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Iowa's Forgotten General

Matthew Mark Trumbull and the Civil War

Kenneth L. Lyftogt

Publication Year: 2007

Matthew Mark Trumbull was a Londoner who immigrated at the age of twenty. Within ten years of his arrival in America, he had become a lawyer in Butler County, Iowa; two years later a member of the state legislature; and two years after that a captain in the Union Army. By the end of the Civil War, he was a brevet brigadier general, and in his later years he was an author and lecturer. Kenneth Lyftogt’s biography details the amazing life of this remarkable man, also shedding light on the histories of the Third Iowa Volunteer Infantry and the Ninth Iowa Volunteer Cavalry.

Published by: University of Iowa Press


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. iii-v

Table of Contents

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p. vii


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p. viii

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pp. ix-x

While doing research for my book From Blue Mills to Columbia: Cedar Falls and the Civil War (Iowa State University Press 1993), I came to know a Union officer from Iowa named Matthew Mark Trumbull, captain of the Butler County Union Guards. Trumbull, known as “the hero of the Hatchie,” was a minor character in the Blue Mills book, but the research led me to a remarkable article by Ray Boston of the University of Illinois-Urbana. Boston’s article is titled “General Matthew Mark Trumbull, Respectable Radical”...


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p. xi

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Chapter 1. The Chartist

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pp. 13-17

His mother said that he had been born on the 30th, but his father said the birth was actually past midnight on the 31st. Their disagreement was settled by the attending doctor who said that the baby was born on the very instant of midnight “and consequently not properly born at all.”2 The next difficulty was his actual place of birth. The dividing line between St. John’s and St. Margaret’s parishes “ran through my father’s house and lengthwise...

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Chapter 2. My Light Is None the Less for Lighting My Neighbor

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pp. 18-23

The story of an American immigrant is always the story of a person who has strong reasons for fleeing one country and equally strong reasons for choosing to go to another country. For Trumbull those reasons were resentment and ambition. He very much resented the class structure of his native England. He resented being looked down upon as a “commoner” when he knew that he was as good a man as any. And Trumbull was ambitious. He knew that he was capable of accomplishing much, if...

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Chapter 3. Iowa

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pp. 24-32

The “free soil of the western prairies” meant Iowa. Trumbull, Christiana, and Matthew Jr. were one of many families who crossed the Mississippi River by ferryboat and found themselves in “the beautiful land.” Iowa was a young state, admitted to the Union in 1846, a pioneer state where an ambitious man could make his mark. By the terms of the Missouri Compromise of 1820, Iowa was a state that was off limits...

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Chapter 4. The Butler County Union Guards

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pp. 33-41

Trumbull left the Iowa Legislature after one term and was never again elected to such an office, but the experience had been very good for him. He believed that he had done some good for his constituents, “... and my experience in the legislature enlarged the circle of my acquaintance with prominent men, which was of great benefit to me in a professional way.”1 As Trumbull resumed his law practice, the country continued on its race to war. ...

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Chapter 5: The Matter of Rank

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pp. 42-46

A Civil War regiment was made up of ten one-hundred-man companies, lettered “A” through “K” (with “J” omitted). A captain commanded each company while a colonel, lieutenant colonel, and major commanded each regiment. Trumbull and the other captains had raised their companies without guarantees of their eventual regimental designations. However, because the men elected each company’s officers and noncommissioned officers, it was understood that those ranks would continue. ...

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Chapter 6: The Shelbina Affair

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pp. 47-55

Colonel Williams was faced with a tremendous challenge. To lead rather than command was the critical skill necessary for Civil War officers. They were in charge of citizen soldiers, men who had willingly left their homes and families, men who demanded respect. Any officer not capable of inspiring men to battle—while at the same time mollifying a thousand wounded egos, pleasing voters, and fending off...

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Chapter 7: The Battle of Blue Mills Landing

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pp. 56-61

Blue Mills Landing, less than five miles south of Liberty, Missouri, provided ferry service across the Missouri River to Kansas. Confederate forces retreating from Missouri needed to cross at Blue Mills. On 15 September 1861, Lieutenant Colonel John Scott received orders to take the Third Iowa from its camp at Macon City to Liberty. There he would meet a column of the Sixteenth Illinois Infantry under Colonel Smith and another from the Thirty-ninth Ohio Infantry. Once combined, ...

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Chapter 8: The Battle of Pittsburg Landing (Shiloh)

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pp. 62-77

...The Third Iowa was moved around that summer and fall from Macon City to Kansas City and finally, in October, sent to Quincy, Illinois, for rest and refitting. The men enjoyed their stay at Quincy. Leaves and furloughs were granted, daily drill was reduced to just a few hours, and no patrols or picket duties were required. The men received five months back pay and, at long last, issued regulation blue Yankee uniforms. The uniforms were, however, of poor quality, much worse than their old...

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Chapter 9: The Hero of the Hatchie

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pp. 78-88

General Ulysses S. Grant won a great victory at Pittsburg Landing (Shiloh), but its importance as a victory was obscured by how close he came to losing the fight. A surprise attack by a full Confederate army certainly reflected poorly on the commanding officer. Although the nighttime arrival of reinforcements had rescued his army, hard feelings against Grant remained. A private in “K” Company, Third Iowa Infantry, expressed what the soldiers thought: ...

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Chapter 10: Tattoo

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pp. 89-93

Victory at the Hatchie was credited to General Hurlbut who had formulated the battle plan and personally led his troops in the execution of that plan. His heroism was an inspiration for officers such as Matthew Trumbull and the rest of the soldiers under his command. As a reward, Hurlbut was promoted to major general which meant a new assignment. The Fourth Division was called out in a grand review to say farewell to Hurlbut. Lieutenant S. D. Thompson described the ceremony. ...

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Chapter 11: The Ninth Iowa Cavalry

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pp. 94-106

If Matthew Trumbull had dreams of domestic tranquility in Clarksville, they were unfulfilled. The war had produced another casualty—his marriage. Christiana’s story was the story of a Civil War wife. She married a glory hunter who marched off on his abolitionist crusade while she stayed home in Clarksville with four very young sons (Matthew Jr., the oldest, was twelve in 1862). Her health weakened under the strain. Matthew Trumbull, in the courteous fashion of the age, did not...

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Epilogue: Wheelbarrow

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pp. 107-111

On 28 February 1866, Matthew Trumbull was mustered out of the army at Little Rock, Arkansas, and made the long trip back to peacetime Iowa. The great summer welcome home celebrations had finished months earlier. No parade greeted Trumbull, nor did he ride at the head of his slickly mounted regiment. He made no speeches to cheering crowds. He was just another former officer in a worn uniform, riding a train home. Trumbull was reunited with his sons and quietly reopened...


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pp. 112-121


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pp. 122-125


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pp. 127-131

E-ISBN-13: 9781587297342
E-ISBN-10: 1587297345
Print-ISBN-13: 9781587296123
Print-ISBN-10: 1587296128

Page Count: 131
Publication Year: 2007

Edition: paper

OCLC Number: 646888985
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Iowa's Forgotten General

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Subject Headings

  • United States. Army. Iowa Cavalry Regiment, 9th (1863-1866).
  • Trumbull, M. M. (Matthew Mark), 1826-1894.
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Biography
  • Iowa -- Biography.
  • Iowa -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Biography.
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Regimental histories
  • Iowa -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Regimental histories.
  • United States. Army -- Biography.
  • United States. Army. Iowa Infantry Regiment, 3rd (1861-1864).
  • Generals -- United States -- Biography.
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