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.
But, on April 12, 1861, the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter changed everything. Personal concerns were put aside, and the entire nation became involved in a civil war.
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.
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. The Hawkeye State also furnished one black regiment and one thousand replacement troops to the Union cause. Governor Samuel Kirkwood
Click here to read more about the Civil War mustering camp – Camp Pope – in Iowa City.
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.
(L-0059) “Iowa Cavalry-Return to Davenport” Harper’s Weekly – A Journal of Civilization was an American political magazine based in New York City. Published by Harper & Brothers from 1857 until 1916. During its most influential period, it was the forum of the political cartoonist Thomas Nast. It featured foreign and domestic news, fiction, essays on many subjects, and humor, alongside illustrations. It carried extensive coverage of the American Civil War, including many illustrations of events from the war. During its most influential period, it was the forum of the political cartoonist Thomas Nast.
Three Iowans became major generals during the war.
Samuel Curtis of Keokuk (above left) 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 (above middle), 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 (above right), 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.
(JP-011a) This rare postal cover was mailed in Iowa City on July 22, 1861 using the older Washington 3-cent stamp. Read more about the Great American Postage Stamp Exchange here.
( C-0239) This is one of our earliest Civil War-era postal covers addressed to Mary J. Burkley in Troy, Pennsylvania, postmarked in Iowa City on November 18, 1861.
( C-0217) This Civil War-era postal cover was sent from Iowa City on July 18, 1862 to Miss Lizzie M. Brooks of Middletown, MA. Lizzie notated “Read on July 22, 1862, Answered on Aug 27.
On the back side of the envelope, Lizzie also wrote some names…possibly the senders of the letter?
( C-0031) This rare cover is addressed to Msgr Bloomfield – Belfast – Lee County, Iowa. It is postmarked in Palmyra, MO and on the back of the letter, writing indicates the letter was written by C.N.B. (Chauncey Noble Bloomfield) in Palmyra, MO on September 2, 1862. The cover appears to originally have had a second stamp attached & postmarked, probably a 2-center. Chauncey Noble Bloomfield, the author of our letter, served in the 2 nd Regiment/Company D of the Missouri State Militia Cavalry (Union) during the Civil War. Records show that his regiment was called into service in December, 1861 and was disbanded in April, 1865. Company D was led by Captain Ignatius Burns, with many men coming from Alexandria, Clark County, MO, which lies directly south of Lee County, Iowa, across the Des Moines River. The 2 nd Regiment moved throughout northern Missouri (including Palmyra) from January, 1862 to June, 1863, operating against guerrilla fighters from the secessionist Missouri State Guard (Confederates). Below left – Belfast, Iowa no longer exists. Once a thriving community on the Rock Island railway, it was located along the Des Moines River south of Croton, and west of Argyle. Below right – Chauncey Bloomfield died at a young age (June 6, 1865) and is buried (along with a relative, G.M. Bloomfield) in Belfast Cemetery in Lee County. Also known as Johnson Cemetery, this long-abandoned cemetery is in the woods, about 1/4 mile from Belfast Road in Van Buren Township.
( C-0212) Circa 1862 – Postmarked December 11 in Burlington this rare cover is addressed to Mr. John Gardner of Columbus City, Iowa. Louisa County records from the late 1850’s and early 1860’s show that John Gardner was a hotel owner in Columbus City and was actively involved with other city leaders in trying to move the county seat from Wapello to Columbus City. The attempt was never accomplished, but from county records, it seemed to be quite the battle. Read more here.
( C-0030) This rare letter and cover is written by Albert R. Anderson, addressed to his younger brother, Harvey W. Anderson, Co. K, 4th Iowa Infantry, Helena Ark. Postmarked in Iowa City on February 3, 1863. The cover states: via Cairo (Illinois) and was postmarked in Cairo on February 5, 1863, and addressed to the attention of (Care Capt. Cramer) Joseph Cramer, Head of Company K. The Anderson family is originally from Ohio but relocated to Clarinda (Page County) in SW Iowa prior to the war. Both brothers enlisted in the 4 th Iowa Infantry in August 1861 and were assigned to Company K, with Albert (age 23) assigned as a Third Sargent, and Harvey (age 19) a Third Corporal. At the time of this letter, Albert had been assigned to Iowa City to serve as a recruiting officer for the Union army, while Harvey stayed with Company K, and had just survived several major battles. Albert is obviously missing the comradery of his fellow soldiers, trying desperately (through letters to Col. James Williamson and Capt. Hendershot) to be reassigned to his Company, so he can fight alongside his brother. Here are Albert’s & Harvey’s official military records: Anderson, Albert Rainey. Age 23. Residence Clarinda, nativity Ohio. Enlisted Aug. 10, 1861, as Third Sergeant. Mustered Aug. 31, 1861. Promoted First Lieutenant May 12, 1862; Captain March 19, 1863; Major April 5, 1864; Lieutenant Colonel June 10, 1865. Mustered out July 24, 1865, Louisville, Ky. Born Adams County, Ohio, November 8, 1837; moved with his parents to Galesburg, Ill.; attended the common schools and Knox College, Galesburg, Ill.; moved to Taylor County, Iowa, in 1857; studied law; was admitted to the bar in 1860 and commenced practice in Clarinda, Iowa; appointed postmaster of Clarinda by President Lincoln in 1861. Albert resigned to enlist in the Union Army as a private in Company K, Fourth Regiment, Iowa Volunteer Infantry; promoted through the ranks to become major of his regiment; commissioned lieutenant colonel in 1865; mustered out in August 1865 and returned to Clarinda, Iowa; moved to Sidney, Iowa, in 1866; resumed the practice of law; assessor of internal revenue 1868-1871; delegate to the Republican National Convention at Philadelphia in 1872; district attorney 1876-1880; State railroad commissioner in 1881; unsuccessful candidate for election in 1882 to the Forty-eighth Congress; elected as an Independent Republican to the Fiftieth Congress (March 4, 1887-March 3, 1889); unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1888 to the Fifty-first Congress; moved to Hot Springs, S.Dak., in 1892 and continued the practice of his profession; served as mayor of Hot Springs, Fall River County, S.Dak., in 1895 and 1896; elected State attorney of Fall River County November 8, 1898; died at Hot Springs, S.Dak., November 17, 1898; interment in Sidney Cemetery, Sidney, Iowa. Anderson, William Harvey Age 19. Residence Page County, nativity Ohio. Enlisted Aug. 12, 1861, as Third Corporal. Mustered Aug. 31, 1861. Promoted Fifth Sergeant Feb. 5, 1862; Fourth Sergeant May 12, 1862. Wounded slightly Dec. 29, 1862, Vicksburg, Miss. Promoted Third Sergeant May 2, 1863; First Sergeant Dec. 1, 1863; Second Lieutenant Feb. 25, 1864; First Lieutenant April 6, 1864. Mustered out July 24, 1865, Louisville, Ky. The 4th Iowa Infantry was organized at Council Bluffs and mustered into Federal forces on August 8, 1861. The regiment was moved to St. Louis, where it was assigned to the Army of the Southwest. The 4th Iowa fought in the Battle of Pea Ridge (Arkansas) in March 1862. The regiment, under the leadership of Colonel J.A. Williamson, then marched to Helena, Arkansas, where it remained during the greater part of the summer and autumn of 1862. The Regiment subsequently joined General Sherman’s army in the movement down the Mississippi River, against Vicksburg and Chattanooga. On December 28 and 29, 1862, it participated in the desperate fighting at Chickasaw Bayou, suffering severe loss, and duplicating its record of gallantry at Pea Ridge. This is, most likely, where Harvey Anderson was slightly wounded. The Vicksburg campaign was a series of maneuvers and battles directed against a fortress city that dominated the last Confederate-controlled section of the Mississippi River (December 26, 1862 to July 4, 1863).
This second stamp-less cover was postmarked December 27, (1862) in Clarinda, Iowa – home of Albert R. and Harvey W. Anderson. Read more about “stamp-less” mail and how postage rates were determined.
( C-0032) Our cover is posted June 21 (1864?) Carrolton Station, and is addressed to Msgr Emmer Westcott (1838-1918), Iowa City, Iowa. Emmer & Emory Westcott’s gravestones in Oakland Cemetery, Iowa City. Records show Emmer’s twin brother, Emory (1838-1923), served in the 22 nd Iowa Infantry during the Civil War. Known as the Johnson County Regiment, they entered into service in Iowa City on September 9, 1862. After garrison duty in Missouri, the regiment served in Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s Vicksburg’s Campaign of 1863. In late 1863 and early 1864, the regiment participated in operations on the Texas Gulf Coast and in Louisiana. In May 1864, it was ordered to Virginia. Our letter was most likely mailed (June 21, 1864) from the federal encampment in Carrollton, LA (near New Orleans) just as the regiment was heading out. Records show that the Carrollton site included a barracks for troop housing, a cavalry camp of instruction, a general hospital, and served as a training ground for cavalry troops.
( C-0033) Personal letter & envelope postmarked October 11 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The letter is dated 1865 and uses two Black Jack stamps U.S. #73 Series of 1861-66 2¢ Jackson
( C-0034) Civil War Era – Iowa City “Bulls-Eye” postmarks. While mail between the North and South decreased during the war, there was an overall increase in volume as soldiers and their families communicated with each other. The 3¢ Washington stamp satisfied the domestic first class rate for mail sent less than 3,000 miles. Although a large quantity was printed, the 3¢ Washington stamp was produced with 26 plates. There are also several shades and the stamp is also prized for the variety of cancellations used, including these “Bulls-eye” postmarks found on our two envelopes mailed to Clarence J. Rhodes, from Iowa City on Sept 25, 1865 and Jan 12, 1866.
( C-0035) “Bulls-Eye” postmark January 12, 1866
April 19, 1865 – Memorial Service for President Lincoln. An Isaac Wetherby photo. . Click here to read more about Wetherby
Above is the bell that hung in Old Capitol from 1864 to 2001. This bell tolled for three days and nights after President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. Click here to read more about the bells of Iowa City.
(L-0076) In 1958-1959, on the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth, the USPS issued four commemorative stamps honoring our 16th President.
P-0262) Long after Lincoln’s death, his life was commemorated. This beautiful penny postcard from 1904 was created in his memory.
( C-0203) U.S. #1178-#1182 1961-65 Civil War 100th Anniversary Set. In 1961, the U.S.P.S. began a series commemorating the Civil War centenary. One stamp was issued each year from 1961 to 1965 to coincide with the beginning and end of the five-year war. Each stamp recalled a milestone from a different year of the war.
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.
( C-0204) The 85th Anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Delivered at the dedication of the Soldier’s National Cemetery in Gettysburg, PA on the afternoon of November 19, 1863, this 271-word speech is one of the best-known speeches in American history.
Kudos to the amazing resources below for the many quotes, photographs, etc. used on this page.
Johnson County Courthouse Civil War Monuments, Iowa Civil War Monuments
Civil War, Encyclopedia Dubuque
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