top of page

Iowa History Daily: December 26 - Samuel Ryan Curtis

Iowa History Daily: On December 26, 1866: Union Army General, Iowan elected to the US House of Representatives, and former mayor of Keokuk Samuel Ryan Curtis died. Best known for his victories at Pea Ridge and Westport, Curtis also stands as one of the first Republicans ever elected to the US Congress.

Born as the youngest child in a large farm family, Curtis attended West Point where he graduated 27/33 in the class of 1831. Sent to Fort Gibson, Indian Territory, Curtis eventually finished his first stint in the military in 1832 in order to pursue a career as an engineer. Working on the National Road and passing the bar exam in Ohio took up much of his time before war broke out with Mexico in the late 1840s and drew Curtis back into the military.

After a stint serving as the military governor of a Mexican region under American control, he first arrived in Iowa to work on the ill-fated Des Moines River Project. Settling with his family in Keokuk, Curtis won election as the Mayor of Keokuk in 1856. However, he soon left the office to represent Iowa in the US House of Representatives until the onset of the American Civil War.

Leading the Federal Army of the Southwest in a campaign culminating at Pea Ridge, Arkansas, Curtis spent some time also as the major general in command of the Department of Missouri. In early 1864, Lincoln leaned on Curtis to lead the Department of Kansas. When Confederate General Sterling Price raided into Missouri, Curtis called out and led the Kansas Militia in a counteraction ultimately resulting in the American victory at the Battle of Westport just outside of Kansas City. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


bottom of page