Samuel J. Kirkwood to Israel Washburgh


Samuel J. Kirkwood to Israel Washburgh


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Executive Office Iowa April 3, 1862.

Hon Israel Washburn, Jr. Governor of Maine Augusta Maine Sir: I have just received a certified copy of the resolution of the General Assembly of your State "in reference to our victories in the West". Please accept my thanks for the compliment paid to our Western troops. Permit me however to state that in my judgement strict justice has not been done to the troops from Iowa. The troops of Illinois are specially selected in the resolution for commendation for their gallant conduct at Fort Donelson. Too much honor cannot be given to the Illinois men for their gallantry there unless as in this case it be done by preferring than to the troops of other States. The men of Illinois did bravely and well and I shall never seek to pluck one leaf from the wreath of honor they there so nobly won but it is not true as is implied in the resolution that they did more bravely or better than the men of Iowa. There was not any better fighting done by any of our troops at Fort Donelson than at the right of the entrenchments. There, the crest of a long and steep hill was crowned by well built rifle pits defended by three of the best regiments in the rebel service. To their left some 1500 yards was a rebel

battery that swept the face of the hill with a crop fire. The face of the hill had been heavily timbered, but every standing thing had been cut down and thrown with the tops down hill in such manner as most effectually to retard the approach of an attacking force. At that point through the fallen timber exposed to that crop fire and in the face of the three rebel regiments behind the rifle pits a regiment of western men with fixed bayonets, with guns at the trail and without firing a shot, steadily and unswervingly charged up the hill and over the entrenchments and planted the first Union flag in that stronghold of treason. The men who did this were men of Iowa. The flag borne by them and the first planted by Union men in Fort Donelson now hangs over the chair of the speaker of our House of Representatives and will soon be deposited in our State Historical Society as one of the most sacred treasures of the State. I cannot therefore by my silence acquiesce in the implied assertion of the resolution of your General Assembly that any other troops did better service at the capture of Fort Donelson than the troops of Iowa. Three other Iowa regiments were engaged in the same fight and although our gallant second from the fact that they led the charge deserved and received the greater honor all did their duty nobly. Elsewhere than at Donelson: at Wilsons creek, at Blue Mills, at Belmont and at Pea Ridge our Iowa men have been tried in the fiery ordeal of battle & never

found wanting. This well earned fame is very dear to our people and I trust you will recognize the propriety of my permitting no suitable occasion to pass of insisting upon justice being done them.

I have sent a copy of this letter to his Excellency, the Governor of Illinois. Very Respectfully Your Obt Servant Samuel J. Kirkwood

Gov. Kirkwood, Iowa In reply to certain Resolutions passed by the Genl Assembly of the State of "Maine".

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“Samuel J. Kirkwood to Israel Washburgh,” Chronicling Illinois, accessed July 14, 2020,