Antietam National Cemetery
State by State - Iowa


Iowa In 1846, Iowa came into the Union as a free state. The original proposal for the new state stretched the northern border to include Minneapolis/St. Paul in Minnesota. However, the United States Senate wished to allow for additional “free” states west of the Mississippi, therefore its size would be reduced to its current boundary. The state continued to be divided by the issue of slavery.

Prior to 1860, citizens of Iowa helped an estimated 200 escaped slaves to freedom. These slaves came mostly from Missouri, although some came from Arkansas, Indian Territory, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi.

The state of Iowa recruited approximately 76,000 men for the Union army during the Civil War.  The first troops to answer Lincoln’s call to arms were ill-prepared in regards to both supplies and training. Therefore, a training camp was established on the banks of the Mississippi River near Davenport called Fort McClellan.  These men fought in the western theater in Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Some also served in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia with General William T. Sherman. Approximately 13,000 died during the war—more from disease than combat.

With so many men off to fight in the east, women took on the responsibility of taking care of farms and businesses. They also took the initiative to send food and supplies to the wounded. Annie Wittenmyer of Keokuk was very active in veterans’ relief organizations. She volunteered at a local army hospital where she became familiar with bad food, unsanitary conditions, and low morale. As corresponding secretary for the Keokuk Ladies’ Soldiers’ Aid Society, Annie travelled to army camps to raise awareness back home. She was later appointed to the Iowa State Sanitary Commission. She began campaigning for children orphaned by the war and designed new dietary kitchens for the army. 

Although there were no major battles fought between the North and South on Iowa soil, its citizens faced hostilities in the northwestern part of the state. They were still on the frontier, and therefore were subject to raids by Native Americans from southern Minnesota.

After the war, veterans returned to Iowa.. The state now contains hundreds of Civil War monuments in all shapes and sizes. Relative to its population, Iowa sent more men than any other state. More than fifty Medals of Honor were awarded to men from Iowa.

Additional Resources


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