the redoubt, up the side, and through a hole blasted in the parapet by Union artillery fire. Inside the fort, the fighting was hand to hand, and those Confederates who could, escaped. The flag of the 22nd Iowa was planted on the ramparts.
The Iowans had gained a foothold, but it didn’t last. Heavy fire from Confederates in rifle pits behind the redoubt drove them out. The men of the 22nd continued the fight from the ditch in front of the redoubt. Colonel Stone was one of the many wounded during this part of the fight. The regiment remained there until they were able to withdraw after dark. The regimental historian, Lieutenant S.C. Jones, wrote this account of the fighting: