IN IOWA DURING THE CIVIL
It takes more than soldiers and battles to
win a war. Women's work and suffering are too often forgotten
in the glory of the victory. In this story we learn of the
wonderful work that was done "at home" while the soldiers were
"at the front."
The four years of the Civil War were probably
the most exciting ones that the people of Iowa have ever
known. People in the southern parr of the state were afraid
that a rebel army would invade the state. Settlers in
northwest Iowa, remembering the Spirit Lake Massacre, were
afraid of another Indian attack. So many men had gone to war
that the women had to do much of the field work on the farms.
Everybody was busy.
The women of Iowa played an important part in
the winning of the war. As rapidly as men were organized into
regiments, so also the women organized themselves in every
community into soldier aid societies. These societies did
whatever there was for them to do. In the first days of the
war they made hundreds of uniforms for the men because the
state was too poor to furnish its soldiers with them.
Later the women did everything possible to
make the life of the soldiers easier. They made bandages and
other things to be used in hospitals, and sent vegetables and
other foods that the army kitchens could not furnish. They
also raised money for various purposes. Most of the relief
work was handled through the United States Sanitary Commission
and the United States Christian Commission, both of which were
organized in Iowa.
The Northern Iowa Sanitary Fair was held at
Dubuque in 1864 to raise money. Donations came from sixty-two
counties in Iowa and from large cities in the East. New York
and Chicago each sent over $3,000. A total of more than
$50,000 was raised in cash besides large quantities of
vegetables. A fair at Muscatine brought in about $20,000 and
one at Burlington nearly $25,000.
MRS. ANNIE WITTENMEYER
The most noted Iowa woman of Civil War times
was Mrs. Annie Wittenmeyer. General U. S. Grant said of her:
"No soldier on the firing line gave more heroic service than
she rendered." "President Lincoln asked her to come to the
White House to talk over certain problems.
Mrs. Wittenmeyer came to Keokuk in 1850. She
helped organize the Keokuk Soldiers' Aid Society, one of the
first of its kind in the state. She was not satisfied with
merely sending things to the soldiers but took the food and
clothing that her society raised right to the camps and
hospitals herself. She found that bacon, beans, hardtack, and
coffee were the food that was offered to soldiers in the
hospitals. Her sixteen-year-old brother was in a hospital and
she found that he was refusing to eat the food that was
offered to him; fat bacon, black coffee, and bread. Sick and
wounded men, she said, needed good food as much as they needed
Late in 1863 Mrs. Wittenmeyer thought of a
plan of having "diet kitchens" for all large hospitals. A few
months later, in 1864, the United States Christian Commission
took up her idea and by 1865 over one hundred diet kitchens
were in operation. Mrs. Wittenmeyer was at the head of all
this new work. She put two women in charge of a special
kitchen at each large hospital. These women served such food
as toast, chicken, soup, milk, tea, gruel, and vegetables to
the sick men. Millions of rations were served from the
kitchens in the last months of the war.
Mrs. Wittenmeyer was also one of the leaders
in establishing Soldiers' Orphans' Homes in Iowa. The aid
societies raised the money for the homes. The first one was
started in Farmington in July, 1864. A year later it was
moved to Davenport. Another one was started at Cedar Falls in
September, 1864. Both of the homes were turned over to the
state in 1866, but the one at Cedar Falls was discontinued in
1876 and the building used for the new State Normal School.
THE SOUTHERN BORDER
When the war broke out, people in southern
Iowa feared that Confederate sympathizers in Missouri, which
was a slave state, would organize an army to come to Iowa.
Gov. Kirkwood ordered that companies of "home guards" should
be organized in every county in southern Iowa. These
companies were most active in 1861 when they stopped an attack
on the Des Moines River near Farmington and made several
counter raids into Missouri.
A guerrilla band of about 20 Southern men
entered Davis County during October, 1864. They stole horses,
killed a few citizens, fled back to Missouri, and broke up as
a band before they could be caught. This act caused great
excitement and much feeling.
The national Government, when the war started,
withdrew most of the soldiers from the forts in northwest Iowa
that looked after the Indians. The national Government, when
the war started, withdrew most of the soldiers from the forts
in northwest Iowa that looked after the Indians. The Indians
soon began to make trouble. In 1861 they stole horses near
Smithland and killed two farmers near Sioux City. In
Minnesota and Dakota they caused much more trouble. Governor
Kirkwood appealed to the Government at Washington for help,
but it was too busy with the war to worry about Indians.
The next year, 1862, the Indians went on the
warpath. They massacred over 650 white people in southern
Minnesota. Settlers in northern Iowa fled from their homes in
fear and the nation was shocked. Governor Kirkwood again
asked for help. He said if the Government would furnish the
guns he would furnish the men. The War Department then told
the governor to organize a company of cavalry for the defense
of northwest Iowa. The company was furnished guns from the
government arsenal in New York and it became a part of the
regular army. It was stationed at Sioux City and Spirit Lake.
The state also organized companies of soldiers
of its own for defense against the Indians. They were called
the Northern Iowa Border Brigade. Blockhouses, that is wooden
forts, were built at Correctionville, Cherokee, Estherville,
Peterson, Spirit Lake, and Iowa Lake. Soldiers were stationed
at a few other points. After that the Indians caused no more