Whatever Happened to D.K. Boswell?

During the early part of the war, Lincoln elevated certain southern leaders who remained loyal to the US, with hope that they could rally fellow southern loyalists and start the reconstruction process.  Examples include:

  • Andrew Johnson, appointed Brigadier General and Military Governor of Tennessee in March 1862;
  • Edward Stanly, appointed Brigadier General and Military Governor of North Carolina in May 1862; and
  • Andrew J Hamilton, appointed Brigadier General and Military Governor of Texas in November 1862.

For a brief period in 1862 Daniel K. Boswell seemed  to be one of these southern leaders, but then he vanished. Who was he and what happened to him?

During the early part of 1862 Boswell traveled from Kentucky to Washington DC where he lobbied the administration for authority to raise loyalist troops from Mississippi. In March 1862, Kentucky-politician John Lellyett wrote to  Andrew Johnson, just appointed Military Governor of Tennessee, that “Col. D.K. Boswell of Tishimongo County, Miss.” was seeking authority from the war Department to raise loyal troops in Mississippi and Alabama.  Lellyett claimed to have known Boswell a few years before and described how in December 1861 Boswell escaped through the rebels lines to Paducah, Kentucky, bringing with him important information about rebel positions in Tennessee.1 Around the same time, Senator Orville Browning of Illinois wrote to Edwin Stanton, Secretary of War, that he had become “acquainted with Col D K Boswell of Corinth, Miss. upon his arrival here several weeks since”.  Though Browning confessed he “had no previous knowledge of him”, “frequent interviews with him since he reached this city” and “letters to him from his neighbours in Mississippi” led Browning “to believe he is a man of good standing, and of influence at home”.  Browning told Stanton that Boswell was “anxious to return to Mississippi, and raise troops for the service of the Government; and as he appears to be a man of much energy of character, and honest, and earnest in his devotion to the Union, I commend him to the favorable consideration of the Secretary of War”.2 A few weeks later Boswell wrote to Andrew Johnson asking for help securing the safety of his family, who Boswell said were still in Mississippi. Boswell also expressed  hope that he would soon be on his way to the front where he would be valuable because of his local knowledge.3

By the late summer Boswell was back in Corinth.  In the notes regarding an August 29th letter to Halleck printed in the Papers of Ulysses S Grant is discussion of messages dealing with enlisting southerners in the Corinth area. Included is a statement that on September 13th Grant wrote a telegram to Ord “Ordering rations to be issued to all Mississippians who swear into the new regiment being organized by Genl. Boswell.”4    On October 9th, the New York Times reported on an effort to raise funds to help Boswell equip Mississippians who “like himself, refugees for ‘conscience sake,’ driven from their homes and employments, they, too, are penniless and almost destitute of decent clothing, nevertheless they are willing to fight, counting not their lives dear to them, so that their loved ones at home may once more enjoy the protection of our traditionary flag.”5 The next day, Lincoln wrote to Stanton that “The organization attempted by Mr. Boswell, makes a place for people in that region inclined our way, to go; and, in that respect is important.”6

Then nothing. No mention of him in the Official Records. No further mention in the Lincoln papers or the Grant papers. While there were a few units raised in late 1862 from loyalists around Corinth — 1st Alabama Cavalry, 1st and 2nd West Tennessee Cavalry, the Tippah and Missisippi Rangers — I can find no mention of D.K. Boswell in connection with any of them.

Where did he go? What was his story?

On September 27, 1871 the Daily Journal of Commerce, a Kansas City Missouri newspaper, contained the following story:

St Louis, Sept. 26 — On Friday evening last Gen. D.K. Boswell and wife, of Muncie, Indiana took passage on the steamer St. Luke for Jefferson City.  At about 12 o’clock that night the General was taken sick and went out on the guard of the boat to see if fresh air would not revive him. Desiring some article from the State room he requested his wife to step back and get it.  As Mrs. Boswell was returning she saw the General falling over the railing into the river.  The boat immediately stopped, but the General could not be found. The accident occurred in the Missouri river about ten miles above the mouth.  Efforts will be made to recover his body.7

 Mrs. Boswell later submitted a claim for pay-out from the life insurance policy on her husband. This led to some investigation. In 1874, an article appeared in “The Chronicle: A Weekly Journal, Devoted to the Interests of Insurance, Manufacturers and Real Estate” about a man and his wife arrested for life insurance fraud. Though the man had been going by the name Isaac Howe, it was revealed that he was actually Boswell, of whom the article reported:

“Before the war he moved to Mississippi, where he was engaged as a cotton planter, and, at the outbreak of the war, offered his services to Mr. Lincoln, and by his loudmouthed protestations of loyalty, and ability to influence southern people, he was commissioned brigadier general; but the government soon discovered that he was a fraud, and revoked his commission.”8

Very curious.



  1. http://memory.loc.gov/mss/mal/mal1/148/1480300/001.jpg
  2. Orville H. Browning to Edwin M. Stanton, Tuesday, March 04, 1862  as found in the Lincoln Papers Online
  3. Andrew Johnson papers Volume 5 page 310 
  4. Papers of Ulysses Grant, Volume 5, page 337
  5. http://www.nytimes.com/1862/10/09/news/an-appeal-for-the-brigade-of-loyal-missi-sippians.html
  6. Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume 5 page 457
  7. http://statehistoricalsocietyofmissouri.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/kcdjc/id/6557/rec/11
  8. http://books.google.com/books?id=OXwoAAAAYAAJ&lpg=PA24&ots=95ztlv1L4j&dq=Gen%20D%20K%20Boswell&pg=PA24#v=onepage&q=Gen%20D%20K%20Boswell&f=false 






2 responses to “Whatever Happened to D.K. Boswell?”

  1. James F. Epperson Avatar

    Sounds like he was running a kind of con, and got found out. How did you stumble on this story?

  2. Ned B. Avatar
    Ned B.

    I do wonder if the fund raising effort written about in the NYT was a con.

    I was doing some reading on other topics and passing references to him caught my attention. I was looking into aspects of intel gathering and noticed Bowell mentioned in ‘Grant’s Secret Service’ by William Feis. I had also been doing some reading about Texas unionism and was looking in the NYT archive for articles about A J Hamilton. Boswell was mentioned in one article I found (not the one referenced above, but a similar one) and I realized it was the same man that Feis had written about. I thought it was strange that I had never heard of him having anything to do with activity around Corinth. So I started searching the ORs, Lincoln Papers, Grant Papers, Johnson Papers, NYT archive, etc.. Didnt feel like I was finding answers until I just randomly stumbled across the post war article about insurance fraud on Google Books. Amazing the odd stuff you can turn up on Google Books.

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