McCarty, Dwight D. History of Palo Alto County. Cedar Rapids, Iowa: Torch Press, 1910


Chapter IX
The Call to Arms

     The great question of slavery, smoldering for years in a divided nation, had been kept confined by a series of compromises. But compromise was becoming more and more difficult to maintain and in 1860 completely broke down. The fire so long repressed burst forth with renewed fury. The South, not stopping to consider the cost, not realizing their lack of numbers and their industrial and commercial inferiority as compared with the larger North, defiantly forced the issue and determined to separate from the Union and form a country of their own that would protect the institution of slavery. But this course was fatal to the Southern cause. Secession was a blow at the Union and the North rallied to its support with a patriotism that never could have been roused for the suppression of slavery alone. "The Union Forever" became a rallying cry and the boys in blue, fighting for the Union, were more than a match for the gallant boys in gray.
    Even on the frontier plains of Iowa, the news of the great conflict was eagerly discussed. The pioneers were loyal and when the call for volunteers came they responded nobly. The names of the brave boys who went to the front was are spread upon the honor roll in the history of the state of Iowa.
    Palo Alto County, although almost on the outpost of civilization, came forward with her quota of loyal sons, and throughout the war contributed as strength permitted to the call of duty. The population of the whole county in 1860 was only 132, a large number of these being women and children and men too old for military service. The percentage enlisting in the Civil War and in the northern Border Brigade was therefore very large, considering the needs and dangers of frontier settlements.
    A.B. Carter of West Bend was the first to enlist from this county. He went to Fort Dodge and enlisted August 2, 1861. A company was formed there of young men who were desirous of getting into active service as soon as possible, and when opportunity offered they joined Colonel Harvey's regiment of Pennsylvania. They reached Washington October 6, 1861, and were given the place of honor as Company A, Eleventh Pennsylvania Cavalry. This western company saw active service, during the entire period of its enlistment in the eastern army, and was a credit to Iowa throughout the war. 1
    In 1862, James Linn and Wm. D. Powers enlisted in Company I, 32d Iowa Volunteer Infantry. This regiment was in active service until it was mustered out in June, 1865. It was this gallant regiment that bore the brunt of the Confederate charge at the battle of Pleasant Hill, and though losing half of their men in the deadly battle, fought gallantly against heavy odds and turned certain defeat into victory. 2
    Joseph McCormick enlisted in 1863 and went to the front. This gallant soldier met his death at Memphis, Tenn. and was buried in the National Cemetery.
    The county desiring to keep its quota full, hired two substitutes, paying them in advance in county warrants at 30c on the dollar, amounting to $2,600.00. The supervisors also ordered that $10,000.00 in warrants be drawn "if needed to raise volunteers provided they can be procured." 3 The zeal and patriotism of the county outstripped the necessity, as this was one more than the quota called for. The two substitutes were supplied, however, and the warrants were later redeemed at par, so the county paid well for this service.
    But while the war was being waged in the Southland, a different danger threatened the settlers on the northern borders of Iowa. The news of the Sioux outbreak in Minnesota, under the leadership of Little Crow, in the fall of 1862, brought again the haunting fear of the savage man. 4 In August of that year the warlike Sioux started on a murderous journey through Minnesota, working south until they arrived at New Ulm, where the terrified people had hastily gathered and raised a barricade for their protection. The Indians, 500 strong, attacked the town. The prompt arrival of reinforcements alone prevented a general massacre, as the Indians were only beaten off after two days' desperate fighting. The redskins withdrew and continued their depredations on scattered settlements.
    The settlers fled in terror to the towns for protection and as the news traveled onward the people in the border counties of Iowa became alarmed. Public meetings were held at Algona and Estherville and volunteer companies formed.
    Governor Kirkwood promptly took steps to raise forces for the protection of the border. He ordered S.R. Ingham of Des Moines to proceed to Fort Dodge and other points and organize a sufficient force, placing arms and ammunition and the power of the state at his disposal. At Algona he authorized Mr. W.H. Ingham to enlist forty men to be furnished by Humboldt, Palo Alto, Kossuth, and Emmet counties. This company was quickly recruited and organized as Company A, with W.H. Ingham of Algona as captain. The following men enlisted from Palo Alto County, their age residence and nativity being given in the official roster as follows: R. Fayette Carter, 31, Paoli, Palo Alto, Ohio, 2nd Sergeant; Jeremiah Crowley, 18, Emmetsburg, Palo Alto, Ireland; Patrick Jackman, 22, Emmetsburg, Palo Alto, Ireland; Keiran Mulroney, 19, Emmetsburg, Palo Alto, Ireland; Joseph T. Mulroney, 26, Emmetsburg, Palo Alto, Ireland. 5
    Twenty men from this company were stationed at Estherville under the command of Lieut. Coverdale and the other twenty were ordered to Iowa Lake under Lieut. McKnight. Later the whole of Company A was located at Estherville under Captain Ingham, and spent the fall and winter in building a stockade of fort and preparing suitable quarters.
    Four other companies were raised and stationed along the northern border, forming a complete chain of outposts. Guns and ammunition were distributed to the settlers in the various counties. The report to the governor shows among the list the following: "To Martin Coonan for the use of settlers in Palo Alto County; five lbs. powder, 10 lbs lead, 300 percussion caps." The troops were well drilled and well supplied with the necessary equipment.
    These prompt and efficient measures had the desired effect and the Indians were turned to the northward, and did not molest any settlers in Iowa. Gradually confidence returned, and with the added security of the stockades, all ready for an emergency, the troops were mustered out in the summer and fall of 1863.
    Although Palo Alto County was not on the extreme border, it was near enough to share the anxiety and fear of the time. The Spirit Lake massacre of 1857 was still fresh in mind and the remembrance of those horrors so near their settlements made them prompt in their assistance for the defense of the border from Indian invasion.
    Capt. W.H. Ingham thus sums up the results:" As to the services of the Northern Border Brigade, the results show that it served an excellent purpose in preserving the settlements of the northwestern border and thereby prevented much suffering and an immense loss of property to the citizens of the state. From the reports heretofore given, it will be seen that the brigade promptly met and carried out all of the objects set forth in Governor Kirkwood's General Orders No. 1. By a wise distribution of its forces at frequent stations on the frontier, and under the able management of Col. Sawyers, the brigade undoubtedly did much in preventing the Indians from invading the state. The companies comprising the brigade constructed works at the different posts well suited for the purposes for which they were made, as shown by Col. Sawyer's final reports. These works, together with the presence of  the troops, gave a genuine feeling of security not only to the settlers nearby but to all others that were in any way concerned, so that many who had left their homes during the excitement soon afterward returned. The brigade was made up of strong, earnest, loyal men, well fitted by pioneer experiences to meet any emergency that might occur, and its supervisors may well take pride in having been members and of helping to render the last services ever required by the state for protection of its northern border from invasion." 6


1 Letter of A.B. Carter. Gue, History of Iowa, vol. ii, p. 411.
2 Gue, History of Iowa, vol. ii, pages 319-23. A summary of the service of the 32d Iowa will be found in the same chapter quoted above.
3 Minutes and Supervisors' Record, no. 1, p. 68, Jan. 2, 1865
4 The facts concerning the Indian uprising and the organizing of the frontier forces are condensed from an interesting and accurate article, "The Iowa Northern Border Brigade of 1862-3" by Capt. Wm. H. Ingham, in Annals of Iowa, October 1902, pp. 481-523. That description is fully substantiated by the recollections of Lott Laughlin, Jeremiah Crowley and others.
5 "Iowa Northern Border Brigade," Annals of Iowa, 1902, pp. 513-4.
6 "Iowa Northern Border Brigade," by W.H. Ingham, Annals of Iowa, October, 1902, p. 511.