The newly released book, Iowa Confederates in the Civil War, is not a typical look at the state’s involvement in the Civil War, being that Iowa was a very strong Union state with a proud history.
David Connon, an Iowa history buff and author of the book, opted to take readers down a different path, one that takes a look at the 76 soldiers who donned Confederate uniforms and fought for the South.
“The heart of the book is a historical sketch of each of the 76 Iowa Confederates,” said Connon, who once resided in rural Malcom. “My stories don’t take anything away from that proud Union history.”
Connon, who travels across the state through the Humanities Iowa Speakers Bureau sharing stories of Iowa history, spent 17-years and thousands of hours of research pouring through Iowa newspapers, letters, diaries and official documents of the time period.
“A rich source of information was letters to Iowa newspaper editors and newspaper editorials,” he said. “Sometimes these letters complained that a local man was off serving the Confederacy. And sometimes the letter condemned the father of the soldier as being a traitor himself.”
In addition, Connon has worked as an interpreter at Living History Farms for 11 seasons. He is also a member of the Sons of Union Veterans, an associated member of Sons of Confederate Veterans, and a member of the Des Moines Civil War Round Table. He holds a master’s degree in education from Northern Illinois University.
In his book, Connon shares the intensely human stories of Iowa Confederates in the Civil War. Readers will follow their pre-war, war-time and post-war experiences, ranging from difficult relationships to disease, imprisonment, desertion and adventure. More stories illuminate the turbulent Iowa home front, where life was hard for parents of Confederates and for Peace Democrats.
Connon pitched the story idea to Fonthill Media about three years ago. They wanted a longer manuscript and Connon said he was ready to write it.
“I buckled down and produced a longer manuscript,” he said.
Fonthill works in partnership with Arcadia Publishing and The History Press, publishers of the book. The 208-page book was released on Sept. 30.
• The 76 Iowa Confederates were shadow images of their Union counterparts in every way. One of every four Iowa Confederates had a divided family, with a brother or father in the Union service.
• Three friends of Jefferson Davis were prominent Iowa Democrats, including a former U.S. Senator. Six of their sons entered the Confederate service. Republicans demonized many Democrats as disloyal, leading to numerous arrests and ruined reputations. Readers will gain insights into the intense emotions of wartime Iowa.
• Connon reveals the motives of why Iowans wore gray.
Putting it all together
Connon, who has no Confederate ancestors and two great-great-grandfathers who served in the Union Army, decided to move forward with the Civil War book project following six-years of research on the Grinnell Station of the Underground Railroad. He expanded his research to include greater Poweshiek County through the end of the Civil War.
“I learned that Bushwhackers murdered two deputy marshals in Sugar Creek Township, who had tried to round up draft deserters,” said Connon. “This made me ask, ‘Did any Iowans leave this state and serve the Confederacy?’”
Connon begins the book with a context chapter, Iowa and the lead-up to Fort Sumter, S.C. The war started on April 12, 1861 when Southern soldiers fired on Fort Sumter. The war ended on April 9, 1865 at the Courthouse in Appomattox County, Virginia, when Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant.
John Liepa, Emeritus Professor of History and Political Science at Des Moines Area Community College, in his forward, compares Connon’s book on the Civil War to the September 2017 airing of Ken Burn’s and Lynn Novick’s The Vietnam War – a T.V. Mini-Series, noting that the series was a stark reminder of how deep and emotional are the ”scars” of war.
“Connon’s Iowa Confederates in the Civil War is a thorough and superbly researched book into the minds and motives of Iowans who chose to fight for the Confederacy,” noted Liepa. “Although minuscule in number, compared to the approximately 75,000 Iowans who fought for the Union, the Confederates have an important story to tell, and Connon’s exhaustive research fills in an important gap in Iowa Civil War history.”
Connon said he made sure the title and cover was as uncontroversial as possible.
Purchasing the book and meeting the author
The book sells for $24.99 and is available through Arcadia Publishing and on-line at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. For more information on the author, visit www.confederatesfromIowa.com.
For those wanting to meet the author, Connon is scheduled to give an author talk and book signing at the Drake Community Library in Grinnell on Tuesday, Nov. 12 at 7 p.m.