The Post-Civil War Period (1865-1898)
The Iowa National Guard From 1865 to 1898
History of The Iowa National Guard
CW2 David L. Snook
In Iowa, the State Militia became, once again, a collection of independent, volunteer organizations. The degree of organization and effective training that was maintained was due in large measure to the energies of Adjutant General Nathaniel Baker. Baker was first appointed as adjutant general in 1861 and continued to serve in that position until his death in 1876.
In the 1873 Adjutant General’s Report, a roster of organized militia companies then in existence within the state was included for the first time. The list included the following: Olmsted Zouaves, Des Moines; Vinton Zouaves, Vinton; Lawler Battery, Lawler; McGregor Artillery, McGregor; Clinton Artillery, Clinton; Cresco Artillery, Cresco; Baker Light Horse Cavalry, Iowa City; Council Bluffs Light Artillery, Council Bluffs; Iowa College Company, Grinnell; Iowa State Agriculture College Company, Ames; Fort Dodge Battery, Fort Dodge; Keosauqua Artillery, Keosauqua; Crocker Veteran Guards, Des Moines; Pocahontas Rifles, Rolfe; Burlington Guards, Burlington; Humboldt County Rifles, Rutland; Panora Zouaves, Panora; Anamosa Artillery, Anamosa; and Keokuk Veteran Guards, Keokuk.
In 1876, the Iowa Militia was organized along regimental lines. At that time, there were seven six-company regiments, a battalion at the State University of Iowa, a twelve-battery regiment of field artillery, and three unattached organizations. Two batteries of artillery were attached to each infantry regiment, except the Seventh. One battery was attached to that regiment.
In 1877, the Iowa Militia was redesignated as the Iowa National Guard. The Iowa National Guard continued with the above organization until 1893, when the seven regiments and miscellaneous organizations were consolidated into two brigades of two regiments each. During this period, the overall level of training improved markedly. Encampments were held by either regiments or brigades at various locations throughout the state, although there was no central field training facility.
This renewed interest in military affairs received added impetus in the summer of 1894. On August 10, 1894, about 5,000 Iowa veterans of the Civil War assembled in Des Moines to march behind their regimental battle flags for the last time.
The men came from all parts of the state to carry 135 flags from the state arsenal on First Street to the Capitol. There they were deposited in glass display cases where they remain to this day.
The march was filled with emotion. A crowd of thousands lined Locust Street for a solid mile. "None cheered – their hearts stirred too deep," said one account…."The occasion was too great for noise. There were white-haired mothers whose sons lay dead on Southern battlefields, and sisters whose brothers filled nameless graves in the dark forests of the South.
My boy died defending that flag,’ said an old man, as the banner of his son’s regiment passed by.
The crowd about him gave way till the color bearers could let the old man touch the sacred colors with his hands."
No captured enemy flags were carried in that procession, though Iowa men had captured more flags than they had regiments. Hatred and revenge were forgotten on that day of solemn gratitude and remembrance.
The same patriotic spirit displayed during the Battle Flag ceremony of 1894 would be shown again, less than four years later (April of 1898), when the entire Iowa National Guard would volunteer for service in the Spanish-American War.