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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7 responses

6 03 2010
Brett Schulte - TOCWOC

Harry, this post brings to light a recurring question for me about current newspapers. Is reproducing a current article from a newspaper in its entirety copyright infringement if the articles are free to anyone online? I’ve got to believe the answer is no since you’ve done so here, but it was a gray area for me.


6 03 2010
Harry Smeltzer

I’m thinking it comes under fair use, but don’t quote me. I think as long as you give clear attribution it’s OK – I think news items are a little different from other commercial works. But again, don’t quote me.


8 03 2010
The Abraham Lincoln Observer

Harry & Brett: Attribution is great, but a lot depends on the newspaper or newspaper chain … For instance, I don’t think you want to reprint in full anything from a Murdoch paper — NY Post, Wall St. Journal, etc. Rupert is on the warpath about people reposting his papers’ products. Here’s what he said about Google, as reported this week in New York magazine: “… there are those who think they have a right to take our news content and use it for their own purposes without contributing a penny to its production … To be impolite, it’s theft.” (Full story here: http://nymag.com/news/media/64305/)

And here’s the conclusion of a column published along the same lines Friday in the Cincinnati Enquirer: “… We’re no longer willing to idly watch our good efforts stolen. In an attempt to track down such content parasites, The Enquirer and Cincinnati.Com now employ technology that scours the media landscape for illegal use of our content. In recent weeks, we have sent warnings to several blogs, Web sites and radio stations. We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore.” It’s not clear from the editorial whether, or how much, it would help if the Enquirer gets clear attribution. (Full article: http://news.cincinnati.com/article/20100305/COL26/3070301/)

I’m not endorsing either of those sentiments. In fact, our owners, GateHouse Media, use the Creative Commons approach, which — as I understand it — generally allows free non-commercial use of our material (though, obviously, we appreciate attribution). Everybody does it different. But I am saying there are media outlets that are pretty restrictive, and some of them are nasty about it. You probably want to look into an outlet’s philosophy before republishing entire articles.


8 03 2010
Harry Smeltzer

Thanks Mike,

As a rule, I don’t repost someone else’s original content here. I know a few bloggers who, as a rule, DO post other’s original content, usually with attribution. The only reason I did it this time was because it was a) posted on a non-pay site, b) was directly associated with Bull Run and c) might be gone from that URL tomorrow, rendering a simple link useless. If any one of these was not the case, I would not have copied the whole thing. But I think I should have asked for permission, and will do so in the future.


8 03 2010
Brett Schulte - TOCWOC


Thanks from me as well. It seems to be a pretty unclear subject. I think what I’ll do from now on is “collect” any newspaper articles I come across, posting a link and a few paragraphs at first, but going back and posting the whole thing later if it disappears. In any case, after hearing your stories about Murdoch et al, I’ll be asking each paper on an individual basis.


8 03 2010
The Abraham Lincoln Observer

Agreed about how frustrating it is to post a link and then have it go dead a month or too later. It’s happened to me with my own newspaper, Creative Commons or not. There are some papers that you can count on to keep links live — NY Times is solid, for instance. Otherwise, tho, I don’t have a good answer for that problem.


8 03 2010
The Abraham Lincoln Observer

a month or TWO. Gotta reread these posts first …


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