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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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VOLUNTEER FUND BOARD. Soon after the start of the CIVIL WAR, some of Dubuque's leading citizens attempted to dispel the concerns of volunteers over the status of their families while they were fighting. The Volunteer Fund Board promised their families would be cared for in their absence.

This assurance was satisfactory for two companies of troops who left Dubuque on April 23, 1861 for a promised ninety days of duty. The financial support for the VFM in May stood at $6,000. The third group of volunteers signed up for three years of service and wanted more assurance. They approached such people as Henry L. STOUT and Julius K. GRAVES for guarantees that their families would be provided for during this time. Eight of the members of the Board, including Stout and Graves, signed pledges promising the assistance of the VFB and themselves to these families. By September 1861, the VFB had helped the families of sixty soldiers with an estimated assistance of $1,800. Of the sixty families, twenty-five had no other means of support and received three dollars each week. By November, the situation was so critical that the Board had to ask the board of supervisors for one thousand dollars to cover their obligations. After providing $2,700 in cash and groceries for 116 soldiers' families, the Board announced in January 1862 that its funds were exhausted. Pledges of as much as $4,300 could not be collected.

Eight months later, the Board was dissolved. Family relief was turned over to the board of supervisors.

Theories as to why the Volunteer Fund Board failed begin with the fact that many thought the war was be ended quickly. Initial interest in helping waned quickly as the war stretched month after month. As businessmen, those involved in the Board may have lacked the interest in long-term assistance to the poor. Lastly, the Board had involved itself with those least popular to help.



Johnson, Russell L. "A Debt Justly Due: the Relief of Civil War Soldiers and Their Families in Dubuque," The Annals of Iowa, State Historical Society of Iowa, Vol. 55, Number 3 Online: http://ir.uiowa.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=10046&context=annals-of-iowa