I live in Iowa and therefore experience virtually no Civil War-related local history. However, on August 5th and 6th of 1861 the one and only battle along the Iowa border took place, the Battle of Athens. Athens is a town in Missouri right across the river from Iowa. It was also the northern most battle west of the Mississippi. I think really it is considered more of a skirmish as there were relatively few casualties. I’m not an expert on my lingo, though, so I can’t be completely sure. Anyway, there is a small town not far from where I grew up called Croton that has a small monument dedicated to this battle and I decided to take Addy and Sarah there for a visit. It’s the only such monument you will find in the state of Iowa. Canon balls were shot from Missouri into Iowa across the Des Moines river and landed in the spot marked by this stone.
This somewhat insignificant skirmish is made much more interesting by a local tale that accompanies it. A friend who’s family has lived here for at least five generations told me this story and says he has heard it told by multiple sources all his life. I don’t know of any way to find out whether or not it is true, but it goes like this:
As the Confederate troops advanced through Missouri towards the Iowa border, the local Iowa militias became excited at the prospect of seeing some action. In their excitement, the men loaded up their canon (they only had one) and hastened to the Des Moines river to wait. They drank and gambled and had just a grand time while their wives stayed at home to take care of the farms. The battle came and went and they returned home victorious and proud. Their wives, who were able to quickly figure out that only a very small portion of the time they spent away actually involved fighting, were less than impressed. They had been home farming while their husbands were merrymaking, so these clever women decided to put an end to their husbands’ militia involvement. In the middle of the night they snuck out and hitched the horses to the buckboard that held the canon. Quickly and quietly they backed the buckboard to the pond and rolled off the canon. Problem solved. The men never did find out what happened to their canon.
I love this story so much and really want it to be true! My friend claims everyone even knows exactly the farm where this happened and the exact location of where the pond used to be (it’s all silted in now). I’m not sure why nobody has gotten a metal detector to try to find it if they are so sure, though.
The memorial itself is in the town of Croton, which is only accessible via 5-10 miles of winding gravel roads. Once there it is quite easy to drive right past the memorial if you blink and miss it (this happened to us). It consists of the stone pictured above, a flag, a Korean War canon (apparently that was the only one they could find when erecting the memorial–I’m told this from the same source that told me the story) and a pile of canonballs.
Overall not much to see, but it was still fun to get a little taste of some local Civil War history and of course Addy and Sarah are cute wherever they go! 🙂