Iowa City, Johnson County, and Eastern Iowa history, as seen through the eyes of postage stamps, postcards, letters, coins, books, and other collectibles.
Our Iowa Heritage: Iowa & The Civil War – 1861-1865.
Old Capitol draped for Abraham Lincoln’s funeral. April 19, 1865.
In April of 1861, most Iowans were going about the business of building a young state. Farms and towns were being established. Railroads connected most settled areas in the eastern part of the state and were gradually being extended westward. The Confederate attack on Fort Sumter changed everything. Personal concerns were put aside, and the entire state became involved in the war effort.
Iowa, being a northern state since 1846, was thrust into the conflict just as every state in the Union was. The War Department issued a call for volunteers and asked for one regiment from Iowa. Governor Samuel Kirkwood was uncertain if Iowa could raise the number of volunteers necessary to meet its quota, but enough men enlisted to form ten regiments. In total, Iowa furnished 48 infantry regiments, 9 cavalry regiments and 4 batteries of artillery. Iowa also furnished one black regiment and a thousand replacement troops. Between 1861-1865, there were no major battles between Union and Confederate forces in Iowa. Instead, Iowans fought mainly in the western Confederate states of Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee. Iowa’s 76,000 soldiers conducted themselves with honor throughout the war. Twenty-seven received Congressional Medals of Honor. Thirteen thousand died. Many more died from disease than from bullet wounds.
Three Iowans became major generals during the war. Samuel Curtis of Keokuk was a graduate of West Point. He was also a member of Iowa’s congressional delegation. He resigned from Congress in 1861 and commanded Iowa forces at the Battle of Pea Ridge. Grenville M. Dodge, an engineer and railroad builder, had settled in Council Bluffs in the 1850s. He recruited a company of volunteers at the start of the war and served under General Curtis at the Battle of Pea Ridge. He participated in many major battles (including Vicksburg and Chattanooga). He was wounded three times. Iowa’s youngest major general was Francis Herron, a Dubuque banker. He served at both Pea Ridge (1861) and Prairie Grove (1862).
Iowans fought in many battles. Iowa soldiers first saw combat at Wilson’s Creek, Missouri, and Pea Ridge, Arkansas. Early in the war, many Iowa units accompanied General Ulysses S. Grant in his campaign to gain control of the Mississippi River. They took part in the great battles of Fort Henry, Fort Donelson and Shiloh. At Shiloh, five Iowa regiments “saved” Grant’s army by holding the center of the Union line (called the “hornets’ nest” by attacking Confederates) until late in the first day of the battle. This campaign ended with the great Union victory at Vicksburg, Mississippi, on July 4, 1863. Iowa soldiers then fought in Mississippi and Tennessee. Finally, in the spring of 1865, thousands of Iowans took part in General William Tecumseh Sherman’s famous “March to the Sea” through Georgia and South Carolina.
Harper’s Weekly – September 21, 1861 – Iowa-Calvary-Volunteers.
Bull’s Eye Postmarks – September 1865 & January 1866.
There are two Civil War remembrance plaques (above) posted on stone monuments outside the Johnson County Court House. The one on the left of the steps has General John Logan’s Memorial Day Order of 1868. The one on the right has Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
(P-0262) Long after Lincoln’s death, his life was commemorated. This beautiful penny postcard from 1904 was created in his memory.
Kudos to the amazing resources below for the many quotes, photographs, etc. used on this page.