Executive Office, Iowa, April 3, 1862.
Hon. Israel Washburne, 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 judgment 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 is done by preferring them 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 their entrenchments. There the crest of a long and steep hill was covered by well built rifle pits, defended by three of the best regiments in the rebel service. To their left, some 1,500 yards, was a rebel battery that swept the face of the hill with a cross fire. The face of the hill had been heavily timbered, but every standing tree 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 cross 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 on that stronghold of treason. The men who did this were men of Iowa. The flag borne by them and the first planted on Fort Donelson now hangs over the chair of the speaker of the 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 Wilson's Creek, at Blue Mills, at Belmont, and at Pea Ridge — our Iowa men have been tried in the fiery ordeal of battle, and never found wanting. Their 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 Obdt. Sevt.,
Samuel J. Kirkwood
SOURCE: State Historical Society of Iowa, Iowa Historical Record, Volumes 1-3, Volume 2, No. 3, July 1886, p. 327-8