Henry County, IAGenWeb

War for the Union.

Portrait and Biographical Album of Henry County, Iowa
Chicago: Acme  Publishing Company, 1888.


Slavery, as a public question, from the time the Government was established up to 1860, entered into almost every political contest. The States of the Union in which slavery existed continually feared their rights would be encroached upon, and to allay such fears and maintain peace, various compromise measures were passed. These only served for a little while, and were never entirely satisfactory to either party interested. That known as the "Missouri Compromise" seemed to come nearer a solution of the difficulty than any other, and was the most satisfactory to the Northern States, and seemed, for a time, also, to satisfy the South. By the terms of that compromise slavery was confined south of an imaginary line known as the Mason and Dixon Line. The rapid growth of the North, and the formation of new States without slavery, alarmed the Southern people, who feared the loss of power. Then came the repeal of the "Missouri Compromise," the adoption of the Kansas-Nebraska bill, and the question of the introduction of the slaves into the Territories. The Republican party, formed for the purpose of preventing any further extension of slavery, was regarded as a menace by the South, and threats of secession were made in the event of that party coming into power. In the Presidential campaign of 1860, the Republicans, with Abraham Lincoln as their leader, presented a solid front, while the Democracy was divided, presenting Stephen A. Douglas as a candidate for the Presidency, representing the Northern wing of the party, and John C. Breckenridge, of Kentucky, representing the Southern wing. John Bell, of Tennessee, was also a candidate, receiving his nomination from the Union party, composed principally of those formerly affiliating with the American, or Know-Nothing. The election of Lincoln was almost a foregone conclusion. While it was known that there were many hot-headed men in the South willing to plunge the country into civil war, few persons realized the danger, or for a moment believed that the threats of the Southern people would be carried into execution. Little was known of the preparations being made in the South for the event sure to follow the election of Lincoln. When the result of the general election was known, and months before the inauguration of Lincoln as President, South Carolina and other States passed ordinances of secession, and preparations were made to resist any force that would be sent against them, as well as to obtain possession of any property belonging to the General Government within the limits of their States. At Charleston, S. C., two forts were in the possession of the United States authorities, Fts. Moultrie and Sumter. The former was was abandoned, the troops being moved to the latter. Early in April, 1861, the authorities of South Carolina demanded their surrender, and being refused, erected fortifications upon the mainland for the purpose of bombardment. No attempt was made to prevent them, and when completed, another demand was made, with threats of opening fire upon the fort in case of refusal. In Ft. Sumter was Maj. Anderson and a gallant band of loyal men, with provisions to last but a short time. To the demand to surrender a refusal was sent, and on the morning of April 12, 1861, the rebels commenced the attack by opening fire upon the fort. The fire was retuned by the brave commander of the fort, but on the 14th he was compelled to lower his flag and yield to the rebels.

The first gun fired upon Ft. Sumter reverberated throughout the whole length and breadth of the land, and was more of a call to arms than the proclamation of President Lincoln for 75,000 men, which immediately followed. There was no lack of response to this call among the Northern States, and no State more enthusiastically and patriotically responded than the State of Iowa. Men and money were offered without reserve. Volunteers came from all vocations in life, and offered up their lives on the altar of their country. Patriotism was dominant in every heart. Party lines were ignored, and political conflicts were forgotten, and all formed themselves together for the preservation of the Union. The proclamation of Abraham Lincoln was issued on the 15th day of April, 1861, and two days afterwards Gov. Kirkwood issued his proclamation calling for the men of Iowa to offer their services to the Union.

Meetings were at once called in Mt. Pleasant and in other parts of the county, resolutions of a loyal nature were passed, and men finally offered their services. Call after call was made by the President, and man after man responded, until it seemed as if the county would be depopulated of all its best citizens. The services of all were freely given, for no more loyal men lived than the citizens of Henry County. Time passed, the last call was made, the last battle fought, and victory won. Those in rebellion laid down their arms, peace was declared, and those of the brave men who so nobly responded to their country's call and whose lives had been spared, returned to their homes. Daily they are to be seen upon the streets of our cities. The armless sleeve, the hollow sound of the wooden limb as it strikes the pavement, tell too plainly that war has once reigned in our beautiful land. Even if desired, it cannot be forgotten. But it is not desired. Patriotism led the brave boys to the front, and patriotism now compels grateful acknowledgment of what was done. Once each year, in the springtime, when the flowers bloom, the surviving soldiers, accompanied by their families and friends, repair to the cemetery, and as they scatter the fragrant flowers over the graves of those who have fallen, drop a tear to their memory, and offer up a silent prayer that their blood may not have been shed in vain.

Transcribed by Conni McDaniel Hall for Henry County IAGenWeb, November 2014.

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