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Civil War Monument, Iowa Capitol Grounds

About the Roundtable

2015 marked the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Des Moines Civil War Roundtable, and it also marked the 150th anniversary of the conclusion of the American Civil War. The Civil War Roundtables are a loose-knit group of independent clubs that share a common interest in the study, promotion and recognition of the American Civil War. The oldest such group is in Chicago, and the second oldest group is in Milwaukee. Most of the roundtables hold a monthly meeting featuring a guest speaker.

The Des Moines Civil War Roundtable follows suit, meeting once a month, nine months of the year, at The Machine Shed Restaurant in Urbandale. We enjoy a social hour and dinner, followed by a presentation from a guest speaker. We currently have around 75 members.

Our club was organized in 1965 during the centennial celebration of the end of the American Civil War. A newspaper clipping from the time listed the five founding members as being Earl Shostrom; Clyde Doolittle; James Hulse, Jr.; Dr. Irving Foster, and Ray Wiley. One of the early officers was Amos Piersall.

The roundtable has changed greatly during the last 50 years. The first members were all male, and most were military veterans. Many, in fact, had graduated from the various U.S. military academies and were commissioned officers. For many years, the roundtable met at The Des Moines Club, a private social club in downtown Des Moines, and most of the men were members of both clubs.

Around 20 or 25 years ago, the club began to change in various ways. We began meeting at the Izaac Walton League clubhouse in Des Moines, a much more informal setting. We began to have women members. The speeches focused less on military tactics and battlefield maneuvers, and more on the social, economic and political aspects of the Civil War. Several years ago, we began holding our meetings at The Machine Shed Restaurant in Urbandale, which has brought further changes.

The club is headed by three officers elected by the members: a commanding officer/president, an adjutant/treasurer, and a program director.

Iowa was one of the newest states at the time of the Civil War. Out of a total population of 675,000, just over 76,000 Iowa men served in the military and 13,000 of those men died. No other state, north or south, had a higher percentage of its male population between the ages of 15 and 40 serve in the military during the course of the Civil War. So, it is fitting that Iowa's capital city has a Civil War Roundtable chapter.

Clyde Doolittle, one of the original founders of the Des Moines Civil War Roundtable, expressed his hope that it would continue indefinitely and bring the story of the patriotism and courage of the participants on both sides to future generations. Over 50 years later, as Iowa's oldest and largest Civil War Roundtable, we continue to honor and fulfill his wishes.

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