THE CIVIL WAR AND IOWAThe Civil War began on April 12, 1861, when Southern artillery shelled Fort Sumter in South
Carolina. It ended at Appomattox Court House, Virginia on April 9, 1865. There are many names
given to this war - the War Between the States, the War of the Rebellion, the War of the Secession,
or the War for Southern Independence.
The Civil War story is a fascinating one. There have been many books written about it. The war
ended the practice of slavery in the nation. The southern states had depended on slave labor for the
cotton and tobacco fields and everyday labor of the large plantations. The war also settled the
question of whether a state could secede or "pull out" of the union.
Iowa had been admitted as a "free" state in 1846. There were some people in the state who were
southern sympathizers, but most of the Iowa people were against slavery. Iowa was an important
link in the underground railroad which was in existence long before the first shot was fired in the
Civil War. This escape route led slaves to Canada where they could be free.
Iowans volunteered for service in the Civil War in large numbers and sent a larger percentage of
men into; the war than any Other state, North or South. Over 13,000 Iowans died in the war. Many
of these men died from disease caused by unsanitary conditions in the camps and hospitals. The
hospitals were mostly makeshift and lacked proper medical and sanitary facilities, especially those in
the rural areas.
Iowa also contributed four major generals and a number of brigadier generals and colonels.
Many of these men went on to be prominent citizens of the state and nation after the war.
Iowans were engaged in many battles of the war, but there was only one small incident involving
Iowa soil. During the war, Iowa feared invasion by rebels from Missouri and also by the Indians
along the northwest border of the state.
Brigades were formed to protect these borders.
With so many of the men gone from the state, the duties of production on the farms and in the
shops fell to the older men and the women of Iowa. Many Iowa women volunteered for duty in the
camps and hospitals.
The State of Iowa played a very important part in the Civil War in many ways.
Iowa was admitted as a "free" state in 1846. The question of admitting a state to the union as
"free'' or "slave" was becoming a very important issue at that time. The southern boundary of
Missouri had been established as long ago as 1820 as the dividing line between "free" and "slave"
states in the area west of the Mississippi River. This agreement, known as the "Missouri
Compromise" was reached after the admission of Missouri as a "slave" state.
In 1850, when California applied for statehood there was another bitter debate. Another
compromise was reached which admitted California as a "free" state and Arizona and Utah were
organized as Territories with nothing said about "slave" or "free". Slavery was abolished in
Washington D.C., to soothe the North and a Federal Fugitive Slave Act was passed to please the
South. This law was to assist slave owners in recapturing slaves who had fled to free territory.
In 1853, what was known as the "Kansas-Nebraska Bill" was introduced by Senator Dodge from
Iowa. It left the question of slavery up to the people who settled in those territories. The bill was
passed after a heated debate and served as a prelude to the Civil War.
Kansas was the first battleground of the Civil War--before secession of states and the firing on
Fort Sumter. Fights between pro-slavery and anti-slavery people waged all over that territory. This
earned the state the name of "Bleeding Kansas".
This was the atmosphere while Iowa was trying to develop as a state. A financial panic in 1857
and a crop failure in 1858 did little to help.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN AND IOWA
There seems to have been a misunderstanding by some Iowa historians about the part Iowa
played in the nomination and election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860.
Most of the thirty-three Iowans who went to Chicago to the Republican National Convention did
not go pledged to Lincoln. The first roll call shows that Lincoln only received two votes from the
Iowans. As the number of roll calls grew, so did Lincoln's popularity and finally the Iowans voted in
a majority for his nomination.
When Lincoln later named an Iowan, Samuel Freeman Miller of Keokuk, to the Supreme Court,
many Iowa politicians were pleased. In 1862, all of the Republican candidates for office in Iowa
were elected. By 1864, Iowans were not quite as enthusiastic about Mr. Lincoln as they had been
two years earlier. The war was dragging on and people were blaming Lincoln for the heavy loss of
James Harlan was the senator from Iowa. He doubted Lincoln's strength but felt that Congress
could probably act to do things that Lincoln could not do.
Historians have written that Harlan and Lincoln |were always good friends but this was not true.
It was not until the romance between Lincoln's son, Robert Todd Lincoln, and Harlan's daughter,
Mary, resulted in marriage that they began to develop a friendship. This friendship led to Harlan's
becoming a member of Mr. Lincoln's cabinet and his escorting Y Mrs. Lincoln to the Second
Abraham Lincoln had another Iowa connection. Due to his serving as a captain in the Black
Hawk War of 1832, he was the owner of two parcels of Iowa land. This land was given to him by a
land grant from the government. He owned forty acres in Howard Township, Tama County and one
hundred twenty acres in Goodrich Township, Crawford County. He never personally visited either
tract. The property was sold by his son, Robert Todd Lincoln in 1892 as a part of the Lincoln estate.
Mr. Lincoln also visited Council Bluffs in 1859, and gave a speech at a Council Bluffs' hall.
Nothing of what he said was preserved. Historians agree that the speech must not have been highly
political because a reception was held for him later at the home of a prominent Council Bluffs'
THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD
An "Underaround Railroad" sYstem was developed across the nation in the years before the
Civil War. Southern Iowa played an important in this railroad system. Negroes fleeing their owners
were assisted in reachinq freedom in Canada by way of this secret overland route. They were
provided shelter, and were fed and clothed in "stations" located in barns, homes, public buildings or
wherever they could be assured of a few hours of safety.
The name "Underground Railroad" was taken from quote by a southern slave owner that
"Negroes escape to Canada as easily as if they traveled by a railroad which runs beneath the
ground." The railroad had n formal organization. Southern slaves assisted other slaves in reaching
the border and "free" states. Free negroes in both the North and South helped the fugitives.
Tabor, near the Missouri border in Iowa, was often the first stop in Iowa for fleeing slaves. The
rout was varied from time to time. Most towns in southern Iowa were part of the system at one time
Elaborate precautions were taken by the station owners. Small towns on little-traveled roads
were mostly used for moving the fugitives. Slaves were hidden under layers of straw or disguised as
sacks of potatoes or apples in wagons. There were hidden trap doors which opened into small holes
under the floor of many of the buildings used as stations. Sometime fugitives would spend days in
these cramped quarters The slaves were usually moved at night or during stormy weather.
One major route led from Tabor through southwest Iowa to Earlham, to Des Moines, to Grinnell,
to Iowa City. Clinton and Muscatine were heavily used crossing points on the Mississippi River.
From here the slaves were moved to Chicago where they were whisked to Canada and safety.
The "Lewelling House" in Salem in southeastern Iowa was an important station. The brick and
stone "Pearson House" in Keosauqua also in southeastern Iowa was a station. This house has been
rebuilt by the Van Buren County Historical Society. The "Hitchcock House" at Lewis, in
southwestern Iowa, was another station. When it became known by authorities that this house was a
station, it was searched many times, but no slaves were ever found. This house had a secret room
beside a fireplace in the basement. It has been named to the National Register of Historic
Landmarks, as have several other of the known "stations" across the state.
The Underground Railroad system was a violation of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1856. It was very
dangerous business for those people who hid slaves and helped them to the next stations. Even
though most Iowans felt strongly that slavery was wrong and should be abolished, there was always
someone ready to collect a reward for turning in violators of the Federal law.
The Congregationalists and Quakers of Iowa were prominent in the operation of the
COPPERHEADS AND ABOLITIONISTS
Iowa was admitted to the Union as a "free" state-meaning it was a state where slavery was
prohibited. However, there were people living in Iowa who had sympathy and loyalty to the south.
Many of these had relatives in the south. Others felt that the southern people should be allowed to do
as they pleased.
It must be remembered that Iowa had not been a state very long when the Civil War began.
Much of the state had only been settled a short time. Many of the residents were people who were
foreign-born. To some, the idea that the Union was being threatened by this war made them eagerly
volunteer to serve and to do everything they could to see that the war was brought to a close and the
country reunited. To others, especially those who had fled to America because of persecution, it
seemed that the very freedom they had gained here in this new country was now being denied - they
wanted to live and let live.
The people feeling the strongest sympathies for the south and who became actively involved in
secretly raising money for guns and other supplies to be sent to the south were called
"Copperheads". They were called this because the loyal Union people thought they were deadly as
the copperhead snake.
A Baptist preacher by the name of Talley was the leader of a group of Copperheads in eastern
Iowa. A meeting was held in a grove near South English in August, 1863. Residents of the area came
to the meeting and made fun of the Copperheads. Fighting broke out, shots were fired and the
minister was killed.
When Copperhead members throughout the state heard "of the Rev. Talley's death, they
organized what was called the "Skunk River Army". About 2,000 of them gathered to march on
The South English residents appealed to Governor Kirkwood for help. He ordered eleven
companies of militia to the town. He also went to South English himself and ordered the Skunk
River Army to disperse. Seeing the eleven companies of militia made the Copperheads realize they
were outnumbered and the Skunk River War in Iowa was ended.
Not much is known or recorded about the activities of the Copperhead movement in Iowa. There
was supposed to have been a secret organization known as the "Knights of the Golden Circle." There
were many rumors about a nation-wide disloyal reaction and there were also fears of a civil war
within the state. The action of Governor Kirkwood in calling out the companies of militia ifs thought
to have suppressed much of the activity of the southern sympathizers.
The people involved in the Copperhead movement were also called "Peace Democrats". They
were against President Lincoln's war policies and were very "antiwar". They discouraged enlistment
in the army and encouraged desertion from the army. They also resisted federal tax collection.
Iowa had its share of Abolitionists. These people were opposed to slavery and wanted to destroy
it. As early as 1830, Northern Abolitionists had been attacking the southern practice of slavery.
Abolitionists were partly responsible for the success of the Underground Railroad in helping
escaping slaves to freedom in Canada.
Prominent in Iowa History as Abolitionists are three men--J. B. Grinnell, a Congregational
minister who came to Iowa in 1854. The town of Grinnell is named after this man. He was a delegate
to the convention in 1856 that organized the Republican party in Iowa. He was a state senator and in
1862, was elected to Congress.
The second Abolitionist was Mr. William Penn Clarke who came to Iowa in 1844 and was editor
of a newspaper in Iowa City. He later became a lawyer and developed an interest in politics and was
a leader in the new Republican Party. He was chairman of the Iowa delegates to the Republican
National Convention in 1860. He was also chairman of the Kansas Central Committee of Iowa
which was involved in efforts to see that Kansas be a "free" state.
Another important Abolitionist in Iowa was Dr. Jesse Brown. He was one of Iowa's early
doctors, coming to the state from Virginia in 1840. His home was in Iowa City.
The homes of all of these men were important stations on the Underground Railroad System.
In April of 1861, most Iowans were going about the business of developing the state, of building
towns and railroads and farmsteads. When word was received that Fort Sumter had been fired on, the
entire state became involved in the war effort.
The War Department asked Governor Samuel Kirkwood to issue a call for a service of ninety
days and asked for one regiment as Iowa's quota. Most everyone thought that the war would be short
and there would be no actual fighting involved.
The governor doubted if Iowa could raise enough volunteers for one regiment, but his call was
answered by enough men to form ten regiments. In fact, some of the men who volunteered were
angry that they were not taken right away. Iowa met every call for troops and for financial and
political support for the Union cause with room to spare.
In February of 1864, after the war had been raging for three years, President Lincoln issued a call
for 500,000 men. He called for a draft to begin March 10 if the quotas were not met by volunteers.
Iowa had never needed to resort to a draft to fill its quota and it did not need to do so now. Adjutant
General Nathaniel Baker telegraphed Lincoln: "There will be no draft in Iowa. You shall have our
quota without it. We are coming, Father Abraham, with 500,000 more." Iowa's share was 6,000 and
the quota was met.
The state's enthusiasm for the war was beginning to wear thin. Some Iowans were longing to
depart for the west to work the gold fields. Governor Stone forbid any Iowa citizen to leave the state
before the March 10 date. He instructed military commanders on Iowa's western border to stop
anyone from leaving who did not have a valid pass from a marshal! of the district where he lived.
This proclamation served as a warning to draft evaders.
Iowa met two more calls for volunteers in April, but was finally forced to resort to the draft in
the; summer of 1864. 1,862 men were drafted to fill this call. Lincoln's final call came in December
of 1864. However, a readjustment of credit allowed from Iowa's previous calls meant that Iowa need
send no new men for this final call.
Iowa furnished 46 infantry regiments (about 800 to 1.000 men per regiment), plus four
companies of artillery and nine regiments of cavalry. Iowa also furnished some men for a Negro
regiment and a thousand replacement troops. Over 800 Iowans were in the Naval] Service during the
Civil War. Most of these men were; with the Mississippi Marine Brigade. There were also many
Iowans who served in infantry regiments in other states.
The Iowa volunteers conducted themselves with honor throughout the Civil War. Mistakes made
in the early campaigns were mainly because of lack of time to drill and lack of equipment.
13,000 Iowans died in the Civil War. Many of these men died from disease and not from the
Four men, born in New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania, became well-known Iowa
generals in the Civil War.
Samuel Curtis was a graduate of West Point. He served in the War with Mexico and at the close
of that war, settled in Keokuk, Iowa. He was a member of Congress when the Civil War broke out.
He resigned his congressional seat and was in command at the Battle of Pea Ridge. He was named a
major general after this battle. He was Iowa's first major general and was a great leader of men.
Grenville Mellon Dodge came west in 1851. He lived in Nebraska for a time, but later settled in
Council Bluffs. He recruited a company of volunteers and reported to Governor Samuel Kirkwood at
the outbreak of the war. Kirkwood sent him to Washington D.C. to try to get arms and ammunition
for Iowa. On his return, he served under General Curtis at the Battle of Pea Ridge and was made a
brigadier general after that battle. He participated in many major battles of the war-- Chattanooga
and Vicksburg among them. He was wounded three times. After the Civil War, he became a leader
in the Union Pacific Railroads drive to the west and was prominent in the Post-Civil War years in
Iowa and the nation. His home in Council Bluffs is now a museum.
Francis Herron was the youngest Iowa Major General. He came to Dubuque in 1855 and became
a banker. He served with the First Iowa Infantry, was commissioned lieutenant general of the 9th
Iowa Infantry in September 1861, and to brigadier general after his service at Pea Ridge and Major
General at Prairie Grove in 1862. He served in Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas.
Frederick Steele came to Iowa by way of serving in Missouri at the outbreak of the Civil War.
He had been in the Mexican War. He enlisted in the First Iowa Infantry and fought under General
Lyon at Wilson's Creek. He was promoted to brigadier general shortly after this and served mostly in
Missouri and Arkansas.
UNIFORMS AND WEAPONS
Before the Civil War began, Iowa already had a few organized volunteer military companies.
These men had gaudy uniforms more suitable for fashion than for actual wartime duty. The jackets
varied in color from dark blue to light bluish gray. Two of the companies had black and white tweed
frock coats. The trousers were black with red stripes or pink with light green stripes.
Later, communities raised funds and purchased material. The local women cut and sewed
uniforms. One volunteer company found that the material was not of good quality and the trouser
seats soon wore through. Some inventive soldiers took flour sacks and tied them around their waists
to cover the worn trouser seats.
The uniforms later issued for the Union foot soldier consisted of a dark blue coat, single
breasted, with light blue trousers. There were two types of coats--a long dress coat with a high stiff
collar and a short blue jacket which was preferred for field wear. Uniforms were trimmed with
colors indicating branches of service--red for artillery, blue for infantry, and yellow for cavalry. The
cavalry, or mounted troops, had shorter coats than the foot soldiers. They wore boots and their
trousers were reinforced in seat and legs. Buttons of Union enlisted men were adorned with a spread
The soldiers were quite informal in their observance of uniform regulations. The longer they
served, the more they became concerned for comfort rather than how they looked.
Early in the war, the soldiers carried extra articles of clothing and keepsakes in a knapsack but
after being in a few battles and long marches, the knapsacks were soon thrown away. They threw
their belonging on a blanket and tied the blanket by the ends and then draped it over their shoulders.
A veteran soldier would consider himself well equipped if he had a blanket, a canteen, a musket,
leather cartridge box, bayonet and sheath, sewing kit, mess (or eating) equipment, maybe a small
skillet and a waterproof poncho. The weight most soldiers carried was approximately thirty pounds.
There were few weapons to be had at first. The first volunteers had to drill using sticks for guns.
It wasn't until August that thirty-five tons of supplies, including rifles and ammunition arrived in
Keokuk. The soldier provided his own weapon when possible. There were many different kinds of
guns-shotguns, squirrel rifles and muskets.
After 1861, the Springfield and Enfield rifled muskets were the most common. They were large
guns, awkward to handle but were sturdy, accurate and dependable. They were muzzle-loading, oneshot
guns but had an effective range of 250 yards which was about twice as long as the earlier
The guns had to be loaded after each shot. The ammunition used were cartridges called "minie
balls" and were each in a paper sack filled with gunpowder. When the soldier loaded the gun, he
would have to bite the end of the paper sack off and ram the cartridge and powder into the muzzle of
the gun. During battle, the faces of the soldiers would be streaked with black gunpowder. Some
breech-loading rifles were available later such as Sharps, and there were even some seven-shot and
sixteen-shot repeaters. Cavalrymen usually were armed with short-barreled carbines.
IOWANS IN BATTLE
The first battle in which Iowa volunteers fought was at Wilson's Creek in Missouri in August of
Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon had been ordered to break up an army of Missouri
Confederates led by General Sterling Price. Although badly outnumbered, Lyon's army, which
included the First Iowa Volunteer Regiment, closed in on Price at Wilson's Creek in the
southwestern part of the state.
Even though General Lyon was killed in the action, and the troops had to retreat, the Iowans
performed well under fire.
The first Iowan to die in the Civil War was killed in this battle. Shelley Norman, age 17, was
killed as the regiment approached the battlefield by a sniper's bullet.
Iowans were involved in many other battles in the state of Missouri throughout 1861 and 1862.
The 3rd Infantry Regiment had fought in Blue Mills in September, the 7th at Belmont in November
and the 8th Infantry and the First Cavalry at Milford in December.
By February of 1862, the Confederate Army had two forts near the Tennessee-Kentucky border--
Fort Henry on the Tennessee River and Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River.
Some of Iowa's regiments were among those sent to capture these two forts. On February 6, Fort
Henry was captured by Navy gunboats before the foot soldiers could reach it. The confederate troops
escaped to Fort Donelson, which was 12 miles east on the west bank of the Cumberland.
Bad weather made it impossible for the Union troops to start for Fort Donelson until February
11. There were four Iowa regiments involved in this action, the 2nd, 7th, 12th, and 14th. They
reached Fort Donelson on February 13 and after a two-day battle, the Confederates surrendered. The
Iowa regiments performed with honor.
It was at Fort Donelson that General Grant earned the nickname of "Unconditional Surrender"
Grant. The Confederate General asked for terms of a surrender and Grant replied "unconditional
surrender." There were about 14,000 men and forty pieces of artillery captured there.
Iowa casualties were heavy. An Iowan, Voltaire P. Twombley of Van Buren County, was
awareded a Congressional Medal of Honor for his action here.
The Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas, March 6 to 8th of 1862, was very important. This battle is
believed to have saved Missouri for the Union. The South called this battle the "Battle of Elkhorn
Tavern". A small tavern called the "Elkhorn" stood near where some of the fighting took place. The
Union troops were commanded by Brigadier General Samuel Curtis of Keokuk. He had driven the
Confederate Army led by General Price out of Missouri. General Curtis followed the Price army to a
place near a small stream south of a high range of hills,known as "Pea Ridge". The 4th and 9th Iowa
Infantry Regiments, the First and Third Iowa Artillery, and the Third Iowa Cavalry were numbered
among Curtis' men.
Curtis had about 10,500 men and the number of the Confederate ARmy was never exactly
known. Figures were quoted from 14,000 to 30,000.
Curtis had his men chop down trees on roads approaching their position.The Confederate Army
moved around and prepared to attack from the rear. Curtis turned his Army to the north and the
battle raged for two days. Finally the Confederates retreated. The victory was costly. Around 1,400
Union Soldiers were killed, missing or wounded here. Curtis was promoted to Major General after
this battle. Two other Iowans, Private Albert Power and Lieutenant Colonel Francis Herron won the
Congressional Medal of Honor.
Fort Donelson is a national military park. There is a national cemetery at nearby Dover,
Tennessee. Many of the men who died in this battle are buried here. Pea Ridge is a part of the
National Park Service.
Shiloh was the site of one of the loodiest battles of the Civil War. The name came from a small
meeting house called Shiloh Church near the town of Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee.
After the capture of Fort Donelson, the Union Army moved south to near Pittsburg Landing. The
Confederate Army gathered at Corinth, Mississippi, which was twenty miles southwest. U. S. Grant
was the commander of the Union forces. General Sidney Johnston commanded the Confederates.
Grant had stationed his men in a four-mile square camp between two small streams that emptied
into the Tennessee River. There was a clearing and a few farmhouses with some wooded land
nearby. Near the center of the camp, and on the top of the ridge, was an old abandoned road. The
road was sunken from many years of use. The meeting house called Shiloh Church was farther to the
west and near the front line of the army.
There were eleven Iowa regiments in this Union Army--the 2nd, 3rd, 6th, 7th, 8th, 11th, 12th,
13th, 14th, 15th, and the 16th.
For a few days in early April, there had been some clashes with the Confederate Cavalry. Some
prisoners had been taken. The Union Army was still gathering its forces for an attack. Unbeknown to
Grant, the whole Confederate Army had left Corinth and was marching toward Pittsburg Landing.
There were approximately 40,000 Confederate troops advancing on Pittsburg Landing on the
morning of April 6.
General Grant was at breakfast at headquarters some nine miles north when he heard sounds of
heavy firing from the direction of Pittsburg Landing. He dashed to his headquarters boat, the
"Tigress" and hurried downriver to the Landing. Battles were raging all along the front line and
reserves were being rushed forward.
The Union scouts, on an early dawn patrol, had run into the advancing Confederate Army. Word
was immediately sent back to the troops farthest back. Drum rolls echoed from camp to camp.
The 6th Iowa was stationed to the right of the main line held by General Sherman. When
Sherman's army was ordered to retreat, the Iowans came under fire. Many were killed. The 11th and
13th came running forward to fill the gap. This was their first experience under actual battle
conditions. They soon became confused and retreated. They were rallied into order and advanced
again. They would hold a position as long as possible, then retreat to a new line. Their muskets and
faces became black from the gunpowder. They fought on until their ammunition ran out.
The 3rd Iowa was on a line at the edge of a peach orchard in a strong position. The enemy
suffered many losses of men here. Another part of the army had retreated to the top of the ridge near
the peach orchard. They stumbled onto the old abandoned road which was protected by dense woods
and underbrush. It made a natural trench where the troops could be protected from the enemy. By the
time this army had reached the sunken road, five Iowa regiments had come to reinforce it--the 2nd,
7th, 8th, 12th and the 14th. They had been camped farthest back from the attack. They had advanced
through the crowds of retreating soldiers and arrived at the sunken road about the time the line had
been established there. The last two Iowa Regiments to come under fire were the 15th and the 16th.
These regiments had just landed at Pittsburg Landing that morning. They had gone into battle
immediately. They had not even fired the weapons they carried. They were led too far forward and
many were wounded and killed. The sight of so many of their fellow soldiers being killed and
wounded unnerved them and they retreated in confusion.
By 2 p.m., the Union line was still together but considerably shorter. The Confederate General
Johnston lead his men on a charge near the peach orchard where the Union troops were and he was
killed. The Confederates succeeded in forcing the Union troops to retreat. This left some troops still
holding the position in the abandoned road. The Confederates gave the name "hornet's nest" to this
position. By holding this position until about 5:30 p.m., these troops had given Grant's Army time to
retreat to Pittsburg Landing. Grant gathered his remaining troops on a bluff at the Landing with guns
Reinforcements in the form of Buell's Army of Ohio had arrived. During the night, steamboats
kept up the steady traffic, bringing reinforcements. Gunboats shelled the Confederate camps.
At dawn Grant and Buell attacked and surprised the Confederates. The fight continued
throughout the day until about 2:30 in the afternoon. The Confederates were forced to retreat.
The Iowa troops did not see much action in this day's battle. They had suffered heavy losses the
day before. The 2nd Iowa did make a bayonet charge, the 7th captured a Confederate battery and the
13th were fighting for a time with the Army of Ohio.
The scene at Shiloh, after the battle was over, was one of desolation. Dead men were packed so
closely together that a man could walk over two acres of ground and not step off the bodies.
Iowa casualties at Shiloh amounted to 215 killed, 999 wounded, 1,147 missing or captured.
Additionally some 116 of the wounded died within days or weeks as a result of their wounds.
The Iowans at home were shocked when word reached them of the many soldiers killed and
wounded. The Battle of Shiloh brought the grim reality of war home to the Iowans at last.
The battlefield of Shiloh is a national military park with a national cemetery. Over 3,500 men are
buried here--two-thirds of them unidentified. There is a state monument here and eleven regimental
Iuka and Corinth
After Shiloh, there was a three-week lull. The Union army remained at Pittsburg Landing. They
drilled, replaced their equipment and prepared to advance on Corinth, Mississippi, where the
Confederates were camped. All of the Iowa regiments that had fought at Shiloh were in the advance
on Corinth, plus the 5th and 10th Iowa Infantry, the 2nd Cavalry and the 2nd Artillery, and the 17th
Iowa, fresh from training.
General Grant had been criticized after Shiloh because he did not have his men dig trenches to
protect themselves during battle. General Henry Halleck, who was Grant's superior officer, came to
lead the advance on Corinth. This began on May 1. The troop movement was bothered by heavy
rains and bad roads. General Halleck was determined not to make Grant's mistake and ordered the
troops to dig trenches at every stop. This made the march take even longer. When Halleck reached
Corinth, the troops dug trenches again and blockaded the fort. This siege lasted ten days. The
Confederate troops slipped away from Corinth on the morning of May 30 and escaped.
The Union Army was scattered all around the area from Memphis, Tennessee to Corinth. There
were many Iowans here. Some of these Iowans were with a division which was attacked by the
Confederates at a place called "Iuka". This was a violent "engagement". When darkness fell, there
were 790 Union soldiers dead. 45% of these dead were Iowans. The Iowa 17th came under fire for
the first time here. They were rushed to the front in time to meet a frightful volley. They retreated
and in the confusion became mixed up with the advance guard of the general in charge of these
divisions. This confused them even more and they retreated even further. They were finally brought
together in order by an officer. The general whose guard had been responsible for some of the Iowa
17th's confusion censured them severely for this mix-up. The 5th Iowa received special mention for
their bravery in withstanding the attack, although outnumbered.
General Grant again began massing his troops at Corinth. There were ten Iowa infantry
regiments here the Union Brigade (made up of remnants of the 8th, 12th and 14th Iowa from
Shiloh), the 2nd, 5th, 7th, 10th, 11th, 13th, 15th, 16th, and the 17th, together with the 2nd Artillery
and the Second Cavalry.
One of the most violent battles of the war was fought at Corinth on October 3 and 4. There were
only 25,000 Union troops in the fort. Confederate Generals had combined two forces and marched
on Corinth. The Union troops were gradually forced from the front lines back to the protection of the
inner forts by nightfall. Even though the end of the first day saw the Confederates beginning to be
victors, the 2nd day was a different story. The Confederates were thrown back time and again, and
they gradually retreated. The Iowa regiments experienced a heavy loss of men except for the 5th
which had been kept in reserve. The general who had censured the 17th at Iuka issued a special order
commending the 17th for capturing an enemy flag and noted that they had redeemed themselves for
their earlier misfortunes.
Campaign of Vicksburg
Iowa furnished twenty-eight infantry, two artillery and two cavalry regiments to the campaign of
Vicksburg, Mississippi. This campaign was begun in November of 1862. Grant was again in charge.
From November of 1862 till April of 18h3, General Grant tried to figure out how to capture
Vicksburg. He finally decided to march south on the west side of the river and run gunboats and
supply ships up the river past the guns of Vicksburg. He did this the night of April 16. The trip took
two hours and the boats were under constant attack. Most of them escaped without serious damage.
Grant's men then marched south, crossed the river at Bruinsburg, Miss., and occupied Fort Gibson, a
few miles to the east. Then he began the march on Vicksburg. It was decided to take Jackson, Miss.,
before going on to Vicksburg. General Joseph Johnston was in command of the Confederate forces
here. The Confederate general at Vicksburg, Pemberton, could have moved toward Jackson and
caught Grant in a trap at this time but he didn't decide to leave Vicksburg until it was to late. The
17th Iowa again proved itself in a fierce charge and was first inside the enemy lines at Jackson. The
Confederate general escaped with most of his men. The general at Vicksburg had decided to march
to Jackson's aid, but it was too late. Grant defeated this Confederate army but in retreating, the
bridge to Vicksburg was burned.
Grant's army tried to attack Vicksburg but could not hold any position. He settled down to a
siege. The siege lasted from May till July 3. On the morning of July 3, a white flag appeared. By 3
p.m. Grant and the Confederate general had met and on July 4, Grant and his troops entered
There were 1,800 Iowa casualties in the Vicksburg Campaign. There is a monument at the
Vicksburg National Military Park in honor of the Iowans who fought and died here.
The victory at Vicksburg re-opened the Mississippi River to the North.
Iowa soldiers continued to be involved in some of the most bitter fighting of the war. They were
involved in the siege of Jackson. A mistake by an Union general resulted in needless deaths here. He
moved his men out and in an attack on a heavily fortified fort without orders. 465 men were killed.
The 3rd Iowa Infantry reported 17 men killed, 57 wounded and 39 missing or captured.
There were fifteen other Iowa infantry regiments, two cavalry and two artillery regiments
engaged in the siege of Jackson. The number of Iowans who died in this siege was 88.
In September, a Union Army led by General Rosecrans was defeated by Confederate General
Bragg at Chicamauga. He retreated into Chattanooga. The Confederates laid a siege on the Union
Army at Chattanooga and it was November before supply lines were opened up. The troops were
very low on supplies and food. The city was hemmed in by the Confederates. They could have taken
it at any time but preferred to starve the Union Army into surrender. They did not reckon with
General Grant. He was a military genius and put troops in action against the rebels. The Iowa
infantry regiments, 4th, 5th, 6th, 9th, 10th, 17th, 25th, 25th, 30th, and the 31st and the First Iowa
Artillery were among those sent to lift the siege of Chattanooga. The attack began during the night of
November 23-24. The fighting was hard and resulted in forcing the Rebels to retreat in disorder.
They became so disorganized that it was obvious they could never re-form into an army. Grant
ordered Sherman not to pursue but to move toward Knoxville. The army was tired and ill-equipped.
They had little food and no change of clothing. The weather was getting colder each day. They
completed the march in 5 days. East Tennessee was secured for the Union. President wrote
"God bless you all."
There are three Iowa monuments near Chattanooga, one at Lookout Mountain, one at Rossville
Gap, and one at Missionary Ridge.
The March to the Sea
By the spring of 1865, the country had been at war for three years. People were growing
disturbed that there was no sign of an end to the war. President Lincoln named General U.S. Grant as
General-in-Chief of the Armies. The "March to the Sea" was begun. The Iowa troops with the Army
of Tennessee were the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 9th, 10th, 12th, 13th, 15th, 16th, 17th, 25th, 26th,
30th, 32nd, and the 39th Infantry regiments, the 5th and 8th cavalry and the First Artillery. These
men had all seen a lot of action and were seasoned soldiers. They were not about to become
confused and retreat at the sound of battle as they had at first. Their officers were experienced and
they were an army to be reckoned with.
Skirmishes were fought daily as the Union Army slowly drove the Confederates backward. Some
memorable names of places where battles of significance occurred are Resaca, Altoona, Adairsville,
Cassville, New Hope Church, Kennesaw Mountain. The Union Army came with insight of Atlanta,
Georgia, on July 19. The city was encircled. Four Iowa regiments were with the "Crocker Brigade"
which was forced to surrender after they were Surrounded and their ammunition gave out. Some
managed to escape. The entire Iowa 16th Infantry regiment was captured.
Sherman settled down to a siege on Atlanta. It lasted a month. On September 2, the Confederate
Army evacuated Atlanta and the Union Army had another brilliant victory. 2,500 Iowans were
casualties--344 killed, 1,085 wounded and 1,096 captured. Those captured were sent to
Andersonville prison at Georgia, where many of them died of starvation and disease.
After the fall of Atlanta, an Iowa General J. M. Corse, leading the Fourth Illinois Regiment and
the Iowa 39th, was responsible for holding back attackers and saved the fort at Altoona at great loss
At Resaca, the 17th Iowa suffered the same fate, holding out until they were overwhelmed. Many
of these men died in captivity.
Sherman's Army marched out of Atlanta on November 16. They cut a swath sixty miles wide,
and 300 miles long across George, destroying almost everything in their path. The army reached the
sea on December 10 and took Savannah on December 21.
Other Iowa Action
Meanwhile, some other Iowans were engaged in important battles. In the battle for Nashville in
November and December, were the Iowa 12th, 27th, 32nd and 35th, and the 2nd Iowa Artillery, the
2nd, 5th and 8th Iowa Cavalry.
Iowans also fought at Memphis, Mobile Bay, Spanish Fort and Fort Blakely. These were all
victories for the Union.
In January of 1865, the end of the war was in sight. Sherman marched northward through the
Carolinas. The soldiers were so experienced now that they would take needed action without orders
and conducted themselves with courage and distinction.
The high point for the Iowa regiments was the taking of Columbia. The 13th Iowa was first into
the city and hoisted their flag. Great piles of cotton bales were set afire by the retreating
Confederates and much of the city was destroyed by the fire. Sherman was blamed for this but an
investigation after the war cleared him. The army was met by thousands of people, both black and
white, when they rode into the city. One group of Union officers who had been imprisoned in
Columbia pushed forward. Among them was adjutant of the 5th Iowa, S. H. M. Byers, who had been
a prisoner for 15 months. He had written the lyric "Sherman's March to the Sea". This song was
supposedly sung by the army as it marched along and was also popular for many years in northern
cities after the war.
"Our campfires shone bright on the mountains,
That frowned on the river below.
While we stood by our guns in the evening
And eagerly watched for the foe.
When a rider came out from the darkness,
That hung over mountain and tree,
And shouted, "Boys, up and be ready,
For Sherman will march to the sea!"
IOWA'S BORDER BATTLEFIELD
Croton is a small community in southeastern Iowa on the banks of the Des Moines River. It was
here, in August of 1861, that Confederate bullets touched Iowa soil.
In late July, the Union Army had suffered defeat in the first major battle of the war at Manassas,
Virginia, near a creek called "Bull Run".
When the news of this defeat reached the mid-west, the secessionists in Missouri went wild.
People in Iowa's border counties felt they were in danger of invasion from Missouri. These residents
had been concerned for quite some time about the roving guerrilla bands in northern Missouri. These
were small bands of armed men not organized into a regular army. They would sweep into a
community, usually at night, shoot up the place and disappear into the darkness.
Word spread throughout southeastern Iowa that the Rebels were marching north to invade Iowa.
There were only a few Home Guards and mostly unarmed recruits along the border. Men from the
surrounding communities armed themselves with any available weapons--hatchets, knives, and
clubs, and hurried to Croton, ready to fight if the Johnny Rebs crossed the river. A company of
armed volunteers came by train from Keokuk.
The Iowans engaged the enemy at Athens, Missouri, across the Des Moines River from Croton.
The Rebels had planted two cannons on the bluffs behind Athens overlooking the river. When they
opened fire, their aim was too high and cannonballs flew across the river over the advancing Army
troops and landed in the town of Croton. There was no one hurt by these wild shots. When the Rebs
saw their shots go wild, and the Union troops continue to advance, they fled and left their cannon
After this episode, the Iowa Governor organized a militia company known as the Southern
Border Brigade' to patrol the southern Iowa border.
Two landmarks stand today as silent proof of this battle--the Benning House where a cannonball
went through a wall and the Sprouse House where the wounded were cared for. There were some
casualties on both sides.
IOWA'S BORDER BRIGADES
The Northern Border Brigade was organized to provide protection to the settlers against the
Indians in the sparsely settled northern counties of the state. When the Civil War began, the
government called back most of the soldiers from the forts which had been protecting the settlers.
After some settlers were killed in Sioux City and several hundred settlers massacred in southern
Minnesota, the Iowa governor organized the Northern Border Brigade to again provide protection
Iowa troops in active service on the northern Iowa border were the Sioux City Cavalry Company and
Companies A, B, & C of the 14th Regiment of the Iowa Volunteer Infantry. The Sioux City Cavalry
was the first cavalry unit made up of frontiersmen who were well-acquainted with Indian warfare.
They were later made a part of the 7th Iowa Cavalry. The three companies of the 14th were detached
from the regiment and ordered to proceed to Fort Randall, Dakota Territory. They were to relieve a
battalion of regular troops at that fort. They marched from Iowa City by way of Des Moines, Council
Bluffs, and Sioux City to Fort Randall, a distance of 550 miles, in 35 days. They became the 41st
Iowa Infantry Battalion and were assigned service on the frontier. They remained in the northwest
service until the close of the war.
S. R. Ingham of Des Moines, was appointed by Governor Kirkwood as his agent to organize
protection for the northern counties. In September of 1862, Ingham authorized a company to be
recruited in Emmet, Kossuth, Palo Alto and Humboldt counties. Forty men enlisted within 5 days,
held an election for officers, were mustered in, equipped with arms and ammunition and placed on
duty. They were to bring the number of men up to 80 if they thought it necessary. Ingham also
organized companies at Webster City, Fort Dodge, Denison and Forest City. He ordered construction
of blockhouses and stockades at Correctionville, Cherokee, Petersen, Estherville and Chain Lakes.
The headquarters of the brigade was at Estherville.
There is no record of the Northern Border Brigade ever actually being engaged in fights with the
Indians. They performed a valuable service however, in the construction of the forts. They were
disbanded by October of 1863 when regular Army troops from Sioux;~ City took over guarding the
Southern Iowa Brigade
In the early days of the Civil War, people who lived in counties bordering the state of Missouri
felt they were in danger of invasion. Armed bands of guerrillas roamed the border counties and kept
the residents in a constant state of apprehension.
Union men in Missouri were being driven from their homes. Their property was being used by
rebel forces. They appealed to the Iowa authorities for help.
The 4th Regiment of the Iowa Volunteer Infantry was at Council Bluffs.
Colonel Grenville Dodge took eight companies of the regiment and marched southwest. His
report states that he found the northern counties of Missouri mostly vacant with crops neglected and
farms deserted. He also found that the rebel camps in that area were afraid of being invaded from
Iowa. These men said they were drilling in order to be ready to be of assistance when the rebel army
arrived, as they were sure they would. Dodge broke up this camp and recommended to the governor
that there be one company of militia in each county along the border.
The governor ordered that there be four battalions in the Southern Border Brigade--the First
Battalion would be from the counties of Lee and Van Buren; the Second Battalion would be from
counties of Wapello, Davis and Appanoose, the Third from Wayne, Decatur, and Ringgold and the
Fourth from Taylor, Page and Freemont. He named a prominent citizen from each of the border
counties to enlist the men. In order to avoid unnecessary expense, no more than ten men from one
company were to be detailed for special services, unless there was an actual invasion. The brigade
did see brief action in the service of their country and served their purpose with honor.
MISSISSIPPI MARINE BRIGADE
The Mississippi Marine Brigade was subject to orders from both the Army and the Navy. It
rendered effective and important service along the Mississippi River and its tributaries during the
Over 800 Iowa sailors helped make up this force and shared in the glory and honors after the
war. There were one hundred vessels in the brigade and Iowa had commissioned officers on twentyseven
The arrival of the gunboats "Conestoga" and "Lexington" saved General Grant's small army of
3,000 from capture at Belmont, Missouri. Fort Henry was captured by gunboats alone, and the "iron
clads"--the "Tyler", "Lexington" and "Carondelet" were important in taking Fort Donelson.
The "Tyler" and "Lexington" were at Shiloh and threw back the rebels when they tried to take
possession of the landing and transports.
Several of the boats were rigged for ramming. They became the scouts of the Mississippi River
and preceded the transports loaded with troops and supplies. The brigade could move rapidly from
point to point, land and engage the enemy. If they were outnumbered, they would retreat under cover
of the fire from the gunboats and sail away.
AN IOWA VOLUNTEER'S STORY...THE FIRST BATTLE
April 20, 1861. Well, today we heard about the call to arms from the President. The trouble in
the country over the slaves has caused war. Some of the southern states have pulled out of the union.
The rebels have shot at our flag at a place called Fort Sumter. Our governor says he needs ten
companies of volunteers. There are about 78 men in each company. It sounds exciting and they are
saying the war will be over within three months. Probably won't even be much fighting. Our militia
group has been drilling for quite a while now. We have been in parades and like to march in our
pretty uniforms. Maybe we will get to April 22, 1861. Today we went to town and volunteered.
There were a lot of other militia groups there. Everyone wants to go.
We were sworn in by a local magistrate. We won't get regular uniforms for awhile. We'll have to
wear the ones we have been using in our militia. They have dark blue coats and black pants with red
stripes up the sides. We don't know when we will get guns. There's supposed to be some sent to Iowa
soon. We heard that some of the ladies in the communities were sewing uniforms for us. We will be
meeting other volunteers in Keokuk where we will choose our officers and organize into companies.
May 14, 1861. Keokuk. Today we were formally mustered into the service of the United States.
We will be staying here in Keokuk for about two weeks.
May 28, 1861. Tents have arrived and we set up a camp on the outskirts of town. Now we are
going to have drills. They say we will drill five hours daily.
We have been having lots of fun. People in Keokuk have had picnics and parties for us.
June 11, 1861. We have been doing a lot of drilling. Have worn blisters on our hands using sticks
in place of the guns we hope to get. We think we can handle our weapons, when we get them, to suit
our officers. We have learned how to put up tents and cook our own food.
June 13, 1861. At 5 this afternoon, our regiment boarded a steamer on the Mississippi River,
bound for Missouri. Have some weapons--mostly old muskets of the one-shot style. We have to bite
the ends off the cartridges and push them down the muzzle of the musket with a ramrod. There were
a lot of people on the river banks to see us off. The band struck up "Dixie Land" as we left. We
reached Hannibal, Missouri, about midnight and slept in a big warehouse for the rest of the night.
June 18. We arrived in Macon City, Missouri by railroad from Hannibal and have stayed here
five days. Today we went by rail again to a little place called "Renick''. There had been some
fighting here but it was all over when we got here. We saw several of the captured rebels.
June 19-22. We got our first taste of marching. It wasn't much fun. It was an awful hot day. The
dust was bad. We left Renick at 10 a.m. and marched to the river. Got there by the 21st and boarded
another steamer. The general doesn't know just what we should do and is waiting for orders. We are
beginning to wonder whether we will see action before our enlistment is up.
June 24. Today we finally went ashore and made a camp near the little town of Boonville. Our
camp is on the county fairgrounds.
July 3. We left Boonville today. There were terrible thunderstorms while we were here. The
weather was really bad. We received pay here--the first time in three weeks. We held a regimental
drill one day and the people of the town seemed quite impressed. A strange-looking boat came down
the river one day and everyone got excited, thinking it was a rebel spy boat, but it was some
frontiersmen returning from the north country where they had been trading with the Indians.
Our officers have learned that the rebels are camped near here and think they are traveling
southwesterly. We have orders to follow them. Hope we catch up with them. We have 3,200 men in
our army and are getting a little short on supplies already. We have a battery of artillery. We
marched about 15 miles today and camped in a forest to get away from the heat
July 13. It had taken us all this time to get to Camp Sigel. We averaged more than 25 miles a
day, though. The heat was intolerable and a lot of the men had to stop. The dust was bad. We lost
one man to sunstroke. The rivers we had to cross, the Grand and Osage, were running high and the
current was too fast to swim across. We found some old ferry boats and crossed in them. We met
some Kansas troops here, about 2,800 in all.
August 2. We engaged the enemy today for the first time! They turned tail and ran. One camp
was deserted so fast that breakfast was left cooking and we had a good warm meal.
August 9. We returned to Springfield to regroup and prepare an attack.
After the Battle
We left Springfield at night on August 9, split our army in half and sent part around to attack
from the rear.
We knew we were outnumbered, but we were counting on surprise. The Rebs were camped near
Wilson's Creek. We followed the road a ways then marched across a prairie very quietly so as to
Got pretty close to them about 2 a.m. and wrapped ourselves in our blankets and got some needed
rest. Up early and heard the sounds of muskets. The rebel guards had been surprised and captured,
and the attack was begun. The fighting was terrible. The sounds of the "minie balls" screaming by
our heads, the smoke and dust, the screaming of men--the blood, the gunpowder smell and the black
powder on our hands and faces--it was a fierce battle. Our general was killed. There was a lull in the
fighting and we tried to regroup. The rebel forces attacked us again...they were almost on top of
us...the line was almost muzzle to muzzle. We finally had to retreat. The rebels must have had all
they wanted too because they didn't come after us. The men who were wounded were taken by
wagon to Springfield. Some of them won't make it.
We learned a lot in this battle. It was pretty scary but now we know what to do and are ready to
prove ourselves better the next time.
CIVIL WAR PRISONS
Neither the North nor the South were prepared to handle the large numbers of prisoners. The
prisons for captured soldiers were usually warehouses and abandoned factories
An agreement in 1862 to exchange prisoners did little to help the suffering of the prisoners. The
early prisoners were not treated as badly as those captured later. After the war had drawn on longer,
lack of money to provide proper food and clothing was one primary reason for the poor conditions.
Money spent on food and care for Union soldiers in the Southern prisons was bitterly resented by
those who did not have enough food and clothing and supplies for their own citizens. There was a
lack of food and adequate medical facilities. If a prison had a hospital, it was likely understaffed and
there were very poor sanitary provisions.
One of the worst prisons was the Confederate prison in Anderson, Georgia. Statistics show that
out of a total of 49,485 prisoners received at the prison called "Andersonville", 12,462 did not
survive. At one time, there were over 30,000 prisoners in the stockade covering some 28 acres.
There was no shelter, no barracks, and not even trees to keep off the hot sun. Shelters were made out
of poles and blankets. In 1955, MacKinlay Kantor, a famous author who was a native Iowan, wrote a
book about this prison, appropriately called "Andersonville". He spent twenty-five years researching
for the book. The book won the Pulitzer prize.
Over 200 Iowans died and are buried at the cemetery at Andersonville. There is a monument
honoring the Iowans who were prisoners and those who died here.
Conditions at Libbey Prison and Belle Isle Prison in Richmond, Virginia for the northern
prisoners were also frightful Overcrowded conditions and shortages existed in Union prisons also.
There was a Union Prison at Rock Island, Illinois.
An Iowan from Ottumwa, Major Augustus Hamilton escaped from the Confederate Prison at
Tyler, Texas in July of 1865. Hamilton and two other Iowans, Capt. Allen hiller and Capt. John
Lambert fled toward the Union lines They traveled at night and slept by day. Their only food was
raw green corn from the cornfields. Their boots gave out and they used the tops as make-shift
moccasins for protection for their feet.
Thirty-three days later, they reached safety at Pine Bluffs, Arkansas where a federal camp was
located. They had traveled 700 miles.
Major Hamilton was able to return to his command after a brief rest and served the rest of the
war. Captains Miller and Lambert died later from the effects of the exposure and hardships suffered
during this escape and flight.
HOSPITALS AND MEDICINES
Most of the casualties of the Civil War were caused by disease rather than battlefield wounds.
Statistics show that death from diseases were about double those resulting from wounds.
Some of the most deadly diseases were diarrhea, dysentery, malaria, measles, typhoid fever,
smallpox and tuberculosis. Measles were responsible for the death and discharge from the army of
thousands of recruits. Most of Iowa's volunteers were stationed at a place called Helena, Arkansas. It
seemed that every Iowa infantry regiment that came to this place had to undergo a plague of measles.
Many men died or were so deathly ill that they had to be let out of the army.
The first camps where the volunteers were sent for training had been hastily thrown together.
Most of the men slept in tents on the bare ground with few blankets.
Later, more permanent camps were built such as the one at Camp Harlan in Mount Pleasant. This
one had buildings made of rough pine boards and high enough for at least three tiers of double bunks
between floor and eaves.
There was little thought given for sanitation and when a disease caught hold, it would spread
rapidly through the entire camp. The camp hospitals were makeshift with few of the medicines and
equipment needed. After the soldiers left the training camps and went into battle, their living
conditions often times worsened and they considered themselves fortunate to have any shelter from
the weather. Medical supplies were carried to battle areas either by horse drawn ambulances, pack
mules or on the shoulders of hospital stewards.
The lack of preventive measures of certain diseases actually was a major factor in the outcome of
some of the Civil War battles. Sometimes there were just so many sick soldiers that fighting reached
The formation of the United States Sanitary Commission in the North did a lot to improve
conditions for the Union soldiers. Iowa's Mrs. Annie Wittenmeyer had a lot to do in the development
of this commission.
Most of the larger army hospitals were in the east, but there were small camp hospitals in every
state. The rivers were used by hospital ships to transport wounded and ill soldiers to the hospitals.
Communities were not prepared for the large numbers of sick and wounded, and make-shift
hospitals were set up in many public buildings.
Later, the army hospitals became better organized and offered better care. The women who
served as nurses were considered angels by the men for whom they cared.
IOWA'S CIVIL WAR GOVERNORS
When the Civil War began, Samuel Jordan Kirkwood was the governor of Iowa. He was born on
a farm in Maryland and was a lawyer in Ohio before coming to Iowa City in 1854.
He had been a member of the Democratic party, but was unable to support some of the
legislation that party sponsored in 1854.
He was a delegate to the convention when the Republican Party was organized in Iowa. He
vigorously supported Abraham Lincoln's first campaign for the presidency in 1860. Kirkwood
served in the United States Senate, being named in 1863 to fill the unexpired term of James Harlan.
As a state senator in 1858, Samuel Kirkwood declared that slavery would not be tolerated in
Iowa "in any form or under any pretext, for any time, however short, be the consequences what they
The campaign for governor in 1859 was bitterly fought. Iowa had been considered a Democrat
state. The new Republican party was not taken seriously by the Democrats. Kirkwood was the
Republican candidate, and Augustus C. Dodge, was the Democratic candidate. The Republicans
challenged Dodge to a series of debates with Kirkwood. The Democrats accepted because they were
confident that Dodge, who was a gifted orator, could get the best of Kirkwood.
The Republicans were a little worried about the debates. When a newspaper editor called the
Republican ticket the "Plough-Handle Ticket", the Republicans made a slogan of this sneer. This
worked to the Republicans advantage, as most of the voters of the state were farmers. The
Republicans even came to one of the debates at Washington, Iowa, in a lumber wagon drawn by
The Republicans won the 1859 election--not by a landslide but by enough to determine the
course of Iowa in the years to come.
Governor Kirkwood faced almost overwhelming concerns in his years as Iowa's Governor--the
calls for volunteers, the border troubles, the lack of arms, ammunition and uniforms for the soldiers,
and many others. Besides that, in the campaign of 1861, some of his own party turned against him.
He was nominated' however, and although he made only two campaign speeches, was re-elected in
1861. He did not seek re-election in 1863.
William M. Stone was elected governor of Iowa in 1863, and served until January of 1865. He
was a native of New York state and came to Iowa in 1854. He had been a successful lawyer in
Stone quickly became involved in the political process of the state. He published the Knoxville
Journal and established a strong anti-slavery position. He was one of the earliest supporters of the
formation of the Republican party in Iowa. He served as a delegate to the first state Republican
Convention held in Iowa City in February of 1856. He served as a delegate to the Republican
National Convention in Chicago in May of 1860, and went as dedicated supporter of Abraham
Lincoln. He seconded Lincoln's nomination. He was serving as a judge When he heard the news that
Fort Sumter had been fire upon.
He requested permission from Gov. Kirkwood to for an infantry company of men from the
Knoxville area as this unit was a member of the 3rd Iowa Infantry Regiment. Stone saw action at
Kirksville and Blue Mills in Missouri and was wounded at Blue Mills. was with Iowa troops at
Shiloh and was taken prisoner and sent to Selma, Alabama.
He successfully negotiated his release from prison and returned to Iowa in 1862. Gov. Kirkwood
appointed him Colonel of the 22nd Iowa Infantry and he took part in actions leading up to the actual
assault on Vicksburg where he was wounded. His wound was serious enough that he was sent home
to recover and he turned to politics.
The political scene was beginning to warm up for the campaign in the fall of 1863. Colonel
Stone, in his blue uniform and with his arm in a sling, campaigned using patriotic oratory and
received a majority of the votes. He took office in January of 1864. There were three war-related
issues to dominate his administration--Iowa's response to the military draft calls, the still present
threat of raids along Iowa's southern boundary by Confederate guerrillas and the possible disloyality
of Iowans involved in Copperhead activities.
Stone also played a role in national affairs while governor of the state. Lincoln remembered the
support he had received from Stone in his campaign of 1860 and called him to the capitol for
conferences with the Secretary of War.
In June 1865, Stone again played an important role in national affairs when he was instrumental
in the nomination of Andrew Johnson for Vice- President.
Governor Stone was present at Ford's Theater in Washington D.C., the night that Abraham
Lincoln was assassinated. He rushed to the president's box and remained at his bedside until Lincoln
died. He served as a pallbearer at the funeral and rode on the train that carried Lincoln's body back to
Governor Stone was re-elected in 1865 mainly because of his stand on the Negro voting rights.
After he completed his second term in 1868, he returned to Knoxville. He remained politically
active, however, and served one term in the state legislature. He died in 1893 and is buried in
MRS. ANNIE WITTENMEYER, CIVIL WAR HEROINE
There were many Iowa women who performed heroic tasks during the Civil War. The one most
remembered for her service to humanity was Mrs. Annie Turner Wittenmeyer of Keokuk.
Mrs. Wittenmeyer was a widow at the time of the Civil War Her husband had left her wealthy
She was an energetic woman and helped in the camps and hospitals around Keokuk when the war
She helped organize the "Keokuk Soldiers Aid Society". This organization raised money to buy
food and clothing for the ill and wounded soldiers in the hospitals.
While visiting her brother at an army hospital in Sedalia, Missouri, Mrs. Wittenmeyer was
shocked at the food served to the patients. Knowing that these sick men needed better food than
greasy bacon, bread and coffee, she came up with the idea of "diet kitchens."
She took her idea to authorities in Washington, D.C., and was given approval to establish these
diet kitchens in all the larger Union Army hospitals. A special kitchen was attached to each hospital
and foods like toast, chicken soup, milk, tea, gruel and vegetables were made available for the
patients. By the end of the war, there were over 100 diet kitchens in operation.
In 1862, the Iowa legislature passed a law requiring the governor to appoint two or more sanitary
agents for the state. Mrs. Annie Wittenmeyer was named to be one of these agents. In fact, the law
stated that she be one of the agents. She served two years in this capacity. She was responsible for
buying needed supplies with state funds and seeing that the supplies got to the people who needed
General Grant said of Mrs. Wittenmeyer "no soldier on the firing line ever gave more heroic
service than Annie Wittenmeyer rendered."
Mrs. Wittenmeyer was also a leader in the establishment of the Iowa Soldiers Orphans Homes.
After many dying soldiers in the hospitals begged Mrs. Wittenmeyer to care for their children, she
decided to see what she could do for these children. She helped raise money for the homes. The first
home was started in Farmington, Iowa, in July of 1864, and was later moved to Camp Kinsman in
Davenport. There was another home at Cedar Falls from 1864 to 1876. In 1866, the state took over
the management of the homes. The State Children's Home in Davenport was named in honor of Mrs.
After the Civil War, Mrs. Wittenmeyer moved to Pennsylvania and was involved in
humanitarian works there. She died in 1900.
The people of Iowa were patriotically excited when the Civil War began. Young men dashed off
to volunteer. Women's Societies were formed in every county. In the first days of the war, much
time was spent making uniforms for the soldiers. Iowa was too poor to furnish uniforms for the men.
Later, women from these societies worked in camps and hospitals. They made bandages and
other supplies to be used in the hospitals. They sent vegetables and other food to the kitchens for the
soldiers. They raised money for various causes.
It wasn't long before the stories of the horrors of the war began to reach Iowa. Wounded men
returned home--minus arms and legs. Families lost brothers, sons, fathers. Hearts were heavy as
people went about their daily tasks. Meanwhile, the war went on and on. More men disappeared
from the farms and businesses. Women, children and older men took over these jobs.
The people living along the southern border of the state were afraid of being invaded by the rebel
forces in Missouri. The few settlers in Northwest Iowa worried about Indian attacks.
Life on the Iowa homefront during the years from 1861 to 1865 were hard, but the Iowa spirit
prevailed and the state was ready to grow when the war ended.