Sunday, March 20, 2011

Iowa in the Civil War (Iuka Part 1)

To start my Iuka journey, I thought it would begin with a brief history of the state of Iowa. Most people have a certain image of Iowa filled to the brim with cornfields and the occasional pig farm. I can say that hypothetically that isn't what Iowa looks like in its entirety. I say hypothetically because I spent a good portion of time living in Council Bluffs on the western border of the state and then again in Ceylon Minnesota which is literally eight miles north of the Iowa border and all I ever saw of the country side was in fact endless cornfields and the occasional pig farm. Still, I read thats not a universal Iowan landscape on Wikipedia, so it must be true. 


By the time the Civil War started in 1861, Iowa had only been settled by Americans for 28 years. The first settlers arrived in 1833 and the state was made a territory five years later in 1838 with a population of 23,242The territory became a state in 1846, merely 15 years before the southern states decided to get rowdyIn 1861 the state had grown in population to 675,000.

However, the story of my family is slightly different. According to the family traditions, the Bedford family was heavily involved in the American Revolution on the side of the British. The Patriarch (whose name eludes me at the moment) was a British Regular, or Redcoat. During or immediately following the war, he met and married his British American wife and following the British defeat, they opted to make their way to Canada rather than return to Britain


Without much training in navigation, the couple started off northeast from New York and finally settled a patch of wilderness they thought was part of Canada. They had actually settled in the Ohio River Valley. The family was pushed further west as the American settlers pushed into the area and by the 1810s the family found itself in Iowa along with a handful of other British subjects and local Native American tribes loyal to the crown. After several skirmishes between the British-backed Indians and the American settlers, the region finally fell into the hands of the United States and the Bedford family resigned itself to accepting American citizenship. Whatever ill-will there was in the family towards America quickly disappeared in the turmultous 1840s-60s when they firmly became anti-slavery and Lincolnite Republicans. The family farm was located near Boone, Iowa, on the eastern border of the state.


When the Rebs got shirty on 12 April 1861 (we are coming up on the 150th anniversary), and fired upon Fort Sumter, Iowa's ardent supporters of Lincoln answered the call to arms to preserve the Union, raising 14 infantry regiments and several cavalry and artillery units. Another batch of Iowa regiments would be raised in early 1862 when it became apparent that the war was not going to be easily won. In all, the state would contribute 116,000 men to the Union cause, the most proportional amount of any state in war, north or south. 75,000 Iowans would fight on the front lines, and over of a sixth of them were killed before the war was over. 


And there you have it, more than you ever wanted to know about the Hawkeye State. 

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