Some small mysteries…

As I work my way through the battle piece by piece, I come across small pieces of information that leave lingering questions. these might not be mysteries, really, but they do usually set me off on a side trail as I seek the answers. Not every question has a satisfactory answer, however.

First comes the tale of Tazewell Newman. Newman was a Tennessee politician, Speaker of the Tennessee House from 1859-61. This suggests that he would be a prominent man, and he was, early in the war. He was the first colonel of the 17th Tennessee, with a commission dating from June 1861. He also had Mexican War Experience.

However, in May of 62, Newman was not re-elected as Colonel of the 17th; the men instead replaced him with the Lieutenant Colonel, T.C.H. Miller. I have found no reason for this change, but can surmise a few things: For example, the 17th was first issued flintlocks, taking them with great reluctance and only with the promise that they would receive more modern arms. Of course, that promise was not speedily kept. The 17th had to endure the disaster at Mill Springs with decidedly inferior arms, which caused a great deal of disgruntlement in the ranks.

In any case, Newman was out of a job, and out of the army. He next raised the 23rd Tennessee battalion, becoming Major of that outfit in November 1862. The 23rd was a mix of two veteran companies, transferred from other units, and three companies of new men. It saw no combat until Chickamauga. There, early in the fight, Newman was wounded and command devolved upon Captain W. P. Simpson. By the time Newman recovered from his wound, the 23rd had been consolidated with the 45th Tennessee, and while Newman was carried on the rolls of the new organization, he was placed on detached duty for the rest of the war.

His combat career was an enigma. A couple of brief mentions, and then he’s gone. I have not been able to find what detached duty he was performing. It’s possible that his wound was so disabling that he could not take the field again. (He died in 1868, in part at least from that wound, according to what biographical information I could find.) However, it’s also possible that he simply did not measure up as a combat commander, and the lack of the usual effusion of praise heaped upon fallen warrriors makes me wonder.

Next up is the tale of Private Harry Barger, Company I, 25th Arkansas. Private Barger did well enough at Chickamauga to draw the notice of his brigade commander, Colonel David Coleman. Barger is credited with capturing a Union flag (possibly that of the 8th Kansas) probably on September 20th. This was apparently a significant deed, since in October 1862, Private Barger was promoted to Sergeant.

However, Barger did not keep his trophy. In an addendem to the brigade report, Coleman noted that the flag was taken from Barger “by force” by a Lieutenant from Manigault’s Brigade, who apparently desired the trophy for himself. None of the reports from Manigault’s command, however, note the capture of a Federal color, making it hard to figure out what happened to this flag or whom it belonged to.

To further complicate matters, the 8th Kansas did not report losing a flag. Nor is there any mention of it in the postwar accounts, or in the recent regimental history.

All in all, poor Private (soon to be Sergeant) Barger’s experience leaves a number of lingering questions. I wish I could answer them.

Maybe someday. Anyone got any more information?

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8 Responses to “Some small mysteries…”

  1. Lee White Says:

    Dave, Might have a possibility for you on the flag, Walker took a flag at Chickamauga, it was an artillery guidon for Battery I, 4th US.

  2. Dave Powell Says:

    Lee,

    That’s really interesting. Barker could have taken a flag from the 8th Kansas either on the 19th or 20th, since he was near that unit at some point on both days. He was not near I 4US at all on the 19th, and they were both only on Horseshoe Ridge on the afternoon of the 20th, but still several hundred yards apart.

    Manigault might have had a chance to grab an 8th Kansas flag on the 20th, though Deas’ men had a better shot. His brigade is also on the far end of Horseshoe Ridge from Smith’s guns, even farther away than any of McNair/Coleman’s men are.

    Ending up with a flag for Battery I seems a bit problematic in itself. Does Walker offer any more detail?

    And would he take it from a private at gunpoint? That seems a bit churlish.

  3. Miriam Houk-Cunningham Says:

    Dear Dave,
    I am an avid reader of your blog and an attendee of your Chickamauga study groups. I have not yet read or heard of your thoughts on how Union and Confederate commanders and their staff functioned during campaigns and battles. How did CW commanders exercise command? What was the role of their staff? Douglas Freeman in Lee’s Lieutenants covered this in Vol.2 but it was mainly biographical. He did not tell me a great deal about what staff actually did. Please explore this subject with a mention of how a commander chose his staff and what his choices told us about him as a commander. Your insight on this will be deeply appreciated. Thank you.
    Miriam Houk-Cunningham

    • Dave Powell Says:

      Miriam,

      thanks, first of all, for your support.

      The staff idea is a good one, and I will address that soon.

      Dave

  4. Don Monroe Says:

    Capturing enemy flags was given an exaggerated importance throughout the Civil War. A majority of the recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor from that war were given the medal for “capturing” the colors of the enemy. In many, if not most cases, the “captured” colors would be lying in a ditch for the taking, or in the hands of a dead color bearer. The capture of enemy artillery pieces was also given a high importance, and rightly so. In the “fog of battle” the most tangible evidence of the fighting effectiveness of a unit consisted of: number of casualties; number of captured flags, swords, and guns; and whether a unit held its ground, gained ground, or ran. After-action reports were often cluttered up with who did what with regard to the above items of evidence. Politics always came into play with officers haggling over who did what and when. Please see: Chickamauga Report, by Major James E. Callaway, 21st Illinois, commanding 81st Indiana, for an example of a clear and concise after-action report.

    Cheers,
    Don

  5. Louis Mosier Says:

    I have no info on your mysteries, Dave, but I have some questions regarding another flag “mystery”:

    The 3d Battery Wisconsin history mentions the post-war absence of the battery guidon from the “Historical Rooms at Madison.” The history goes on to explain that the flag was on a baggage wagon during the Battle of Chickamauga (in which the battery lost 5 of its 6 guns but no caissons or wagons) and thus escaped capture, but was subsequently eaten by mules during the post-battle siege in Chattanooga.

    Were guidons/flags as big a deal for artillery as they were for infantry? You normally hear of battery guns captured or infantry flags captured, not battery flags captured.

    Were artillery guidons/colors normally flying up front with the guns, back with the caissons and wagons, or stowed for battle?

    Is it likely that starving mules ate the flag, or is it more likely that the battery colors were captured along with the 5 guns and 11 gunners but not reported as such to avoid the additional dishonor? I know that many, many horses and mules starved during the siege. (My relative–a driver in that battery–was detached Oct and Nov ’63 to Stevenson, AL (Ft Harker?) to be “in charge of Batty horses”, presumably where fodder was available to keep the remaining horses alive.) Do mules go all “billy-goat” and munch on whatever is in their reach when they’re starving?

    Not being very knowledgeable about the typical use of flags in the artillery batteries nor about the habits of starving mules, I’m not sure how much credence I should give to the anecdote.

  6. Dave Powell Says:

    Louis,

    It’s quite possible that the flag was eaten. Horses and mules will eat anything that will fill their bellies, if they are starving, and even well-fed horses will gnaw on wood, treebark, etc. if they are bored. I have seen the damage horses can do in a stable, and believe me, they are well fed.:)

    Most battery flags were guidons, not full flags. In the regulars and most volunteer forces, the Artillery Regiment had a set of colors, but individual batteries only had guidons. (One prominent exception was Bridges’ Battery, which had full-sized 6 foot national and state colors presented to them in the summer of 1863. Bridges’ Battery was an independent company, however, not attached to a regiment.) The guidon would move with the battery, usually the battery commander, the way a brigade or divisional pennant would follow their respective officers. Thus, they were often on the firing line.

    their capture was cause of note, and often earned plaudits, even if the full sized regimental flags were more prized. They were considered worthy of capture, but it was pretty rare.

  7. Michael Fein Says:

    The capture of a flag of the 8th KS is mentioned in the O.R. in Confederate BDE AAR (it was a combined ARK/NC BDE). And the number of flags belonging to the 8th KS Vols/8th KS Vet Vols at the KS State Hist. Society (3) would seem to indicate that one is missing. The C.O. of the 8th KS describes the actions of the color guard during a part of the battle in one of his speeches.

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