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Civil War veterans honored with headstones in Council Bluffs

Members of the Iowa SUVCW stand in front of the newly dedicated headstones of Civil War veterans at Fairfield Cemetery in Council Bluffs.
Carolyn DeLay
/
Courtesy of SUVCW Kinsman Camp 23 Facebook
Members of the Iowa SUVCW stand in front of the newly dedicated headstones of Civil War veterans at Fairfield Cemetery in Council Bluffs.

A group of Civil War soldiers were given a long overdue memorial in Council Bluffs this month.

For more than a century, some Civil War veterans lay in Fairfield Cemetery in unmarked graves. The Iowa Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW) honored them by giving them headstones.

Captain of the Kinsman Camp Guard Michael Carr said it took the organization years of research – led by members Roy and Linda Linn – to confirm the burial spots of each soldier and to learn their stories. After more than a decade of work, he said he was proud to finally preserve their legacy with new markers.

“Every man who served this country deserves to be honored and to have a place with a stone,” Carr said. “And a lot of the old Civil War vets don't have them.”

A newly dedicated headstone for a Union soldier who fought in the Civil War.
Carolyn DeLay
/
Courtesy of SUVCW Kinsman Camp 23 Facebook
A newly dedicated headstone for a Union soldier who fought in the Civil War sits in Fairfield Cemetery in Council Bluffs.

The headstones commemorate the lives of 35 soldiers, with an additional headstone to honor the veterans whose burial locations were unable to be confirmed. The soldiers served in different regiments and came from different backgrounds – but all took part in preserving the Union.

The honored veterans survived the war and later came to western Iowa from every northern state of the Union. They held a wide swath of professions, varying from teacher to farmer to engineer. Of the 35 soldiers, three served in the United States Colored Troops, a bureau of African American soldiers.

SUVCW member and Civil War scholar Steve Gates said it’s important for Iowans to remember why these men fought. He said the vast majority of soldiers in the conflict volunteered to fight.

“Americans felt that the country was really an exception to the rest of the world, and that the institutions that supported their freedoms had made life what it was and was worth preserving,” Gates said.

The graves surround the Kinsman Monument, a memorial to Colonel William Kinsman who commanded the 23rd Iowa infantry. More than 76,000 Iowans fought for the Union in the Civil War, and about 13,000 died in the war, including Kinsman.

Gates said he hopes Iowans use Memorial Day as a time to remember these veterans and reflect on the values for which they stood.

“If we don’t remember and understand why soldiers served, we are bound to suffer from it and to repeat some of the same mistakes that contributed to those problems.”