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History of Iowa

Volume II

Chapter IV

Picture included in this chapter is of Caleb Baldwin.


            The invasion of Virginia by John Brown with twenty-one armed followers, having for its avowed object the forcible liberation of slaves, struck terror to hearts of slaveholders of the entire South. The courage with which he and his followers met their fate, demonstrated the fact that there were those at the North who were so earnestly devoted to the emancipation of the slaves that they were willing to give their lives for the freedom of the oppressed, as in the war of the American Revolution. The martyrdom of John Brown and his band had won the admiration of the friends of liberty throughout the whole civilized world and had convinced the most sagacious defenders of the slave system in the South, that the war upon American slavery would never cease until the institution was overthrown. They at last realized that the Antislavery movement inaugurated by William Lloyd Garrison had grown to such formidable proportions that the destruction of slavery in the United States was only a question of time. The crusade begun by an obscure printer in Boston, who had been dragged through that city with a rope around his neck for publicly advocating the abolition of slavery, in less than thirty years had spread over the entire North and now numbered among its converts hundreds of thousands of earnest and conscientious disciples. The Republican party, which had just elected a President, was founded upon opposition to the extension of slavery. The Constitution alone stood between slavery and its gradual extermination. The realization of these facts led the defenders of the institution to counsel together, to devise some scheme by which it could be perpetuated. They finally determined upon secession from the Union. This was decided upon at a conference of prominent politicians held at the residence of Senator Hammond, near Augusta, Georgia, on the 25th of October, 1860. It was evident then that with the Democratic party divided, supporting two candidates for President, the election was known, a convention was called in South Carolina should at once secede from the Union and that other Southern States should follow. Soon after the result of the election was known, a convention was called in south Carolina for the purpose of accomplishing the secession of that State. The convention assembled on the 17th of December, and on the 20th the ordinance of secession was passed by a unanimous vote. The action of South Carolina caused great apprehension throughout the country that a long and bloody conflict might be precipitated and earnest efforts were made by many prominent statesmen and citizens to secure a peaceful settlement of the controversy. Public meetings were held in many large cities of the North, having extensive trade interests and close political affiliations with the South, for the purpose of urging such concessions to the slaveholding States as were demanded to keep them in the Union. A great “Peace Meeting” was held in Independence Square, Philadelphia, on the 13th of December, 1860, which was addressed by prominent Democrats and old line Whigs in the interest of concessions to the demands of the slave power. The resolutions adopted may be briefly summarized as follows: “In the hope of winning back the seceding states and retaining the trade, custom and profits which we have hitherto derived from the South, we hereby pledge ourselves nevermore to say or do, or permit our neighbors to do, anything calculated to displease our Southern brethren or offend the slave holders.”


            On the 31st of January, 1861, a great “Peace Convention” assembled at Albany, New York. It was composed of thirty members and ex-members of Congress, several ex-Governors, State officers, members of the Legislature, Judges and the most distinguished leaders of the Democratic, Whig and “American” parties. The speeches mad and resolutions passed were in favor of making such concessions to slavery as were required by the seceding States and were hailed with undisguised exultation by the secessionists still lingering in the halls of Congress, one of whom exclaimed upon reading them, “If your President should attempt coercion he will have more opposition at the North than he can overcome.” On the other hand, the Republicans, War Democrats and Free Soil men, in public meetings, in the State Legislatures and through the press took a firm stand in favor of the maintenance of the Union, enforcement of the laws and suppression of rebellion, if it should come.


            The Legislature of Virginia issued a unanimous call for a “Peace Conference,” to be held in Washington on the 4th of February, at which all pf the States were requested to send delegates. Twenty States were presented in this conference, thirteen free and seven slave. At the request of Governor Kirkwood, our senators and Representatives in Congress, Grimes, Harlan, Curtis and Vandever, represented Iowa in this convention. Ex-President John Tyler, OF Virginia, presided over its deliberations. Governor Kirkwood sent a letter to our Congressmen expressing very clearly the general sentiment of the loyal people of the North as to the action of this conference. He wrote:


            “If you find the convention in earnest in trying to save the Union permit me to make a few suggestions: First—the true policy of every good citizen is to set his face like flint against secession. Second—to call it by its true name, treason: to use his influence in all legitimate ways to put it down: steadily to obey the laws, and stand by the Government in all lawful measures it may adopt for its preservation, and to the people and constituted authorities to correct under the constitution any errors that may have been committed, or wrongs that my have been suffered. But if compromises must be the order of the day, that compromise must not be a concession by one side of all the other side demands, nor all for which the conceding side had been contending. In other words, the North must not be expected to yield all the South asks, all the North has contended for and won, and then call that a compromise. That is not compromise, and would not bring peace.”


            In the proceedings of the “Peace conference” each State had one vote, an dafter deliberating twenty-three days, a plan for compromise was adopted by a voted of majority of the States, and submitted to Congress with a request that it be submitted by that body to the different States to be by them adopted as an amendment to the constitution. The proposition was rejected by the Senate by the decisive vote of seven years to twenty-eight nays. The House took no action upon it. Various plans for compromise were proposed in Congress and urged with great earnestness and eloquence; but no agreement could be reached by that body acceptable to the leaders of the secession movement.


            Early in January, 1861, Governor Kirkwood made a visit to Abraham Lincoln, President-elect, to confer with him in a quiet way upon the perilous condition of the country. At this conference Governor Kirkwood said to Mr. Lincoln:


            “The people of Iowa are very much excited over the condition of the country; that they are devotedly attached to the Union of the States and will never consent to its dissolution on any terms. They are not to be frightened into abandoning their principles by bluster or bravado. You may depend upon them to sustain you to the utmost in their power in preserving peace, if that can be fairly done, and in preserving the Union in any event and at whatever cost.”


            Mr. Lincoln expressed great satisfaction at what the Governor said of the intentions of the people of Iowa to give earnest support to his administration. He said he had strong hopes that a safe and peaceful solution of our troubles might yet be had. That it seemed to him incredible that any large portion of our people, even in the States threatening secession, could really desire a dissolution of the Union that had done them nothing but good—his own opinion that Congress had not the power to abolish slavery in the Stats where it existed, was well known before his nomination. The convention by which he was nominated with full knowledge of that opinion nominated him, and with full knowledge of both these fats he had been constitutionally elected. He would not consent to or advise his friends to consent to, any bargain or compromise that amounted to a purchase of the constitutional rights growing out of the election. So doing would invite defeated parties in future elections to pursue the course now being pursued with the hope of achieving like success by similar means, thus reducing our Government to a level with Mexico, which is in constant fear of revolution. He would bear and forbear much to preserve the integrity of the Union, but if the issue was clearly made between war and dissolution of the Union, however much he might regret the necessity, he would use all of the constitutional powers of the Government for its preservation, relying upon justice and the patriotism of the people for success.


            Governor Kirkwood said of this interview thirty years later:

            “I left for home with a strong conviction, which never left me, that he was the right man in the right place, and that conviction grew stronger to the end of my life.”


            Before the President-elect was inaugurated, seven States had seceded from the Union, and had organized armies to seize its forts and resist the execution of its laws. On the 12th of April, 1861, the Rebel army in South Carolina, under General Beauregard, opened fire on Fort Sumter and on the 14th the fort surrendered. The news of the inauguration of war produced the most intense excitement throughout the country. On the 15th President Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for 75,000 volunteers to suppress the insurrection. No one at that time realized the magnitude of the war so suddenly forced upon the country. The people of the rebellious States believe that after a brief conflict they would be able to establish a new government and an independent nation. The people of the loyal States were confident that the insurrection would be speedily suppressed by the army, navy and the volunteer soldiers.


            Since the close of the War with Mexico no necessity had existed for a large army and the people of Iowa during the pioneer years absorbed in peaceful pursuits, gave little thought to military organizations. When the shock of war burst upon the Nation on that April day, no State could have been more thoroughly unprepared to send soldiers into the field than Iowa. Its militia was unorganized; it was without arms of equipment and had less than half a regiment of independent drilled companies. One regiment was required of our State by the President’s Proclamation, and on the 17th of April Governor Kirkwood issued a call for ten companies to be ready for service by the 20th of May. Public meetings were held and intense enthusiasm prevailed throughout the State; party lines were forgotten and in a few weeks more companies were raised and offered than could be accepted. General McKean, a graduate of West Point Military Academy, was called upon by the by the Governor to aid in organizing the first Regiment of Iowa Volunteers. J. F. Bates was appointed colonel; W. H. Merritt, lieutenant-colonel; Asbury B. Porter, major, and G. W. Waldron, adjutant. Young men from all occupations hastened t enlist; lawyers, doctors, teachers, merchants, farmers, mechanics and laborers volunteered as privates. Public meetings assembled in every part of the State; patriotic speeches were made; women made flags and uniforms; martial music fanned enthusiasm and the ranks were filled to overflowing. The companies marched away to camp cheered by friends and neighbors, who gathered to bid them a sad “good-by.” Few realized the horrors of the terrible war that confronted them, and it was well that the tragedies of the future were mercifully hidden from them and the friends they left at home. Bravely they went from luxurious homes, from log cabins, from the quiet farm life, the village shop and the city office to become soldiers. War’s miseries were unknown to them. The long marches beneath the burning sun, the chilling blasts of winter storms, camping at night without shelter amid rain and sleet and sinking exhausted by the wayside, the wary months in camp amid the deadly malaria of swamp, wasting away with disease in dreary hospitals, the indescribable horrors of the battlefield where every form of mutilation rends the human body, the hasty burial in unmarked graves, the hideous tortures of prison life.


            Could it have been known in the beginning of the Civil War that Iowa would be called upon for more soldiers than Washington had under his command in the War of the Revolution; for four times as many as General Scott led in the War with Mexico, our people would have been paralyzed with horror. But as the war progressed with varying fortune through the long months and years, our people learned to endure its sacrifices, and like soldiers in battle, nerve themselves to do their duty at any cost.


            The difficulties encountered by Governor Kirkwood and his staff in creating an army out of all classes of civilians, without adequate laws, funds or military experience during the first months of the war, were almost insurmountable. But untiring efforts gradually brought system into the new work so suddenly thrust upon them and their fidelity, patient industry and rare ability in that trying time have been universally recognized.


            Before funds could be provided by law, the Governor found it necessary to use a large amount of money to meet the expenses of raising and equipping of the First and Second Regiments. In this emergency Hiram Price, Ezekiel Clark, J. K. Graves and W. T. Smith, officers of the branches of the State Bank, came promptly forward and furnished the money required. The amounts paid by the State for raising and equipping the First and Second Regiments, including one month’s pay, but not arms, were $93,722. Every effort possible was made by the Governor to procure arms for the First Regiment, but so great was the demand upon the War Department that a long time passed before suitable weapons could be furnished. The same difficulty was experienced in the effort to supply the First Regiment with suitable uniforms and it was sent into the field with a poor quality of gray clothing most of which was soon in rags.


            The Governor found it necessary to call an extra session of the General Assembly to provide funds and enact laws for military organization required by the emergency. The Legislature met in extra session on the 15th of May, 1861, and immediately organized for work. Partisan spirit was ignored and in the selection of officers William Thompson, a former Democratic member of Congress, was chosen Chief Clerk of the House. On the first day of the session, ex-Governor N. B. Baker, leader of the Democrats of the House, offered a resolution requiring all volunteers who entered the military service from Iowa to be paid from the date of enlistment to the time of entering the service of the United States and also from the date of discharge until their arrival home. R. D. Kellogg, a young Democratic member of the House from Decatur County, immediately presented the following resolutions:


            “Whereas, The President of the United States has appealed to all loyal citizens to aid the efforts to maintain the honor, integrity and existence of the National Union, and suppress treason and rebellion against the Federal Government; therefore be it

            “Resolved, By the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring) that the faith, credit and resources of the State of Iowa, both in men and money, are hereby irrevocably pledged to any amount and to any extent which the Federal Government may demand to suppress treason and subdue rebellion, enforce the laws, protect the lives and property of all loyal citizens, and maintain inviolate the Constitution and sovereignty of the Nation.

            “Resolved, That the Governor and Secretary of State be and they are hereby authorized to forward a certified copy of these resolutions to the President of the United States.”


            The resolutions were adopted without opposition. In the Governor’s message, which was sent to the General Assembly, he informed that body that in the absence of laws providing for the raising of troops to meet such an emergency as had suddenly come upon the country, he had assumed the responsibility and promptly organized a regiment of volunteers to comply with the first call of the President. That, in anticipating further calls for troops in the near future, he had accepted enough volunteers to make up another regiment, which was ordered into quarters in the counties where the companies enlisted. He also said that enough companies had been tendered to make five additional regiments. In anticipation of further calls for troops from time to time the Governor had recommended that all companies thus raised should keep up their organizations and devote as much time to drill as they could spare without interfering with their ordinary business. This would give the State a large reserve force of partially drilled troops to meet future calls. The Governor urged the enactment of military laws that would enable the State to promptly meet all requisitions of the General Government for troops, and also enable the State authorities to protect the citizens from invasion on the south and from Indian hostilities from the west. He also urged the appropriation of funds to meet all expenses which might be incurred by the exigencies of war, and, further, to provide aid for the families of volunteers who entered the military service.


            The Legislature remained in session but two weeks, promptly dispatching the business for which it had been convened. It framed a general militia law providing for the raising of two regiments of infantry, one regiment of mounted riflemen, one squad cavalry and two battalions of artillery for the protection of the southern and western borders of the State. An act was passed authorizing the issue and sale of Sate bonds to the amount of $800,000 to provide a war and defense fund. A commission was appointed, consisting of S. R. Ingham, John N. Dewey and I. W. Griffith, to audit all claims and bills paid out of the funds thus raised. The Governor was authorized to purchase arms and other war supplies; to pay volunteers until they were mustered into the service of the United States; to authorize counties to aid families of soldiers in the service; to provide staff officers for the Governor as Commander-in-Chief of the State troops, to prohibit the commencement of any civil suit against a soldier during his term of service, and grant a continuance of any suit pending.


            The extra session of the Legislature met the emergency which confronted the State and Nation with dignity, with wisdom and statesmanlike action. Every important measure recommended by the Governor was carefully considered and provided for. Partisan considerations were largely put aside and all of the principle war measures were considered upon their merits, and enacted into law, receiving the support of a majority of the Democratic members. There was honest difference of opinion often as to details but no factious opposition to important war measures. The patriotic sentiment of the people was well represented by this war session of the Legislature. Many of its members of both political parties entered the military service an attained high rank during the progress of the war. Under the wise legislation of this short session our State was enabled to promptly respond to all calls of the General Government and place at its disposal a class of volunteer soldiers that has never been excelled by any country in any war.


            Soon after the beginning of the war, our State was threatened with invasion by Missouri Rebels on the south and by Sioux Indians on the west and north. It was found much easier to find men to protect the frontier than to secure arms for their use. The calls upon the General Government for arms from every section of the loyal States for the troops being mustered into the service, could not be at once supplied. Many regiments were in camp a long time before they could be armed. Colonel Cyrus Bussey, one of the Governor’s aides at Keokuk, was entrusted with the distribution of arms for the protection of the southern border. A regiment of State militia, numbering nine hundred and thirty-three men, was organized in the south-western part of the State under command of Colonel John R. Morledge, of Page County. Hon. Caleb Baldwin, of Council Bluffs, was given full authority by the Governor to organize military companies in that part of the State and call them into the service when needed for protection of that frontier. He issued a call to the citizens of western Iowa urging the raising of one military company in each county of that section of the State to be held in readiness for immediate service. Colonel John Edwards, of Lucas county, was authorized to organize the militia in that part of the State and take command of any forces required to protect the lives and property of citizens and repel invasion. Judge A. W. Hubbard, of Sioux City, was placed in command of that section with full authority to use the military force in any emergency which might arise.


          Union men in the northern counties of Missouri were often driven from their homes and sought refuge in Iowa with their families. In counties where the Union men were in the majority, they retaliated by driving out Rebels, who sheltered them. This condition of affairs was stirring up civil war in our own State. In order to meet this emergency a military district was formed known as the “Western Division of Iowa,” and troops were raised for service in this territory and the adjoining counties of Missouri, if necessary. While the Governor never ordered troops across the State line, he permitted the commanding officers to use their discretion, to go where in their judgment the troops were required to protect the Union men. Colonel Morledge, in command of a regiment in this district, was called upon to go to the rescue of Union men of Nodaway County, Missouri. He marched with two hundred and fifty men thirty-three miles, quelled the disturbance and took sixty prisoners. Two other expeditions were made into Missouri by colonel Morledge during the summer. On one of these he was joined by Colonel Cranor, of the Missouri militia, and they gathered a force of 3,000 men, marching as far as Saint Joseph. Here they found a large body of armed Rebels engaged in plundering the stores and dwellings of Union men, having robbed them of more than $40,000. The Rebels were driven out of the city and a portion of the property recovered.


            In July, colonel Edwards reported that 1,500 citizens of Iowa had left their harvest fields and families and gone into Missouri to the relief of Union men. They were armed with such weapons as they chanced to possess and their movements directed by officers hastily chosen. They were warmly welcomed by the loyal citizens, provided with food and shelter and remained until danger passed. Owing to constant alarms in the border counties, a vast amount of grain was left in the fields un-harvested.


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