History of Iowa From the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the Twentieth Century/4/Samuel R. Curtis
SAMUEL E. CURTIS was born in Ohio on the 3d of February, 1807. He entered the Military Academy at West Point and graduated in 1831. At the beginning of the War with Mexico he was appointed Adjutant General of Ohio and soon after was commissioned Colonel of the Third Ohio Volunteer Infantry. He served with distinction through the war and was military governor of several of the captured cities. In 1847 he removed to Keokuk, Iowa and was for several years chief engineer of the Des Moines River improvement. He became civil engineer for several railroads constructed in Iowa, Indiana and Illinois. In 1853 he was nominated by the Republicans of the First District for Representative in Congress and elected, serving until 1861, when he resigned his seat to enter the military service. He was the first colonel of the Second Iowa Infantry and was soon promoted to Brigadier-General. He commanded the Union army in the Battle of Pea Ridge where he won a brilliant victory over superior numbers. General G. M. Dodge, one of the ablest of the higher officers from Iowa writes of that battle:
“Probably no one had a better opportunity than I to judge of the battle. My command opened the battle, and I think was the last to fire a gun. General Curtis, the commander of that army, was entitled to the full credit of that great victory. The battle virtually cleared up the southwest and allowed all our forces to concentrate on or east of the Mississippi. General Curtis had under him as the division commanders several experienced, educated soldiers, who performed their duties with great ability, but it was General Curtis who met and defeated on their own ground, three hundred miles away from any base, twice his number. He was attacked in the rear and on the flank with great force, the fighting lasting three days, and he defeated, yes, virtually destroyed, Van Corn's army.”
General Curtis was promptly promoted to Major-General in recognition of his great victory and given command of the Department of Missouri. After a vigorous campaign a clique of unscrupulous politicians of Missouri secured his removal and he was transferred to the Department of Kansas where he won additional honors. He was the first Major-General from Iowa, the only one who commanded an independent army. He was never defeated in battle and it was not creditable to the administration that a commander so able and successful should have been displaced from a Department where he had won enduring fame.