Five Confederates from Iowa did not survive the war. One died as a prisoner of war. His life and burial reveal emotions on the home front during the Civil War.
Tennessee-born Albert H. Newell moved to Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, as an infant. According to family tradition, they had a slave named Tom who wouldn’t leave them. Tom came to Iowa and remained with Albert’s family as a freed servant. When Albert was five, the family moved to Danville in Des Moines County.
Albert’s father was an itinerant Methodist Protestant preacher and a farmer. He was financially comfortable.
Sometime around Fort Sumter, Albert went to Clarksville, Tennessee to work for his uncle who produced flour and lumber.
Union troops invaded Tennessee in 1862. Two of Albert’s cousins enlisted in the Confederate army, and he did, too. On Oct. 8, 1862, Albert enlisted in Woodward’s 2nd Kentucky Cavalry.
He went on furlough in late December 1863. Less than a month later, he was captured while returning to his unit. He became a POW at Fort Delaware. Albert wrote a cousin:
“I am sorry to say that I have been made a captive. After getting [within] a mile and a half of Dixie, I was betrayed into the hands of the Yankees. I had after many hardships gained the banks of the Tennessee River, stopped to warm my frozen feet [and] ears. But oh unhappy stop. You Know my dread of prison.”
Fifty days after Appomattox
Albert got sick and died in prison on May 29, 1865. His body was buried on the New Jersey shore.
His sister, Fredonia, traveled to New Jersey to bring Albert’s body back to Danville.
Emotions were inflamed toward Confederates from Iowa. For example, one Iowa woman, whose husband was in Sherman’s army, believed it “right and Christian-like” to be eternally hostile to “all rebels, North and South.” She wrote, “I can never forget that they killed my brother Barton and now our dear old President. The time to be conciliatory is past. I am bitter, bitter!”
Iowa’s Lieutenant Governor Enoch W. Eastman, a Republican, thought that retribution was “a holy cause.” He wrote President Andrew Johnson, “The people of Iowa do not thirst for blood.” But he hoped that Jefferson Davis and all other congressmen and West Point graduates who served the Confederacy, would “be hanged.”
Albert’s body returns home
Stories have been passed down in Albert’s family about his burial and his grave.
According to family tradition, when Fredonia arrived with Albert’s body at the train station, no one would load his casket onto a wagon. Then a gentleman helped. (A lady shouldn’t have to man-handle a casket.)
Albert and Fredonia’s parents were seemingly out preaching, so she handled the burial arrangements. But the cemetery committee told her, “No Rebel in OUR Hallowed Ground.” She finally buried his body just outside the cemetery fence.
Family tradition relates that the cemetery expanded to include Albert’s grave. Years later, when feelings had begun to soften, the most decorated grave was Albert’s.
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Special thanks to Nelda Palmer and Randy Bailey for research and photos.
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