#82h – Colonel Kenton Harper

7 05 2023

Report of Colonel Kenton Harper, Fifth Virginia



Exactly What the Fifth Virginia Regiment Did at First Manassas




His Report Sent in to General Jackson the Day After the Battle


I present below a very valuable and never before published paper. It is the report of Colonel Kenton Harper, of the Fifth Virginia Infantry, Jackson’s brigade, of the first battle of Manassas, In General Jackson’s report, which appears on the war records, he speaks of the reports of regimental commanders as enclosed. His regimental commanders were Second Virginia, Colonel Allen; Fourth, Colonel J. F. Preston; Fifth, Colonel Kenton Harper; Twenty-seventh, Lieutenant-Colonel John Echols; and Thirty-third, Colonel Arthur Cummings. However, the reports do not appear, and not one of them has ever been discovered. This report was sent me by Captain James Baumgardner, of Staunton, Va., who at the first battle of Manassas was adjutant of Colonel Harper’s regiment, and he obtained it from Mr. L. D. Hooper, a grandson of Colonel Harper, who very graciously allowed him to have it.

The report, it seems, was found amongst the papers of Colonel harper, who has been many years deceased. He was a captain in the Mexican war and a general in our State forces, and he, then an old man, led his regiment at Manassas in a manner that was distinction for himself and made its impression on the fortunes of the field.

The article of Captain Baumgardner in The Times-Dispatch on the Fifth Virginia Infantry at Manassas, attracted the attention of Mr. Hooper and brought about the production of this report. To Captain Baumgardner, as well as to Mr. Hooper, I am much indebted; and it is to be hoped that the efforts of the Times-Dispatch to rescue Virginia History from neglect, will be farther successful in similar ways.

John. W. Daniel


Copy of Original Document

Headquarters Fifth Infantry
Camp Jackson, July 22, 1861

General[1],–In compliance with your order, I respectfully submit the following report of the part taken by my command, the Fifth Regiment of Virginia Infantry, which forms part of your brigade, in the action of yesterday, 21st instant.

About 4 A.M. I repaired as directed by you to the position occupied by General Longstreet, where I held my command for some considerable time, in anticipation of an advance of the enemy on that point, until it became manifest to you that the demonstration made was but a feint. Under your orders I then reunited with the rest of your brigade and moved to a position on the right of General Cocke’s and in rear of Colonel Bartoe’s command, where I remained about one hour. My regiment was again reunited to the brigade and advanced to a position in rare of General Bee’s brigade. Here I was ordered to advance to support of a battery then being brought into a position on my left. My instructions were to hold on to the position until the enemy approached over the crest of the hill, which would bring them within about fifty yards, when I was to fire upon them and charge. This order I executed in part, though subjected to an annoying fire of artillery and musketry, sheltering my men as best I could in my position of inactivity. Very soon, however, our forces in front began to give way and retreated in numbers by my flanks and through my files. Finding it impossible under such circumstances to execute your order, I concluded to advance my regiment to the brow of the hill, to ascertain what I could there effect for the support of our friends. Seeing the enemy were not within five or six hundred yards of the line, and that many of our troops were still in the front, I determined to fall back upon my original position, to avoid the danger of firing upon our friends, which I did,

There I halted the command in good order, but soon the increasing number of our retiring friends, who paid little regard to my lines, induced me to make a second advance. On reaching the top of the hill, however, I found the enemy advancing from different points, and after a brief contest, I again retired to my first position, and subsequently fell back through the skirt of woods in my rear.

Here I found General Bee actively engaged in an effort to rally his scattered forces, in which he partially succeeded. I at once approached him and offered my co-operation. Very soon, however, General Beauregard appeared on the field, under whose orders I subsequently acted. We advanced at once upon the enemy, keeping up a brisk and effective fire, which caused them to give way.

After regaining the summit of the hill I ordered a charge to be made upon a battery of six pieces, commanded by Captain Ricketts, but such was the eagerness of the men in keeping up their fire upon the retiring foe, I could rally only a portion of the command to the work. At this juncture a considerable number of our troops of different commands had rallied on my left and formed perpendicularly to my line – who were seemingly inactive. I dispatched my adjutant to inform them of my purpose and invite their co-operation which was promptly given. My own men on the right being nearer to the battery reached it first, driving the enemy by their fire in advancing upon the pieces. T wo of my men were wounded at the guns.

I immediately called upon my command to know whether any of them could manage them and receiving no response, I advanced my regiment to a hill on the right where Colonel Robert Preston’s regiment was stationed.

There being no enemy, however, in that direction against whom we could operate, orders were received from General Beauregard to move towards Centreville by way of the stone bridge. While passing by the battery, I found it operating against the retiring enemy in the distance. This, I am informed, was done by order of Colonel James F. Preston, of our brigade., who it appears had been cooperating with me with a portion of his command.

After passing beyond the stone bridge the troops were halted and held together until near sunset when my command was marched back to Manassas Junction.

I have only to add the expression of my warm acknowledgments to Lieutenant-Colonels Harman and Baylor for their earnest and hearty co-operation throughout the protracted conflict, as well as to the adjutant and officers and men generally of the command. The loss of the regiment was six killed, forty-seven wounded and thirteen missing.

With high respect,
Your obedient servant,
Colonel Fifth Infantry

GEN’L T. J. Jackson
Comg. First Va. Brigade


General: Colonel Harper, of the Fifth Virginia Regiment. respectfully requests that the wounded of his regiment, residing in Staunton, be sent thither, at once, for treatment and attention of their relatives.

Respectfully Your obedient servant,
Colonel Fifth Va. Infantry

July 22, 1861.

For General Beauregard.



Richmond Times Dispatch, May 7, 1905

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Contributed and transcribed by John Hennessy

Letter image

[1] Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Jackson

Kenton Harper at Ancestry

Kenton Harper at Fold3

Kenton Harper at FindAGrave

Kenton Harper at Wikipedia

Image: Sgt. George Washington Kurtz, Co. K, 5th Virginia Infantry

5 10 2022
George Washington Kurtz, Co. K, 5th Virginia Infantry (Courtesy of Dennis Headlee)

George Washington Kurtz at Ancestry

George Washington Kurtz at Fold3

George Washington Kurtz at FindAGrave

Unit History – 5th Virginia Infantry

31 05 2022

Was organized in May, 1861, under Colonel K. Harper. Eight companies were from Augusta County and two from Frederick County. The unit became part of the Stonewall Brigade, and served under Generals T. J. Jackson, R. B. Garnett, Winder, Paxton, J. A. Walker, and W. Terry. It saw action at First Manassas, First Kernstown, and in Jackson’s Valley Campaign. Later the 5th participated in the campaigns of the Army of Northern Virginia from the Seven Days’ Battles to Cold Harbor, then was active in Early’s Shenandoah Valley operations and around Appomattox. It reported 9 killed, 48 wounded, and 4 missing at First Kernstown, had 4 killed, 89 wounded, and 20 missing at Cross Keys and Port Republic, and suffered 14 killed and 91 wounded at Second Manassas. The unit sustained 120 casualties at Chancellorsville and of the 345 engaged at Gettysburg, sixteen percent were disabled. It surrendered 8 officers and 48 men. The field officers were Colonels William S. H. Baylor, John H. S. Funk, William H. Harman, and Kenton Harper; Lieutenant Colonel Hazel J. Williams; and Majors Absalom Koiner and James W. Newton.

From Joseph H. Crute, Jr., Units of the Confederate States Army, p. 357

Image: Capt. Asher Waterman Harman, Co. G, 5th Virginia Infantry

4 08 2021
Asher Waterman Harman (From FindAGrave)

Capt. Asher Waterman Harman, Co. G, 5th Virginia Infantry, On the Victory

3 08 2021

Camp Jackson, July 25th, 1861

My dear Wife,

It has been a long, long time since I have received a letter from you. I know that it is not your fault, but that makes me the no less anxious to hear from you directly. I went to the Junction last night & was informed that the mail wouldn’t be opened until this morning & when I sent this morning was informed it would not be ready before 10 o’clock. John went in this morning & I am in hopes that he will bring me a letter from you. I know I am anxious. You were & are still to hear from me. I have done my part to communicate with you and have written daily. Some of my letters must have reached & relieved your mind on my account. We have been comparatively quiet for three days now, and we are down to our usual drill daily, & our orders has just come in to cook three days rations which does indicate a movement somewhere, though we may stay here for a week or so yet. Our forces are pressing on towards Alexandria. It seems now that Lion is to be herded in his den, and I think we may yet see the White House & Lincoln before we return to the Valley. Nothing would afford me so much pleasure. The newspaper accounts of the dead, wounded & prisoners of the enemy are moderate, also of wagons & army stores. It is almost incredible one can hardly believe their own eyes at the extraordinary sights. This has been a terrible disaster for them & will take millions of money for them to replace, if they even can their heavy losses. The results of this battle must change the face of the war. Their forces cannot penetrate into the State with a victorious army pressing on Washington & ready at a moment’s warning to be hurled on the rear of them. Such a course on their part would be fatal & render their destruction more than certain. I have no fears now for the final result of the contest. We have proven our superiority over even their Regular forces. Don’t think I am too confident. God is on our side. His finger is pointed direct to the late battlefield and speaks in tones of thunder his approval of our great cause & dare could it be otherwise. Are we not fighting for all we hold dear on this earth, and what is life worth, if we fail. I would not give a fig for it, but enough of this. Long before this you have seen Asher, Graham & Stafford & they have given you all the particulars from this Quarter & about me. Tell Willy he ought just to see the dead Yankees & Yankee prisoners. Father’s boys slayed a lot of them too & fought like wild cats. I am very anxious to hear from Michael. I want by all means to go into his regiment if I can get there. I think he has influence enough to have me there. William is especially anxious to go too. I hope we will all be together. When the horse gets home, if you need him, which I don’t think you do, as two horse plow teams will do the work, keep him, if not, Michael will dispose of him for me again. Bagly will let you have another hand if you need him. You will know best. Tell William or Mr. Dull to have the wheat land ploughed early & the land put in fine order so that the wheat will have a good start. I meant for you to get the Mediterranean wheat from Michael. Only seed as much in white wheat as will make bread for ourselves, say 8 or 10 acres. Sew our own Bouten wheat & the Med. from Michael. I am so anxious to get a letter from you, it seems like a mighty long time. Bearing the water, we are getting on very well, that is miserable & scarce. We suffer for it, but hope to be moved soon to a better place. Did we make much hay. How does the stock look. I hear that we have had a fine season and that the corn looks well. Hope our fall pasture will be good. Try & make a clover seed enough for ourselves. The Timothy seed you will have to buy. There is two bushels at home & five bushels more will do. Don’t sew the new ground in grass this fall. Leave it until next fall. Keep all stock off of the young grass except the colts & calves & don’t let them stay on in wet weather. Do with the wheat just as Michael advised. Remember me to the servants. How does Albert, Ned, Marshall, Fanny & Philbert come on. Hope they are all good. Mind me to Miss Sally & Mr. Dull. Good bye. God less you. Kiss my darling babies for me. Love to Lucy. Kind regards to Mrs. Donaghe. Love to Mary, Betty, Fanny & Corey. Hoping to get a letter from you soon.

I am as ever your fond & devoted Husband,

Asher W.H.

Have you seen my wounded men. I tried to send Doyle home this morning but could not. He has typhoid fever. Will send him up tomorrow. No news. Tom ate dinner with me today & is here now. Will & I are both well. Tom Gates is coming to stay with me.



Contributed by Eric Mink

The original letter and transcript were found by Eric Mink on the website of War Between the States Militaria July 2013.

Asher W. Harman at Ancestry

Asher W. Harman at Fold3

Asher W. Harman at FindAGrave

Image: Officers of West Augusta Guards (Later Co. L, 5th Virginia Infantry)

10 08 2020


Seated, left to right: Lt. James Bumgardner, Jr.; Lt. Henry K. Cochran; Lt. Thomas J. Burke; Lt. James H. Waters. Standing, Capt. W. S. H. Baylor (Source)

Capt. James Hurley Waters, Co. L, 5th Virginia Infantry, On the Death of Pvt. Joab Horace Seely. Co. L, 5th Virginia Infantry

9 08 2020

The following feeling and well deserved tributes to the memory of Jaob Horace Seely, a brave and noble soldier, written by W. S. H. Baylor, Major of the 5th Virginia Regiment, and James H. Waters, Captain of the West Augusta Guards, will cause a thrill of sorrow to fill the hearts of all who knew the deceased:

Manassa Junction, July 22d, 1861.

Mrs. Seely: – Yesterday’s train brought you the body of a brave son who died a hero in defence of his home – your home – the home of us all. His loss cast a deep gloom over every one, and the laurels of our victory droop when we remember how dear a friend and noble soldier we have lost. I was in advance, by his side, and at all times during the battle near him, and I never saw more coolness or bravery in all my life. When he fell he was but a few steps from me, fighting where the battle was the heaviest and the bullets flew the thickest, and just before he fell he remarked, “If I get killed in this fight, tell my Mother that I died a brave man.” The night before the battle I knelt by his side at a prayer meeting held by our Company, where some of his comrades offered up earnest petitions to the great and good Father above for the safety of our bodies and souls, and we all sung praises to Him who ruleth the armies of earth as well as the skies. I have watched your son for a long time, and I knew him to be a good Christian man; so you “do not mourn as one without hope.” Be comforted – weep not for his loss – he is now in a happier land, where there are no more wars for parting, but all one glorious, happy rejoicing.

Joab was the favorite of all his companions and of all who met with him, and many a tear was shed on the battle-field when death was waging all around to hear of the fall of two of our noble men, and we intend, when his name is called upon the roll of the Company, his companions will answer for him, “He died a brave man upon the battle-field.”

I will send you all that was in his knapsack, and hope you will all try and bear up under this deep affliction that you are called upon to bear, and may God in His mercy comfort your hearts and give you the strength to bear up under the loss of your only and dearly beloved son. In conclusion, accept my best wishes for a great deal of health and prosperity.

I am, with respect, yours,
James H. Waters, Capt., W. A. G.,
Comp. L. 5th Regiment.

Staunton (VA) Spectator, 8/20/1861

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Website dedicated to the West Augusta Guards (Co. L) 

James H. Waters at Ancestry 

James H. Waters at Fold3 

James H. Waters at FindAGrave 

Joab Horace Seely at Ancestry 

Joab Horace Seely at Fold3 

Maj. William Smith Hanger Baylor, 5th Virginia Infantry, On the Death of Pvt. Joab Horace Seely. Co. L, 5th Virginia Infantry

9 08 2020

The following feeling and well deserved tributes to the memory of Jaob Horace Seely, a brave and noble soldier, written by W. S. H. Baylor, Major of the 5th Virginia Regiment, and James H. Waters, Captain of the West Augusta Guards, will cause a thrill of sorrow to fill the hearts of all who knew the deceased:

Manassas, July 22d, 1861.

My Dear Mrs. Seely: – Your dead son reaches you to-day, and I feel it my duty to speak a word of comfort to you. Poor Joab fell nobly in advance of his companions, gallantly charging upon the enemy. His course during the fight was that of a hero. He fought bravely – died nobly. Do not mourn his loss too much, God has taken him to his home. You know how good a boy he was; as he lived so he died. God will raise you up friends to fill his place, and I pray He will comfort you in your bereavement.

Your noble boy is dead, but be it your consolation that he died fighting for liberty – a martyr to the glorious cause.

Your friend,

P. S. – But a few moments before Joab fell, he said to his friend, Mr. Joseph N. Ryan, who was fighting by his side – “I am prepared to die – I expect to die – if I do and you live, tell my Mother I died fighting bravely.” These are glorious words for a dying soldier to use.

W. S. H. B.

Staunton (VA) Spectator, 8/20/1861

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W. S. H. Baylor at Wikipedia 

W. S. H. Baylor at Ancestry 

W. S. H. Baylor at Fold3 

W. S. H. Baylor at FindAGrave 

Joab Horace Seely at Ancestry 

Joab Horace Seely at Fold3 

“Staunton,” 5th Virginia Infantry, On the Battle

17 07 2020


Camp Near Manassas, July 31.

I take the liberty of asking a small space in your valuable paper to do honor to a regiment which has been entirely neglected in the accounts of the battle of July 21st. No notice has been taken of the Fifth Virginia Regiment or its gallant and brave commanders, Colonels Harper and Harman, and Major Baylor, or its heroic captains and men, who participated in that memorable conflict. The regiment was in the hottest of the fight for many hours. Captain A. W. Harman, of the Staunton Rifles (Company G,) was the first man who took possession of Sherman’s celebrated Battery, (six pieces,) and kept it. I should have noticed this before, but have been unable in consequence of sickness since the fight. Knowing that it is your principle to accord merit where merit is due, I hope you will oblige the Fifth by publishing the foregoing.


Richmond (VA) Dispatch, 8/3/1861

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Unknown, 5th Virginia Infantry, On the Battle

19 04 2020

The Fifth Virginia Regiment in the Battle of Manassas.

Early Sunday we were aroused by the drum beating the long roll, and we immediately formed inline of battle. Soon the enemy commenced a heavy cannonading on our right, which our accomplished General soon discovered to be a feint made by the enemy to attract our attention in that quarter, while their real attack would be made on the extreme left. We were immediately ordered to take position several miles to the left. We had not been in position long, before it became evident we were in a warm neighborhood. The enemy’s artillery, just in our front, but hid from our sight by a skirt of woods and an eminence between us, thundered forth it deadly missiles, and presently, too, the sharp, ringing crack of the rifle was heard, showing that the advance guard of skirmishers had met. Cavalry scouts could be seen, galloping within the lines, when a terrible volley of musketry, immediately in our front, assured us that the ball had been opened, and the fight had commenced in right good order.

Between 9 and 10 o’clock A. M., the enemy, in tremendous force, advanced his right against our left, with the view of turning our left wing and getting position in the rear of the “Junction.” They were met by several South Carolina regiments (including Hampton’s Legion) and the Alabama 4th, our regiment (the 5th Virginia) being held in reserve; but soon we were ordered forward to support the 4th Alabama. On our way to take position on a hill we were met by a person from a South Carolina regiment who had been compelled to fall back by an overwhelming force, and who informed us that the 4th Alabama was being literally cut to pieces. Here, also, we met two pieces of the Washington (La.) Artillery retiring, having expended their stock of ammunition. This was by no means encouraging, but we felt the necessity of greater exertion on our part, and forward we rushed to the assistance of our friends. Amid a perfect shower of musketry and cannon balls the command to halt and lie down was given, as it was impossible for us to return the enemy’s fire, they being completely sheltered by the hill. Not being able to return the enemy’s fire, or even see them our men cried out to be led forward or taken back to the foot of the hill; but out gallant Col. Harper assured us that he had no orders to advance, but was ordered to occupy this position until the enemy should make their appearance, when we were to fire and charge bayonets.

Finally, the order to advance was given, and under a perfect shower of shell and shot we arose and started up the hill. A portion of our regiment misunderstanding the order, we were thrown into temporary confusion; but soon rallied, and our gallant Major Wm. S. H. Baylor, taking the lead we rushed forward and gained the position on the hill behind some old houses. Before we gained the position, however, the Fourth Alabama Regiment had been compelled to retreat, and we found ourselves face to face with a powerful force of the enemy, and conspicuous among them was the famous Ellsworth Zouaves. Just in front was the Second New York Regiment. On the left of them the Zouaves were stationed, while on our right, and completely flanking us, was the First or Second Maine Regiment. We fired a telling volley of musketry into the regiment in our front, which drove them rapidly to the rear. This drew the fire of those on our left upon us, and we engaged with them, the Maine regiment on our right, (whom we supposed at first to be friends,) advanced rapidly upon us, and sheltering themselves by lying down behind a fence, they poured a most destructive fire into our ranks, and here some of our best and bravest men fell. Here the noble and brave Billy Wodward exclaimed, “I will never retreat. ‘Give me liberty or give me death.’” His lips had scarcely given utterance to these heroic words, when a ball pierced his brave heart. It soon became evident that with our single regiment it was impossible to maintain this position, exposed as we were to a centre and two raking flank fires from at least four times out number.

We therefore fell back to a skirt of woods some hundred yards in the rear, where we were joined by a portion of the Alabama 4th, who had fought so gallantly and suffered so terribly at the house on the hill before we came up. A portion of a South Carolina regiment also joined in with us here, and during the rest of the evening we fought side by side.

In every part of the field the contest now raged, and desperate efforts were made by each party to gain some decided advantage, without apparent success, though they greatly outnumbered us, and I looked on at the terribly and desperate strife without being able in my own mind to determine which would be victorious.

Greatly to the encouragement of our brave troops, who were so heroically struggling against superior numbers, several fresh batteries made their appearances and took position on an eminence just to our left.

These opened upon the enemy, whose main column was sheltered behind a gradually sloping hill, thickly covered by small timber, and protected by a part of the celebrated Sherman Battery. A tremendous cannonading now took place that far surpassed anything I ever imagined. It appeared to me as if Heaven and earth were being rent asunder, so terrible was the crash and roar of the monster instruments of death. Several times the enemy attempted to rally for a charge on our batteries; but whenever their lines came within the terrible discharges of round shot and canister from our batteries swept them like chaff before the wind, their long and splendidly formed lines fairly melting away. Yet the tremendous force before us seemed not to diminish, and every inch of ground was contested with sullen and determined force, our brave troops fighting with renewed energy and vigor. Being parched with thirst and almost exhausted, I ran down to what appeared to be a branch or mud hole, and drank copiously of the muddy water, and was just returning to my regiment when I met Gen. Johnston, who inquired of me to what regiment I belonged. – I told him. He then inquired how Gen. Jackson’s Brigade was getting along. I told him we were fighting bravely and well, but against large odds, and needed help. He at once said, go join your regiment and tell then to hold their position, and in a few moments I will send reinforcements to their aid. I hurried back to my regiment with a lighter heart than I left it.

On reaching the top of the hill, I could see in the direction of Manassas Junction a large column of men approaching, and filing past then, with the swiftness of the wind, was a splendid body of cavalry, numbering possibly a thousand. These came rushing on like a mighty torrent, with drawn sabres glittering in the evening’s bright sunbeams, mounted on steeds which seemed to be maddened by the contest that was being waged by man against fellow man. I soon recognized this to be the splendid body of Cavalry commanded by the gallant Col. Stuart, of which the excellent company from Augusta (Capt. Patrick’s) forms a part. In the meantime, Gen. Beauregard appeared on the field in person and approaching our regiment inquired who we were, and on being informed, he addressed is in the following cheering language: “Fight on, beave Virginia boys; the day is ours everywhere else, and it must be here also.” He then commanded us to follow him, and, with a loud cheer, we rushed forward, determined to do as commanded, or die.

By this time Sherman’s battery had evidently become somewhat disabled, and had slackened its fire a little. Our course was turned directly in that direction. We reached the top of an eminence, fired a volley and at a charge bayonets rushed down upon it. We found that every horse attached to a battery was either killed or disabled and not a man, except the dead and wounded were left within the guns.

Almost every company of the regiment claim the credit of first reaching the battery. I would not do injustice to any. But a proper regard to truth, and honor to whom honor is due in this particular act, compels me to say that the left of the regiment, under command of Major Baylor, was the first to reach the immediate vicinity of the battery, and corporals R. T. Bucher, of the West Augustus Guards, Capt. Waters, and John Sutz, of the Augusta Rifles, Capt. Antrim, were the first men to reach the captured guns. – Corporal Pucher* sprang astride one of the pieces and fired his musket at the retreating enemy.

By this time the reinforcements I referred to coming from the direction of Manassas, had arrived on the ground, and, unperceived either by us or the enemy, marched rapidly to our left and to the right of the Federal forces under cover of a skirt of woods. These troops consisted of three Tennessee and one Virginia regiments; from this position they poured into the ranks of the enemy (who were partly concealed by thick undergrowth,) the most terrible and deadly volley of musketry I ever witnessed; and then, with a shout that rent the air, they rushed in one grand sweeping charge upon them. The enemy, terror stricken, broke ranks and fled in the wildest confusion over the hill; the cavalry charged upon them, sending terror and dismay among their already confused and broken ranks; the guns of the captured batteries were turned against them; batteries were run upon eminences which commanded roads along which they retreated, and which raked and crushed their disordered columns dreadfully, and shout after shout rent the air from the victorious Southern troops.

Staunton (VA) Spectator, 8/27/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

*Misspelled Bucher (Robert F. from preceding sentence, KIA Spotsylvania, 5/12/64).