Iowa After the Civil War

When the South surrendered in 1865 and the Civil War ended, many things were different in Iowa than they had been before the war. The Republican Party dominated state politics, black Iowans gained new rights, and economic development increased rapidly.

The Republican Party

Iowa became one of the most Republican states in the nation. For the next 75 years, the Iowa governor, congressmen, state legislators and most local officials were almost always Republicans. Republicans reminded voters that Democrats in the South had supported slavery and led the nation into Civil War.

The Republican Party also favored granting more rights to black Iowans. Iowa gave the vote to black men even before the national amendment. In 1868 Iowa voters (white men only because women and blacks could not vote) approved an amendment removing the word “white” as a requirement for voting in Iowa. The legislature also passed a law that allowed black children to attend public schools. In 1868 Susan Clark, a young black girl in Muscatine, was not allowed to attend an all-white public school. Her father, Alexander Clark, took the case to court and the Supreme Court declared that public schools were open to all, regardless of race.

With Republican support, Iowa approved three new amendments to the U.S. Constitution. These ended slavery everywhere in the nation, required states to provide equal rights to all citizens, and gave black men the right to vote.

In 1884 the Iowa legislature passed a law that declared theaters, hotels, restaurants and other public services should not discriminate against blacks or any other race. The law was not always enforced, but it represented a major advancement toward equality.

Change Comes to Iowa

The state’s population was increasing rapidly. The war slowed immigrants from Europe, but after the war many new families poured into the state. Germans and Irish were the two largest immigrant groups, but many people from Great Britain and the Scandinavian countries (Norway, Sweden and Demark) came also.

The 15 years after the Civil War also saw a boom in railroad building and new towns going up all over the state. Trains were soon pulling carloads of Iowa grain and livestock on their trips east and returning with manufactured goods.

During the war many Iowa farmers bought new equipment drawn by horses to do the work of men serving in the army. As a result farms could produce more, and farm production soared.

Iowa soldiers returned home to a different state than they had left. Altogether 76,000 soldiers had served in the army. Thirteen thousand of them died. Many more died from disease than from battle injuries. Those who returned were heroes. They often marched in parades on Memorial Day and many were elected to political offices. Their stories about their battles and their military service became local legends. The Civil War changed Iowa and the United States forever.