2nd Manassas Say What? Saturday: Death of General Stevens

Andy Cardinal

2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
Feb 27, 2017
Location
Ohio

Isaac Stevens.jpg

Major General Isaac Stevens was a rising star in the Union Army in 1862. He was born in North Andover, Massachusetts, on March 25, 1818. He graduated 1st in the West Point class of 1842 and then served in Mexico, where he was brevetted twice. In 1853 he was appointed territorial governor of Washington, and the territorial delegate to Congress in 1856.

At the beginning of the Civil War, Stevens was appointed colonel of the 79th New York (Highlanders). In the fall of 1861 he served in South Carolina and then his division was incorporated as part of the 9th Corps. His division was engaged at Second Bull Run and then at Chantilly on September 1, 1861. During the battle, Confederate fire stopped the advance of the 79th New York. 5 color bearers went down in a row. Seeing the last one fall to the ground, Stevens ran to the front and grabbed the flag. The wounded color-bearer pleaded with him, "For God's sake General! Don't take the colors; they'll shoot you if you do."

Stevens paid no attention to the color bearer. Taking the colors and yelling "Highlanders! My Highlanders! Follow your general!” he led the 79th forward. As the men moved forward, his son Hazard fell wounded. "I can't attend to you now, Hazard," Stevens said, and he continued on.

A few steps later, Stevens was struck in head, the bullet penetrating his brain. He was dead before he hit the ground. He fell with his body wrapped in the 79th's flag. When his body was recovered, his hands still grasped the flagstaff, and the cloth was stained with his blood.

220px-Death_of_General_Isaac_Stevens_(1818-62)_during_the_attack_on_Chantilly,_Viriginia_1862.jpg

Sources:
Tempest at Ox Hill (The best modern account of Chantilly)
The Life of Isaac Stevens
 
Last edited:
Joined
Jan 24, 2017
Taking the colors and yelling "Highlanders! My Highlanders! Follow your general!” he led the 79th forward. As the men moved forward, his son Hazard fell wounded. "I can't attend to you now, Hazard," Stevens said, and he continued on.
You have me wondering now what happened to his son Hazard, who also has a very unusual name.

And the color bearers did suffer a terrible toll.

I watched the movie 'Patriot' again the other night, and though it's not to do with the CW, the final scene of the battle where Mel Gibson takes the flag to encourage men to keep moving forward rather than retreat is extremely inspiring, to say the least.

As a form of encouragement to the men, there's no doubt that's what Steven's had in mind, not allowing the colors to lie with the wounded bearer.

What was the ultimate outcome of the battle?
 

Andy Cardinal

2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
Feb 27, 2017
Location
Ohio
The battle itself was a draw, but Stevens and Phil Kearny (also killed) stopped Stonewall Jackson from.gettimg into Pope's "hindquarters" as he was retreating to Washington after 2nd Bull Run. In that sense, it was a Union victory of sorts.

Hunter Stevens survived his wound and later was awarded the medal of honor. After the war he completed the first know ascent of Mount Ranier. Hunter Stevens died in 1918.
 
Joined
Jan 24, 2017
The very last thing I would want to be is a Color Bearer.
I think the thing is, as a color bearer you very much become a target for the enemy. For a start, you're about as obvious as you can be, and secondly you have no defence. Your sole task appears to be to carry that flag into battle for the most part. And the loss of a flag in battle, I believe, engendered an incredible sense of loss. Flags hold enormous symbolism. To have one returned was a moment of great significance.
 

Fairfield

First Sergeant
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
I think the thing is, as a color bearer you very much become a target for the enemy. For a start, you're about as obvious as you can be, and secondly you have no defence. Your sole task appears to be to carry that flag into battle for the most part. And the loss of a flag in battle, I believe, engendered an incredible sense of loss. Flags hold enormous symbolism. To have one returned was a moment of great significance.
Loss of your colors was, indeed, a catastrophy. When the 16th Maine Infantry realized that it was going to be overrun, the men shredded the flag and each hid a piece of it somewhere on his body. Today the Maine State Museum has several pieces and several more are now in private hands.
 

General Butler

First Sergeant
Joined
Nov 16, 2017
Major General Isaac Stevens was a rising star in the Union Army in 1862. He was born in North Andover, Massachusetts, on March 25, 1818. He graduated 1st in the West Point class of 1842 and then served in Mexico, where he was brevetted twice. In 1853 he was appointed territorial governor of Washington, and the territorial delegate to Congress in 1856.

At the beginning of the Civil War, Stevens was appointed colonel of the 79th New York (Highlanders). In the fall of 1861 he served in South Carolina and then his division was incorporated as part of the 9th Corps. His division was engaged at Second Bull Run and then at Chantilly on September 1, 1861. During the battle, Confederate fire stopped the advance of the 79th New York. 5 color bearers went down in a row. Seeing the last one fall to the ground, Stevens ran to the front and grabbed the flag. The wounded color-bearer pleaded with him, "For God's sake General! Don't take the colors; they'll shoot you if you do."

Stevens paid no attention to the color bearer. Taking the colors and yelling "Highlanders! My Highlanders! Follow your general!” he led the 79th forward. As the men moved forward, his son Hazard fell wounded. "I can't attend to you now, Hazard," Stevens said, and he continued on.

A few steps later, Stevens was struck in head, the bullet penetrating his brain. He was dead before he hit the ground. He fell with his body wrapped in the 79th's flag. When his body was recovered, his hands still grasped the flagstaff, and the cloth was stained with his blood.


Sources:
Tempest at Ox Hill (The best modern account of Chantilly)
The Life of Isaac Stevens
I look at.that postage stamp.
 

General Butler

First Sergeant
Joined
Nov 16, 2017
I look at.that postage stamp.
Ok try again. I look at that postage stamp battlefield each day
When the land was sold to a developer, the bulldozer operator was doing his thing so a crappy amount of townhomes and commercial bldg could rise, when all of a sudden he ran into the 2 stone monuments, one for Steven's and one for Kearney
That find forced the county and developer to.leave a dang small.portion for a.park
 
Joined
Jan 24, 2017
I would have thought it would have been a cowardly thing to shoot an unarmed color bearer. I guess they had there reasons. I always imagined that they were hit by wild flying bullets. Did the commanders instruct their solders to "get the color bearer"?
I have the sense the color bearers may have become a target because they were leading or guiding the men. Get the color bearer and your men literally lost their bearings, or their inspiration to fight, or both. That's my impression, but others may have a different understanding and more knowledge around this.
 

nc native

Sergeant
Joined
Aug 30, 2011
Location
NC Piedmont
I would have thought it would have been a cowardly thing to shoot an unarmed color bearer. I guess they had there reasons. I always imagined that they were hit by wild flying bullets. Did the commanders instruct their solders to "get the color bearer"?

I remember a story about Stonewall Jackson after a fight when some of his men refused to fire on a valiant Union color bearer. He told them to shoot the next brave color bearer they encountered and the rest of the men behind him would run or something to that effect.
 

rpkennedy

Lt. Colonel
Member of the Year
Joined
May 18, 2011
Location
Carlisle, PA
I have the sense the color bearers may have become a target because they were leading or guiding the men. Get the color bearer and your men literally lost their bearings, or their inspiration to fight, or both. That's my impression, but others may have a different understanding and more knowledge around this.

In the smoke of combat, pretty much the only thing that could be seen were the colors above the chaos. As such, the colors (and the color guard) became a focus of enemy fire as they were a visible marker for the enemy's line of battle.

Ryan
 
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