Confederates from Iowa:

Not to Defend, but to Understand

Trained for war, but pursuing peace: Charles Mason, Jurist

If war is a continuation of politics by other means, as von Clausewitz suggests, Iowa Democrat Charles Mason saw both sides of the coin.[i]

Edging out Lee

Civil War buffs remember Cadet Charles Mason as besting Robert E. Lee in West Point’s Class of 1829.  Neither man had any demerits, but Mason earned slightly more points than Lee.

After West Point, Mason became a lawyer and then chief justice of the Iowa Territorial Court.  In 1839, he wrote the decision, “In the Matter of Ralph.”

Charles Mason (State Historical Society of Iowa)

Ground-breaking Iowa court decision

In this case, in 1834, Missouri slave-owner Mr. Montgomery gave his slave, Ralph, permission to buy his freedom for $550 by working in the Dubuque lead mines.  A few years later, Ralph hadn’t paid off his debt, so slave hunters arrested him.

A judge issued a writ of habeas corpus for Ralph.  The judge in 1839 persuaded the Iowa Territorial Supreme Court to hear Ralph’s case.

Ralph’s attorney argued that Ralph should be free, drawing upon American law, British law, Natural Law, and the Torah (Deuteronomy 22:15).

Chief Justice Charles Mason responded that slavery was illegal in Iowa based on the Ordinance of 1787 and the Missouri Compromise (passed in 1820).

Mason explained that Ralph was free because “property, in the slave, cannot exist without the existence of slavery.”[ii]  Therefore, Ralph.’s former owner, Montgomery, illegally deprived “a human being of his liberty.”

Mason concluded:

It is proper that the laws, which should extend equal protection to men of all colors and conditions, should exert their remedial interposition.[iii]

Prophetic insight

Mason commented that this case involved “an important question which may ere long, if unsettled, become an exciting one.”  Over the next 22 years, tensions continued to rise over the expansion of slavery into the territories.

Charles Mason (Library of Congress)

Intervening years after Ralph

Mason became U.S. Commissioner of Patents in Washington, D.C., from 1853-1857.  He then returned to Burlington, Iowa, and served on the State Board of Education.[iv]

During this time, Mason’s beloved Iowa Democratic Party split into two embittered factions.  Republicans rose in strength, and Democrats became weaker and weaker.

Game-changer

When Confederate troops fired upon Fort Sumter in April 1861, Iowa Republicans flocked to enlist in the Union Army and Navy.  Many Democrats enlisted, too, men who supported using the sword to restore the Union.

Not long after Ft. Sumter, President Lincoln began suspending habeas corpus in the North.  This meant that federal authorities could arrest and imprison civilians, without any charges.  The civilians wouldn’t get a trial, and their civil liberties would be violated.

Many Democratic editors in Iowa complained about this, stating that only Congress could suspend habeas corpus.  Lincoln said he had authority to do it.  After all, he was commander-in-chief.

The former jurist analyzes secession

In summer 1861, there was an Iowa governor’s race, and Mason was the Democratic candidate.  As a conservative Democrat, Mason said the Union must be preserved, but he thought the war, at that time, was unwise and possibly illegal.

To examine Mason’s statement, it is helpful to remember President Lincoln’s first inaugural address.  Lincoln had said, “In contemplation of universal law, and of the Constitution, the Union is perpetual.”[v]  According to this view, the Confederacy was made up of insurgents who lived in states that remained loyal to the Union.  Mason disagreed with this legal fiction.

Mason suggested that secession may represent “the uprising of a whole people against what they deem injustice and oppression.”  He also suggested it may be “the voice of one-third of the Sovereign parties to our present Constitution claiming the rights of securing the happiness of their citizens by changing the form of their Government in accordance, as they contend,” with the Declaration of Independence.

Mason agreed with Republicans that the Union must be restored.  But, he said, the federal government must first exhaust every possible means of compromise and conciliation.  Otherwise, the federal government was engaged in “naked, arbitrary, down-right coercion.”

Mason then predicted that “a republican government held together by the sword becomes a military Despotism.”[vi]

Republican newspapers and politicians called Mason a dis-unionist.  He felt great pressure and dropped out of the race.  A Republican became governor.

War-time activities

Mason advocated for peace, writing letters to editors and advising like-minded Democrats.  Late in the war, Mason returned to Washington, D.C., to practice patent law.[vii]

Prominent Iowa Democrats seemingly trusted Mason’s political insights.  A few of them who had Confederate sons asked Mason to intervene with federal authorities when those sons were captured by Union troops.

During the war, Mason read about his fellow West Point Cadet, Robert E. Lee.  Mason wrote in his diary:

General Lee is winning great renown as a great captain. Some of the English writers place him next to Napoleon and Wellington. I once excelled him and might have been his equal yet perhaps if I had remained in the army as he did.

Robert E. Lee (Library of Congress)

Final thoughts

Iowa Peace Democrats, also known as Copperheads, were soundly defeated during the war.  Sometime after Appomattox, Mason wrote in his diary, “I played the game of life at a great crisis and lost. I must be satisfied.”[viii]

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Thank you for reading my blog.  Please leave any comments and questions below.

[i] Carl von Clausewitz, On War, edited and translated by Michael Howard and Peter Paret (Princeton, NJ:  1984), 87.

[ii] Eastin Morris, Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the Supreme Court of Iowa, Vol. I (Iowa City:  1847), 1-7.

[iii] Henry K. Peterson, “The First Decision Rendered by the Supreme Court of Iowa,” The Annals of Iowa 34 (1958), 304-307.

[iv] Richard Acton, “Charles Mason,” The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa, http://uipress.lib.uiowa.edu/bdi/DetailsPage.aspx?id=253

[v] Abraham Lincoln, “First Inaugural Address,” in editor Andrew Delbanco, The Portable Abraham Lincoln (New York: 1992), 197.

[vi] “Judge Mason, acceptance of the nomination for governor of Iowa,” Dubuque Daily Herald, 8/11/1861.

[vii] Richard Acton, “Charles Mason,” The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa, http://uipress.lib.uiowa.edu/bdi/DetailsPage.aspx?id=253

[viii] Charles Mason, Charles Mason Remey, The Life and Letters of Charles Mason:  Chief Justice of Iowa, 1804-1882 (Washington, D.C.:  1939).

Happy 4th of July

During the Civil War, both sides looked to our Patriot Forefathers — their sacrifice and devotion — for inspiration.  Happy 4th of July.

It’s nice to know where you came from: A review of A History of Iowa

Imagine a scene from the dawn of time:  A warrior on a canoe, spear held loosely, glides up a river toward an unsuspecting mastodon.  The spear flies, and the mastodon falls.  Centuries later, its massive skeleton is in the State Historical Museum in Des Moines.

Professor Leland L. Sage takes us back to early days of what became Iowa.  His book, A History of Iowa, begins with the impact of the glaciers through the end of the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Sage excels at describing the growth of Iowa’s government and explaining political movements in Iowa, from territorial days through the farm mortgage-default crisis in the 1920s and 1930s.  He also discusses agriculture.

Sage claims that when he wrote this book, “No scholarly general history of the state existed.”

He writes with authority and insight.  The text is lucid, and he wastes no words.  Sage writes with endearing skepticism.  Two examples will suffice.

  1. According to Sage, it “requires an exercise of great faith” to accept that the name “Iowa” came from the favorite residence of the Ioway Indians. He then offers good reasoning for this skepticism.
  2. After discussing Lincoln’s death, Sage writes, “The Lincoln no one knew would soon take form.”

A small bone to pick

I found a small weakness in Sage’s book, namely, his brief mention of the arrest of Democratic editor Dennis A. Mahony in fall 1862.  Sage writes:

“By remarkable coincidence, U.S. Marshal Hubert Hoxie of Des Moines appeared in Dubuque only six days before the Democratic District Convention, arrested Mahony, and hustled him off to Washington, without benefit of a trial but accused of interfering with the war effort” (pg. 163)

It’s possible that Sage was being ironic, referring to the “remarkable coincidence” of Mahony’s arrest.  However, the author doesn’t examine why Mahony was arrested.  Furthermore, Sage doesn’t discuss the propriety and the implications of violations of civil liberties in Iowa during wartime.  Perhaps the author lacked information.  After all, his book came out six years earlier than Hubert H. Wubben’s Civil War Iowa and the Copperhead Movement.

In contrast to Sage’s treatment of Mahony’s arrest, he gives an ample discussion of violations of civil liberties of German-Americans in Iowa during World War I.

My suggestion

I recommend this book and its meaty end-notes.

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“Against my consent”: Confessions of a discouraged Irish-American

Finding a job was a common worry in Iowa as the Financial Panic of 1857 lingered.   Many Iowans headed to the South where jobs were a-plenty.

For example, engineer William O’Day left Iowa and got a railroad job in Mississippi.  After the firing upon Fort Sumter, some Iowans in the South joined military units to keep earning a living.

(Source: mymodelrailroad.net)

A month-and-a-half after the war began, Irish native O’Day enlisted in Company B, 17th Mississippi Infantry.  His unit was near Richmond, Virginia, in summer 1862.  After being hospitalized for illness, he rejoined his unit and was captured on November 6, 1862, in Hampshire, Virginia.

(Click to enlarge.)

O’Day gave the following statement to Union authorities:

I was born in Ireland.  I am 26 years old.  I enlisted with Captain John McGirk of the 17th Mississippi Infantry Co. B and remained with him for the period of 17 months.

My reason for enlisting was because I was out of employment.  I belong to Iowa and my Father lives near West Union, Brama [Bremer] County, Iowa.  I had to leave home to obtain a living.

I served 17 months in the Confederate Army against my consent.  When I left them, they were stationed between Winchester and Front Royal.  Colonel Holder now commands the 17th Mississippi Infantry, numbering about 700.

Union officials moved O’Day to three different prisons:  Atheneum (in Wheeling, Virginia, present-day West Virginia); Camp Chase, Ohio; and Cairo, Illinois.

He was slated to be exchanged – and returned to his Confederate unit – but it never happened.  O’Day presumably convinced Union officials to let him take the oath of allegiance to the U.S. government.  His Confederate company roll call listed him as a deserter.

After his release from prison, the trail runs cold.  Some fifty years later, on August 11, 1910, William O’Day died and was buried in Bremer County.

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 Thank you for reading my blog.  Please leave any comments and questions below.

Much-maligned Democratic “Dirty dogs”: A review of Civil War Iowa and the Copperhead Movement

“Iowa nice” was in short supply during the Civil War.  Local politics reached new lows as Iowa Republicans demonized Peace Democrats (also known as Copperheads).

A colleague asked historian Hubert H. Wubben, “What can you say about Copperheads that Frank Klement hasn’t already said?”  (Klement had written the authoritative The Copperheads in the Midwest in 1960.)

To answer that question, Wubben borrowed from the scholarship of Leland Sage, the powerful arguments of Frank L. Klement, and the documentation of David L. Lendt.  Wubben also did original research.  The result was Wubben’s magisterial book, Civil War Iowa and the Copperhead Movement.[1]

This book tells the history of Iowa during the Civil War, from the perspective of the Democratic Party (and its various factions).  Starting in the 1850s, the author contrasts the divided Iowa Democratic Party with the vigorous and bold state Republican Party.

More recent scholarship by Mark E. Neely (The Fate of Liberty:  Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberties) and William A. Blair (With Malice Toward Some:  Treason and Loyalty in the Civil War Era) serve to illuminate Wubben’s work.

An exception is Jennifer L. Weber’s Copperheads:  The Rise and Fall of Lincoln’s Opponents in the North.  She disagrees with Klement’s view that the Copperhead “fire in the rear” was mostly “a fairy tale,” a “figment of Republican imagination” comprised of “lies, conjecture, and political malignancy.”[2]

Weber’s argument could be stronger.  She seems to accept claims of the type that Klement had previously debunked.

Wubben has influenced nearly everything I’ve written and thought about Iowa Democrats in wartime, and about Iowa residents who left the state and served the Confederacy.  He notes:

Much of the story has already been told.  But not all of it by any means … Iowa’s history during the Civil War years will long remain fertile ground.[3]

I have documented 76 Iowa residents who left that state and served the Confederacy.  The stories of some Confederates from Iowa intersect with – and illuminate – Wubben’s work.

Historian Wubben combines extensive documentation, analysis, and persuasive reasoning.  I highly recommend his book.

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Thank you for reading my blog.  Please leave any comments and questions below.

[1] Leland Sage, A History of Iowa (Ames:  1974); Frank L. Klement, The Copperheads in the Middle West (Chicago:  1960); David L. Lendt, Demise of the Democracy:  The Copperhead Press in Iowa (Ames:  1963).

[2] Jennifer L. Weber, Copperheads:  The Rise and Fall of Lincoln’s Opponents in the North (Oxford:  2006), xi.

[3] Hubert H. Wubben, Civil War Iowa and the Copperhead Movement (Ames:  1980), xi.

The Architect of Andersonville Prison: A son’s quest to clear his father’s name

Mass imprisonment and poor supplies at Andersonville led to horrible cases of starvation.  The War Department publicized photos of emaciated soldiers, giving Andersonville an infamous and enduring reputation.

Historian Arch Fredric Blakey wrote a biography of Confederate General John H. Winder, who was later blamed for Andersonville.  Blakey writes:

To rescue a villain from history – to overturn a historical myth – is a difficult task.[1]

William Sidney Winder (“Sidney”), one of General Winder’s sons, spent years after the war ended, trying to rehabilitate his father’s name.

Family life and the law

Sidney grew up in a slave-holding military family in various Southern towns.  After attending Columbian College near Washington, D.C., Sidney practiced law in Keokuk, Iowa, from 1857 to fall 1860, and then he was an attorney in Baltimore.

William Sidney Winder

Sidney’s family became divided as war loomed.  His father, a career military officer, wavered between remaining in the U.S. Army and serving the Confederacy.  Sidney intended to fight for Southern independence, and his older half-brother remained a captain in the U.S. Army.

After Fort Sumter, North Carolina seceded, and Sidney’s father, John H. Winder, resigned his commission “with great regret” and became a brigadier general in the provisional Confederate army.

Sidney also joined the Confederate forces.  He was promoted from 1st Lieutenant to Captain and Assistant Adjutant General, eventually serving on his father’s staff.

Prison administration

General Winder became inspector general of prisons in the Richmond area.  When hungry housewives broke into shops, General Winder helped President Jefferson Davis put down the Richmond Bread Riot.

General John H. Winder

Late in 1863, the prisons in Richmond were seriously overcrowded.  General John H. Winder sent Sidney to Georgia to locate a site for a prison for Union POWs.  That order led to the infamous Andersonville Prison.

Andersonville

Sidney and his father tried to build and operate a prison that was spacious and relatively healthy, unlike the horror that became Andersonville.  However, they failed.

Andersonville Prison

Conditions worsened when, in December 1864, the North refused to resume the cartel (the exchange of POWs).  Prison populations continued to increase, in spite of insufficient resources to feed, clothe, and care for them.

General Winder proposed that the Confederates parole POWs and send them home without exchange.  That would have alleviated the problems at Andersonville, but his superiors rejected the idea, calling it “worse than evil.”

General Winder died a few weeks later in on Feb. 6, 1865.  Sidney went to Richmond, planning to resign, but instead he was charged with guarding the Confederate treasury and archives after the fall of Richmond.

Guarding Confederate gold and archives

Sidney and eight other officers eventually reached the David Levy Yulee plantation in Florida on May 22, 1865 – twelve days after Jefferson Davis was captured.

Author Blakey writes:

The group decided to bury the archives on the Yulee grounds [and allotted] one-fourth of the gold to support of Mrs. Davis and her children; the rest they divided equally among themselves.  Each officer received gold sovereigns in the amount of $1,995.

The nine officers surrendered and were paroled.  Sidney eventually resumed his law practice.

Focus on POW camps

Even before Appomattox, historian Marouf Hasian Jr. writes, “Northern presses were filled with lurid tales of lurid tales of victims of dysentery, scurvy, and gangrene” at Andersonville and other prison camps.  Writer Susan Sontag writes that “photographs of skeletal prisoners held at Andersonville inflamed public opinion.”[2]

Since General Winder was dead, the logical person to blame for Andersonville was commander Captain Henry Wirz.  Captain Wirz was given a military tribunal and hanged.

An uphill battle

Sidney maintained that he and his father had never been cruel to prisoners.  He and an uncle struggled to clear his father’s name.

However, Union officials who controlled the captured Confederate archives did not cooperate.  Without original documents, it was impossible to refute Union accusations that General John H. Winder was a cold-blooded mass murderer.

Sidney spent more than 10 years in a quixotic quest.  His health deteriorated, and he eventually withdrew from the world.  He died on February 25, 1925.

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[1] Arch Fredric Blakey, General John H. Winder (Gainesville, FL.: 1990), xv.

[2] Marouf Hasian Jr., In the Name of Necessity:  Military Tribunals and the Loss of American Civil Liberties (Tuscaloosa, LA:  2005), 123; and Susan Sontag, quoted in Rea S. Hederman, Anthology:  Selected Essays from Thirty Years of the New York Review of Books (New York:  New York Review of Books, 2001), 106.

Lincoln on Trial: A review of All the Laws but One: Civil Liberties in Wartime

It’s not often that a Supreme Court Chief Justice writes a book of history.  But when he does, it’s a book worth reading.

This is true for William H. Rehnquist’s All the Laws but One:  Civil Liberties in Wartime.  He uses an experienced jurist’s eye to discuss how the federal government handled civil liberties in the Civil War, World War I, and World War II.  He also gives legal insights in terms that laymen can understand.

(Wikipedia)

In treating the Civil War, Rehnquist begins with Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus.  In one of the first test cases, Chief Justice Roger Taney rebuked Lincoln, telling him that it was unconstitutional for Lincoln to suspend the writ of habeas corpus.  Lincoln, of course, ignored Taney.

Rehnquist discusses the number of civil liberties violations under Secretary of State William H. Seward and then Secretary of War Edwin Stanton.  There was a huge increase of civilians imprisoned under the secretary of war.

Stanton decided that civilians could be tried before military commissions, that is, courts-martial for civilians.  These arrests and trials took place while the civil court system — state and federal – were operating throughout the North.

Rehnquist also discusses General Ambrose Burnside’s arrest of former Congressman Clement C. Vallandigham, and the treason trials of Democrat Lambdin P. Milligan and others in Indianapolis.  The Civil War section ends with Ex parte Milligan, in which the Supreme Court rebuked Lincoln, deciding that the Bill of Rights is still in force during wartime.

The author compares government conduct during the Civil War, World War I, and World War II.  The biggest difference, he explains, was as follows:

The Lincoln administration relied on presidential authority or on the orders of military commanders to curtail civil liberties, while in the 20th-Century wars, the executive branch resorted much more to laws passed by Congress.

I highly recommend this thoughtful book.

Fortune favors the bold: From Iowa to Arizona, one man’s tale

Winchester Miller and his wife, Melinda Young, started married life as farmers in Van Buren County, southeast Iowa, in 1857.  Melinda bore two sons, and Winchester eyed the lingering California Gold Rush.

The North-South conflict heated up, and voters elected Lincoln president.  Winchester and Melinda said goodbye to both sets of their parents and left for California.

Heading South

The Millers took the southern route through Texas.  When Confederates fired upon Fort Sumter, authorities didn’t let the young family proceed further.

Winchester and Melinda settled in Texas.  A daughter was born in 1862.  Later that year, 27-year-old Winchester enlisted as a private in the 17th Texas Infantry.

Winchester Miller, a well-armed man (Tempe Daily News)

He moved through the ranks, rising to 3rd Lieutenant and then 2nd Jr. Lieutenant.  In 1864, Melinda became pregnant again.  Nine months later, she died in childbirth, leaving three young children.

Kayaks to Iowa

The war ended, and Winchester returned home.  He couldn’t care for his children alone.

Winchester saddled up a horse and a mule for a 700+ mile journey to Iowa.  He rode the horse with his small daughter in his arms.  His young sons rode in “kayaks” — tough rawhide boxes draped over both sides of a mule.

Once they arrived in Iowa, he divided up the children between his in-laws and his parents.  Winchester then headed to California, again through Texas.

“Nerve of Iron”

Discovering that the Gold Rush was over, Winchester moved to Arizona.  He became Maricopa County Sheriff.

(Tempe Historical Society)

Winchester later told a friend that “it was necessary” for him to hang two American Indians.  Some 250 fellow tribe members wanted to avenge their death, so they came looking for Sheriff Miller.

Winchester’s friend shared the following tale with an Arizona historian:

One day not long after he had given the two Indians their quietus, as Miller was standing in the yard near his house, his quick eye noted rising in the distance a great cloud of dust rapidly approaching … Stepping into his house … [he] took his rifle from its peg, buckled on two cartridge belts, stuck in a couple of six shooters and a knife, and returned to the yard.

Winchester claimed to have single-handedly held off the warriors for two days. Reportedly, “Ever afterwards, both Indians and Mexicans held Winchester Miller in great respect.”[1]

End of days

Winchester married a local woman, farmed, and had more children.  One of his Iowa sons, at age 15, rejoined his father in Arizona.

Winchester was active in Democratic Party politics.  He also helped found Tempe, where he died on November 29, 1893.

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I want to thank Jared Smith, curator at the Tempe History Museum, for generously sharing photos and information about Winchester Miller.

 

 

 

[1] Thomas Edwin Farish, History of Arizona, Vol. VI (Phoenix:  1918). 104-108.

Tiptoe on the edge of an abyss: A review of The Eve of Conflict: Stephen A. Douglas and the Needless War

A parable:  Joke-telling Abraham Lincoln (Republican) in a stovepipe hat; sober-minded Jefferson Davis (Ultra-secessionist Democrat); and diminutive Stephen A. Douglas (national Democrat) stood at the top of a cliff.  Davis threatened to jump off the cliff, and Lincoln scoffed at that absurd notion.

Stephen A. Douglas believed Davis and knew that if Davis jumped, he would drag Lincoln and Douglas with him in a horrible, bloody crash.  Douglas believed that only he could stop Davis from jumping.

Thought-provoking

Historian George Fort Milton describes the lead-up to the Civil War in The Eve of Conflict:  Stephen A. Douglas and the Needless War.  Weighing in at almost 600 pages, and published in 1934, this book has forever changed how I look at the causes of the war.

Prior to reading this book, I thought that the war basically occurred because of disagreements between Republicans (led by Lincoln) and Ultra-Secessionists (led by Jefferson Davis).  Author Milton demonstrates that the national Democratic party, led by Senator Stephen A. Douglas, had a reasonable chance of holding the country together as late as March 1860 (about a year before Fort Sumter).

Bitter enmity

Milton describes how the Buchanan administration mortally opposed Stephen A. Douglas and the national Democrats.  The Buchanan machine naturally allied with the Ultra-Secessionist Democrats to defeat Douglas, thereby allowing Lincoln to be elected president.

The author describes the political strategies of all three groups as they engaged in hardball.  In retrospect, the gamesmanship was breathtaking.

Clash of Ideas

Lincoln had stated in his “House Divided” speech:

…A house divided against itself cannot stand.  I believe this government cannot permanently endure half slave and half free … It will become all one thing, or all the other.

Douglas responded that Lincoln actually predicted the following:

A war of sections, a war of North against the South, of the Free States against the Slave States – a war of extermination to be continued relentlessly until the one or the other shall be subdued and all States shall either become free or become slave.

Lincoln rejected Douglas’s claim and said:

There is no danger that the people of Kentucky will shoulder their muskets, and, with a young nigger stuck on every bayonet, march into Illinois and force them upon us.  There is no danger of our going over there and making war upon them.

With hindsight, we see that Lincoln’s remark was recklessly confident.

A different view of “Honest Abe”

Douglas experienced Lincoln as a shrewd debater when they competed for a U.S. Senate seat.  This experience enabled Douglas to say the following:

When I make a mistake, as an honest man I correct it without being asked to, but when he, Lincoln, makes a false charge, he sticks to it and never corrects it.

A fresh look

In The Eve of Conflict, we see Douglas step out the shadows as a living, breathing, witty politician.  By the end of the book, Douglas has become a statesman, and I share Milton’s admiration of Douglas.

I found the over-arching sense of story, the quotations, the insights, and the analysis to be very compelling.   I highly recommend this book.

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Thank you for reading my blog!  Please leave any questions and comments below.

Madison County mystery: Hard-scrabble farmer turns dedicated Confederate soldier

Many Americans named children Napoleon Bonaparte in homage to the great French general.  One of those children had a shadowy journey into the Confederate service.

Napoleon Bonaparte Morgan was a Virginia native who had nine brothers and sisters.  They moved to a farm in Madison County, Iowa, southwest of Des Moines, before the Civil War.

N.B. Morgan worked as a laborer on his father’s farm.  The Morgan family, like many Iowans, struggled financially in the lingering Panic of 1857.  N.B. Morgan had no land or possessions to his name.

Five months after Southerners fired upon Fort Sumter, 25-year-old N.B. Morgan fought for the Confederacy at the Battle of Lexington, Missouri.  He had enrolled in the 1st Missouri Infantry (later to become the 2nd Missouri Infantry).

It’s unclear why N.B. Morgan entered the Confederate service.  He may have simply needed a job.  Once he donned a gray uniform, N.B. Morgan climbed the ranks, being promoted 4th Sergeant by August 1862.

The next year, on May 16, 1863, he fought at the Battle of Champion Hill, at Baker’s Creek, Mississippi.  He “lost [a] thumb and two fingers” of his right hand, and Union troops captured him. He was immediately paroled, but he was exchanged four months later.  Back in his unit, Confederate doctors declared N.B. Morgan “unfit for field duty,” so he became a quartermaster.

The following year, 1864, N.B. Morgan was demoted to private and became a “wagon master.”

Unidentified teamster — note the bullwhip (Library of Congress)

On Oct. 5, 1864, N.B. Morgan was captured at Alatoona outside of Atlanta.  He ended up in Camp Chase prison, Ohio.  A month later, N.B. Morgan applied to take the oath of allegiance.  But the prison authorities held him until the war was over.

Apparently, N.B. Morgan steered clear of Madison County for a few years and lived in Warren County.  He ran a sawmill, and he still had no personal estate or real estate.

Twelve years after the war ended, in 1877, N.B. Morgan served as street commissioner for the brand-new town of St. Charles in Madison County.  Two years later, he ran a hotel in town.  Thereafter, he fades into obscurity.

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I want to credit Madison County historian Walt Libby with discovering Napoleon Bonaparte Morgan.

Thank you for reading my blog!  Please leave any questions and comments below.

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