Sunday, August 20, 2017

About those Iowa Confederate monuments

Davis County raid monument south of Bloomfield.

A few references have appeared here and there during the last week to Confederate-related monuments in Iowa. There actually are two --- and both were erected early in the 21st century. Neither is likely to stir controversy, but it is interesting to note that both were sponsored or co-sponsored by the Iowa Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, organized during 1996 by a few older white Iowans, quite a number of them re-enactors, who could claim an ancestor who fought for the Confederacy.

If you read the introduction to the group on its website, you'll discover that its members, while hardly rabble-rousers, do subscribe to and actively promote the myth of the glorious cause that sprang up in the South during the 19th and early 20th century: "The preservation of liberty and freedom was the motivating factor in the South's decision to fight the Second American Revolution. The tenacity with which Confederate soldiers fought underscored their belief in the rights guaranteed by the Constitution. These attributes are the underpinning of our democratic society and represent the foundation on which this nation was built. Today, the Sons of Confederate Veterans is preserving the history and legacy of these heroes, so future generations can understand the motives that animated the Southern Cause."

Reputable historians would disagree and suggest that some mention of slavery might be appropriate, but that's beyond the scope of this post.


The closest actual memorial to the Confederate dead is a 2005 obelisk with a carefully worded inscription erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in the Confederate Cemetery on Rock Island --- in Illinois, actually, but just off the Iowa coast. 

This cemetery contains the remains of some 2,000 Confederate prisoners of war who died while incarcerated at a Union camp on the island where conditions were so unhealthy that it's sometimes called the "Andersonville of the North."

The inscription reads, "In memory of the Confederate veterans who died at the Rock Island Confederate Prison Camp. May they never be forgotten. Let no man asperse the memory of our sacred dead. They were men who died for a cause they believed was worth fighting for and made the ultimate sacrifice."


One memorial sometimes cited as Confederate --- a bronze plaque in Mallory Cemetery near Toolesboro in Louisa County --- actually isn't. The plaque, erected in 1994 by Jefferson Township trustees and the  Louisa County Cemetery Commission, deals with unmarked mass graves reportedly located there, one containing victims of an 1859 "plague" at the ghost town of Burris City and the other, the remains of "Confederate prisoners-of-war who died while being transported to the federal prison on Rock Island" that were brought ashore at the Toolesboro landing and brought to Mallory Cemetery for burial.


One of two actual Confederate monuments, erected by the Iowa Sons in cooperation with Texas Sons and a chapter of the Military Order of Stars and Bars, consists of a plaque on a boulder along the Des Moines River at Bentonsport. It notes that Confederate Gen. Lawrence Sullivan Ross was born at Bentonsport during 1838. The inscription claims Ross as a "native son" of Iowa despite the fact he moved with his family to Texas when only months old and never set foot in the Hawkeye state again. Although historical significance seems a trifle overstated, there's no controversy here.


The largest of the Iowa monuments is located four miles south of Bloomfield in Davis County and commemorates what is described on one plaque as the "Confederate invasion of Iowa" and on another, as the "furthermost north of any Confederate incursion during the Civil War." The latter inscription should include the modifier "in Iowa" since Confederate forces most certainly penetrated farther north east of the Mississippi.

The three plaques mounted on three boulders were donated by the Iowa Sons of the Confederacy, Iowa Sons of Union Veterans and the Davis County Civil War Guerrilla Raid Society.

There's no particular reason to quarrel with the monument, although it might have been appropriate, since it is located in Davis County, to name the three Davis Countyans brutally murdered during the raid.

The 12-hour spree on Oct. 24, 1864, was led by bushwhacker James Jackson, a former Texas Ranger and an especially nasty piece of work widely known for lynching freed slaves. He had risen through the ranks of other guerrilla organizations, including John Hunt Morgan's operation in Kentucky and  Clifton Holtzclaw's Missouri raiders.

By the fall of 1864, Jackson had his own band of a dozen bushwhackers who launched a circuit raid perhaps intended to destabilize the Missouri-Iowa border region during October, as Confederate Gen. Sterling Price was attempting to "retake" Missouri south of the Missouri River. The raid, which was launched at and ended near Macon, Missouri, reached the Iowa border on the 24th when the bushwhackers, dressed in Union uniforms, crossed into Davis County.

Dozens of rural homes were terrorized and robbed and a number of prisoners taken, but it was the brutality of Jackson himself as he cold-bloodedly killed three Davis County men that perhaps should be remembered.

The killing commenced near the home of Thomas Hardy, age 49. Hardy was not at home when the bushwhackers robbed his house, but they encountered him nearby driving toward his farm with a companion aboard a wagon pulled by a team of horses. The bushwackers demanded his horses, but Hardy demanded payment. "I'll pay you for them," Jackson reportedly replied, then fired a revolver at Hardy, reportedly striking him near the right eye. The shot knocked Hardy off the wagon, but did not kill him. He asked for mercy. Jackson then dismounted, pulled a smaller pistol from his belt and fired another shot into the man's head. When that failed to do the job, Jackson fired another revolver shot into the man's head, killing him. The leader then rifled the dead man's pickets, taking whatever cash he found, and rode away.

Somewhat later, the raiders rode up to the home of Eleazar Small, age 30, who had served honorably as a corporal in Company A, 3rd Iowa Volunteer Cavalry.  Because the riders were wearing Union uniforms, Small assumed that they were friends and approached them. By the time he discovered his mistake it was too late. Jackson drew his revolver and shot him in the face, then fired additional shots into his neck and chest.  Jackson reportedly dismounted then, took what cash he found in the dead man's pockets and rode away.

Capt. Philip Bence, 45, Co. F, 30th Iowa Volunteer Infantry, was on furlough with his family when the raiders rode up to his home near Springville later in the day. He was in uniform when the bushwhackers approached. Rather than killing him immediately, Jackson robbed Bence and forced  him to turn over his uniform and change into other clothing. Bence reportedly asked Jackson not to kill him in the presence of his wife and Jackson spared him for the time being, but marched him away from his home with other prisoners.

As nightfall neared, Jackson realized that he was not equipped to deal overnight with prisoners. Perhaps because Bemce was the ranking Union man among the prisoners, Jackson took aim and shot him off the horse he was riding double with another prisoner. As Capt. Bence lay on the ground, raising himself onto an elbow, Jackson fired another shot, this one fatal, into his head.

The other prisoners then were released on foot. They reached Springville about midnight. The bushwhackers fled into Missouri and, although pursued, never were located.


Jackson's story ended the following June. On June 13, 1865, near Columbia, Missouri, he surrendered  to Union forces under white flag, swore allegiance to the United States and was paroled. Missouri Unionist forces, recalling his brutality, were not inclined to let him get away with a free pass, however. Despite the parole, he was captured while heading for Illlinois and either shot or hanged in Monroe County, Missouri.


For those interested in reading more about the Davis County raid, a detailed report compiled by Col. S.A. Moore and based upon eye-witness testimony, was published in Annals of Iowa during 1922. You'll find it in PDF version here.

The photos here were taken from an excellent web site entitled "Iowa Civil War Monuments," developed and maintained by Iowa's Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. You'll find that site, which includes comprehensive listings by county of the monuments, here.


sfuller said...

You probably saw my comments on the Forgotton Iowa Historical Society page on Facebook mirroring your thoughts before I saw this. Findagrave virtual cemetery for the three victims-,

Jody Hoffman said...

I agree with you that the men killed during the raid need to be remembered as well I do however take issue with how you describe the brutal way the raiders acted,during Sherman's march to the sea the Union army cut a swath 20 miles wide through Georgia and South Carolina. They burned homes,barns & destroyed towns.They also stole livestock and food from the civilians,leaving them with nothing. They also killed & raped women and killed men just because they were from the South. There was brutality on both sides and that needs to be remembered