Jefferson County Online
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The State of Iowa
War Record

The following is a chapter from "The History of Jefferson County, Iowa", Pages 229-232, published by the Western Historical Company of Chicago in 1879.



The State of Iowa may well be proud of her record during the War of the Rebellion, from 1861 to 1865. The following brief but comprehensive sketch of the history she made during that trying period is largely from the pen of Col. A. P. Wood, of Dubuque, the author of "The History of Iowa and the War," one of the best works of the kind yet written.

"Whether in the promptitude of her responses to the calls made on her by the General Government, in the courage and constancy of her soldiery in the field, or in the wisdom and efficiency with which her civil administration was conducted during the trying period covered by the War of the Rebellion, Iowa proved herself the peer of any loyal State. The proclamation of her Governor, responsive to that of the President, calling for volunteers to compose her First Regiment, was issued on the fourth day after the fall of Sumter. At the end of only a single week, men enough were reported to be in quarters (mostly in the vicinity of their own homes) to fill the regiment. These, however, were hardly more than a tithe of the number who had been offered by company commanders for acceptance under the President's call. So urgent were these offers that the Governor requested (on the 24th of April) permission to organize an additional regiment. While awaiting an answer to this request, he conditionally accepted a sufficient number of companies to compose two additional regiments. In a short time, he was notified that both of these would be accepted. Soon after the completion of the Second and Third Regiments (which was near the close of May), the Adjutant General of the State reported that upward of one hundred and seventy companies had been tendered to the governor to serve against the enemies of the Union.

"Much difficulty and considerable delay occured in fitting these regiments for the field. For the First Infantry a complete outfit (not uniform) of clothing was extemporized -- principally by the volunteered labor of loyal women in the different towns -- from a material of various colors and qualities, obtained within the limits of the State. The same was done in part for the Second Infantry. Meantime, an extra session of the General Assembly had been called by the Governor, to convene on the 15th of May. With but little delay, that body authorized a loan of $800,000, to meet the extraordinary expenses incurred, and to be incurred, by the Executive Department, in consequence of the new emergency. A wealthy merchant of the State (Ex-Governor Merrill, then a resident of McGregor) immediately took from the Governor a contract to supply a complete outfit of clothing for the three regiments organized, agreeing to receive, should the Governor so select, his pay therefor in State bonds at par. This contract he executed to the letter, and a portion of the clothing (which was manufactured in Boston, to his order) was delivered at Keokuk, the place at which the troops had rendezvoused, in exactly one month from the day on which the contract had been entered into. The remainder arrived only a few days later. This clothing was delivered to the regiment, but was subsequently condemned by the Government, for the reason that its color was gray, and blue had been adopted as the color to be worn by the national troops."

Other States also clothed their troops, sent forward under the first call of President Lincoln, with gray uniforms, but it was soon found that the confederate forces were also clothed in gray, and that color was at once abandoned by the Union troops. If both armies were clothed alike, annoying if not fatal mistakes were liable to be made.

But while engaged in these efforts to discharge her whole duty in common with all the other Union-loving States in the great emergency, Iowa was compelled to make immediate and ample provision for the protection of her own borders, from threatened invasion from the west and northwest by bands of hostile Indians, who were freed from the usual restraint imposed upon them by the presence of regular troops stationed at the frontier posts. These troops were withdrawn to meet the greater and more pressing danger threatening the life of the nation at its very heart.

To provide for the adequate defense of her borders from the ravages of both rebels in arms against the Government and of the more irresistable foes from the Western plains, the Governor of the State was authorized to raise and equip two regiments of infantry, a squadron of cavalry (not less than five companies) and a battalion of artillery (not less than three companies.) Only cavalry were enlisted for home defense, however, "But," says Col. Wood, "in times of special danger, or when calls were made by the Unionists of Northern Missouri for assistance against their disloyal enemies, large numbers of militia on foot often turned out, and remained in the field until the necessity for their services had passed.

"The first order for the Iowa volunteers to move to the field was received on the 13th of June. It was issued by Gen. Lyon, then commanding the United States forces in Missouri. The First and Second Infantry immediately embarked in steamboats, and moved to Hannibal. Some two weeks later, the Third Infantry was ordered to the same point. These three, together with many other of the earlier organized Iowa regiments, rendered their first field service in Missouri. The First Infantry formed a part of the little army with which Gen. Lyon moved on Springfield, and fought the bloody battle of Wilson's Creek. It received unqualified praise for its gallant bearing on the field. In the following month (September), the Third Iowa, with but very slight support, fought with honor the sanguinary engagement of Blue Mills Landing; and in November, the Seventh Iowa, as a part of a force commanded by Gen. Grant, greatly distinguished itself in the battle of Belmont, where it poured out its blood like water -- losing more than half of the men it took into action.

"The initial operations in which the battles referred to took place were followed by the more important movements led by Gen. Grant, Gen. Curtis, of this State, and other commanders, which resulted in defeating the armies defending the chief strategic lines held by the Confederates in Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri and Arkansas, and compelling their withdrawal from much of the territory previously controlled by them in those States. In these and other movements, down to the grand culminating campaign by which Vicksburg was captured and the Confederacy permanently severed on the line of the Mississippi River, Iowa troops took part in steadily increasing numbers. In the investment and siege of Vicksburg, the State was represented by thirty regiments and two batteries, in addition to which, eight regiments and one battery were employed on the outposts of the besieging army. The brilliancy of their exploits on the many fields where they served won for them the highest meed of praise, both in military and civil circles. Multiplied were the terms in which expression was given to this sentiment, but these words of one of the journals of a neighboring State, 'The Iowa troops have been heroes among heroes,' embody the spirit of all.

"In the veteran re-enlistments that distinguished the closing months of 1863 above all other periods in the history of re-enlistments for the national armies, the Iowa three years' men (who were relatively more numerous than those of any other State) were prompt to set the example of volunteering for another term of equal length, thereby adding many thousands to the great army of those who gave this renewed and practical assurance that the cause of the Union should not be left without defenders.

"In all the important movements of 1864-65, by which the Confederacy was penetrated in every quarter, and its military power finally overthrown, the Iowa troops took part. Their drum-beat was heard on the banks of every great river of the South, from the Potomac to the Rio Grande, and everywhere they rendered the same faithful and devoted service, maintaining on all occasions their wonted reputation for valor in the field and endurance on the march.

"Two Iowa three-year cavalry regiments were employed during their whole term of service in the operations that were in progress from 1863 to 1866 against the hostile Indians of the western plains. A portion of these men were among the last of the volunteer troops to be mustered out of service. The State also supplied a considerable number of men to the navy, who took part in most of the naval operations prosecuted against the Confederate power on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, and the rivers of the West.

"The people of Iowa were early and constant workers in the sanitary field, and by their liberal gifts and personal efforts for the benefit of the soldiery, placed their State in the front rank of those who became distinguished for their exhibitions of patriotic benevolence during the period covered by the war. Agents appointed by the Governor were stationed at points convenient for rendering assistance to the sick and needy soldiers of the State, while others were employed in visiting, from time to time, hospitals, camps and armies in the field, and doing whatever the circumstances rendered possible for the health and comfort of such of the Iowa soldiery as might be found there.

Some of the benevolent people of the State early conceived the idea of establishing a Home for such of the children of deceased soldiers as might be left in destitute circumstances. This idea first took form in 1863, and in the following year a Home was opened at Farmington, Van Buren County, in a building leased for that purpose, and which soon became filled to its utmost capacity. The institution received liberal donations from the general public, and also from the soldiers in the field. In 1865, it became necessary to provide increased accommodations for the large number of children who were seeking the benefits of its care. This was done by establishing a branch at Cedar Falls, in Black Hawk County, and by securing, during the same year, for the use of the parent Home, Camp Kinsman near the City of Davenport. This property was soon afterward donated to the institution, by act of Congress.

"In 1866, in pursuance of a law enacted for that purpose, the Soldiers' Orphans' Home (which then contained about four hundred and fifty inmates) became a State institution, and thereafter the sums necessary for its support were appropriated from the State treasury. A second branch was established at Glenwood, Mills County. Convenient tracts were secured, and valuable improvements made at all the different points. Schools were also established, and employments provided for such of the children as were of suitable age. In all ways the provision made for these wards of the State has been such as to challenge the approval of every benevolent mind. The number of children who have been inmates of the Home from its foundation to the present time is considerably more than two thousand.

"At the beginning of the war, the population of Iowa included about one hundred and fifty thousand men presumably liable to render military service. The State raised, for general service, thirty-nine regiments of infantry, nine regiments of cavalry, and four companies of artillery, composed of three years' men; one regiment of infantry, composed of three months' men; and four regiments and one battalion of infantry, composed of one hundred days' men. The original enlistments in these various organizations, including seventeen hundred and twenty-seven men raised by draft, numbered a little more than sixty-nine thousand. The re-enlistments, including upward of seven thousand veterans, numbered very nearly eight thousand. The enlistments in the regular army and navy, and organizations of other States, will, if added, raise the total to upward of eighty thousand. The number of men who, under special enlistments, and as militia, took part at different times in the operations on the exposed borders of the State, was probably as many as five thousand.

"Iowa paid no bounty on account of the men she placed in the field. In some instances, toward the close of the war, bounty to a comparatively small amount was paid by cities and towns. On only one occasion -- that of the call of July 18, 1864 -- was a draft made in Iowa. This did not occur on account of her proper liability, as established by previous rulings of the War Department, to supply men under that call, but grew out of the great necessity that there existed for raising men. The Government insisted on temporarily setting aside, in part, the former rule of settlements, and enforcing a draft in all cases where subdistricts in any of the States should be found deficient in their supply of men. In no instance was Iowa, as a whole, found to be indebted to the General Government for men, on a settlement of her quota accounts."

It is to be said to the honor and credit of Iowa that while many of the loyal States, older and larger in population and wealth, incurred heavy State debts for the purpose of fulfilling their obligations to the General Government, Iowa, while she was foremost in duty, while she promptly discharged all her obligations to her sister States and the Union, found herself at the close of the war without any material addition to her pecuniary liabilities incurred before the war commenced. Upon final settlement after the restoration of peace, her claims upon the Federal Government were found to be fully equal to the amount of her bonds issued and sold during the war to provide the means for raising and equipping her troops sent into the field, and to meet the inevitable demands upon her treasury in consequence of the war.

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