Sunday, December 16, 2007

Its all fun and games until someone gets hurt.

You've heard of the Texas Rangers right? You know that Civil War generals tended to disagree with one another during and after the guns fell silent. The death of Brig. Gen. John A. Wharton (CSA) at the hands of Colonel George W. Baylor (CSA) was a small footnote in April 1865. To set the stage our story occurs in Texas as Confederacy began to dissolve into history.The war itself was coming to an end and those who supported the Confederacy knew it. Wharton and Baylor were such men and both had served the south since the onset of hostilties. During the botched Red River Campaign Baylor blamed Wharton for needlessly sacrificing some of his men. There is some evidence to support that Wharton made some questionable decisions but that is an issue for another time. However both are caverly officers and both are involved in the 8th Texas Caverly.Once Wharton found out about Baylors attitude towards him he declined Baylors requests for leave while granting furloughs to others. Wharton made it known to everybody that he resented Baylor's criticism and I am sure had some good 19th Century "choice" words to say about Baylor. On April 6, 1865 Wharton traveled to Houston, Texas to report to General Magruder and Baylor met up with Wharton's party there. Wharton decided to place an officer that was Baylors junior in command and Baylor was not happy about it. The two met at railroad tracks and Wharton asked Baylor where his command was. Some historians state that Wharton might have asked the question in a sarcastic manner which might have placed more gasoline on Baylor's fire. Colonel Baylor told Wharton that his command was in another town and that he was in Houston on offical business. An heated argument began between the two men and the issue was pushed even further when an excited Wharton called Baylor a "damned liar." Baylor struck and Wharton but missed and he was subsquently ordered to Wharton's headquarters to await punishment. Baylor responded that he would go to Magruder instead and Wharton told him to do so, but under arrest.After arriving at Magruder's headquarters, Baylor broke down in tears and Magruder took the young man upstairs to compose himself in another room. Magruder left Baylor for a bit and went back downstairs. Wharton and another officer, expecting to find Magruder, then entered the same room and found the colonel sitting on a bed, still crying. Another argument ensued and this time General Wharton lost his cool. As he apprached Baylor with clenched fists his accompying officer stepped between the two men. Wharton managed to throw a punch but missed and it was at that time that Baylor drew his pistol. The accompying officer, named Harrison grabbed at Baylors pistol but in doing so he exposed Wharton's left side. Baylor fired and the bullet struck Wharton just below his ribs. Wharton died within moments and was buried on April 9 in Hempstead.Baylor was never tried for his crime by Confederate authorities. After the southern collapse he was finally brought to trial in 1868 but was aquitted by a jury made up of Texans. The feud was a matter of honor and it still amazes historians that Colonel Baylor never served a prison sentence. Wharton remains one of the least known Confederate cavalry generals and I will talk more about him in a future blog. Stay tuned and the left is rest to history.Sources and infomation is located at:"Testimony Before the Jury of Inquest on the Body of Gen. Wharton, Tri-Weekly Telegraph April 10, 1865.

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