Sunday, May 26, 2013

More About the Death of Colonel Cowles

On May 29--two days after the assault on Port Hudson in which Colonel David S. Cowles lost his life--Charles H. Andrus, the assistant surgeon with the 128th New York Infantry Regiment, wrote this report and sent it back to New York aboard the same steamer that carried the body of Colonel Cowles. Andrus's report was published in the Poughkeepsie Eagle. Note the slight discrepencies between Andrus's report and what was recounted by Franklin Ellis in the History of Columbia County.
MAY 29, 1863--10 o'clock A.M.
Editors of the Eagle:--I have just returned from the performance of a sad duty, which was the preparation of the body of our late beloved Colonel for the purpose of sending it home, as we hope to do so by the steamer Columbia this morning. Colonel Cowles was killed at Port Hudson on Wednesday, the 27th inst., while leading his regiment in a charge on the main batteries of the enemy. It was about four o'clock in the afternoon that Gen. Dow's brigade was ordered to storm the works, and gallantly did the 128th New York and the 6th Michigan advance amid one of the most terrific showers of grape and shell that could be imagined. But they walked up in the face of it all, and scaling the parapet carried the works, driving the rebels from their guns. But unfortunately the other regiments of the brigade faltered (15th N. H. and 26th Conn.,) and failed to come to their support, consequently our men, with those of the 6th Michigan, were obliged to retire, and allow the rebels to retake their guns, and when the messenger left, the fighting was still going on, the rebels having come out of the intrenchments [sic].
It was at the time that the regiment mounted the parapet that the Colonel received his wound, which was that of a bayonet in the left groin just below the pubic bone. The femoral vein was severed, resulting in fatal hemorrhage. He lived about an hour. He refused to be taken from the field, preferring to remain and die there. Almost his last words were "tell my brother that I died with my face to the foe." To say that we greatly mourn his loss, but feebly express our feelings, for we dearly loved him. I learn that the loss of the 128th in killed was 40 to 50, while the number of wounded is of course much greater. Capt. [Arthur] De Wint, Co. F., was wounded, and Capt. [Edward] Gifford, Co. A., missing, supposed to be killed; Lieut. [Jacob] Armstrong, commanding Co. D., (Capt. [George] Parker being sick at this hospital,) was also killed; Sergeant [Thomas] Merritt of Co. I was killed. The names of the other of the Poughkeepsie Companies killed, I have as yet been unable to obtain. I was not on the field, having been left at the camp in charge of the sick and convalescent there. The body of the Colonel was brought to this city yesterday afternoon.
Nobly has the 128th N. Y. Regiment sustained the honor of Dutchess and Columbia in this affair. For certainly there is no record more gallant or daring than this of the 128th New York and the 6th Michigan.
Further particulars will perhaps have to be deferred until the sailing of another steamer.
Respectfully, &c.,
C. H. Andrus
1st Ass't. Surgeon 128th N. Y. V.

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