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Confederate (CSA)


John Alexander Harman

"Old John"
(1824 - 1874)
Home State: Virginia
Command Billet: Chief Quartermaster
Branch of Service: Supply
Unit: Jackson's Command

see his Battle Report


Before the Antietam Campaign:
Pre-war census information lists him as a butcher, Texas Ranger (!), farmer, and by 1860 a newspaper editor and, with his brothers, a stage line operator. He was Captain of a Virginia Militia company at the outbreak of the War. He was appointed QM Captain and Quartermaster of "Stonewall" Jackson's command at Harpers Ferry in May 1861, as that staff was first organized. He continued in that job for the duration of Jackson's career.1 He was promoted to Major in July 1861.

In the Antietam Campaign:
Of General Jackson, John Imboden wrote: "I never knew him to let profanity pass without a rebuke but once. The incident was reported to me by the chief actor in it, Major John A. Harman, who was Jackson's chief quartermaster, and a man of extraordinary qualifications. It happened at Edwards Ferry, on the Potomac, when our army was crossing into Maryland in the Antietam campaign. Major-General D. H. Hill's division was crossing, when Jackson rode up, and found the ford completely blocked with Hill's wagon-train. He spoke sharply to Hill (who was his brother-in-law, they having married sisters) for allowing such confusion. General Hill replied that he was not a quartermaster, or something that implied it was no part of his business to get tangled wagons out of the river. Jackson instantly put Hill in arrest, and, turning to Major Harman, ordered him to clear the ford. Harman dashed in among the wagoners, kicking mules, and (the) apparently inextricable mass of wagons, and, in the voice of a stentor, poured out a volume of oaths that would have excited the admiration of the most scientific mule-driver. The effect was electrical. The drivers were frightened and swore as best they could, but far below the Major's standard. The mules caught the inspiration from a chorus of familiar words, and all at once made a break for the Maryland shore, and in five minutes the ford was cleared. Jackson witnessed and heard it all. Harman rode back to join him, expecting a lecture, and, touching his hat, said: 'The ford is clear, General! There's only one language that will make mules understand on a hot day that they must get out of the water.' The General, smiling, said: 'Thank you, Major,' and dashed into the water at the head of his staff."2

The remainder of the War:
He continued as Corps Quartermaster under Jackson, and later Generals Ewell and Early.

References, Sources, and other notes:
Additional service and bio dates and details from Ayers, et al.3 "Old John" was the brother of William H. of the 5th Virginia Infantry, Thomas L. of the Staunton Artillery (KIA 9/15/1861), and Asher W., Colonel of the 12th Virginia Cavalry.

Birth Date: 02/29/1824    Place of Birth: Near Waynesboro, VA    
Death Date: 7/9/1874    Burial Place: Thornrose Cemetery, Staunton, VA


1   Evans, Clement Anselm, editor, Confederate Military History, 12 Volumes, Atlanta: The Confederate Publishing Company, 1899, Volume III, Chapter 6  [AotW citation 199]

2   Imboden, John D., Incidents of the Battle of First Manassas, The Century Magazine, 1885-05-01  [AotW citation 200]

3   Ayers, Edward L., and William G. Thomas III, and Anne Sarah Rubin, co-editors, Valley of the Shadow, first accessed 07 June 2005, <http://valley.lib.virginia.edu/>, Source page: Harman, John A.  [AotW citation 201]

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