Kidwell and United Confederate Veteran Camp 1181 in Columbus
Private Newton Jasper Kidwell was born on July 4, 1848 and enlisted in Company B of the "Bloody Eighth", Regiment, Virginia Infantry on February 14, 1863 while only 14 years of age at Fredericksburg, Virginia. Private Kidwell had been a substitute for Samuel Hicks. Young Kidwell was first introduced to a major battle on July 3, 1863 where he was a member of Garnett's brigade in Pickett's Division lacking one day of his 15th birthday. One can't imagine what was going through his mind as his regiment was cut to pieces during that heroic charge. According to Kidwell he was only one of a few men standing after the charge with the 8th Regiment Virginia Infantry. Private Kidwell would be made a prisoner of war and remember his 15th birthday as such. He was taken to Fort Delaware and later exchanged and joined the 8th Regiment, Virginia Infantry once again only to be captured once again on April 7, 1865 just two days before Lee's surrender. By April 9, 1865 the once 1,000 man regiment had been reduced to just 1 surgeon and 11 soldiers at Appomattox. Private Kidwell would be paroled a short time later and sent home to Virginia. A hardened Confederate war veteran at 16 years old when the War ended.
He would marry a Virginia girl and tried to make a living in post war torn Virginia but had little success. With relations living near Columbus, Ohio he and wife moved to nearby Columbus, Ohio and started a fresh life. During the post War years Columbus, Ohio like other major Northern cities had a huge turnout for the Memorial Day parade. Thousands upon thousands of Union War veterans would proudly march down the main streets with the crowds cheering loudly and shouting words of encouragement. Finally former Private Kidwell could take it no more and the following year came to the parade in his Confederate uniform and stood within the crowd. Although we don't know the exact year it is suspected it was sometime in the 1890's. When one of the Union Regiments passed by the cheering crowd Kidwell burst from the crowd and mocked the former Union troops of the 76th Ohio Infantry by marching beside of them. One lone Confederate gray uniform within the thousands of blue. Acting quickly the 76th Ohio Infantry made a mock prisoner of Kidwell and the crowd went crazy with hoops and hollers.
The next year and following years Kidwell was adopted by the former 76th Regiment, Ohio Infantry but not as a mock prisoner but rather as an honorary member of their regiment and yes he did march proudly in his Confederate uniform down the streets of Columbus for the entire parade with the delight of crowds of more than 15,000. He was the only Confederate soldier ever to be allowed to have this honor in the Memorial Day Parade in Columbus. Newton J. Kidwell helped to form the United Confederate Veteran Camp (#1181) in Columbus, Ohio and was elected as commander and assigned the honorary title of Captain for his camp after the turn of the century. Kidwell and his Camp helped to honor the Confederate dead at the Camp Chase Confederate Cemetery in the late 1890's. There is a photograph of Kidwell placing flowers on the Confederate graves in his uniform while the United Daughters of the Confederacy (Robert E. Lee chapter) placed small American flags at the foot of their graves.
Kidwell and his wife had children in the Columbus area and as Newton Kidwell put it "One day my son was making goo-goo eyes at a Northern girl and I knew I was in trouble" Kidwell's son did marry the Northern girl and they had a son. Newton Kidwell remarked to a newspaper that his grandson had ask him "Grandpa am I a Yankee or am I a Rebel?" Newton Kidwell told his grandson that he was "an American and it was just that simple."
Newton J. Kidwell died in 1920 and former Union veterans poured to his funeral. Although I can't document that former Union soldiers paid for his grave marker I would not be surprised if they did. The plain marker over Newton J. Kidwell's grave says "Confederate Veteran" with no mention of unit or rank just his name and date of birth and death. As far as I know he is the only former Confederate soldier buried at the Green Lawn Cemetery with such an inscription and only a handful of former Confederates to have participated at Pickett's Charge that are buried in Columbus, Ohio.
Former Private Newton J. Kidwell proudly remembered his Confederate service but also was a proud American citizen.
The following is from an Ohio Newspaper dated June 1913 that tells of the former Confederates living in Columbus, Ohio who were members of Pickett's Division at Gettysburg. This article deals with the 50th reunion at Gettysburg. Only Ohio Union veterans still living in Ohio who were at the battle of Gettysburg were provided transportation to the event.
THREE WHO FOUGHT WITH GEN. PICKETT LIVE IN COLUMBUS______________________________________________
Participated in famous charge but only one of them will attendreunion _________________________________________________________
All were Virginians_________________________
Captain Newton Kidwell, Lieutenant Worrell and Private Kendall made up the list. (by Mary Robbon M'Gill)
"Much has been written of the Ohio soldiers who intend to go to Gettysburg to view again, perhaps for the first and last time in fifty years, the battlefield where they won deathless fame, but it has all related to Union soldiers, for the Confederates who took part in that battle and who now live in the Buckeye state have not been forgotten that in the capital city live three survivors of Pickett's charge. One of the soldiers who took part in that incomparable assault is Capt. Newton Kidwell, who lives on the South Third street. He left Tuesday for Gettysburg but will stop en-route at Roanoke and Front Royal, where he will meet with former comrades and proceed with them to the battlefield. When I called to ask Captain Kidwell if he intended to take this trip to Gettysburg he was standing near the door of his home talking to a Union soldier who was in the battle, William Guy, of the sixty-sixth Ohio, and they were discussing their proposed visit to the former scene of mortal combat.
Captain Kidwell invited me into his home and introduced me to his wife, a pleasant faced woman. Tall, thin, gray he stood, every tone and movement bringing the southland near, for beneath the quiet manner and voice was the trace of the fire and electric energy that go with southern blood though covered by a calm exterior. One felt the force that had carried such men forward with Pickett until the soldiers in blue all but ceased their death dealing fire on such a splendid foe.
MAKES THE TRIP ALONE
In speaking of the contemplated trip Captain Kidwell said, ""So far as I know, I will be the only one of Pickett's men to go from Columbus. I go alone.""
""But you will go with the Union soldiers?""
""No, for none but Union soldiers will be permitted to go on their train.""
"" How strange that you cannot ride on the same when going to a reunion of the Blue and the Gray."" "" It takes an Ohio legislature to muddle things. Union soldiers would not be so inconsiderate of survivors of Pickett's charge.
If they were it wouldn't be much of a reunion, would it? But perhaps they thought there weren't any of us left,"" he said, with a touch of humor that trialled off into wistfulness as he added:
""There are so few of us, you know."" Few indeed are the men who followed the flash of Pickett's sword who will go to Gettyburg. They are there. They've been sleeping there for fifty years, waiting for the last reunion.
Illustrative of this was Captain Kidwell's reply to inquiries. With soldierly simplicity, he added
BUT SEVEN RETURNED_______________
""My regiment was the Eighth Virginia. When the order came we moved forward, three hundred and fifty-two in line. Only seven returned to our line and of the seven five were wounded, several mortally. For a few moments there was silence and the deep deathless grief of fifty years ago was reflected on the face of the soldier."" Then he continued:
""My brother, Thomas Kidwell, whom was the eighth man in our regiment to take up our colors after seven men had been killed in a distance of a hundred yards.
Here's a better description of the battle than I can give to you"" said Captain Kidwell, taking from a desk a small red book from which he read: """Flower of the south and Longstreet's pride."""
But no poem I have ever read no matter how thrilling, no representation I have ever seen, though one in Battle abbey in St. Louis was very graphic, ever conveyed such a clear concept of that carnage as the quietly spoken words of the gray-haired captain: for through his words ran the feeling of one who had lived through the heart-breaking experience known only to Pickett's Division."