Friday, April 20, 2018

Booknotes: Iowa and the Civil War, Volume 1

New Arrival:
Iowa and the Civil War, Volume 1: Free Child of the Missouri Compromise 1850-1862
  by Kenneth L. Lyftogt (Camp Pope Publishing, 2018).

My Civil War fandom of all things Iowa took a major hit after Nebraska joined the Big Ten and went 3-4 against the Hawkeyes with a bunch of lopsided losses most recently. However, professionalism requires that I put aside such partisan animus and admit that I am very much looking forward to reading Kenneth Lyftogt's big project aimed at exploring the full history of Iowa's Civil War. "Free Child of the Missouri Compromise is volume one of a three-volume, comprehensive history of Iowa’s role in the Civil War, the first to be published in 130 years. It begins with the events and issues that led up to the war and ends with the decisive Battle of Shiloh in April of 1862." I would say that an update is long overdue.

Early chapters cover the statehood period, Iowa's place as a transit point for escaped slaves, the rise of Republican politicians in the state, and the 1860 election. Prominent political and military figures are profiled, as are the initial recruitment drives. The latter half of the book recounts campaigns and battles involving Iowa troops, among these Missouri battles at Athens, Wilson's Creek, Blue Mills Landing, Belmont, and New Madrid; Pea Ridge in Arkansas; and Fort Donelson and Shiloh in Tennessee. Large numbers of Iowa soldiers were captured at Shiloh, and the volume concludes with an overview of their odyssey in Confederate captivity. The maps look great, and any book that uses an Andy Thomas painting for the cover art has already scored points with me.

The author of Left for Dixie: The Civil War Diary of John Rath (1991), From Blue Mills to Columbia: Cedar Falls and the Civil War (1993), and Iowa's Forgotten General: Matthew Mark Trumbull and the Civil War (2007), Lyftogt is not new to the study of Civil War Iowa. Of the three, I've only read the slim Trumbull volume and liked it quite a bit.

I'm also putting together an interview with the author, so look for a Q&A in the near future.

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