Davenport During the Civil War: The Coward List

Fall of 1862 found the citizens of Davenport and Scott County adjusting to daily life during wartime.

 The Draft of August had been answered by eligible volunteers and those men were leaving home to join the Union cause. Women, children, and ineligible men now had to adapt to the loss of manpower as the work of daily civilian life, such as the upcoming harvest and butchering, still needed to be done.

On September 4, 1862, the Daily Democrat and News celebrated the number of volunteers enlisting from the state of Iowa with the heading “Three Cheers for Iowa – 21,219 Volunteers Offered!” While this article celebrated the dedication and spirit of the men willing to fight for the Union; another article right below called out those local men who were felt to be evading military service – and it named names..

It was called “The Coward List” and included the names of immigrants who claimed exemption from military service on the grounds of not being citizens of the United States. The men had gone before a county commissioner to proclaim this fact.

At the end of the article it was stated by the paper “It now becomes the duty of every good citizen to endeavor to ascertain whether any of the persons in this list have ever voted in this country, and if so, to at once commence action for perjury.”

Sixty-two names appeared on this list. More names were added by the Daily Democrat and News on the 5th, 8th, and 9th  of September as well. Listed sometimes as the Coward List and other times as the Sneak List, it was a determined effort to shame these men into volunteering.

This Coward List tactic was not done only in Davenport ; newspapers all over the north were publishing the names of men thought to be avoiding military duties while enjoying the liberties of the Union. It may be noted that the Democrat’s local newspaper rival, the Davenport Daily Gazette, did not publish similar lists.

There was a war on and anyone thought not to be supporting the Union appears to have been eligible to be named as a Coward or a Secesh (the nickname for those who supported secession) in local papers—a distinction most may have preferred to have done without.

(posted by Amy D.)

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2 Responses to Davenport During the Civil War: The Coward List

  1. Jon Orendorff says:

    Hi,

    How can I obtain a copy / attachment of the newspaper article
    September 4, 1862, the Daily Democrat and News
    ““Three Cheers for Iowa – 21,219 Volunteers Offered!” While this article celebrated the dedication and spirit of the men willing to fight for the Union; another article right below called out those local men who were felt to be evading military service – and it named names..”

    Thank you

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