150 years ago this morning, Maj. Flavel Clingan Barber of the 3rd Tennessee Infantry died at the age of 34 in a Confederate Field Hospital at Resaca. Barber was mortally wounded in the final charge of the day, part of a flank attack launched by Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood, who had discovered that the Union army’s left flank was in the air—having been drawn toward the center as attacks there were being battered in futile attacks against the entrenched Confederates.
The attack, though initially successful, was halted by the rapid and accurate fire of the 5th Indiana Battery posted on high ground along the Dalton-Resaca Road. “They soon appeared on this hill and opened with a heavy volley of musketry,” an Indianan later told; “the distance to the top of the hill was 150 yards. The men themselves without any orders of suggestions from their officers double shotted the guns, in some instances, with a spherical case and a charge of canister and at other times a double charge of canister—and maintained the most rapid fire possible. A scattering few of the most daring ones of the charging forces reached the road at the foot of the hill within fifty yards of the Battery.”
Another noted: “This was the most terrific artillery practice which occurred during the entire period of the war, surely the most terrific and destructive of human life, for the time occupied—that is record in history…. Shot, shell and canister at the rate of not less than five discharges per minute from six pieces! Officers could be heard shouting occasionally muzzles down! Muzzles down! The gunners yelling for ammunition…. Pandemonium reigned for about fifteen minutes.”
The Chaplain of the 3rd, Thomas H. Deavenport recalled, “The Third leading the charge. We passed out through an old field a half mile and charged up a hill through thick woods. It was a grand charge and the enemy was driven hastily back from their entrenched position, leaving knapsacks, haversacks, guns, and it seemed as if all their rammers, for the ditches were lined with them. We gained the second hill and were halted…. In this charge we lost our gallant Major F.C. Barber.”
Friends took Barber’s blood-stained Bible from his body to return to his wife. Lt. Col. Calvin Clack took the time to note in the Bible, “Maj. F.C. Barber, 3rd Regt. Tenn was mortally wounded while gallantly charging the enemy on the 14 of May, 1864 in the fight near Resaca. His last words spoken after being shot were ‘I know the Third will do its duty….’ Officers and men of the 3rd Tenn without exception deeply mourn his loss…. By his old messmates of the Third Tennessee. Calvin J. Clack, Lt. Col., 3rd Tenn; Col. C.H. Walker; Adj. D.S. Martin.”
Barber’s death was felt throughout his brigade. Brig. Gen. John C. Brown’s, a soldier in a sister regiment noted, “The loss of no one of our brigade, perhaps during the whole war, was more deplored….”
Barber was born in Union County, Pennsylvania, but as a young man traveled to Tennessee, attending Giles College in Pulaski, Tennessee, where he became a farmer and school teacher. He taught in the community of Bryson where he met Mary Paine Abernathy, a member of a prominent Giles County family, whom he began to court. However, the war came, and Barber helped raise a company of local boys for Confederate service. The evening before his company was to depart to be mustered into service, he married Mary. The couple never had children, and the death of Flavel left Mary a young widow. She arranged for his body to be returned to Pulaski, where it was buried in Maplewood Cemetery.