Bull Run in the News – Kenton Harper, 5th VA

6 03 2010

Due to the transient nature of online newspaper urls, I’m going to depart from my custom of simply linking to OPW (other people’s work) and reproduce in its entirety this article from Staunton’s News Leader.  Kenton Harper was colonel of the 5th VA Infantry in Jackson’s Brigade (which means he was not “one of Bee’s officers”).

Kenton Harper Left Large Footprint in Staunton

By Charles Culbertson • mail@stauntonhistory.com • March 6, 2010

The moment was not going well for Confederate forces in the first major land battle of the Civil War. A coordinated Union attack at 11:30 a.m., July 21, 1861, had driven forces under Gen. Barnard Bee to the Henry House Hill near Manassas and was on the verge of breaking the line.

Suddenly, one of Bee’s officers — 60-year-old Col. Kenton Harper of Staunton — approached him and pointed out the presence of five regiments of Virginia troops under Col. Thomas J. Jackson that had just arrived on the scene.
Bee quickly made his way to Jackson and said, “The enemy are driving us,” to which Jackson reportedly replied, “Then, sir, we will give them the bayonet.”

At that point Bee is said to have shouted to his men, “There stands Jackson like a stone wall! Let us determine to die here, and we will conquer. Follow me!”

Some have claimed that Bee’s statement was perjorative — that Jackson was “standing there like a damned stone wall.” Whatever he said or how he meant it — we will never know, for Bee was mortally wounded moments later — his command rallied with Jackson’s men, who routed Union forces and helped win the First Battle of Manassas for the South.
Jackson, of course, received the immortal sobriquet, “Stonewall.”

It is unlikely that Bee was being critical of Jackson. Harper, a renowned Staunton publisher, politician, soldier and farmer, had little reason to either like Jackson or to portray him in a favorable light. Just before his death at age 66 in 1867, Harper told the editor of the Staunton Spectator that Bee’s words had been:

“Rally here! Look how these Virginians stand like a stone wall!”

Harper’s experience with the quirky professor from Virginia Military Institute began in April 1861. A major general in the Virginia state militia, Harper was given command of the 5th Virginia Infantry Regiment and marched out of Staunton with 2,400 men to seize the U.S. arsenal at Harpers Ferry.

The assault was a success, with Harper’s men salvaging thousands of muskets, as well as milling machines, lathes and other supplies. Later that month, Harper was replaced in favor of Jackson, a move that irritated Harper and angered many of the officers serving under him.

He was further alienated from Jackson when, in September 1861, Jackson denied him leave to be by his dying wife’s side.

But Harper was bigger than his grievances, having forged a long and fruitful career through diligence, honor and competency. He continued to serve the Confederate cause despite fragile health that was exacerbated by the rigors of war.

Born in Chambersburg, Pa., in 1801, Harper grew up in the printing business, learning the trade from his father, who published the Franklin County Repository. In 1823, he moved to Staunton where he purchased the Republican Farmer and changed its name to the Staunton Spectator.

In 1836 Harper began serving as a state legislator and, in 1840, filled a year’s term as Staunton’s mayor. When the U.S. went to war with Mexico in 1846, Harper was appointed a captain in the 1st Virginia Infantry, commanding the Augusta County volunteers in the northern frontier of Mexico.

Although he never saw action, his “soldierly demeanor was so marked” that he was promoted to the rank of brigadier general and given a military governorship in Parras, Northern Mexico. He was officially commended for the manner in which he conducted himself in that post.

Mustered out of service in 1848, Harper returned to Staunton where he sold the Spectator to the Waddell family. Soon he was appointed under President Millard Fillmore as U.S. agent to the Chicasaws at Fort Washita in the Indian Territory, a post he administered with distinction. His service there led to an appointment as assistant to the Secretary of the Interior — a post held by another Staunton resident, Alexander H.H. Stuart.

At the end of his term, Harper returned to Staunton where he worked his Augusta County farm, “Glen Allen,” and served as the president of the Bank of the Valley. By 1860 he was a major general in the Virginia state militia, a post that led to his military involvement in the Civil War.

After Jackson refused him permission to visit his dying wife, Harper resigned his commission and returned to Staunton for her funeral. He was again elected into the state legislature and, in 1864, was re-appointed as a colonel. Forming a regiment from reservist companies, he led them in battle at Piedmont and again at Waynesboro.

Two years after the war, Harper contracted pneumonia. Some of his last words were reported as, “I would not live always; I ask not to stay.” He died on Christmas Day, 1867.

Upon his death, the newspaper he had founded wrote, “His memory we should not willingly let die, his example of a virtuous life and peaceful death should long remain to point to each of us the lesson of the fineness he so truly illustrated.”

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W. C. Tunstall, Co. D, 5th AL

7 11 2009

Reader Maxwell Elebash of Tuscaloosa, AL provided this letter written by his ancestor, and wrote the below biographical sketch:

Wiley Croom Tunstall was born 16 Dec. 1839 in Greensboro, AL (then Greene County but now Hale). His parents were Dr. James L. Tunstall of King William Co. VA and Eliza Ann Croom. He married Augusta Elizabeth Hobson (sister of Edwin L. Hobson of 5th Alabama) 10 Dec. 1862. They had five children. I am descended from their daughter Cammie Tunstall.

Wiley attended the University of Alabama and also Hampden-Sydney College. Post war he was a cotton planter in Hale County, member of the Alabama Legislature and served as Railroad Commissioner 1885-1895. He died in Anniston, AL 8 Aug. 1916 and is buried in Greensboro Cemetery.

Interestingly one of his wife’s sisters was married to Sydenham Moore, Col. of the 11th Alabama Inf. was MWIA at Seven Pines. Her mother was a sister of Lt. Col. John Clarke Mounger of the 9th Georgia Infantry KIA at Gettysburg attacking the Wheatfield on day two. One of Mounger’s sons was killed at Chancellorsville (14th Georgia Inf.) and the remaining two were killed in the Wilderness (8th Georgia Inf.).

Per G. Ward Hughes (ed.), Voices from Company D: Diaries by the Greensboro Guards, Fifth Alabama Infantry Regiment, Army of Northern Virginia:

Tunstall, Wiley C. (c. 1840, Alabama-1916).  In 1860 living with his mother, who reported $40,000 in real estate and $90,000 in personal estate, including eighty-six slaves; enlisted April 25, 1861, in Greensboro; third lieutenant in April 1862; resigned in October, 1862, citing chronic diarrhea; in 1880 married with five children.

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Charles D. Lyon and a Call for Stuff

19 08 2009

There’s a new biographical sketch of Lt. Charles D. Lyon of the 3rd Michigan Infantry up at Men of the Third Michigan Infantry.  The sketch includes an excerpt letter that the site owner attributes to Lyon, reprinted in the Grand Rapids Enquirer in July, 1861, describing the action at Blackburn’s Ford on July 18.  Check it out.  If anyone has the article and would like to share it for inclusion in the Resources here, let me know.  In fact, if you have any newspaper articles, letters, diaries or memoirs you’d like to contribute to the Resources, by all means drop me a line!





Daniel Webster Littlefield

3 08 2009

Steve Soper over at Third Michigan Infantry Research Project has put up a biography of Daniel Webster Littlefield, who was present with the regiment at First Bull Run.  The post includes a letter from Littlefield that covers July 11-21, 1861.  I’m trying to get permission to include the letter and bio here as part of the resources, but am having some trouble getting in touch with Steve.  Check out his blog, which showcases a growing database of biographical information on members of the regiment.





Henry W. Kingsbury

1 08 2009

Perhaps best known for his death at 26 while leading his 11th CT at the lower bridge at Antietam, in July 1861 Henry Walter Kingsbury was an aide to Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell.  Keep in mind that there were two West Point classes of 1861, the first of which graduated after five years, the second after four.

Thanks to Brian Downey for sending me a link to an article on Kingsbury in Military Images magazine.  Go here to read it.  Various cool tidbits in there.  After Kingsbury’s father’s death in 1856, Simon Buckner and Ambrose Burnside became young Henry’s legal guardians.  Henry’s command was part of Burnside’s 9th Corps at Antietam, and the General visited him at his deathbed.  Also Confederate general David R. “Neighbor” Jones was Henry’s brother-in-law (I need to check out these in-law connections a little more).  After Antietam Jones developed a serious heart condition from which he never recovered, and he died on January 15, 1863.  Some have said his illness was brought on by distress caused by the knowledge that it was against his own division Kingsbury was fighting when he received his wounds.  Jones commanded a brigade in Beauregard’s army at Bull Run.

This article was originally published on 3/21/2007, as part of the Henry Walter Kingsbury biographical sketch.





Nathan G. Evans

1 08 2009

Colonel Nathan “Shanks” Evans commanded the Seventh Brigade in Beauregard’s Army of the Potomac at Bull Run.  His command is often referred to as a demi-brigade due to its size: it consisted of one full regiment, the 4th SC, Wheat’s 1st Special Louisiana Battalion, Alexander’s and Terry’s troops of the 30th VA Cavalry, and one section of Latham’s battery.  All told, he had about 1,100 infantrymen with him on the far left of the Confederate line on the morning of July 21, 1861.  But what he managed to do with those men made him, for a time, a hero. 

Using the advantages of terrain, Evans managed to hold back Burnside’s men until reinforced by Bee and Bartow, which in turn gave Johnston and Beauregard time to send much of their widespread and late arriving manpower to Henry Hill.  He would follow up this success later in the year with a victory as the commander of the Confederate forces engaged at Ball’s Bluff, also known as the Battle of Leesburg.  That action would earn him the thanks of the Confederate Congress.

 But today Evans is probably best known not for his military achievments early in the war, but rather for his “barellita”, a one gallon jug of whiskey carried by an aide that accompanied him in camp and field.  His reputation as a hard drinker dogged him throughout his Confederate career, and perhaps played a role in his slow promotion and a series of transfers that earned his men the sobriquet of “The Tramp Brigade”.  He would end the war without a command and in relative obscurity.

Evans’s penchant for drink was a widely held impression from early on.  In a letter to his mother written 10/18/1861, Longstreet staffer T. J. Goree wrote:

[Evans] is very much censured for not attacking [an isolated Federal force a few days after Ball’s Bluff], but the truth of the matter is he was so elated by his victory at Leesburg that he got a little drunker than usual, and was consequently not in a condition to do anything.  Some of the officers under him speak of preferring charges against him.  Genl Evans is one of the bravest men I ever saw, and is no doubt a good officer when sober, but he is unfortunately almost always under the influence of liquor.  Cutrer, ed., Longstreet’s Aide: The Civil War Letters of Major Thomas Goree, p 51

 As for the photo below, I have no idea what’s going on there, but the two men are holding hands.  As I said here, things were different back then.  I think.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

evans2

This article was originally published on 9/13/2007, as part of the Nathan George Evans biographical sketch.





Daniel Tyler

30 07 2009

Brian Downey made this recent post on Lt. Joseph Audenried, who served as an aide to Daniel Tyler at Bull Run.  Be sure to read it – I’ll be incorporating some of it into my own sketch of Audenried.  Good stuff, even a sex scandal.  Hmmm…I wonder if typing those two words will generate more hits for this blog?

Tyler is something of an enigma.  He was McDowell’s most senior division commander, despite having been retired from the army for 27 years.  During the 15 years he spent in the uniform of the United States, he managed to rise to the rank of 1st Lieutenant, and he did not feel compelled to reenter the service for the war with Mexico.  His actions on July 18th at Blackburn’s Ford (at the time referred to as The Battle of Bull Run) had a profound impact on the campaign, as did his decisions on the 21st.  I’ll have plenty to say about Tyler later.  Note that at the time of the battle he was a Brig. Gen. of Connecticut militia.

This article was originally posted on 4/12/2007, as part of the Daniel Tyler biographical sketch.








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