Francis Asbury Wallar (1840 - 1911)

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Nicknames: "Frank"
Birthdate:
Birthplace: Sunday Creek, Guernsey, Ohio, USA
Death: Died in Brentford, Spink, South Dakota, USA
Cause of death: Mastoid Abscess
Managed by: Marvin Caulk, (C)
Last Updated:
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About Francis Asbury Wallar

In 1880 Francis Wallar became the Sheriff of Vernon County, Wisconsin.

The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Corporal Francis A. Wallar, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism on 1 July 1863, while serving with Company I, 6th Wisconsin Infantry, in action at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, for capture of flag of 2d Mississippi Infantry (Confederate States of America).

General Orders: Date of Issue: December 1, 1864

Action Date: July 1, 1863

Service: Army

Rank: Corporal

Company: Company I

Division: 6th Wisconsin Infantry

-------------------- In 1880 Francis Wallar became the Sheriff of Vernon County, Wisconsin.

The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Corporal Francis A. Wallar, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism on 1 July 1863, while serving with Company I, 6th Wisconsin Infantry, in action at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, for capture of flag of 2d Mississippi Infantry (Confederate States of America).

General Orders: Date of Issue: December 1, 1864

Action Date: July 1, 1863

Service: Army

Rank: Corporal

Company: Company I

Division: 6th Wisconsin Infantry

=================================================================

[http://npsgnmp.wordpress.com/2012/02/02/faces-of-gettysburg-francis-ashbury-wallar-medal-of-honor-winner/]

He went by Frank rather than Francis or Ashbury. When he died on April 30, 1911, Earl Rodgers, Wallar’s former commander of old Company I, 6th Wisconsin, recalled; “Wallar was one of the few soldiers who at no time during the four years of service was absent from roll call. He stood in the ranks and fought in every battle and skirmish.” For a soldier who served in the Iron Brigade this was a high distinction. Few men who served in regiments of that famous unit made it through the entire war.

   Wallar’s post-war photograph suggests a man of determination and grit; someone not to be trifled with; an individual possessed of courage and conviction. A viewer of his photograph is immediately drawn to his eyes. They are steady and determined yet also speak of what he saw and lost in the years of 61-65.
   On July 1, 1863, during the charge of the 6th Wisconsin Infantry upon the Railroad Cut, Wallar captured the flag of the 2nd Mississippi Infantry, for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor and promoted from corporal to sergeant for “conspicuous bravery on the battle-field.” By the time he mustered out in July 1865 he was a 1st Lieutenant. During the war no one questioned whether Wallar was due both the medal and promotion for his actions at Gettysburg, but years later two veterans of the 6th Wisconsin claimed that they, and not Wallar, captured the flag of the 2nd Mississippi. The first was Frank Hare, a Company B veteran who had lost a leg from a wound at the Wilderness, who claimed at a reunion in Milwaukee in 1880 that he had captured a flag at Gettysburg “but did not know what-one.” Since it was well known that the 6th had captured only the 2nd Mississippi’s flag at Gettysburg it was clear that Hare was obliquely claiming credit for it. Someone alerted Wallar who wasted no time in securing sworn statements from men in the regiment, and official documents from his service, attesting that he had captured the flag. He confronted Hare with this evidence “who quietly retired from his position.” [“A Settled Question,” Milwaukee Sunday Telegraph, July 29, 1883, copy GNMP Library]
   Cornelius W. Okey, who had served in Company C, 6th Wisconsin, probably was unaware of the business between Hare and Wallar for in 1883 he published an article titled “Echoes of the Iron Brigade,” in which he described, in great detail, how he captured the flag of the 2nd. In Okey’s account, he was badly wounded at the instant he seized the flag and, bleeding profusely, “gave the flag, which was now entirely in my possession, to a sergeant, I think of Company H, and started for the rear.” Okey went on to relate how he eventually ended up a Cuyler Hospital in Germantown, Pennsylvania, soon after July 6. Shortly after his admission to this hospital he claimed that he was surprised by a visit from the sergeant, whose name Okey omits, who gave him the following statement: As near as I can remember I only had the flag in my possession for a few minutes when I was wounded through the thigh. I broke the staff in two taking the butt end for a cane with which to get off the field, and gave the flag to Corporal John F. Waller. Okey did not need to state the obvious – that he and not Wallar should have received the Medal of Honor – any reader would understand this from his account of the event and the alleged “statement” from the unnamed sergeant of Company H, which gave the appearance of legitimacy to his claim. [Echoes from the Marches of the Famous Iron Brigade, (Ann Arbor: University Microfilms Intl., 1978, 62-65]
   By the time Okey published his account, Wallar had moved with his family to Petonka, South Dakota, where he was farming, but someone sent him a copy and asked him to respond. Okey aroused Wallar’s ire and his reply pulled no punches. What follows is Wallar’s full account as published by the Milwaukee Sunday Telegraph on July 29, 1883.
   Yours of the 3d is received, also echoes of Gettysburg. You ask me to read and tell what I know about it. I know that C. W. Okey is a damned liar, and doubt if he was at the battle of Gettysburg at all. I will tell you just how I got the flag. We, the Iron Brigade, was formed in line of battle facing to the north, (if memory serves me aright), and advanced to the edge of a piece of woods where we came to a halt. We had been there but a few minutes when fighting commenced on our right, between a quarter and half a mile away and there was no men of ours on the right of the brigade where the fight was going on and our men were falling back leaving a part of a battery in the hands of the enemy. At this time Colonel Dawes moved his regiment in that direction, at a double quick, arms at a right shoulder shift. When we got within about three hundred yards of the enemy, where they were in a railroad cut just deep enough for good breastworks, they commenced a slow fire and the nearer we got the hotter the fire. And we did not fire on them till we were within less than two hundred yards of them. Then we kept up a steady fire, advancing all the time till within a few rods of the cut; then there was a general rush and yell enough to almost awaken the dead. Up to this time our line was as straight and in as good order as any line of battle ever was, while under fire. After that the line was not in such good order, but all seemed to be trying to see how quick they could get to the railroad cut. I had no thought of getting the flag till at this time, and I started straight for it, as did lots of others. Soon after I got the flag there were men from all the companies there. I did take the flag out of the color bearer’s hand, but just as I made a dash for it someone shot him and he fell forward and the flag had not struck the ground till I had it, and my first thought was to go to the rear with it for fear it might be retaken, and then I thought I would stay, and I threw it down and loaded and fired twice standing on it. While standing on it there was a 14th Brooklyn man took hold of it and tried to get it, and I had to threaten to shoot him before he would stop. By this time we had them cleaned out, when some were ordered to take the two pieces of artillery back that we recaptured. Others were ordered back with the prisoners we had taken. Others were ordered out on the skirmish line, and there was where I was ordered. I still had the flag, and when ordered to go on the skirmish line, asked Colonel Dawes what I should do with the flag, he said, ‘give it to me” and I did. Just then a sergeant of Co. H came up wounded, and was going to the rear, and the colonel told him to take it and take care of it. I then went on the skirmish line, and staid there until the 11th Corps gave way on the right, and we fell back to the edge of the city [actually back to near the Seminary] where battery B was stationed around what was left of us as a support to the battery. We repulsed several charges of the enemy, but when they got even with our right flank we fell back through the city, taking two of the guns of the battery with picket ropes, firing all the way back through the city.
   I afterwards saw the sergeant, after we came home on furlough, and I asked him how the staff got broken and he told me that when he went back to the city he entered a house and went to bed, and when we were driven back he thought that if the flag was left standing in the room they (the rebs) would get it, so he broke the staff in two and put the flag in bed with him, and in that way saved it.
   Now if C. W. Okey has a part of the staff, there is where he got it. I thought very little of the 14th Brooklyn man who tried to steal the flag from me on the battle field, but I think less of Okey to wait almost 20 years and then try to steal the honors of capturing the whole flag, by stealing a piece of the staff 20 years ago. But he is not the first one that has come up and claimed that he got the flag. There was a Co. B man [Frank Hare] at the reunion in Milwaukee, who claimed to have captured the flag. I did not know his object in so claiming, but got a few of the boys to certify to my taking the flag, and I still have them. Perhaps Okey would like to have them read or read them, so I will give you a copy of them. [“A Settled Question,” Milwaukee Sunday Telegraph, July 29, 1883, copy GNMP Library]

1886 Image of the Railroad Cut. Wallar captured the flag of the 2nd Mississippi near the left foregrond of the photograph. The crest of the ridge in the background is where the bridge over the cut is today. NPS

   Wallar did not mention the official after-action report of Lt. Colonel Rufus R. Dawes, who commanded the 6th Wisconsin at Gettysburg, probably because the Official Records of the war had not yet been published. But Dawes report confirmed that it had been Corporal F. Ashbury Wallar who captured the 2nd Mississippi flag before the Confederate surrender occurred. [War Department, War of the Rebellion: The Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1889, v. 27, pt. 1, 276.]
   But even Wallar’s memory was not infallible and he omitted many details from his story, perhaps because he did not personally observe them in the excitement of battle or did not think they were important. There were several men of the 6th killed or wounded while trying to capture the colors of the 2nd Mississippi before Wallar got them. One of them may very well have been Okey, because he was wounded on July 1, and in a post-war account of the battle Lt. Colonel Dawes mentioned that Okey was shot in the melee for the colors. Elements of Okey’s account may very well be true. Also, the color bearer of the 2nd Mississippi, Sergeant William B. Murphy, was not wounded, but was captured.
   This story is a reminder that combat is a messy, chaotic business, and memory, particularly of a battle like Gettysburg, can be suspect. For some veterans, like Hare, having served at Gettysburg, done their duty and survived was not enough. They sought to rise above the rest and seek honors or glory they had not earned. In other cases, like Okey, they may have felt they were deserving of accolades not received and hence chose to exaggerate their deeds.
   One final note to this post; The Wallar family of DeSoto, Wisconsin sent three sons to serve in Company I, 6th Wisconsin. Frank and Sam joined in the summer of 61. Thomas, the youngest, enlisted in 1864. Miraculously, all three survived the war.

[For further reading about the colors story and the 6th Wisconsin at Gettysburg see, Lance J. Herdegen & William Beaudot, In the Bloody Railroad Cut at Gettysburg.]

=================================================================

Francis A. Waller – Corporal 6th Wisconsin Posted on May 27, 2009 by Michael Noirot Francis A. Waller was born on August 15, 1840 in Gurneyville, Ohio. Waller moved to Vernon County, Wisconsin in 1853. After the Confederate firing on Fort Sumter, on April 12, 1861, Abraham Lincoln would issue a proclamation, on April 15, calling for 75,000 state militia, for 90 days, to suppress the rebellion of the southern states. Waller, then 20 years of age, answered Lincoln’s call and enlisted as a private, in Company I, of the 6th Wisconsin Infantry. Organized at Camp Randall, Wisconsin, the 6th would be officially mustered into Federal service on July 16, 1861.(i)

Waller, with his 6th Wisconsin would leave for Washington City, and would remain there until July 28, 1861. In June 1862, the regiment would be assigned to US Brigadier General John Gibbon’s Fourth Brigade, of Rufus King’s First Division in the III Corps of the Army of Virginia. They would see some action at Cedar Mountain on August 9. Gibbon’s brigade, then called the “Black Hat” brigade, would be comprised of all western regiments: 2nd Wisconsin, 6th Wisconsin, 7th Wisconsin and the 19th Indiana. On their march, to intercept CS Major General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s Left Wing, thought to be at Centreville, Virginia, the brigade would be surprised by the Confederates at the Battle of Brawner’s Farm. The brigade would suffer terribly at this opening battle of Second Manassas, and would earn a reputation for bravery. In September 1862, during the Maryland Campaign, they would be heavily engaged at South Mountain, earning the new nickname – Iron Brigade. On September 17, at the Battle of Antietam, Waller, would participate in some of the hardest fighting at the Corn Field. Again, the Iron Brigade would suffer tremendously. From December 12–15, they would fight at the Battle of Fredericksburg. Continuing to earn a reputation for hard fighting, they would be engaged at the Battle of Chancellorsville, in early May 1863.

CS General Robert E. Lee, determined to take the fight to the north, would invade Pennsylvania in June 1863. The Federal Army of the Potomac, with its new commander, US Major General George G. Meade, pursued Lee. On July 1, he found the Army of Northern Virginia at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. On that day, then corporal, Francis Waller would provide his most valuable service to the United States. Fighting would commence early that day, between US Brigadier General John Buford’s cavalry division and CS Major General Henry Heth’s Confederate infantry division. Buford’s dismounted cavalry was able to slow Heth’s approach to Gettysburg until US Major General John Reynold’s I Corps was able to arrive. The Iron Brigade was part of the I Corps and was one of the first infantry brigades to arrive at the rapidly developing Battle of Gettysburg. While the rest of the brigade (2nd Wisconsin, 7th Wisconsin, 19th Indiana and 24th Michigan) fought at Herbst Woods, on McPherson’s Ridge, the 6th Wisconsin was sent north of the Chambersburg Pike to reinforce US Brigadier General Lysander Cutler’s brigade. As the battle raged, between 10:30 a.m and 11:15 a.m., the reinforced Confederate line began to push the Federals back, towards the Lutheran Seminary. The portion of Cutler’s line, that included the 6th Wisconsin was refused, facing north, near an unfinished railroad cut. This railroad cut proved fateful for CS Brigadier General Joseph R. Davis’ brigade, comprised of Mississippians and North Carolinians. Davis would push three regiments of his brigade, into the cut, in an effort to flank the Federal I Corps. Unfortunately the walls of the cut proved to high to allow accurate musket fire, or artillery support. Pushing through the cut, the Confederates became easy targets for the Federal regiments arrayed on the south bank of the cut. The 14th Brooklyn, 95th New York and the 6th Wisconsin opened a withering fire on the soldiers trapped in the cut. Many of the Confederates surrendered, but plenty determined to fight their way out. The fighting devolved to hand-to-hand combat. During the hardest fighting, Waller engaged the color bearer of the 2nd Mississippi Infantry, Corporal William B. Murphy. The two would fight gallantly for the cherished flag. Waller triumphed, killing Murphy and securing the Mississippi colors. For his brave, and selfless actions, Waller would be awarded the Medal of Honor. During the fighting at Gettysburg, the Iron Brigade would suffer 1,212 casualties of the 1,883 soldiers (64%) that arrived at McPherson’s Ridge.(ii)

Waller would continue to serve with the 6th Wisconsin, through the remainder of the Civil War. He would fight at Mine Run, The Wilderness, Spotsylvania Court House, North Anna, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, Five Forks and Appomattox Court House. Waller would receive promotions to 2nd Lieutenant on December 21, 1864 and 1st Lieutenant on March 23, 1865. On December 1, 1864, Waller would be awarded the Medal of Honor. His official citation reads:

“Capture of flag of 2d Mississippi Infantry (C.S.A.). (iii)

After the Civil War, Lieutenant Waller would return to Vernon County, Wisconsin. He would die on April 30, 1911 in Bentford, South Dakota. He is buried at Walnut Mound Cemetery in Retreat, Wisconsin. Francis Waller is a true American HERO.

(i) The Civil War Soldiers and Sailor System was used to research this article. (ii) The Gettysburg National Military Park website was used to research this article. Click here to view the transcript. (iii) The Civil War Medal of Honor Recipients website was used to research this article.

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Francis Wallar's Timeline

1840
August 15, 1840
Sunday Creek, Guernsey, Ohio, USA
1861
June 16, 1861
- July 14, 1865
Age 20

Name: Francis A Waller
Residence: De Soto, Wisconsin
Age at enlistment: 20
Enlistment Date: 16 Jun 1861
Rank at enlistment: Corporal
Enlistment Place: DeSoto, Vernon County, WI
State Served: Wisconsin
Survived the War?: Yes
Service Record: Enlisted in Company I, Wisconsin 6th Infantry Regiment on 16 Jun 1861.
Promoted to Full Sergeant.
Promoted to Full 1st Sergeant.
Promoted to Full 2nd Lieutenant on 21 Dec 1864.
Promoted to Full 1st Lieutenant on 23 Mar 1865
Frank mustered out of the Union Army as a 1st Lieutenant 14 Jul 1865.

June 16, 1861
Age 20
De Soto, Vernon, Wisconsin, United States

Civil War.

1864
December 1, 1864
Age 24

Gettysburg
Company I, 6th Wisconsin InfantryHe went by Frank rather than Francis or Ashbury. When he died on April 30, 1911, Earl Rodgers, Wallar’s former commander of old Company I, 6th Wisconsin, recalled; “Wallar was one of the few soldiers who at no time during the four years of service was absent from roll call. He stood in the ranks and fought in every battle and skirmish.” For a soldier who served in the Iron Brigade this was a high distinction. Few men who served in regiments of that famous unit made it through the entire war. Wallar’s post-war photograph suggests a man of determination and grit; someone not to be trifled with; an individual possessed of courage and conviction. A viewer of his photograph is immediately drawn to his eyes. They are steady and determined yet also speak of what he saw and lost in the years of 61-65. On July 1, 1863, during the charge of the 6th Wisconsin Infantry upon the Railroad Cut, Wallar captured the flag of the 2nd Mississippi Infantry, for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor and promoted from corporal to sergeant for “conspicuous bravery on the battle-field.” By the time he mustered out in July 1865 he was a 1st Lieutenant. During the war no one questioned whether Wallar was due both the medal and promotion for his actions at Gettysburg, but years later two veterans of the 6th Wisconsin claimed that they, and not Wallar, captured the flag of the 2nd Mississippi. The first was Frank Hare, a Company B veteran who had lost a leg from a wound at the Wilderness, who claimed at a reunion in Milwaukee in 1880 that he had captured a flag at Gettysburg “but did not know what-one.” Since it was well known that the 6th had captured only the 2nd Mississippi’s flag at Gettysburg it was clear that Hare was obliquely claiming credit for it. Someone alerted Wallar who wasted no time in securing sworn statements from men in the regiment, and official documents from his service, attesting that he had captured the flag. He confronted Hare with this evidence “who quietly retired from his position.” [“A Settled Question,” Milwaukee Sunday Telegraph, July 29, 1883, copy GNMP Library] Cornelius W. Okey, who had served in Company C, 6th Wisconsin, probably was unaware of the business between Hare and Wallar for in 1883 he published an article titled “Echoes of the Iron Brigade,” in which he described, in great detail, how he captured the flag of the 2nd. In Okey’s account, he was badly wounded at the instant he seized the flag and, bleeding profusely, “gave the flag, which was now entirely in my possession, to a sergeant, I think of Company H, and started for the rear.” Okey went on to relate how he eventually ended up a Cuyler Hospital in Germantown, Pennsylvania, soon after July 6. Shortly after his admission to this hospital he claimed that he was surprised by a visit from the sergeant, whose name Okey omits, who gave him the following statement: As near as I can remember I only had the flag in my possession for a few minutes when I was wounded through the thigh. I broke the staff in two taking the butt end for a cane with which to get off the field, and gave the flag to Corporal John F. Waller. Okey did not need to state the obvious – that he and not Wallar should have received the Medal of Honor – any reader would understand this from his account of the event and the alleged “statement” from the unnamed sergeant of Company H, which gave the appearance of legitimacy to his claim. [Echoes from the Marches of the Famous Iron Brigade, (Ann Arbor: University Microfilms Intl., 1978, 62-65] By the time Okey published his account, Wallar had moved with his family to Petonka, South Dakota, where he was farming, but someone sent him a copy and asked him to respond. Okey aroused Wallar’s ire and his reply pulled no punches. What follows is Wallar’s full account as published by the Milwaukee Sunday Telegraph on July 29, 1883. Yours of the 3d is received, also echoes of Gettysburg. You ask me to read and tell what I know about it. I know that C. W. Okey is a damned liar, and doubt if he was at the battle of Gettysburg at all. I will tell you just how I got the flag. We, the Iron Brigade, was formed in line of battle facing to the north, (if memory serves me aright), and advanced to the edge of a piece of woods where we came to a halt. We had been there but a few minutes when fighting commenced on our right, between a quarter and half a mile away and there was no men of ours on the right of the brigade where the fight was going on and our men were falling back leaving a part of a battery in the hands of the enemy. At this time Colonel Dawes moved his regiment in that direction, at a double quick, arms at a right shoulder shift. When we got within about three hundred yards of the enemy, where they were in a railroad cut just deep enough for good breastworks, they commenced a slow fire and the nearer we got the hotter the fire. And we did not fire on them till we were within less than two hundred yards of them. Then we kept up a steady fire, advancing all the time till within a few rods of the cut; then there was a general rush and yell enough to almost awaken the dead. Up to this time our line was as straight and in as good order as any line of battle ever was, while under fire. After that the line was not in such good order, but all seemed to be trying to see how quick they could get to the railroad cut. I had no thought of getting the flag till at this time, and I started straight for it, as did lots of others. Soon after I got the flag there were men from all the companies there. I did take the flag out of the color bearer’s hand, but just as I made a dash for it someone shot him and he fell forward and the flag had not struck the ground till I had it, and my first thought was to go to the rear with it for fear it might be retaken, and then I thought I would stay, and I threw it down and loaded and fired twice standing on it. While standing on it there was a 14th Brooklyn man took hold of it and tried to get it, and I had to threaten to shoot him before he would stop. By this time we had them cleaned out, when some were ordered to take the two pieces of artillery back that we recaptured. Others were ordered back with the prisoners we had taken. Others were ordered out on the skirmish line, and there was where I was ordered. I still had the flag, and when ordered to go on the skirmish line, asked Colonel Dawes what I should do with the flag, he said, ‘give it to me” and I did. Just then a sergeant of Co. H came up wounded, and was going to the rear, and the colonel told him to take it and take care of it. I then went on the skirmish line, and staid there until the 11th Corps gave way on the right, and we fell back to the edge of the city [actually back to near the Seminary] where battery B was stationed around what was left of us as a support to the battery. We repulsed several charges of the enemy, but when they got even with our right flank we fell back through the city, taking two of the guns of the battery with picket ropes, firing all the way back through the city. I afterwards saw the sergeant, after we came home on furlough, and I asked him how the staff got broken and he told me that when he went back to the city he entered a house and went to bed, and when we were driven back he thought that if the flag was left standing in the room they (the rebs) would get it, so he broke the staff in two and put the flag in bed with him, and in that way saved it. Now if C. W. Okey has a part of the staff, there is where he got it. I thought very little of the 14th Brooklyn man who tried to steal the flag from me on the battle field, but I think less of Okey to wait almost 20 years and then try to steal the honors of capturing the whole flag, by stealing a piece of the staff 20 years ago. But he is not the first one that has come up and claimed that he got the flag. There was a Co. B man [Frank Hare] at the reunion in Milwaukee, who claimed to have captured the flag. I did not know his object in so claiming, but got a few of the boys to certify to my taking the flag, and I still have them. Perhaps Okey would like to have them read or read them, so I will give you a copy of them. [“A Settled Question,” Milwaukee Sunday Telegraph, July 29, 1883, copy GNMP Library]1886 Image of the Railroad Cut. Wallar captured the flag of the 2nd Mississippi near the left foregrond of the photograph. The crest of the ridge in the background is where the bridge over the cut is today. NPS Wallar did not mention the official after-action report of Lt. Colonel Rufus R. Dawes, who commanded the 6th Wisconsin at Gettysburg, probably because the Official Records of the war had not yet been published. But Dawes report confirmed that it had been Corporal F. Ashbury Wallar who captured the 2nd Mississippi flag before the Confederate surrender occurred. [War Department, War of the Rebellion: The Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1889, v. 27, pt. 1, 276.] But even Wallar’s memory was not infallible and he omitted many details from his story, perhaps because he did not personally observe them in the excitement of battle or did not think they were important. There were several men of the 6th killed or wounded while trying to capture the colors of the 2nd Mississippi before Wallar got them. One of them may very well have been Okey, because he was wounded on July 1, and in a post-war account of the battle Lt. Colonel Dawes mentioned that Okey was shot in the melee for the colors. Elements of Okey’s account may very well be true. Also, the color bearer of the 2nd Mississippi, Sergeant William B. Murphy, was not wounded, but was captured. This story is a reminder that combat is a messy, chaotic business, and memory, particularly of a battle like Gettysburg, can be suspect. For some veterans, like Hare, having served at Gettysburg, done their duty and survived was not enough. They sought to rise above the rest and seek honors or glory they had not earned. In other cases, like Okey, they may have felt they were deserving of accolades not received and hence chose to exaggerate their deeds. One final note to this post; The Wallar family of DeSoto, Wisconsin sent three sons to serve in Company I, 6th Wisconsin. Frank and Sam joined in the summer of 61. Thomas, the youngest, enlisted in 1864. Miraculously, all three survived the war.[For further reading about the colors story and the 6th Wisconsin at Gettysburg see, Lance J. Herdegen & William Beaudot, In the Bloody Railroad Cut at Gettysburg.]Francis Ashbury Wallar or Waller was a corporal in the 6th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment of the Union Army who received the Medal of Honor. On July 1, 1863 while participating in the Battle of Gettysburg, he engaged a Confederate soldier in single combat, killing him and seizing his battle flag. Following the war he became Sheriff of Vernon County, Wisconsin. He is buried in Walnut Mound Cemetery Retreat, Wisconsin. Rank and organization: Corporal, Company I, 6th Wisconsin Infantry. Place and date: At Gettysburg, Pa., July 1, 1863. Entered service at: DeSoto, Vernon County, Wis. Birth: Guernsey County, Ohio. Date of issue: December 1, 1864. Citation: Capture of flag of 2d Mississippi Infantry (C.S.A.).

December 1, 1864
Age 24
MOH

Received the Medal of Honor.

December 21, 1864
Age 24
1865
March 23, 1865
Age 24
July 1, 1865
Age 24

He went by Frank rather than Francis or Ashbury. When he died on April 30, 1911, Earl Rodgers, Wallar’s former commander of old Company I, 6th Wisconsin, recalled; “Wallar was one of the few soldiers who at no time during the four years of service was absent from roll call. He stood in the ranks and fought in every battle and skirmish.” For a soldier who served in the Iron Brigade this was a high distinction. Few men who served in regiments of that famous unit made it through the entire war.
Wallar’s post-war photograph suggests a man of determination and grit; someone not to be trifled with; an individual possessed of courage and conviction. A viewer of his photograph is immediately drawn to his eyes. They are steady and determined yet also speak of what he saw and lost in the years of 61-65.
On July 1, 1863, during the charge of the 6th Wisconsin Infantry upon the Railroad Cut, Wallar captured the flag of the 2nd Mississippi Infantry, for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor and promoted from corporal to sergeant for “conspicuous bravery on the battle-field.” By the time he mustered out in July 1865 he was a 1st Lieutenant. During the war no one questioned whether Wallar was due both the medal and promotion for his actions at Gettysburg, but years later two veterans of the 6th Wisconsin claimed that they, and not Wallar, captured the flag of the 2nd Mississippi. The first was Frank Hare, a Company B veteran who had lost a leg from a wound at the Wilderness, who claimed at a reunion in Milwaukee in 1880 that he had captured a flag at Gettysburg “but did not know what-one.” Since it was well known that the 6th had captured only the 2nd Mississippi’s flag at Gettysburg it was clear that Hare was obliquely claiming credit for it. Someone alerted Wallar who wasted no time in securing sworn statements from men in the regiment, and official documents from his service, attesting that he had captured the flag. He confronted Hare with this evidence “who quietly retired from his position.” [“A Settled Question,” Milwaukee Sunday Telegraph, July 29, 1883, copy GNMP Library]
Cornelius W. Okey, who had served in Company C, 6th Wisconsin, probably was unaware of the business between Hare and Wallar for in 1883 he published an article titled “Echoes of the Iron Brigade,” in which he described, in great detail, how he captured the flag of the 2nd. In Okey’s account, he was badly wounded at the instant he seized the flag and, bleeding profusely, “gave the flag, which was now entirely in my possession, to a sergeant, I think of Company H, and started for the rear.” Okey went on to relate how he eventually ended up a Cuyler Hospital in Germantown, Pennsylvania, soon after July 6. Shortly after his admission to this hospital he claimed that he was surprised by a visit from the sergeant, whose name Okey omits, who gave him the following statement: As near as I can remember I only had the flag in my possession for a few minutes when I was wounded through the thigh. I broke the staff in two taking the butt end for a cane with which to get off the field, and gave the flag to Corporal John F. Waller. Okey did not need to state the obvious – that he and not Wallar should have received the Medal of Honor – any reader would understand this from his account of the event and the alleged “statement” from the unnamed sergeant of Company H, which gave the appearance of legitimacy to his claim. [Echoes from the Marches of the Famous Iron Brigade, (Ann Arbor: University Microfilms Intl., 1978, 62-65]
By the time Okey published his account, Wallar had moved with his family to Petonka, South Dakota, where he was farming, but someone sent him a copy and asked him to respond. Okey aroused Wallar’s ire and his reply pulled no punches. What follows is Wallar’s full account as published by the Milwaukee Sunday Telegraph on July 29, 1883.

Yours of the 3d is received, also echoes of Gettysburg. You ask me to read and tell what I know about it. I know that C. W. Okey is a damned liar, and doubt if he was at the battle of Gettysburg at all. I will tell you just how I got the flag. We, the Iron Brigade, was formed in line of battle facing to the north, (if memory serves me aright), and advanced to the edge of a piece of woods where we came to a halt. We had been there but a few minutes when fighting commenced on our right, between a quarter and half a mile away and there was no men of ours on the right of the brigade where the fight was going on and our men were falling back leaving a part of a battery in the hands of the enemy. At this time Colonel Dawes moved his regiment in that direction, at a double quick, arms at a right shoulder shift. When we got within about three hundred yards of the enemy, where they were in a railroad cut just deep enough for good breastworks, they commenced a slow fire and the nearer we got the hotter the fire. And we did not fire on them till we were within less than two hundred yards of them. Then we kept up a steady fire, advancing all the time till within a few rods of the cut; then there was a general rush and yell enough to almost awaken the dead. Up to this time our line was as straight and in as good order as any line of battle ever was, while under fire. After that the line was not in such good order, but all seemed to be trying to see how quick they could get to the railroad cut. I had no thought of getting the flag till at this time, and I started straight for it, as did lots of others. Soon after I got the flag there were men from all the companies there. I did take the flag out of the color bearer’s hand, but just as I made a dash for it someone shot him and he fell forward and the flag had not struck the ground till I had it, and my first thought was to go to the rear with it for fear it might be retaken, and then I thought I would stay, and I threw it down and loaded and fired twice standing on it. While standing on it there was a 14th Brooklyn man took hold of it and tried to get it, and I had to threaten to shoot him before he would stop. By this time we had them cleaned out, when some were ordered to take the two pieces of artillery back that we recaptured. Others were ordered back with the prisoners we had taken. Others were ordered out on the skirmish line, and there was where I was ordered. I still had the flag, and when ordered to go on the skirmish line, asked Colonel Dawes what I should do with the flag, he said, ‘give it to me” and I did. Just then a sergeant of Co. H came up wounded, and was going to the rear, and the colonel told him to take it and take care of it. I then went on the skirmish line, and staid there until the 11th Corps gave way on the right, and we fell back to the edge of the city [actually back to near the Seminary] where battery B was stationed around what was left of us as a support to the battery. We repulsed several charges of the enemy, but when they got even with our right flank we fell back through the city, taking two of the guns of the battery with picket ropes, firing all the way back through the city.
I afterwards saw the sergeant, after we came home on furlough, and I asked him how the staff got broken and he told me that when he went back to the city he entered a house and went to bed, and when we were driven back he thought that if the flag was left standing in the room they (the rebs) would get it, so he broke the staff in two and put the flag in bed with him, and in that way saved it.
Now if C. W. Okey has a part of the staff, there is where he got it. I thought very little of the 14th Brooklyn man who tried to steal the flag from me on the battle field, but I think less of Okey to wait almost 20 years and then try to steal the honors of capturing the whole flag, by stealing a piece of the staff 20 years ago. But he is not the first one that has come up and claimed that he got the flag. There was a Co. B man [Frank Hare] at the reunion in Milwaukee, who claimed to have captured the flag. I did not know his object in so claiming, but got a few of the boys to certify to my taking the flag, and I still have them. Perhaps Okey would like to have them read or read them, so I will give you a copy of them. [“A Settled Question,” Milwaukee Sunday Telegraph, July 29, 1883, copy GNMP Library]

1886 Image of the Railroad Cut. Wallar captured the flag of the 2nd Mississippi near the left foregrond of the photograph. The crest of the ridge in the background is where the bridge over the cut is today. NPS

Wallar did not mention the official after-action report of Lt. Colonel Rufus R. Dawes, who commanded the 6th Wisconsin at Gettysburg, probably because the Official Records of the war had not yet been published. But Dawes report confirmed that it had been Corporal F. Ashbury Wallar who captured the 2nd Mississippi flag before the Confederate surrender occurred. [War Department, War of the Rebellion: The Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1889, v. 27, pt. 1, 276.]
But even Wallar’s memory was not infallible and he omitted many details from his story, perhaps because he did not personally observe them in the excitement of battle or did not think they were important. There were several men of the 6th killed or wounded while trying to capture the colors of the 2nd Mississippi before Wallar got them. One of them may very well have been Okey, because he was wounded on July 1, and in a post-war account of the battle Lt. Colonel Dawes mentioned that Okey was shot in the melee for the colors. Elements of Okey’s account may very well be true. Also, the color bearer of the 2nd Mississippi, Sergeant William B. Murphy, was not wounded, but was captured.
This story is a reminder that combat is a messy, chaotic business, and memory, particularly of a battle like Gettysburg, can be suspect. For some veterans, like Hare, having served at Gettysburg, done their duty and survived was not enough. They sought to rise above the rest and seek honors or glory they had not earned. In other cases, like Okey, they may have felt they were deserving of accolades not received and hence chose to exaggerate their deeds.
One final note to this post; The Wallar family of DeSoto, Wisconsin sent three sons to serve in Company I, 6th Wisconsin. Frank and Sam joined in the summer of 61. Thomas, the youngest, enlisted in 1864. Miraculously, all three survived the war

August 14, 1865
Age 24
1868
November 22, 1868
Age 28
Genoa City, Vernon, Wisconsin, United States