Confederates from Iowa:

Not to Defend, but to Understand

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.

# # #

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.


When words broke bones: A review of The Civil War: A Book of Quotations


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


  1. Interesting as always. Thanks David.

  2. Heather Gooden

    I don’t remember reading of him before but, I recognize his picture from somewhere. Thanks David!

    • David Connon

      Hi, Heather. I found the bullwhip in the photo to be impressive, especially for a Civil War teamster. Thank you for reading my blog!


    I’m still looking for where he is buried found his wife and a son the last trace I have of him he was in Arkansas

    • David Connon

      Hi, Bruce. You and Colleen have done good work, tracking down additional information about Napoleon Bonaparte Morgan.

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

%d bloggers like this: