Confederates from Iowa:

Not to Defend, but to Understand

“No Rebel in OUR hallowed ground”: A casket returns home

Albert H. Newell

Albert H. Newell

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.

“Unhappy stop”

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.

“Bitter, bitter!”

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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Please let me know what you think of this blog post!


  1. Kevin Limk

    Interesting how sentiments can soften with time…. A typical Iowa adjustment to rmbrace one of their own in the end…. Thank you for the historical sidelight

  2. Kathleen Parsons

    Hi Dave. There are so many conflicts which come to my mind which mirror this same thought, that ‘sentiments can soften with time’. In recent times, the Danish-German war over Schleswig-Holstein, the disintegration of Yugoslavia in the 1990s into warring states, and even the incomplete story of Ukraine. But, in about 10 years, we will all reconsider our beliefs and realize that there is always a hidden aspect to the tale. Thanks for enlightening me about something that happened, like the Schleswig war in 1863, long ago but is just now being more carefully understood, and Albert’s life.

  3. I thought Albert was shipped home via train and stayed at the station for 3 days until his sister picked him up. Mom has never shown me the grave – saying she knew where it was, but it was a guarded secret. I know the plot is now inside the fence, but I’ve never seen it decorated. Have you?

    • Hi, Ms. Palmer.
      Thanks for reading my blog! Your comments are very interesting. Other descendants had shared stories with me about Albert and his family (and I supplemented that information with other sources). I hadn’t heard a length of time (3 days) mentioned.

      I have seen Albert H. Newell’s grave, and I’ve seen a photo of his decorated grave.

      Please let me know if I can be of any assistance.

  4. Hello, David! I enjoyed reading your post as it resonated with circumstance in my home state of Indiana.
    Randolph County, Indiana, immediately north of Wayne County, in which I grew up, holds the distinction of sending one of the highest per capita rates of its men to the Union Army. It also boasted three of the state’s largest Free Black settlements. But it was home to a large copperhead contingent, the Knights of the Golden Circle, located in Spartanburg, Indiana, adjacent to the largest of the Free Black settlements,
    I don’t know if any of the men associated with the copperheads went south to join the rebel forces, but I’ll contact the county historian and ask. When I hear from her, I’ll be sure to share the information.
    Best wishes on your ambitious blog!
    Mark Thomas

    • Hi, Mark.
      Thanks for reading my blog! When I read your comments, I was reminded of two things. First, I once met a descendant of a Confederate from Indiana. If my memory serves me, he guessed that around 100 Hoosiers left that state and served the C.S.A. Second, I thought of Frank L. Klement’s fine book, The Copperheads in the Middle West.
      Best wishes,

      • neldapalmer

        A short story relative to copperheads: They identified themselves by cutting the head from a copper penny to pin on their jacket. I ask a person: “Who’s head would they cut out?” To a person they reply, “Lincoln’s”. [1843 penny is 1 1/4 inches in diameter with the head of lady liberty. Inherited from my mother.]

  5. I trust my reply yesterday made it through to you.
    Would enjoy chatting with you.
    Where else is this published?
    Sincerely, Nelda

  6. Beverly Whitaker

    I grew up in Des Moines County, Iowa, but I had never heard this story. My great grandfather was named after Albert’s father, a much-loved Methodist preacher in southeastern Iowa. I now live in Kansas City’s Northland where there were many Confederate sympathizers. My area research has uncovered some heart-rending stories. As a genealogist/family historian, I have appreciated knowing and sharing with both of your researchers, Nelda Palmer and Randy Bailey. Stories like this one need to be told! Your blog shares an interesting perspective and is making a fine contribution.

    • Hi, Beverly.
      Thank you for your encouragement! It’s interesting to know that your great-grandfather was named after Albert’s father. I, too, have appreciated how Nelda and Randy have shared with me.

  7. When I went into the Army 1968-70, Viet-Nam campaign, I met a southern gentleman
    “Henry “Hank” Maulden’, he lived down the road from Atlanta Georgia. He told me many story’s of the war between the states. His family was firmly planted in the south and had many great memory’s from his Grand Father and Father. I was luck because I really wanted to know the history, (I must say I cherished the writings of Abraham Lincoln while growing up) But my friend took me to a Southern Cemetery with a Confederate Flag waving over the cemetery! It was interesting to note there was no one from the North buried in the Cemetery! Now interestingly enough when we shipped out for Vietnam, my friend “Hank” Maulden’, gave me a package for the trip. After we got to our base in Vietnam, I opened the package and it was a hand sowed Confederate Flag! He told me he wanted to give me something to remember him by!!
    I carried that flag along with a United States Flag, both were proudly hanging in our barracks, Hank went on to another unit, many time I tried to find him but was unable to connect with him even after the war! The Flag is mounted in a Flag Case along with my American Flag and some day I will pass it on to my daughter. The funny thing is, we were all brothers in Vietnam, I look at that flag everyday and say a pray for my friend Hank!

  8. Robert Coker

    Thank you for this page. If you are interested, there is a Facebook page on Os Confederados, the Confederates that left the US rather than surrender and came to Brazil.

  9. neldapalmer

    Hi Beverly, I would suggest the information about Albert H. Newell was developed by Charlotte Bailey. She visited the Swan siblings and they gave her the letter from prison from Albert. She also did much family history and it may be she researched our connection. (Charlotte was a Navy nurse. The Swans were children of Fontenella Newell Swan and moved from Iowa to Washington state.)

  10. Michael J. Ballou

    Is there any information on any Ballou’s from southeastern Iowa, Mt. Pleasant, Montrose, Keokuk, etc. who may have migrated to Missouri, or, elsewhere, or, departed Iowa when the war broke out to join the Confederate Service?

    • Hi, Michael. Thanks for reading my blog! I haven’t found any information on any Ballou family members from southeastern Iowa. If I do, I’ll share that information with you.

  11. Hi David,
    I enjoy each comment, keep on writing.

    I found an answer to one of my nagging questions: was my g-uncle Albert embalmed? His sister Fredonia (my g-grandmother) went to the ‘Jersey Shore’ to retrieve his body. (He died in Ft. Delaware prison). She brought him home in a casket and … ah… didn’t it smell?

    To paraphrase: ” . . .the Civil War helped create the business of metallic air-tight coffins and embalming . . . ”
    This appeared in the November 2015 issue of “The Hornet’s Nest”, newsletter of Ottumwa Civil War Roundtable, Ed. Patricia Essick. Pat used three internet sources (which I have).

    • Hi, Nelda.
      Thanks for your encouragement. I agree with your conclusion, that your great-uncle Albert was embalmed. Isn’t it nice to find the answer to a question?

  12. It is interesting what seems to be said about time healing situations of burials. I have recorded Civil War graves all over the country and especially in Iowa; what I find is the distance between active war and the death of a veteran has lots of variations. While war is raging, veterans assume the positions of the high and mighty within the cemetery, no grave site is to good for one of our soldiers. After the war ends, that changes substantially over time, and often veterans are considered mostly because of their position within the community or the amount of money they have accumulated, otherwise just being a veteran and ten cents will still get you a cup of coffee. When it comes to the Civil War, especially those who get military stones because otherwise they wouldn’t have one, many are the walking wounded, the PTSD of their day who self medicate with alcohol or drugs that are readily available over the counter, they move around the country going from job to job and are essentially homeless. So what is so telling about these poor veterans who die ten or twenty years after the war? For one, they hold no social position and likely the ground they are being buried in is one given free of charge or the county paid for. By this time, private for profit cemeteries have come into there own, grave lots are sold for the purposes of burial based on location and the poorest locations are ascribed for veteran burial. Nearest the fence row at the time for instance, under trees that are likely to fall, along the edge of the roadways, since plowing snow had not come into its own, these soldier graves become bumpers for wagon wheels in snowy conditions. I had visited probably more than a couple hundred cemeteries before coming to this realization based on patterns I had seen repeated over and over again. Interestingly in most Iowa Cemeteries I have visited, with rare exception, black soldiers are buried without discrimination. One grave sticks in my mind that I found in Union cemetery, Pomeroy, Iowa. Right in the middle of the cemetery was this soldiers grave and it was a private in a colored Artillery unit as I recall. My curiosity was up, so I went to the census to see if he owned land or a business or even was recorded in the community in the census. To my surprise he was and listed as a farmer. To my greater surprise his wife was recorded to be white. Nothing in the county history speaks of this couple, which I believe reflects on the fact Iowan’s had a sense of live and let live when it came to race relations in the rural areas. It likely changes over time, but in 1880 you can not paint the state of Iowa as a whole, racist. Lots of anthropology out in these cemeteries if you take the time to notice!

    • David Connon

      Hi, Steve.
      Thank you for writing these thoughtful remarks. I appreciated your clause, “these soldier graves become bumpers for wagon wheels in snowy conditions.” How descriptive! I agree with your summary statement: “Lots of anthropology out in these cemeteries if you take the time to notice!”

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