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Civil War
The Civil War
History of The Iowa National Guard
CW2 David L. Snook

Small map of Iowa Guard activities in Civil war

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. charge at ft donelson.jpg


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.


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.


battle at Shiloh.jpg (59618 bytes)Although cannon balls and bullets had been fired across the Des Moines River into Iowa dwellings, the only actual fighting in Iowa occurred in 1864. Missouri "guards" raided Davis County, robbing, looting and murdering. Bloomfield’s county fair was in progress, and a posse was organized under Colonel James Weaver. Unfortunately, the raiders disappeared across the Missouri border before they could be apprehended.


Iowa’s first Civil War battle death was Shelby Norman of Muscatine. Norman was killed at the Battle of Wilson’s Creek in 1861.


The youngest Iowan to serve in the war may have been Cyrus Lichty of Cedar Falls. Lichty was only twelve when he enlisted as a drummer boy in 1861. He survived until 1940.


Iowa also gained fame for a unique military unit known as the Graybeard Regiment. The unit was composed of men too old to serve in combat (over 45). Nearly all were over 50. Many were in their 70s, and a few were in their 80s! The Graybeards enlisted in spite of the fact that they had a total of 1,300 sons and grandsons on the fighting front. The elderly men were not expected to fight but were given duties of escorting trains and guarding railroads and prisoners. Near Memphis, a supply train they were guarding was fired on by rebels; two of the Graybeards were killed, but the rest got the train through. During their service, they guarded 160,000 prisoners. Iowa was the only state to have a Graybeard Regiment.


Like their husbands, sons, fathers and brothers, Iowa women performed heroic service during the Civil War. Many organized Soldiers Aid Societies to raise money to buy food, clothing and medicines for sick and wounded soldiers. Some, like Annie Turner Wittenmeyer, followed Iowa units across the South, setting up hospitals and "diet kitchens." Others, like Mrs. M. J. Upright, managed farms that continued to supply the needs of both the civilian population of the North and the thousands of soldiers fighting in the South. Mrs. Upright’s situation was especially interesting. She single-handedly operated the large family farm near Aplington, while her husband and twelve sons served in the Union Army.


Iowa’s Major Generals

Samuel Curtis
Major Gen SRCurtis and Staff

Samuel Curtis was the first and oldest of Iowa’s major generals. He was born in New York on February 3, 1807. A West Point graduate, a veteran of the Mexican War, and a member of Iowa’s congressional delegation in 861, he obviously possessed the qualifications for a senior military command.


When the Civil War broke out, Curtis became an active recruiter, and on June 1, 1861, was named colonel of the Second Iowa Infantry. He was soon promoted to brigadier general and resigned his congressional seat. In December, 1861, he was placed in command of the District of Southwest Missouri. After defeating the forces of Confederate General Sterling Price in the Battle of Pea Ridge, he was made a major general. (Brigham, Johnson, Iowa – Its History and Foremost Citizens, The J. S. Clarke Publishing Company, 1918, p. 353)


Because of his strong anti-slavery beliefs, he was transferred, in January of 1864, from the Department of Missouri to the Department of Kansas. In Kansas, he again defeated General Price, who was attempting to capture Fort Leavenworth. (Brigham, 354)


At the conclusion of the Civil War, Curtis was made a United States commissioner to negotiate treaties with various Indian tribes, thus clearing the way for the extension of the Union Pacific Railroad.


General Curtis died at Council Bluffs, Iowa, on December 26, 1866.


Francis Herron
GEN (when Col) FJHerron

Francis Herron was Iowa’s youngest major general. He was also a recipient of the Medal of Honor.


Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1837 and educated at Western University, Herron came to Dubuque in 1855 and entered the banking business. A the start of the Civil War, he responded to the first call for volunteers, and his company, the "Governor’s Greys," became Company I, First Iowa Infantry. He led his men at the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, and, upon returning to Iowa, was commissioned lieutenant colonel of the Ninth Iowa. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for gallantry at the Battle of Pea Ridge in 1862. The citation states that he was "foremost in leading his men, rallying them to repeated acts of daring, until himself disabled and taken prisoner." He was soon exchanged, and his performance at the Battle of Prairie Grove resulted in his promotion to major general. (Brigham, 355)


At the siege of Vicksburg, in 1863, Herron’s troops occupied the left of General Ulysses Grant’s line. After the capitulation of the city, he was transferred to the Department of the Gulf, where he participated in the siege of Mobile. He resigned from the army in 1865. He then became involved in various business enterprises in both New Orleans and New York City. He died in New York on January 8, 1902. (Brigham, 356)


Grenville M. Dodge
Major Gen Dodge

Grenville Dodge is considered by many historians to be Iowa’s greatest Civil war general. (Brigham, 342) Dodge also played a major role in post-Civil War history. As an explorer and chief engineer for the Union Pacific Railway, he helped to build the first transcontinental railroad.


Grenville Mellen Dodge was born in Danvers, Massachusetts, on April 12, 1831. He attended Norwich Military Academy in Newbury, Vermont, graduating as a civil engineer in 1850. In the early 1850s, Dodge worked as a surveyor for railroad companies in Illinois and Iowa. From 1853 to 1860, he led several expeditions, which explored large areas of the Great Plains, while conducting preliminary surveys for the Union Pacific Railway.


In 1861, the Civil War interrupted Dodge’s life, as it did millions of his countrymen. After raising a company of volunteers in Council Bluffs, he became a member of Governor Samuel Kirkwood’s staff and was sent to Washington to secure arms for Iowa troops. He obtained 6,000 muskets and was offered a commission in the Regular Army. He declined, preferring to serve in the Iowa Militia.


Commissioned as a colonel, Dodge took command of the 4th Iowa Infantry on June 17, 1861. Although wounded twice during the Missouri campaigns of 1861 and 1862, Colonel Dodge led his men in the capture of Springfield (February, 1862) and commanded the right flank of Union forces at the Battle of Pea Ridge (March, 1862), which held against a greatly superior Confederate force.


As a reward for his service in Missouri, Colonel Dodge was promoted to brigadier general and put in command of the Central Division of the Army of the Tennessee. Successful campaigns followed in Tennessee and Mississippi.


In the fall of 1863, General Ulysses S. Grant gave Dodge’s troops a special assignment – repairing and reopening the Nashville and Decatur Railway, which would reduce logistical problems faced by Union forces in the South. In Grant’s words, "General Dodge, besides being a most capable officer, was an experienced railroad builder. He had no tools to work with other than those of the pioneers – axes, picks and spades. With these, he was able to entrench his men and protect them against (enemy attack)…General Dodge had the work assigned to him finished within forty days of receiving his orders. The number of bridges to rebuild was 182, many of them over wide and deeps chasms; the length of the road repaired was 102 miles." (Brigham, 342)


"In the Atlanta campaign of 1864, General Dodge commanded the 16th Army Corps. The 2nd, 7th and 39th Iowa regiments served in this corps. General Dodge joined General Sherman in early May and soon engaged in a winning movement to Resaca (in northwestern Georgia), forcing General Johnston to abandon his position in Dalton. In this campaign, Dodge held the right flank of General Sherman’s army. For his gallant service, the double star of the major general was conferred upon him. Before Atlanta, the general was wounded for the third time." (Brigham, 346)


In November of 1864, Dodge was placed in command of the Department of Missouri. In January of 1865, the Departments of Kansas, Nebraska and Utah were added to his command. In 1865-1866, headquartered in St. Louis, he oversaw the Indian campaigns on the plains, protecting overland routes to California.


In May of 1866, Dodge retired from the service and was elected to Congress. Declining renomination after one term, the general devoted himself to the completion of the transcontinental railroad, serving as chief engineer of the Union Pacific Railway. Completed in May of 1869, the project was one of the great engineering feats of the nineteenth century.


Dodge died in Council Bluffs on January 3, 1916. His home there is now a museum. He was remembered as "one of the great soldiers of the War of the Rebellion whose after-record ranks with their record in the field."


In 1905, a state Militia Training Camp was established just north of Des Moines and named in the general’s honor. Greatly expanded in 1914, it served as a training center for over 40,000 men during World War I. Today, Camp Dodge is the state headquarters of the Iowa National Guard.


The Iowa Militia – Record of Civil War Service


Regiment/Battery (Muster Date/Site) – Major Engagements


First Iowa Volunteer Infantry (14 May 1861/Keokuk) – Wilson’s Creek (MO)


Second Iowa Volunteer Infantry (27-28 May 1861/Keokuk) – Fort Henry (TN), Fort Donelson (TN), Shiloh (TN), Corinth (MS), March to the Sea (GA and SC)


Third Iowa Volunteer Infantry (8-10 June 1861/Keokuk) – Blue Mills (MO), Shiloh, Vicksburg (MS), Jackson (MS), March to the Sea


Fourth Iowa Volunteer Infantry (8-31 August 1861/Council Bluffs) – Pea Ridge (AR), Vicksburg, Jackson, Atlanta (GA), March to the Sea


Fifth Iowa Volunteer Infantry (15-16 July 1861/Burlington) – Iuka (MS), Corinth, Vicksburg, Missionary Ridge (TN)


Sixth Iowa Volunteer Infantry (17-18 July 1861/Burlington) – Shiloh, Corinth, Chattanooga (TN), March to the Sea


Seventh Iowa Volunteer Infantry (2 August 1861/Burlington) – Fort Henry, Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Corinth, March to the Sea


Eighth Iowa Volunteer Infantry (31 August-4 September 1861/Davenport) – Shiloh, Vicksburg, Jackson, Mobile (AL)


Ninth Iowa Volunteer Infantry (2-24 September 1861/Dubuque) – Pea Ridge, Vicksburg, Jackson, Lookout Mountain (TN), Missionary Ridge, March to the Sea


Tenth Iowa Volunteer Infantry (6-7 September 1861/Iowa City) – Corinth, Vicksburg, Jackson, Missionary Ridge, March to the Sea


Eleventh Iowa Volunteer Infantry (14 September-19 October 1861/Davenport) – Shiloh, Corinth, Vicksburg, Louisiana, March to the Sea


Twelfth Iowa Volunteer Infantry (17 October-25 November 1861/Dubuque) – Fort Henry, Fort Donelson, Shiloh


Thirteenth Iowa Volunteer Infantry (15 October-2 November 1861/Davenport) – Shiloh, March to the Sea, Columbia (SC)


Fourteenth Iowa Volunteer Infantry (23-25 October 1861/Iowa City) – Shiloh and Vicksburg


Fifteenth Iowa Volunteer Infantry (1 November 1861-22 February 1862/Keokuk) – Shiloh, Corinth, Atlanta, March to the Sea


Sixteenth Iowa Volunteer Infantry (10 December 1861-12 March 1862/Davenport) – Shiloh, Corinth, Atlanta, Andersonville (GA)


Seventeenth Iowa Volunteer Infantry (25 January-14 March 1862/Keokuk) – Iuka, Corinth, Vicksburg, Missionary Ridge, March to the Sea


Eighteenth Iowa Volunteer Infantry (5-9 August 1862/Clinton) – Springfield (MO), Camden (MO)


Nineteenth Iowa Volunteer Infantry (11 September 1862/Keokuk) – Prairie Grove, Vicksburg, Sterling Farm


Twentieth Iowa Volunteer Infantry (22-27 August 1862/Clinton) – Prairie Grove, Vicksburg, Sterling Farm


Twenty-first Iowa Volunteer Infantry (23 May and 18-25 August 1862/Mitchell County and others) – Springfield, Vicksburg


Twenty-second Iowa Volunteer Infantry (7-10 September 1862/Iowa City) – Springfield, Vicksburg, Shenandoah Valley (VA)


Twenty-third Iowa Volunteer Infantry (19 September 1862/Des Moines) – Port Gibson (MS), Vicksburg


Twenty-fourth Iowa Volunteer Infantry (18 September 1862/Muscatine) – "Methodist Regiment"/"Temperance Regiment" – Vicksburg, Red River, Shenandoah Valley


Twenty-fifth Iowa Volunteer Infantry (1862/Mount Pleasant) – Vicksburg, Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge, March to the Sea, Columbia


Twenty-sixth Iowa Volunteer Infantry (1862/Clinton) – Vicksburg, Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge, March to the Sea


Twenty-seventh Iowa Volunteer Infantry (3 October 1862/Dubuque) – Vicksburg, Red River


Twenty-eighth Iowa Volunteer Infantry (10 October 1862/Iowa City) – Vicksburg, Red River, Shenandoah Valley


Twenty-ninth Iowa Volunteer Infantry (1 December 1862/Council Bluffs) – Helena (AR), Little Rock (AR), Mobile


Thirtieth Iowa Volunteer Infantry (23 September 1862/Keokuk) – Vicksburg, Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge, March to the Sea


Thirty-first Iowa Volunteer Infantry (15 September-13 October 1862/Davenport) – Vicksburg, Jackson, Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge, March to the Sea


Thirty-second Iowa Volunteer Infantry (6 October 1862/Dubuque) – Red River, Mobile


Thirty-third Iowa Volunteer Infantry (1 October 1862/Oskaloosa) – Helena, Red River, Mobile


Thirty-fourth Iowa Volunteer Infantry (15 October 1862/Burlington) – Vicksburg, Red River, Mobile


Thirty-fifth Iowa Volunteer Infantry (18 September 1862/Muscatine) – Vicksburg, Jackson, Red River, Nashville (TN)


Thirty-sixth Iowa Volunteer Infantry (4 October 1862/Keokuk) – Helena, Little Rock, Mark’s Mills (AR)


Thirty-seventh Iowa Volunteer Infantry (10 October 1862/Muscatine) – "Graybeard Regiment" (See main text.)


Thirty-eighth Iowa Volunteer Infantry (4 November 1862/Dubuque) – Vicksburg, Red River


Thirty-ninth Iowa Volunteer Infantry (1 November 1862/Des Moines) – Corinth, Allatoona (GA), March to the Sea


Union Brigade (April-December 1862/organized from remnants of the 8th, 12th and 14th Iowa regiments and the 58th Illinois regiment) – Corinth


Fortieth Iowa Volunteer Infantry (2 July 1862/Iowa City) – Vicksburg, Red River


Forty-first Iowa Volunteer Infantry (1862 – never officially organized) – These companies were detached to the Dakota Territory.


Forty-second Iowa Volunteer Infantry (1864 – never officially organized) – Many of these men transferred to cavalry regiments.


Forty-third Iowa Volunteer Infantry (1864 – never officially organized) – Many of these men transferred to cavalry regiments.


Forty-fourth Iowa Volunteer Infantry (1864/Davenport) – guarded trains (TN)


Forty-fifth Iowa Volunteer Infantry (1864/Keokuk) – guarded trains (TN)


Forty-sixth Iowa Volunteer Infantry (10 June 1864/Davenport) – guarded trains (TN)


Forty-seventh Iowa Volunteer Infantry (4 June 1864/Davenport) – garrison duty at Helena (AR)


Forty-eighth Iowa Volunteer Infantry (13 July 1864/Davenport) – guard duty at Rock Island Barracks


First Iowa Volunteer African Infantry (11 October-3 December 1863/Keokuk) – Wallace"s Ferry (AR)


First Battery Iowa Light Artillery (17 August 1861/Burlington) – Pea Ridge, Chickasaw Bayou (AR), Vicksburg, Jackson, Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge, Atlanta


Second Battery Iowa Light Artillery (8-31 August 1861/Council Bluffs) – Iuka, Corinth, Vicksburg, Jackson, Nashville, Mobile


Third Battery Iowa Light Artillery (24 September 1861/Dubuque) – Sugar Creek (MO), Pea Ridge, Helena, Little Rock, Arkadelphia (AR)


Fourth Battery Iowa Light Artillery (23 November 1863/Davenport) – garrison guards (northwestern Iowa/New Orleans, Louisiana)


First Iowa Volunteer Cavalry (17 August-12 September 1861/Burlington and Davenport) – Prairie Grove, Little Rock, Camden


Second Iowa Volunteer Cavalry (30 August-28 September 1861/Davenport) – Iuka, Corinth, Boonville (MS), Vicksburg


Third Iowa Volunteer Cavalry (30 August-14 September 1861/Keokuk) – Pea Ridge, Vicksburg, Tupelo, Montgomery (AL), Columbus (GA)


Fourth Iowa Volunteer Cavalry (23 November 1861-1 January 1862/Mount Pleasant) – Vicksburg, Jackson, Tupelo, Montgomery, Columbus


Fifth Iowa Volunteer Cavalry ("The Curtis Horse") (1862 – included men from Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Missouri) – Wilson’s Creek, Fort Henry, Fort Donelson, Atlanta, Nashville


Sixth Iowa Volunteer Cavalry (1862/Davenport) – White Stone Hill (Dakota Territory – against Sioux Indians)


Seventh Iowa Volunteer Cavalry (27 April-13 July 1863/Davenport) – Horse Creek, White Stone Hill, Tahkahakutah, Bad Lands, Little Blue, Julesburg, Mud Springs, Rush Creek (Dakota Territory – against Sioux Indians)


Eighth Iowa Volunteer Cavalry (30 September 1863/Davenport) – Atlanta, Nashville


Ninth Iowa Volunteer Infantry (30 November 1863/Davenport) – Devall’s Bluff (AR)



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