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."
Imboden, John D., Incidents of the Battle of First Manassas, The Century Magazine, 1885-05-01
Major John A. Harmon. He evidently had a reputation with General Lee for getting things done, and helped to save Lee's army on the retreat from Gettysburg. Brig. Gen. Imboden, Battles and Leaders of the Civil War: Circa 9 July, Lee at Hagerstown called in Col. James L. Corley, his chief quartermaster, and told him to put Maj. John A. Harmon in charge of building pontoons at the [Potomac] river. Harmon took charge that day and by tearing down warehouses on the canal got joists to build boats with, and in 24 hours had enough of them ready to float down to Falling Waters and construct a bridge.
John Harman, who had been Stonewall Jackson's quartermaster before his death. And his "methods" shocked the pious Jackson but they proved he could " swear at a mule team and make it jerk a wagon out of a mudhole as nothing else will" as some wag stated.
Major John Alexander Harman
Born in Waynesboro VA; veteran of the Mexican War where he served with McCulloch's Rangers. A newspaperman, cattleman, and butcher before the Civil War. Joined Stonewall Jackson's staff as a quartermaster in 1861. Later served same capacity for Generals Ewell and Early. Occasional acting quartermaster for the Army of Northern Virginia. After the War, he was a postmaster in Staunton, where he died.
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