What's New   Contact Us   
IAGenWeb, dedicated to providing free genealogy records.


 Iowa History

       An IAGenWeb Special Project


Join the IAGenWeb Team



Our Iowa, Its Beginning and Growth

Herbert L. Moeller and Hugh C. Mueller

New York, Newsom and Company


Transcribed by Debbie Gerischer & Kaylee Bopp




Twice since the Civil War Iowa has been called upon by "Uncle Sam" to come to the defense of the nation.  As in the Civil War, both calls were promptly met and her sons and daughters did their full share in maintaining the honor of both the state and the nation.

On April 21, 1898, the United States Congress said that a "state of war" with Spain had begun.  Two days later President McKinley issued a call for 125,000 volunteers and on April 26 Governor Shaw called for Iowa's share of the soldiers.  On June 2 the governor issued a second call for volunteers.


Concerning Iowa's part in the Spanish-American War, Governor Shaw has given us the following facts:  "Four organizations, numbered consecutively the 49th, 50th, 51st, and 52nd regiments, were mustered into the service of the United States.  The 49th was sent first to Jacksonville, Florida, and thereafter to Cuba, where it did service during the winter of 1898-99.  It was discharged in May, 1899.  The 50th was ordered to Jacksonville, Florida where it remained for several months.  It was mustered out at Camp McKinley, Des Moines, in November, 1898.  The 51st was ordered into camp at San Francisco where it remained for several months.  It was then sent to the Philippine Islands where it rendered active service in stopping Aguinaldo's uprising.  It was discharged at San Francisco in November, 1899.  The 52nd was sent to Chickamauga but returned to Camp McKinley, where it was discharged in October, 1898.  The losses by death in these regiments were 163."

Governor Shaw says:  "Words of highest praise of the troops furnished by our state have been heard from many sources."


Iowa's help in the World War was entirely different from the part she played in both the Civil War and the Spanish-American War.  In those wars nearly all of Iowa's soldiers were organized into local companies and served as Iowa companies in the war.  In the World War, Iowa soldiers were scattered through many companies and it is not so easy to give them full credit for all that they did.  Iowa played a large part, however, in the money, food, and other supplies which she furnished.

When the war broke out, our state was enjoying good times.  Since many of Iowa's people had come from some of the European countries that were in the war, an unusual interest was taken in the conflict.  The Red Cross made appeals to our people for help and raised large sums of money for relief work in Europe.


After the European countries had fought for three years, the United States was drawn into the struggle.  Germany, Austria-Hungary, and some smaller countries were fighting against France, Britain, Russia, Italy, and their allies.  Congress declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917.  Great preparations then were necessary.  Men had to be obtained for a large army, and money had to be raised.  Three of Iowa's National Guard regiments had just returned from guard duty on the Mexican border.  One of them, the Third Iowa, was chosen to go to Europe as a part of the Rainbow Division.  men were taken from the First and Second Regiments and added to the Third to give it a war strength of 3,600 men, which was required for the regular army.

In August, 1917, the Third Iowa Regiment was made a part of the United States Army.  It became the 168th United States infantry in the famous Rainbow Division, which was one of the first to go to France.  The men landed on French soil, Dec. 9, 1917.  They had been trained in America but were given more training in France.  They went into the trenches in February, 1918, and were in much of the hardest fighting from then until the armistice was signed on Nov. 11, 1918.  Of the men who belonged to the 168th in the spring of 1917, more than half were later killed in battle, died of disease, or were wounded and sent to the hospital.

Not all of Iowa's soldiers were in the 168th infantry.  More than 113,000 of her men served in the United States Army, the navy, and the marine corps.  Over 2,000 of her soldiers and sailors were killed in battle or died from disease during the period of the war.  Merle Hay of Glidden was the first Iowa soldier to be killed in battle.

The United States Government built  a large camp near Des Moines in which to train soldiers.  It was named Camp Dodge.  More than 40,000 soldiers were in training at Camp Dodge during June, 1918.


Millions of dollars had to be raised to carry on the war.  Congress levied new taxes and increased old ones, but taxes alone would not bring in enough money.  The Government had to borrow large sums.  To do so, it offered to sell the people "Liberty Bonds."  In these bonds the Government promised to pay a certain amount of money later to the persons who bought them.  Five great "Liberty Loans" were made by the United States, and Iowa's response in them was as follows:




First $  30,740,600                     60,000
Second     83,047,400                   288,080
Third   119,021,200                   687,242
Fourth   162,093,900                   643,889
Victory   114,031,900                   364,303
TOTAL $508,935,000  


Campaigns were also put on to raise money as gifts to such organizations as the Red Cross, Y.M.C.A., Knights of Columbus, and others.  These organizations were working for the comfort of the soldiers and for the relief of the suffering people in Europe.

To sell the bonds and to get the gifts, great drives had to be organized and carried through.  More than 2,500 Iowa men and women were regular speakers on war topics.  They spoke at theaters, in churches, and wherever meetings were held.


Herbert Hoover, a native-born Iowan and later our President, was a leader in relief work.  He was in London on business when the war broke out.  While there he was asked to take charge of the relief work for thousands of families in Belgium and France who were without food.  Mr. Hoover worked at this task for nearly three years without salary and paid his own expenses.

After the United States entered the World War, President Wilson asked Mr. Hoover to become Food Administrator.  His task was to get farmers to raise more food and to have the people save wheat, flour, sugar, and meat, in order that it might be sent to Europe.  Iowa farmers did their best to help and raised large crops.  Thousands of city people who had never done any gardening and people in small towns had "war gardens" where they raised many vegetables.  Food was needed for other armies and peoples as well as our own.


On November 11, 1918, the Germans agreed to an "armistice" and fighting was stopped on the western front.  The news reached Iowa early in the morning and the largest celebration that our people had ever known was held over the victory.

Most of the organizations that had been doing relief work for the soldiers stopped their activities soon after the war ended.  One new organization, however, was formed and has continued to do excellent work for the "buddies" who were in need of help, particularly because of wounds or disease.  It is called the American Legion.  Iowa has many active legions and legionnaires.


Iowa has its soldiers in peace as well as in war.  The story of its militia is interesting.  Governor Lucas in his first message to the territorial legislative assembly in November, 1838, advised the establishment of an Iowa militia for defense against the Indians.  A bill to organize, discipline, and govern the militia of Iowa was passed by the assembly and signed by Governor Lucas on January 4, 1839.  This bill created the first commander in chief of the militia."  The militia was to consist of infantry, light infantry, riflemen, artillerymen, and dragoons or mounted riflemen.

There were difficulties, however, in organizing the militia.  In 1840 Governor Lucas wrote to the Secretary of War:  "I meet with much difficulty in effecting the organization of our Territorial Militia.  It appears to be attended with extreme difficulty to prevail on men of competent military abilities to accept commissions as company officers, though I trust this will ultimately be accomplished."  When the United States declared war against Mexico in 1846 there was no organized militia in Iowa that could be called.

When Iowa became a state in 1846 the constitution provided for a state militia.  There were several volunteer companies in the state but the growth of the militia was slow.  Most of the governors stressed the need for military legislation.

When Iowa's present constitution was adopted in 1857, provision was again made for a state militia.  During the Civil War Iowa had a militia but it was difficult to distinguish between state and federal troops.

In the years following the Civil War the state militia became an efficient and effective fighting force.  In 1877 the name of the active militia was changed from "State Guard" to "National Guard, State of Iowa."  It consisted of 4,000 well-officered and well-armed men.  Several encampments were held in 1878 and others followed annually.

The state militia has been called out three times recently:

1.  On April 4, 1911, Governor Carroll ordered the militia to Muscatine for duty during a strike at the pearl button factories.  There was no trouble after the troops arrived but they were kept on duty until May 3.

2.  On November 15, 1921, Governor Kendall ordered the militia to Ottumwa for duty during a strike at the plant of the Morrel Packing Co.  They were withdrawn the next day.

3.  On September 21, 1931, Governor Turner ordered the militia to Tipton to help state veterinarians in giving tuberculin tests to cattle as required by law.  Troops later went from Tipton to Mt. Pleasant, Burlington, and Fairfield.


Trouble over the testing of cattle for tuberculosis had existed for several months.  On September 21, 1931, after a crowd of about four hundred objecting farmers had defied a posse of sixty-five deputies and driven them from the J. W. Lenker farm, Governor Turner declared martial law and called out two thousand troops.  Soldiers from many cities in Iowa were sent to Tipton.  The encampment was on the fair grounds.

Many other states have had laws providing for compulsory tuberculin testing but Iowa seems to have been the only one in which the militia had to enforce the law.  The total cost for calling out the troops was over $100,000.  The last soldiers were ordered home on November 25, 1931.


back to History Index