More than a hundred and fifty years have passed since Iowa soldiers representing the Union Army battled members of the Confederacy in the south. The Civil War was arguably the most violent and deadly our country has seen. Iowans in particular paid a heavy price for unification of the states and the abolition of slavery. Of the 75,000 Iowans who fought during the four year conflict, roughly 13,000 died. It was this great loss of life that led communities and governments in various parts of the country to create Decoration Day, referred to today as Memorial Day.
The “Iowa and the Civil War: Nothing but Victory” exhibit at the State Historical Museum honors the legacy of our fallen soldiers. With more than 300 artifacts covering ten thousand square feet of exhibit space, you’ll understand how Civil War era soldiers lived and died.
Though the list of artifacts is endlessly interesting, you’ll be wowed by the giant, framed Civil War-era flag on display. This carefully restored symbol of the Union was actually made by women in Bloomfield, Iowa, and carried by the 2nd Iowa Infantry. It was even hoisted high by Iowa Medal of Honor recipient Voltaire Twombly after the original bearer was hurt.
Original, personal stories placed throughout the exhibit will spark your imagination and love of history. In one corner of the museum’s hall you’ll find a peculiar wood board with a giant hole. This is the hole through which S.H.M. Byers escaped his Confederate captors. Byers used his wits and limited resources to cut the hole and then flee from a Columbia, South Carolina prison. After the war, Byers returned to South Carolina and took the piece of wall back home to Iowa.
See the muskets and rifles Iowa soldiers used to help claim control of the Mississippi River and other strategic locations. Discover the ways women supported the war efforts. Find out where in Iowa more than 600 Civil War soldiers are buried. Learn about Iowa’s first troop of African Americans to officially become part of the U.S. Army. Interact with touch-screen displays and video presentations throughout; bringing the historic era to life for present day learners. When you visit this great exhibit, you’ll fall in love with the state’s history and leave knowing your time observing the sacrifices of the Civil War honors veterans from every era who fought for preservation of this great union.