Private Newton J. 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 1 of 7 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 Confederate war veteran at just 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 early 1880'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 Confederate Veteran Camp in Columbus, Ohio and was elected as a Captain for his camp around 1895. Kidwell and his group helped to honor the Confederate dead at the Camp Chase Confederate Cemetery in the late 1890's. There are several photographs of Kidwell placing flowers on the Confederate graves in his uniform while the UDC placed small American flags at the foot of their graves.
Kidwell and his wife had some 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 Confederate?" 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 one of three 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. A couple of issues before the article is posted. 1) This article deals with the 50th reunion at Gettysburg. Only Union veterans living in Ohio who were at the battle were provided transportation to the event. 2) Readers will notice a soldier named Henry Kendall in the article. While it's true he was a member of the 8th Regiment, Virginia Infantry at the battle of Gettysburg he had a poor service record prior to Gettysburg and he also took the oath while at prison and joined joined Company G of the 1st Connecticut Cavalry. He deserted that unit a few months later and joined his brother in hiding in the hills of Central Ohio who had also been a member of the 8th Virginia and who was a Confederate deserter in hiding. Henry Kendall would end up married to Caroline Wilkins whose father had been a provost marshall looking for Union deserters. It's with little wonder that Kendall did not go to the reunion as he and Kidwell knew each other. I've always wondered if her father knew the true story.
THREE WHO FOUGHT WITH GEN. PICKETT LIVE IN COLUMBUS
Partcipated in famous charge but only one of them will attend
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 forgotton 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 enroute at Roanoke and Front Royal, where he
will meet with former commrades 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
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 as he 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 wil be the only one of Pickett's men to go from Columbus. I
""But you will go with the Union soldiers?""
""No, for none but Union soldiers will be permitted to go on their
"" 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 tralled 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
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
""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
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.
TWO OTHER SURVIVORS
Lieutenant Worrell is another survivor of Pickett's charge, who will
be at the reunion of the blue and the gray. Lieutenant Worrell is in
Pennsylvania now and will not return until after the event. He, too, was
a member of the Eighth Virginia, a regiment brilliant in service.
Henry Kendall, of Oregon avenue, is another soldier of the Eighth
Virginia who followed the flash of Pickett's sword. In appearance Mr.
Kendall is the typical southern, soldier more than six feet tall, thin,
dark-haired, but his flashing blue eyes and clear, slightly-bronzed
complexion are suggestive of English ancestry.
""No, I'm not going to Gettysburg,"" said Mr. Kendall, while seated
in a porch swing at his home. ""I'd like to go and see where my company
charged but I won't be there.""
Mrs. Kendall, motherly faced with beauiful gray hair invited us into
the house to escape the noise from the street where Mr. Kendall, who had
not seemed inclined to talk about Gettysburg, became interested and gave a
graphic word picture of it.
A GRAPHIC PORTRAYAL
""We did not get there until night of the second day's battle. We
had come on a forced march from Chambersburg and were exhausted but we
were ready to go wherever Pickett led as long as we could move. In the
early morning he led us out into what seemed to be the very center of
everything for thousands of soldiers as far as we could see were on every
side. Then for hours all we could do was to wait in the burning sun for
some word but we could do anything for General Pickett. Ah, but he was a
fine looking man with his curling black hair. When he rode past our lines
we could charge anything.
It's fifty years ago and I haven't talked much about the war since I
left the southland and I seldom mention our last charge so I haven't kept
my memory fresh on the details preceding it but share one part I'll not
forget. I was captured.""
Mr. Kendall then gave a thrilling account of the last supreme
struggle when he with about fifteen members from various companies had
gained a place less than fifty yards from the stone wall from which poured
the unceasing and deadly fire of the blue for they had gained the slight
shelter of a little ledge from which they looked on either side and saw
their officers and comrades either motionless or writhing in the pain of
death wounds. In one instance, one man moved ever so slightly from the
shelter and his head was instantly blown off.
At this point in his narrative, Mr. Kendall's eyes were shadowed with
the horror of remembrance but after a few moments he said:
NOT A MAN STANDING
""All around us on either side and as far back as we could see not a
man was standing. All were dead or dying. Then down around us on one
side came a regiment in blue and formed a line below us in a circle. We
hadn't the slightest hope of reinforcements. Not a living man in gray was
in sight, so when that whole regiment advanced on us from below and we
knew what was above we decided that less than fifteen could not fight the
whole Union army, so we surrendered.""
Mr. Kendall voice faltered slightly in this last sentence but in an
instant with flashing eyes and his tall form rising to his full height, he
added, ""If only Lee could have formed one more line we'd have gone over
Prolonged silence that it were almost sacrilege to break followed Mr.
Kendall's last words, then he said as if he had not ceased speaking:
""We supposed that we were the only ones captured until we were taken
back to a field whre there were thousands of Confederates prisoners.""
""Then what happened?""
FELL ASLEEP ON MARCH
""We were taken to Balitmore and from there to Fort Henry. Pickett's
Division had been in forced march without sleep for so long before the
charge that we were completely exhausted but we did not realize this in
the wild excitement of the fight but after it was over we were so near
dead from fatigue we dropped asleep on the march to Balitmore and had to
be prodded by the Union men every little while.""
""When near Fort Henry at 3 o'clock in the morning we were permitted
to pause. I sank into a hole all but dead for sleep and awoke with water
all around me, my face just out for my head was on a slightly raised
place. The hole where I had fallen asleep had filled with water from a
three hour rain that had beaten and flown in my face without waking me.
From that point we went on to the fort and that was the end of the war for
""After the war I captured a Yankee"" waving his hand toward Mrs.
Kendall who was Miss Caroline Wilkins of Zanesville.