Wheat’s Tigers – Did They or Didn’t They?

28 08 2007

 

UPDATES: Please see the comments section for updates to this post. 

Earlier I received the following comment to this post:

First off, excellent research and a great website on “Sherman’s Battery”. I have a question that is in the ball park. Do you know of what flag Major Wheat’s Battalion captured? Evan’s OR report said “capture of a stand of colors”. There were no OR reports on Wheat’s Battalion. This has many of us just completely stumped.

We are thinking either the 2nd Rhode Island or 11th New York regiment. We are working on ALL Union and Confederate flags that were captured during the Civil War. This project will take a long time.

If you have any information or could tell me where to find it, I would be very grateful.

Thank you, Sir,

Shawn Prouty

I responded in brief to Shawn’s comment and told him that I would expand in the form of a post.  I also forwarded the question to Jim Burgess at Manassas NBP.

wheats-tigers.gifThe First Louisiana Special Battalion (Wheat’s Tigers) was the command of Major Roberdeau Wheat, part of Nathan Evans’ demi-brigade that was holding the far left of the Confederate line in the area of the Stone Bridge. The unit’s official report (OR) was apparently written by Captain Harris – remember that Wheat was severely wounded as described here (UPDATE: I found a report written by Wheat in the Supplement and you can read it here.  No mention of captured flags.)  I say apparently because, while Evans mentions it in his OR, there is a note indicating that the compilers of The Official Records were unable to locate Harris’ report.  I sent a note to my friend Tom Clemens who has a set of the Supplement to the ORs, asking him to check and see if Harris’ report turns up there.  (I’d really like to get my hands on the single volume of The Supplement that has the Bull Run stuff.)

Evans’ report, written just three days after the battle, includes this statement:

I send herewith a stand of colors taken during the action by Major Wheat’s battalion.

Evans submitted his report to Col. Philip St. George Cocke, though I’m not sure why.  Cocke commanded the Fifth Brigade of Beauregard’s army.  Other brigade commanders sent their reports to Beauregard or his AAG, Thomas Jordan.  Unfortunately, Cocke did not write an OR for the battle, and he was dead by his own hand by the end of the year.  Beauregard’s report, written in October, mentions having taken nine regimental and garrison flags, but does not identify any of the banners.

I don’t think that the battalion could have captured any of the 2nd Rhode Island’s colors.  Lt. Col. Frank Wheaton’s report written on July 23 does not mention any lost colors.  In addition, the battalion’s fight with the 2nd RI as recounted in this article by Gary Schreckengost describes the battalion as being driven from the enemy’s front  while still about 20 yards away, hardly close enough to seize their colors.  The author indicates that the battalion took part in Beauregard’s general advance later on Henry Hill.  A Tiger reported to a New Orleans paper:

Our blood was on fire.  Life was valueless.  The boys fired one volley, then rushed upon the foe with clubbed rifles beating down their guard; then closed upon them with their knives, ‘Greek had met Greek’, the tug of war had come…[It] did not seem as though men were fighting…[but as if there] were devils mingling in the conflict, cursing, yelling, cutting, and shrieking.

It’s possible that the 11th New York Fire Zouaves were a part of the force against which the Louisianans fought.  According to this site, it seems that while the New Yorkers did indeed lose their flags, they were subsequently recovered.

So, the long and the short of it is I don’t know what colors Evans was referring to in his report.  How about you guys?

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11 responses

29 08 2007
Mike Peters

Harry,

None of my references — Wheat’s bio, Shank’s bio, Donnybrook, All For the Union, etc. — mention a captured flag. Since the Tigers were engaged for a substantial time with the 2nd RI, I would lean that way, though as you indicate the battalion was “driven from the enemy’s front while still about 20 yards away, hardly close enough to seize their colors.”

How about the other regiments in Burnside’s Brigade — the 1st RI, 2nd NH or 71st NY?

Mike

29 08 2007
Harry Smeltzer

Mike,

I don’t think Wheat’s men fought as a unit after facing the 2nd RI until the general assault on Henry Hill. But that does not preclude the possibility that a Tiger picked up a fallen banner at some point. As you know, that kind of thing happened a lot.

Harry

5 09 2007
Andy MacIsaac

Back to Shawn’s orginal question, there is a report on microfilm in the National Archives that lists the flags captured and lost by Union regiments. The flags are listed by some sort of inventory number and it indicates in an additional notation if the fag was returned. Is it complete? I can’t say but I think it is a place to start,

5 09 2007
Harry Smeltzer

Andy,

I’m not sure that we ever got off Shawn’s original question, which was to what (if any) flag Evans was referring to in his report, but thanks for this info. You wouldn’t happen to have an ID or reel number for this microfilm, would you?

Since the report of Captain R. A. Harris of Co. A (“Walker Guards”) does not show up in the Supplement, my next step (if I was Shawn) might be to check out his home town newspaper. Krick’s “Lee’s Colonels” says Harris last showed on the rolls of the batallion as a major on 6/30/62, and that he was paroled at Meridian, MS on May 9, 1865. Now, there is a town of Walker, LA, but it was not so named until 1870. As many of the members of the Walker Guards were participants in the Nicaraguan filibuster expeditions, it’s likely they are named for their former leader, William Walker, who was executed in Honduras in September of 1860. The long and short of it is I don’t know where Harris made his home, but I would start by looking in the New Orleans papers.

By the way, I did hear back from Jim Burgess at the park, and he does not know the answer to Shawn’s question either.

Harry

9 09 2007
Mike Peters

Harry,

Do you think that “Shanks” might have “embellished” his report?

Mike

10 09 2007
Harry Smeltzer

No, I really don’t suspect that. After all, he did write that Harris’ report was enclosed with his, and if Harris didn’t mention the capture there surley would have been questions.

Friend Dave Powell did some checking in the New Orleans papers, which did not turn up Harris’ report. I’ll keep looking or rather keep asking others to look.

Harry

12 09 2007
Tomorrow « Bull Runnings

[...] History Institute USAMHI) regarding any capture of flags by Wheat’s Battalion at Bull Run (see this post).  Art is an authority on Louisiana in the Civil War.  He was on the road when he responded to my [...]

5 10 2007
Shawn Prouty

I live in Washington Dc, and I have seen the microfilm on the “Returned Colors” by the War Department. Only 58 Union flags were identified and returned. There were 250 more Union flags that were not identified and there was a book on that, but that was checked out back in August 1996. The book has never been returned.

The problem with finding and tracking down Union flags and I will quote, “Many regimental commanders were embarrassed by the capture of their colors, and in many instances refused to acknowledge such a loss when writing their OR reports”. From the book “Advance the Colors” Vol 1. (Pennsylvania).

I have been checking the regimental histories at the Library of Congress. It’s going to take time, I always find another Union flag that I was not even looking for.

Thank you, for all the help!

Shawn Prouty

7 01 2009
Wheat’s Report « Bull Runnings

[...] discussed in this post, the report of Wheat’s commander N. G. Evans claims that the Battalion captured a regimental [...]

15 04 2010
Steve Hampton

What an absolutely brilliant site.If you knew how long I have been searching for some of the information that is so readily available on here!
My interests lie with the flags carried by the regiments of the South.I am gradually collecting quite a number of replicas but I am having difficulty locating any from the Regiments of the Sonewall Brigade.Infact I have received conflicting information from dealers in the U.S. One stated the battle honours and Reg designation were carried on the state flag. The other that they were carried on the national flag.Can you lads help out?

15 04 2010
Harry Smeltzer

I’m no flag expert, though I know of a few. Hopefully they’ll read this and chime in. In the meantime, have you checked out these sites?

http://history-sites.com/cgi-bin/bbs53x/cwflags/webbbs_config.pl

http://www.nps.gov/history/museum/exhibits/flags/

http://www.crwflags.com/fotw/flags/us-csah.html#battcross

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