Confederates from Iowa:

Not to Defend, but to Understand

The Last Confederate from Iowa to surrender

Stephen M. Dicken, 14th Iowa Infantry, spent the war looking for his big brother James, among clumps of Confederate prisoners.  The reunion had to wait until the fighting was over.

James, Stephen, and their siblings were born in Illinois.   Their parents were natives of Kentucky.  In 1855, when James was 14, his family moved to a farm in Bremer County, Iowa.

Col. H.L. Grinstead

Col. H.L. Grinstead

James later moved to Jackson County, Missouri.  In June 1862, he enlisted in Captain Overstreet’s Company, Grinstead’s Regiment.  It became Company D, 33rd Arkansas Infantry.  Stephen and another brother enlisted in Iowa regiments.


On April 9, 1864, James was at Pleasant Hill, Louisiana.  His skirmish line entered the woods in mounting darkness, heading toward Federal troops.  The Confederates were ordered back.  In the confusion, James was captured.

Union guards were surprised to recognize a Confederate P.O.W. who used to live in Bremer County.  Stephen had no such luck, since James was soon paroled and rejoined his unit.

Among Confederate allies

Gen. Stand Watie

Gen. Stand Watie

As the war was ending in the East, James was in Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma).  This was the site of the Confederacy’s only allies:  the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole nations.

James served under a Cherokee, General Stand Watie.  James was stationed in the Choctaw Nation.


In May 1865, the tribes learned that Lee had surrendered a month earlier.  Twenty-five-year-old James deserted and headed toward his Missouri home.  Mid-way, he decided to surrender, so he headed toward Ft. Scott in southeast Kansas.

As James trekked, the Choctaw Nation surrendered on June 19, and Stand Watie followed suit on June 23.

He left his mark

James reached Fort Scott and surrendered on July 11, 1865 – three months after Appomattox.  He swore to “forever oppose secession, rebellion, and the disintegration of the Federal Union.”  He couldn’t sign his name, so he left his mark.

Post-war reunion

After the war, James visited his family in Bremer County.  He moved to Paris, Texas, in 1873, and fades from the scene.

Postscript:  A request for help

This story lacks details that could make it richer.  If you know any family stories about James M. or Stephen M. Dicken, or if you have family letters or diaries from that time, would you please contact me?  Thanks for thinking about this!


  1. Sarah Godwin

    My.great grandfather , William James Godwin , was with General Lee when he surrendered at Appomattox , and he walked back home from Virginia to Lake City, South Carolina.

    My other maternal great grandfather , a Hatfield , spent the entire war at the Confederate Jail in Florence, South Carolina , where he said that it was Hell as the jail.was too small to.hold all the prisoners who.died in great numbers. He said.that it a situation that he hated and a VERY miserable time for him. He lived to be ninety-seven years old , and my older brother was lucky enough to know him and talk with him.

    • Hi, Sarah. Thanks for reading my blog. Thanks, too, for sharing the story about your two maternal great-grandfathers. Your older brother’s experience (of talking with one of them) reminds me that the Civil War was not terribly long ago. One hundred fifty years amounts to the lifetimes of three 50-year-old people, back to back.

  2. James Mathews

    Thanks for the picture of the internal structure of the fortification. The picture of the gun and gun platform was also very helpful. I am a reenactor and my unit is the Topographical Engineers, however, I am interested in all aspects of an engineer’s view of field engineering, fortifications, as well as mapping and survey.

  3. very interesting read sir!

  4. Great information, thanks for sharing!

  5. Terrence J. Lindell

    Enjoyed the Bremer County tie here. Companies B and C of the Fourteenth Iowa had significant numbers from Bremer County. The original Companies A, B, and C of this regiment were sent to Dakota Territory and later re-designated the 41st Iowa Infantry Battalion (later folded into the Seventh Iowa Cavalry). Iowa raised three new companies for the Fourteenth in 1862 to replace the ones sent west. Both B and C were captained by Bremer County men at the time of the Battle of Pleasant Hill, where a number of Bremer County men were captured.

    • Hi, Terry. Thanks for sharing detailed information about the Fourteenth Iowa! It’s interesting that a number of Bremer County men were captured by Confederates at the Battle of Pleasant Hill.

  6. David,
    Thank you for the information on James Dicken. I live In Little Rock, AR and have participated in about 5 or 6 reenactments at Mansfield and Pleasant Hill, LA. over the years. In 1999 I was able to participate in the southern part of the Red River Campaign. I portrayed a Confederate. We marched 56 miles, slept out 7 nights, ate rationed food, and, besides a few skirmishes, fought the Battles of Mansfield and Pleasant Hills on the actual battlefields. I was surprised that James Dicken was from Missouri and participated in Pleasant Hill. Thank you again for the information.

    • Hi, Vernon.
      Thanks for reading my blog! It was interesting to read about your experiences in reenacting the Battles of Mansfield and Pleasant Hill.

  7. Brenden Martin

    Hi David, thanks for sharing. Very interesting!

    • Thanks for reading my blog, Brenden! I appreciate your feedback.

      • Jim

        Hi David! Thank you for your request as I am more than happy to oblige. Have you contacted any of James’ descendants? It may also be noteworthy to contact Paris County for more information on census records. I’m not sure what you have considered at this point. A very interesting case, however!

        • Hi, Jim. Thanks for your question. No, I haven’t been able to locate any of James’s descendants, but I would like to. Best wishes, David

  8. Greetings Sir,
    I wanted to let you know that I enjoy your blog’s stories and your insights.
    Very well done. ~Carl.

    • David Connon

      Hi, Carl.

      Thank you for your kind comment. Thanks, too, for reading my blog.

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