On October 12, 1864, about a dozen Confederate raiders crossed the border from Missouri to Davis County, Iowa. They were dressed in Union uniforms and proceeded to blaze a trail of robbery and intimidation across the county before escaping back into Missouri. In the process, they killed three men and terrorized the citizens of the county.
Much of Iowa’s experience with the Civil War came in the amount of men who did not return from battles in other states. This raid brought the war home to the state and is arguably the northernmost incursion of Confederate forces during the war. There are some other places that disagree with that assessment. In the grand scale of the Civil War, it was such a minor event that there aren’t many records. The raid largely seems to be more of a cash grab than anything because the raiders took all the money they could find.
The best record of the raid comes from the report of Lieutenant Colonel S. A. Moore. He writes a description of the raid in the verbose and dramatic style of the nineteenth century. Here is an excerpt:
“His life was spared. Why, we can not tell. The fiend whose hands were reek- ing with the blood of Niblack’s neighbors turned away, his hand released its grasp on the deadly weapon at his side. Did one single pang of poignant grief and remorse for his deeds of robbery and murder rend his heart and light up with one ray of conseience [sic] the darkness of his soul? It is a secret known only to Him whose ‘all-seeing eye’ sleeps not.”
The raiders escaped back into Missouri with cash and several horses. The local militia was assembled, but they never caught the Missourians. The normally peaceful county remained on heightened alert for some time, but there were no more raids.
It’s hard to imagine today the violence and travails of the people who lived through the Civil War. This was a one-time event, but in many states, things like this were a constant occurrence. Sadly, in some parts of the world, events like this are still commonplace. If you visit the scene of the raid today, you will find peaceful fields and pastures. May it always be so.
Here is a link to S. A. Moore’s full account.
Here is a link to a local historical group that hosts a reenactment.