Captured for the final time in 1919, fifty-four years after the American Civil War ended, Ohioan Newton Jasper Kidwell was possibly the last Confederate soldier taken prisoner by Union soldiers.
Born on July 4, 1848, in Fauquier County, Virginia, Kidwell came from a working-class background. His parents were yeomen farmers, who resided in Upperville, Virginia.
At fourteen-years of age, Kidwell enlisted as a private in Company B of the 8th Virginia Infantry Regiment on February 14, 1863, serving with the Confederacy’s Army of Northern Virginia in the Eastern Theater. The 8th Virginia, including Kidwell, participated in Pickett’s Charge on July 3, 1863, during the Battle of Gettysburg. In the assault, Union forces captured the young Confederate, sending the prisoner to Fort Delaware, at Delaware City, Delaware. Some sources claim that only seven men, including Kidwell, from the 8th Virginia's Company B survived Pickett's Charge. Kidwell remained a prisoner until officials exchanged him on December 24, 1863, at Point Lookout, Maryland.
Kidwell rejoined the 8th Virginia on April 4, 1864, serving with his regiment throughout General Ulysses S. Grant’s Overland Campaign. Kidwell participated in the Battle of the Wilderness (May 5-7, 1864), the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House (May 8-21, 1864), Cold Harbor (May 31-June12, 1864), and the Siege of Petersburg (June 1864-April 1865), among other engagements. Following the Army of Northern Virginia’s withdrawal from Petersburg in early April 1865, Kidwell participated in the Confederate retreat. On April 7, 1865, Union soldiers from the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, 9th Army Corps of the Army of the Potomac captured him at Ford's Station, Virginia. Northern authorities released the Confederate on April 12, 1865, after Kidwell took the oath of allegiance to the United States.
Following the Civil War, Kidwell returned to his parents’ home at Upperville. Union forces had decimated the region during the conflict, prompting many residents to seek their fortunes elsewhere. Amazingly, many of these migrants pursued fortunes in the North. This migration continued throughout the late nineteenth century all of the way until World War II’s conclusion. Many of the travelers, including Kidwell, settled in Ohio.
Kidwell departed Virginia in the middle 1870s, shortly after marrying fellow Virginian Elinorah Bradfield in 1874. The young couple settled on a farm owned by Joe Smith, near Sharps Landing, on the Ohio and Erie Canal, near Groveport, Ohio. The Kidwells became tenant farmers. In exchange for farming the owner’s land and caring for the cattle, Kidwell earned just a single dollar per day and free rent in a five-room house on the land. By the 1910s, old age and poor health prompted Kidwell to retire to Columbus, Ohio, where he purchased a five-room, frame home on Champion Avenue. He joined the Central Baptist Church and earned an income serving as a caretaker of several properties in Columbus. He remained in Columbus for the rest of his days.
While living in Columbus, Kidwell joined the Ohio Camp, No. 1181, of the United Confederate Veterans. At the time of his death in July 1920, he served as commander of this camp. Forever loyal to the Confederate States of America, Kidwell intervened in the 53rd National Grand Army of the Republic Encampment, which was held in September 1919, in Columbus. On September 10, as Union veterans paraded down High Street in the city, Kidwell, dressed in his Confederate uniform, marched down the street in protest of the presence of the "Yankees." Two members of 76th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry jokingly captured the Southerner and escorted the enemy soldier for the duration of the march, making Kidwell the regiment's final prisoner if not the last Confederate soldier captured by any Union forces. The members of the 76th Ohio proceeded to make Kidwell an honorary member of the regiment.
Like many Confederate veterans, Kidwell remained proud of his service, but he also recognized the Union victory and became a proud member of the reunited country. In 1913, Kidwell participated in a Memorial Reception to commemorate the Civil War, at Columbus. In his remarks to those in attendance, Kidwell described the war as "legalized murder" and claimed that he "did not see how civilized people could do it." He concluded his remarks by stating:
All us boys in the Southern army left girls back home and some of them had married Yankees before we got back. But mine didn't. I married down in Virginia and came north to live. Still I hated the Yankees. But my son began to make goo goo eyes at the daughter of a Union veteran and I finally had to submit to it. And now I have a grandchild, a boy that is half-Yank and half-Reb. But his sentiments are all Union. Come here, Jimmy, and show yourself.
The six-year-old child came upon the stage and saluted the United States flag. Kidwell proclaimed, "And that is just the way I have come to feel. This is my country and that is my flag."
Upon Kidwell's death, the 76th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Veteran Infantry sent the former Confederate's family members the following statement:
Newark, Ohio July 20” 1920
To the family of our beloved Comrad,
Newton J. Kidwell, an Honorary Member of the 76” Ohio, Vol. Inf. U.C.V.
It was with deep sorrow and profound regret that we received the sad news of the passing away of this American Soldier.
He was beloved by his companions of this great strife, although he wore the GRAY, as history has proven that both sides fought for principles they thought were right, and the true soldiers of the south were of such metal as our late Comrad was made of, and when the battles were over he became just as loyal to the Flag we all love, and by his noble character showed that American spirit that is ever for the land of the Free and the home of the brave.
The 76” Regimental Association, of which he was made an Honorary Member, at Newark, Ohio, extends their heartfelt sympathy and condolence to the family of our deceased Comrad, Newton J. Kidwell.
Clifton H. Rosebrough Sec.
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"Newton Jasper Kidwell," Ohio Civil War Central, 2021, Ohio Civil War Central. 19 Sep 2021 <http://www.ohiocivilwarcentral.com/entry.php?rec=1480>
"Newton Jasper Kidwell." (2021) In Ohio Civil War Central, Retrieved September 19, 2021, from Ohio Civil War Central: http://www.ohiocivilwarcentral.com/entry.php?rec=1480
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