The six Littleton brothers are remembered for their unequalled war sacrifice near Toolesboro

Many Iowans are maybe familiar with the five Sullivan brothers, all of Waterloo, who are remembered and honored because of their service during WWII. There is a museum in Waterloo and the convention center has been named in their honor. All five of the brothers died on the USS Juneau during the war. Largely as a result of this situation, the military adopted a "Sole Survivor" policy to protect against the loss of an entire family in the future.


The acclaimed 1998 film "Saving Private Ryan" starring Tom Hanks and Matt Damon and directed by Steven Spielberg told the story of the effort to save the last remaining Ryan brother from becoming a casualty of war. His three other brothers had died in action during WWII and movie showed the length to which efforts were made to ensure that at least one of the brothers could live on. It was largely based on the story of the Niland brothers from Arkansas.


But long before the Sullivan Brothers or the Niland Brothers, there was the Littleton Brothers of Toolesboro. Toolesboro is a small unincorporated spot between Wapello and Oakville in Louisa County in far Southeast Iowa. In recent years, the story of the Littleton Brothers has been unearthed and a memorial has now been erected in their honor along the Great River Road.

So who were the Littleton Brothers? George, John, Thomas, William, Kendall and Noah — all died fighting in the Civil War, making up the largest-known loss of life from any immediate family in the history of all U.S. wars.


Yes, you read that right.


I don't remember learning about them in my Iowa or American history classes, but the good news is that some local historians have worked in recent years to make sure their sacrifice is properly recognized and their story is being told.


Iowa Adventurer stopped in 2020 during warmer months and found the memorial to be quite impressive. There's a nice but small parking lot near the memorial and it is right off of the highway. It is accessible by a gravel driveway.

A nicely landscaped flower bed contains a metal sign which gives you a very brief overview as to what this memorial is all about.

As I mentioned, this is relatively new and has only been up for five years, despite the Civil War having ended well over 150 years ago.

There is a large granite stone memorial that is surrounded by flags, benches, and nice landscaping.

Each side of the monument has some nice inscriptions. It tells the story of their service, life, and death. Only their sisters lived to see the end of the war.

It is a very peaceful spot and you can enjoy the nice white benches.

Nearby, each brother also has a stone next to a tree planted in their honor. A small American flag has also been planted in the ground by each.

There's a small box which includes some pamphlets about the monument and the brothers. These have been placed here by the Louisa County Historical Society.

There is a nice brown sign off the highway that gives you a little heads up.

It's plural as there are multiple sites to appreciate here.

Perhaps the largest draw is the famous Toolesboro Mounds, which are Native American burial mounds. These alone are worthy of their own Iowa Adventurer post, but you can read more about them here.

I would encourage you to check out the website that has been created for this project. There is a page that gives great detail on their story, the memorial, and how you can get involved in the project. There is also a page that accepts your financial donations, if you are able to help. I'm not sure where you can find them, but a book has been written and a short documentary has also been made.


It is wonderful that this amazing Iowa and American history is finally being properly recognized. It's a story of service and sacrifice that is truly unequaled in the history of America's wars and conflicts. If you find yourself in this part of Iowa or you like war history, then you'll definitely want to make a stop here.


As always, I welcome your suggestions of places to visit and profile whether in Louisa County or any of the other 98 counties in Iowa. If you have a good idea or would like to host the Iowa Adventurer, please drop me a note through this website.

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