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The Death of "Major" James H. Warner

Chief Engineer, C. S. Navy

James H. Warner was born in Ohio about 1830. He is often referred to as "Major", although he never attained that rank in the Confederate States Navy. He had been in the U.S. Navy prior to the Civil War but switched to the Confederate Navy early on. He came to Columbus to command the Navy Yard and oversaw the building of the CSS Chattahoochee.

After the War, he was assigned as Subagent under Special Treasury Agent J. H. Alexander to recover Confederate Naval property. He was married to Harriet Etheridge of Portsmouth, VA and had 5 children; Mary, Alexander, James, Virginia and Charles, who was born after his father's death.

"Major" Warner was shot shortly after a disturbance broke out between a citizen of Columbus and the colored troops garrisoned there. However, his shooting was not part of the original disturbance. A man named Lindsey shot one of the troops on Monday Feb. 12, 1866 after the two had scuffled in the street. The soldier was originally reported killed but he had only been wounded. Later that day, Warner was shot as he passed the barracks. His leg was amputated but Warner succumbed to his wounds a week later. As a result of the outcry of the citizenry over the conflict with the colored troops, two white companies of the 17th New York regiment replaced them within eleven days of the shootings.

Warner is buried in Linwood Cemetery and his grave can be found at the coordinates N32 28.682' W84 58.958'. Below are articles from the Columbus Enquirer concerning Warner's wounding and death.

February 14, 1866

The Affair of Monday Evening. - It appears that the negro soldier shot by young Lindsey was not killed, as was reported Monday night, but was only wounded in the arm and hand.

The most deplorable event of the evening was the severe wounding of Major J. H. Warner, one of our best and most respected citizens. He was shot in the leg while passing the barracks of the troops and it was found necessary to amputate the limb. This was done by skillful surgeons, and it is hoped that Major Warner's sufferings will be as light as possible from such a wound. He was not engaged in the conflict in any way, but was quietly walking along the street when he was shot from the barracks by the enraged soldiery.

It is said that one or two officers of the garrison, who had just arrived from the east that evening, returned in the same direction yesterday morning. What report of the affair they may carry to higher officers, or what recommendations they may have to make concerning the future garrison of this city, is not known. It is to be hoped that they were made acquainted with the reported instances in which the troops have insulted unoffending citizens, some of them ladies, and the indignities to which several of our people have been causelessly subjected since their advent.

We did not see any of the troops on the streets yesterday; the presumption is that they were kept within their barracks by their officers. There was still considerable excitement among our citizens; but, though all felt outraged by the conduct of the troops, no one entertained a thought of resisting the authority of the Government. They felt that the conflict grew out of personal misconduct, which could not be approved by white officers or by those in high authority.

It will be seen by published proceedings of the City Council, that that body, at its meeting held an hour or two after the conflict, appointed a committee to investigate the facts of the case and to lay them before the proper officers. This committee contains two of the leading Union men of the State - one of them ex-Prov. Gov. Johnson. No one can doubt that the facts will be impartially and truthfully reported by them, and we believe that they will find the circumstances such as to warrant them in earnestly requesting the substitution of white for colored troops as the garrison for this city.

February 22, 1866

Death of Major Warner - A sad feeling was diffused through our city yesterday, on the announcement of the death of Major J.H. Warner. The sanguine hopes first entertained that he would recover from his late gunshot wound with the loss of a leg, were cruelly disappointed by his death yesterday morning.

Major Warner came to this city several years ago, to take charge of the confederate Naval Iron Works, and by his deportment won for himself the respect and affection not only of the numerous class whose operations he directed, but of the whole community with whom he associated. He was a true gentleman and an honest and honorable man - faithful and competent in every position, and exemplary in all the relations of life. He leaves a bereaved family, consisting of his widow and several interesting children, who have the heartfelt sympathy of this community in this, their hour of sad affliction and loss.

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Major Warner's Funeral - It has been commanded by some of the merchants of the city, who have exchanged views on the subject, that the merchants generally close their doors this morning during the funeral services of Maj. Warner; and we have requested to make this suggestion through our paper.

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Honor to a Good Man.

Editor Enquirer: Through your paper I wish to call the attention of the citizens generally and Mechanics in particular to the funeral of Major Warner. Whilst in life he was always the courteous gentleman and true patriot and friend to the laboring class. Therefore I call upon all the Mechanics to attest their appreciation of his many sterling qualities and his constant friendship for their class, by paying just tribute to his memory. -MECHANIC

Compiled by Daniel A. Bellware (2005)

Sources:

Columbus Enquirer, Feb 1866

U.S. Federal Census 1870, Portsmouth, VA

U.S. War Department, Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies