Iowa and the Civil War

A new exhibit, “The Fiery Trial: Iowa and the Civil War,” will be in Hampton August 25 through the 27th in a 32-foot trailer and is part of the State Historical Museum’s educational outreach program to serve Iowans in their communities. Franklin County Tourism has sponsored this exhibit in Hampton, allowing everyone to tour it at no cost.  The exhibit was unveiled April 12, 2011, in conjunction with activities commemorating the sesquicentennial of the Civil War.

“The Fiery Trial” exhibit includes:

  • A visual timeline of Iowa’s participation in the Civil War
  • Panels about Iowans and their Civil War experiences
  • Information about Annie Wittenmyer, a Sanitation Agent for Iowa who oversaw the needs of Union Army soldiers
  • The impact of the Civil War on Iowa
  • The role Iowa played in the Civil Rights movement when it approved the right to vote for African-Americans
  • A computer program that allows visitors to research Civil War ancestors by person, town, township or congressional district

The exhibit will be open Thursday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.  You’ll see the big trailer parked in the parking lot between the Hampton Public Library and the U.S. Post Office.  There is no charge to visit this exhibit.

Although no Civil War battles were fought in Iowa, the war nevertheless had a profound effect upon the people of the state. At least 72,000 Iowans, about one-half of all the eligible males between the ages of 15 and 40, served with the Union forces. This was the highest percentage of any state, North or South. Of the 21,501 Iowa casualties, more than 3,500 died from wounds inflicted in combat, while nearly 8,500 died of diseases such as typhoid fever and dysentery.

Tracing the battles where Iowans fought will take you away from the “showcase bathes” of the Eastern theater to the Western campaigns and battles at Wilson’s Creek and Pea Ridge, Fort Donelson, and especially the bloody battle of Shiloh. Here 11 Iowa regiments, 7 in combat for the first time, were engaged in desperate fighting. Five Iowa regiments in General Benjamin M. Prentiss’ division fought along the sunken road at the “Hornet’s Nest” for six hours. More than onethird of the Iowans engaged at Shiloh were casualties: 235 killed, 999 wounded, and 1,147 missing. Iowans also fought at Vicksburg, in the Atlanta campaign, and participated in Sherman’s “March to the Sea” at Savannah. In their last battle, at Columbus, Georgia, on April 16, 1865 (eight days after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox) six Iowans earned Congressional Medals of Honor.

However, the story extends beyond the soldiers in the field to the abolitionists, Underground Railroad conductors, copperhead politicians, and especially the women and children who continued life on the farms and in the stores while the men were away. Through diaries, long letters home, books written after the war, and published government records, the experiences of soldiers and noncombatants alike can be reconstructed. Grave markers of Union veterans can still be found in many Iowa cemeteries. Some families may have Civil War letters or diaries preserved by older relatives. Others may be held by local libraries or historical societies. Iowa in the Civil War offers great opportunities for families and residents alike to learn more about our history.

(this information was provided by the State of Iowa Cultural people – thanks!)

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