The Iowa Journal
History and Politics
Equipment was even more
conspicuously lacking than arms in Iowa in 1861, and the difficulty
of securing necessary supplies during the first years of the war was
correspondingly greater. For, while effective arms were not an
absolute necessity until the battle-field was reached, blankets and
clothing were indispensable in rendezvous camps and on the way to
the scene of conflict. And while it may be true, as Napoleon
suggested, that n army travels on its stomach, nevertheless, stout
shoes keep the feet from dragging. Equipment must be furnished the
troops immediately after enlistment. It is true that the independent
militia companies which were the first to volunteer had uniforms;
and the Governor’s Greys of Dubuque offered their services to the
Governor, January 15, 1861, as a “fully equipped volunteer company”.59
But such uniforms! They were designed for the delight of the ladies
when the company was on parade, rather than for service at the
front. Handsome enough were the brave lads in white, red, grey,
green, blue, and every other hue of the rainbow on Fourth of July
dress parades; but their uniforms would not have been as fitting had
they been exposed to the rain and mud and cold which the men were
later obliged to endure.
The Davenport Sarsfield
Guards, although organized during the money panic of 1858, “equipped
themselves with a handsome uniform”.60
The other companies of the State acted along similar lines. Indeed,
these ante-bellum military organization were, in the main, social
organizations. Parades and balls were their chief activities and the
various communities seemed to vie with one anther in making their
own unit most gorgeous. This tendency was evidenced later by the
various uniforms from home town patriots. Equipment, like arms, was
to be furnished by the general government before the troops left the
State. But on their way to and during their stay in the camps of
rendezvous, the soldiers were to be cared for by the State.
This was a work which the
State might well be expected to perform, and one to which the people
of Iowa responded generously. The State government was handicapped
by a lack of funds. The war loan bonds were practically unsalable.
In part the situation was relieved by voluntary donations from
patriotic citizens, but the strain on the State finances was great.
Among the first to come to the Governor’s aid were two citizens of
Dubuque. “The very morning after Sumter was fired on, J. K. Graves &
R. E. Graves, his brother, telegraphed the Governor, saying they
would claim it an honor and privilege to honor his drafts to the
extent of thirty thousand dollars; leaving repayment to the pleasure
of the state, if it could help equip and send the boys to the
front.” W. T. Smith, of Oskaloosa, together with other war
Democrats, offered aid to the Governor. “Private citizens in every
town vied with one another in personal sacrifice to aid in the good
cause.” Solomon Sturges, a Chicago millionaire, offered to loan
Governor Kirkwood $100,000. 61 Town funds were made up. “At
Brighton, $1,250 cash, was raised in a few minutes from Republicans
and Democrats alike, and as much more promised, to help feed and
clothe the boys who volunteered.”62
Hiram Price and Ezekiel Clark were active in raising funds with
which to equip the troops. The banks of the State, namely the State
Bank and its branches, rallied to the support of the Governor.
Kirkwood himself “gave his own personal bonds, pledging all his own
property and earnings, many times over, that the first soldiers of
the sate might have shoes to war, blankets to sleep on, and bread to
Many of the towns fitted
out their own troops with uniforms. At a meeting of the citizens of
Fort Madison it was voted to instruct the town authorities to
appropriate $2,000 for the purpose of equipping the Fort Madison
Rifles. “All over the state, companies were kept together drilling,
their subsistence furnished by boards of supervisors or by patriotic
citizens, some of whom not only helped subsist the would-be
soldiers, but furnished them uniforms at their own expense.” The
Decorah Guards were outfitted by the citizens of Winneshiek County.
Shirts, pants, and caps were given to the Pioneer Greys by the
townspeople of Cedar Falls.64
recognizing the instant and imperative need of clothing, at his own
risk, sent Ezekiel Clark to Chicago to buy cloth of fifteen hundred
uniforms. “Let the material be strong and durable”, he wrote. But
unfortunately the only cloth which could be obtained was “some very
poor, sleazy satinette, half cotton and half wool, only fit for
summer war”.65 This
material was thought to be stout enough for uniforms for the men in
the First Regiment, whose term of enlistment war for the summer
months; but “the boys, before the march to Springfield in Missouri,
had got their thin clothes badly worn out, especially behind, and
many of them took flour sacks and made themselves aprons and wore
them there instead of in front. When Gen. Lyon saw the first one of
these on a soldier, he ordered him to remove it at once, but when he
found its removal left the whole fighting force of that soldier
without a ‘rear guard’ and exposed to the jibes and jokes of friend
and foe, he ordered it quickly replaced.”66
The loyal women of the
State responded nobly to the task of outfitting the first Iowa
regiments. They formed “Soldiers’ Aid Societies” and undertook to
cut the cloth purchased and make it up into uniforms. Especially
active were the ladies of Dubuque, which city was represented by two
companies in the First Regiment. The Dubuque tailors also lent their
aid. Indeed, two hundred and forty-eight people helped make uniforms
for the two Dubuque companies and nine days were consumed in the
work. No wonder, with so many “fingers in the pie”, that the product
was “somewhat lacking in the trim, artistic finish of the “Tailor
shop.’”67 The amount of
clothing thus made and that otherwise furnished to the First
Regiment was reported to the House of Representatives by Governor
Kirkwood to be as follows:
Capt. Herron’s Company,
Dubuque; each man, hat, frock coat, pants, two flannel shirts, two
pairs of socks and one pair of shoes.
Capt. Gottschalk’s Company,
Dubuque; blouse instead of coat, and other articles same as Capt.
Capt. Cook’s Company, Cedar
Rapids; hat, two flannel shirts, pants, socks, and shoes, no jacket
Capt. Mahanna’s Company,
Iowa City; hat, jacket, pants, two flannel shirts, socks and shoes.
Capt. Wentz’s Company,
Davenport; hat, blouse, pants, two flannel shirts, socks and shoes.
Capt. Cummins’ Company,
Muscatine; same as Capt. Cummins.
Capt. Mason’s Company,
Burlington; hat, blouse, pants, two flannel shirts, socks and shoes.
Capt. Streaper’s Company,
Mt. Pleasant; same as Capt. Matthies.
I am not sure that all the
Companies were furnished with all the socks, shoes and shirts. Some
of the shoes, I have reason to believe, were not of good quality,
costing only from $1.25 to #1.50 per pair, others I know were good,
costing from $2.00 to $2.50 per pair. One thousand extra shirts were
sent to Keokuk to supply any deficiency that may have existed in
that particular. Most of the material for pants was satinet and not
of good quality, costing, as far as the same came under my
observation, from 40 to 60 cents per yard by the quantity. The
entire amount expended for Clothing, so far as I can give it from
the data in my possession, is about $12,000 or $13,000, including
the one thousand shirts above mentioned. If is be desirable in your
judgment to have the companies of this Regiment uniformed alike, it
will be necessary to furnish all with coats of the same make, as
also with pants, and to furnish an additional number of hats or
caps. Hats were procured for all, but some preferred the cap and
procured it, and the cost has been provided for. I cannot think that
all the Companies need new shoes, as some of the shoes furnished
were of excellent quality, and have not yet been worn more than two
or three weeks.
I am satisfied it is
requisite for the comfort of these troops, that many of them be
furnished with pantaloons and shoes, and some of them with socks. As
the Second and Third Regiments will be clothed throughout alike, it
would, no doubt, be very gratifying to the First Regiment to be
placed in the same position, and it will afford me much pleasure to
carry out whatever may be your wishes in that regard.68
In response to this
suggestion, the General Assembly by joint resolution authorized
Governor Kirkwood to outfit the First Regiment in the same manner as
the Second and Third Regiment were clothed. He telegraphed to
Merrill, who was in Boston: “Furnish one thousand more, Pants,
Coats, and Shoes, same as contracted for, at same prices”. These
outfits cost about fifteen dollars per man.69
The following picturesque
account is given of the Governor’s Greys when they donned their
They are admirable fits,
all of them, except say eighty or a hundred… A majority of the boys
are able to get their pantaloons from the floor by buttoning the
waistbands around their necks—others accomplish this desirable
result by bringing the waistbands tight up under the arms and
rolling them up six or eight inches at the bottom. To be sure this
is a little inconvenient in some respects—a fellow has to take off
his belts, then his coat, and then ascend one story before he can
reach his pockets, and after reaching them they are so deep that one
has to take the pants off entirely before he can reach the bottom.
Each pocket will hold a shirt, a blanket and even the wearer himself
if at any time he finds such a retreat necessary.
And the coats fit
beautifully—almost in fact as well as the pants. To be sure half of
them are two feet too large around the waist, and almost as much too
small around the chest—but then these two drawbacks admirably offset
each other. In the cases of fifteen or twenty of them the top collar
is but a trifle above the small of the wearer’s back, and in the
cases of about as many more the same article is a few inches above
the head of their owners. The same collar also in some cases
terminates beneath each ear, and in many others it sweeps away
around in a magnificent curve, forming a vast basin whose rim is
yards distant from the neck of its possessor. And the sleeves, too,
have here and there a fault—some are so tight under the arms that
they lift one up as if he were swinging upon a couple of ropes that
pass underneath his armpits—others strike boldly out and do not
terminate their voluminous course till at distance of several inches
beyond the tips of his fingers, while others conclude their journey
after marching an inch or so below the elbows.70
Nevertheless, the work of the women was
appreciated. The Governor’s Greys adopted the following resolution:
Head-Quarters, G. Greys,
Co. I, 1st Reg. I. S. M.,
Verandah Hall, Keokuk, May
At a meeting of the company
the following resolutions were unanimously adopted:
Whereas, The matrons and
maidens of Dubuque, fired with the same noble patriotism and
enthusiasm as inspired those of ’76, and emulating their noble
example, have left their daily avocations of business or pleasure,
to unite in aiding us to go forth properly accoutred to meet the
enemies of our country; therefore
Resolved, That we
appreciate with the liveliest emotions of gratitude that
self-sacrificing patriotism which flowers indigenous in the breast
of woman, and has prompted them to this act of kindness toward us.
Resolved, That the
consciousness that we shall daily carry with us the smiles and the
prayers, the hopes and the fears of so many lovely faces and warms
hearts, will strengthen our rougher bosoms to endure with patience
the hardships, and courage to meet boldly the dangers that may
oppose us, while fighting the battles of our country.
Resolved, That these
uniforms, into which so fair hands have woven so many and so kind
wishes, will be an impenetrable webb to the entrance of traitors or
cowardly thoughts and a sacred remembrancer of those for whose
protection we are fighting.
Resolved, That the coats
shall be our coats of arms, that they shall never be turn coats,
that they will always remind us of the petti-coats, and that while
we wear the pants we shall always pant for honor, and hope to make
the ladies partici-pants of that hour.
Resolved, That a copy of
these resolutions be forwarded to the he President of the Ladies’
Volunteer Aid Association and to the daily papers of Dubuque.
F. J. Herron, Capt. Co. I
Charles N. Clark, Clerk of Co. I.
Governor Kirkwood also
appreciated he services of the women of the State, for he wrote the
following letter to Dubuque:
Mrs. A. Gillespie, Sec’y,
&c., Dubuque, Iowa:
Dear Madam:--Through the
attention of D. N. Cooley, Esq., I am informed of the voluntary
services rendered by yourself and other ladies of Dubuque, in
fitting out the two companies of volunteers from your city.
I can not allow the
occasion to pass without expressing my sincere thanks for this
practical display of the patriotism of the ladies of Dubuque.
You have set a noble
example in thus coming forward in the time of our need, and have
shown us by this patriotic offering to the welfare of our gallant
soldiers, that it needs, but the occasion to reproduce the heroines
of ’76. With the request that you will convey to each and every one
of the ladies connected with you in this good work, my assurance,
that your general assistance will be fully appreciated by the people
of the State, I beg to subscribe myself, most respectfully,
Your obedient servant,
Samuel J. Kirkwood.71
The women of Iowa rendered
valuable service throughout the war in making havelocks, lint,
bandages, towels, needle books, and various kinds of hospital stores
for the soldiers. And, indeed, the uniforms made by the women fitted
as well as many of the tailored uniforms. The suits furnished to the
Twenty-second Regiment in September, 1862, “were most ridiculous
misfits, some had to give their pants two or three rolls at the
heels, others had shirts much too large which were, therefore,
baggy, while others had to place paper in their hats so they would
not slip down over their ears.” Our blouses are somewhat
abbreviated,” was written of the clothing furnished to the hundred
day men of 1864, “and our gunboats, as we call our shoes, make up
the size which is lacking in our blouses—presenting a most comical
War of the Rebellion: Official Records, Ser. III, Vol. I, p.
Annals of Iowa (First Series), Vol. I, pp. 161, 162.
Byers’s Iowa in War Times, pp. 42, 43; Kirkwood Military
Letter Book, No. 1, p. 264.
Later R. E. Graves offered
to loan $10,000 to the State on behalf of the Dubuque Branch of the
State Bank. He agreed to accept payment in State bonds at par.—Kirkwood
Military Letter Book, No. 1, pp. 2, 259.
William B. Allison donated
fifty dollars to the Governor’s Greys, “to be spent by them as their
pleasure might dictate.” James C. Patterson gave ten dollars to the
Keokuk Union Guards.—The Dubuque Weekly Times, April 25,
1861; Des Moines Valley Whig (Keokuk), April 22, 1861.
Byers’s Iowa in War Times, p. 43. Later, in 1862, the Amana
Community sent $1,000 to Governor Kirkwood for similar purposes. “We
take the liberty”, they wrote, “of sending you enclosed $1,000. Our
elders or trustees are inclined to do something for our beloved
Union, and as our conscience on religious principles, as you know,
prohibits us, like other citizens, from bearing weapons against any
other men, we beg you to use the $1,000 for the relief of our sick
and wounded soldiers; or, if you think our soldiers in the field are
more suffering on account of cold weather, you may use it partly for
their relief.”—Iowa City Republican, November 19, 1862.
Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. I, pp. 594, 595; Des
Moines Valley Whig (Keokuk), April 22, 1861; War of th eRebellion:
Official Records, Ser. III, Vol. I, p. 87; Byers’s Iowa in War
Times, p. 42.
Des Moines Valley Whig (Keokuk), May 20, June 10, 1861;
Byers’s Iowa in War Times, p. 47.
Byers’s Iowa in War Times, p. 45; Lathorp’s The Life and
Times of Samuel J. Kirkwood, pp. 117, 137. The uniforms of the
first three regiments from Iowa were gray. In the summer of 1861
General McClellan forbade the use of gray uniforms by Union Troops.—Des
Moines Valley Whig (Keokuk), September 2, 1861.
Lathrop’s The Life and Times of Samuel J. Kirkwood, p. 117.
“So ragged an appearance did the First Iowa present on its march to
Springfield, that Gen. Lyon called them his tatterdemalion gypsies,’
and when afterward they outmarched all his other troops, he called
them his ‘Iowa Greyhounds.’” Franc B. Wilkie wrote home that none of
the First Iowa would “run from a lady or the enemy—for very shame’s
sake they would not dare turn aught but their faces to either.”
Clean shirts, he wrote, would be acceptable, “not… so much for the
sake of cleanliness as… for that of appearances—clean shirts hanging
out like banners in the rear, look much better than dirty ones.”—Wilkie’s
The Iowa First: Letters from the War, p. 84.
The Dubuque Herald, May 9, 1861.
Shambaugh’s Messages and Proclamations of the Governors of Iowa,
Vol. II, pp. 413, 415.
Laws of Iowa, 1861 (Extra Session), p. 35; Shambaugh’s
Messages and Proclamations of the Governors of Iowa, Vol. II, p.
421; Kirkwood Military Letter Book, NO. 1, p. 254.
Wilkie’s The Iowa First: Letters from the War, pp. 21, 22.
The Dubuque Weekly Times, May 23, 1861; Wilkie’s The Iowa
First: Letters from the War, p. 26; Kirkwood Military Letter
Book, No. 1, p. 142.
Council Bluffs Nonpareil, August 24, 1861; The Dubuque
Weekly Times, April 25, July 4, 1861; Burlington Daily
Hawk-Eye, June 25, 1861; Jones’s Reminiscences of the
Twenty-second Iowa Volunteer Infantry, pp. 8, 9; Dubuque
Semi-Weekly Times, June 7, 1864.