Iowa and the Civil War; Volume 3: The Longest Year 1864-1865 by Kenneth L. Lyftogt. 2022, Camp Pope Publishing, Iowa City, Iowa. 543 pp., $40.

Iowa and the Civil War; Volume 3: The Longest Year 1864-1865

This is the final volume in Mr. Lyftogt’s trilogy of Iowa in the American Civil War. Volume 1 covered the period 1850–1862; Volume 2 examined the years 1862–1864. During the course of the Civil War, Iowa provided the Federal government with 48 infantry regiments, nine cavalry regiments, and four artillery batteries. Iowans would fight in the Trans Mississippi, the Eastern, and the Western Theaters. The highest commanding officer from Iowa was Major General Grenville Dodge who commanded XVI Corps.

The author skillfully weaves the story of Iowa’s involvement in the various theaters into a comprehensive narrative. He details Iowa’s involvement in General William Sherman’s campaign that led to capturing Atlanta, the efforts to bring General John Bell Hood and General Nathan Forrest to battle following the capture of Atlanta, the march to the sea, taking Savannah, and the final battles in South Carolina and North Carolina. During this period, Iowa soldiers also participated in the Battles of Franklin and Nashville, took part in the capture of Mobile, the defeat of General Jubal Early in the Shenandoah Valley, rode with General Wilson during his raid into Alabama and Georgia, foiled General Sterling Price’s invasion of Missouri, and fought various guerrilla groups on the Western Frontier.

The book’s story of Iowa in the Civil War is enhanced by the author skillfully weaving first-hand accounts of events under discussion into the text. The contemporary accounts provide the reader with a feel of the emotions generated within individuals, families, and communities by the political turmoil and battlefield casualties taking place around them. 

Chapter Eight details the 1864 Presidential election and is a must read. Many forget that in 1864 the American people were not only deciding who would be President of the United States for the next four years but whether the war would continue and slavery be ended. Also, the people would be electing a new Congress whose new members might finally approve placing the 14th Amendment before the states. This chapter provides a clear summary of the emotional issues that tugged at Iowa voters. The Republican Party itself was not in total agreement with Lincoln’s war policies, some finding them too lenient and some too demonic. How this all played out in Iowa is a fascinating story.

I personally found the last three chapters of great interest. Here, the author looked at the effect the assassination of President Lincoln had on Iowa’s soldiers and the state’s home front. Plus, he delves into post war Iowa. Hopefully this examination of post war Iowa will become an additional book in this series on Iowa in the Civil War. 

The author touches upon the fact that the fighting war did not end with the surrender of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. The war continued for some time in the Trans-Mississippi Theater; the effects would continue to plague and shape the social and political patterns of Iowa long after fighting ended. I was amazed that some post-Civil War political and social problems that plagued my home state of Kentucky, a border state, also played out in Iowa. 

I found this book to be a fascinating read, and I have ordered volumes 1 and 2 of the series. The author provides a thoughtful insight into why Iowa believed it needed to support the Union cause both politically and militarily. I only wish the author had covered Iowa’s involvement in the purchasing of Federal revenue bonds that were issued to finance the war. All in all, this book is a great addition to the historical accounts of the American Civil War.

About the reviewer

Charles H. Bogart has a BA from Thomas More University and an MCP from Ohio State University. He is employed as a tour guide at the Fort Boone Civil War Battle Site in Frankfort, Ky., serves as President of the Frankfort Civil War Roundtable, and is a board member of the Kentucky Civil War Roundtable. He has written several books and articles on military and naval history.

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