Open main menu

History of Iowa From the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the Twentieth Century/4/Nathaniel B. Baker

NATHANIEL B. BAKER is a name which will for all time be intimately associated with Iowa's war history. He was born at Hillsborough, New Hampshire, September 29, 1818. A graduate of Harvard, he entered the law office of Franklin Pierce in 1839 and began practice in 1842. He was for three years editor of the New Hampshire Patriot and in 1846 became Clerk of the Supreme Court. In 1851 he was elected to the Legislature and chosen Speaker of the House of Representatives, serving two terms. In 1852 he was one of the presidential electors and voted for his old preceptor for President. In 1854 he was elected Governor of New Hampshire and was the last Democrat who held that office before the political revolution which left his party in the minority. In 1856 Governor Baker became a resident of Iowa, locating at Clinton. In 1859 he was elected to the Iowa Legislature and when the War of the Rebellion began he led the war wing of his party to give cordial support to Governor Kirkwood's administration. The Governor appointed him Adjutant-General of the State and all through the Rebellion his superb executive [12]ability was given to the work of organizing the fifty-seven regiments of volunteers which Iowa furnished to the President. He organized a system that has preserved a permanent record of the service of every Iowa soldier who entered the army. As the war progressed the duties of Inspector-General, Quartermaster, Paymaster and Commissary-General were imposed upon him, and the duties discharged with promptness unsurpassed. He was untiring in caring for the comfort of Iowa soldiers, and as the regiments were discharged he gathered at the State Arsenal all of the battle flags which were brought home for careful preservation. He planned and superintended the great reunion of Iowa soldiers in 1870, where every one of the 20,000 veterans was eager to take him by the hand. He held the office of Adjutant-General to the day of his death, which occurred on the 13th of September, 1876. Governor Kirkwood issued a proclamation announcing his death and enumerating his great services to the State. The national flag was displayed from the public buildings at half-mast and minute guns were fired the day of his funeral, which was one of the most imposing ever seen in the State. A monument was erected to his memory over his grave in Woodland Cemetery, Des Moines, by voluntary contributions of Iowa soldiers.