Lieutenant Colonel John S. Coleman (1830-1903)

John S. Coleman was the third great-granduncle of companion Jason Fite. The following sketch is from The Ozark Region, Its History, and Its People. Vol. II. Springfield, MO: Interstate Historical Society, 1917 (pg. 191-194).

"The first of the Coleman family to migrate to Missouri was the man whose name stands at the head of this sketch, John S. Coleman. He was the third son of the couple, William S. and Elizabeth Coleman, who, as we have told, emigrated from Virginia to East Tennessee in 1828, and was one of the children left for their widowed mother to support and rear. John S. Coleman was born in Roane county, Tennessee, on the 18th of February, 1830. He had such schooling as that early day afforded in the Tennessee mountains, and from the time he was large enough to help earn the family living, he worked to aid his mother in her struggle...

In 1850 young Coleman emigrated from his old Tennessee home to the little frontier village of Springfield, Missouri. He arrived at the new location in the autumn, and went to work as a journeyman at his trade (mill-wright and carpenter)...

The attack upon Fort Sumter, which inaugurated the Civil War, was made on the 14th of April, 1861. As if the flash of that cannonade had been the match to light the mine long ready for the torch, the whole land, north and south, flamed into war. All through these Ozark hills men instantly took sides. Neighbors, who had lived as brothers all their lives, became deadly enemies; brother turned against brother; father against son; and it was at once evident to all men of vision, that here was to be a very vortex of that awful strife.

John S. Coleman was not made of material that shrank from any risk or danger involved in standing up for the principles that he felt were right. From the first rumblings of the storm he had declared for the Union. So it was that when at last,

"North and south made end of words,

For the stern argument of swords!",

John S. Coleman organized a company of Home Guards, and was elected its captain. It is said that at this time he invoiced his goods, notes, and accounts, and found that he was worth just about an even four thousand dollars. When the four years of strife ended he found that nearly all of this money, the accumulation of years of toil and economy, had disappeared, just a drop in the sea of the losses of those terrible years.

Captain Coleman led his company and served in that short and disastrous campaign in July and August, 1861. He was with Lyon and Sigel at the defeat of Wilson's Creek, and marched to Rolla with the defeated Union army, after Lyon had died in that last charge on Bloody Hill. The battle of Wilson's Creek was fought on the 10th of August, 1861, and on the 28th of August following, the term of service of his first company having expired, Captain Coleman organized another company, which became company A in the celebrated "Phelps Regiment," led by Colonel John S. Phelps, and one of the most illustrious regiments that fought under the stars and stripes.

January 19, 1862, the regiment formed a part of the army under command of General Curtis, which started out from Rolla against the Confederates under General Price, who were holding Springfield. The Union army reached Springfield on the 13th of February, but they found no Confederates waiting their coming, for Price had decided the odds were too strong against him, and had retreated. The Union commander at once followed in full pursuit, and it is of record that Captain John S. Coleman, with Company A, led the Federal army's advance. The hottest engagement in this retreat and pursuit was fought at Sugar Creek, and Price again retreated. This was on the 17th of February, 1862.

Before Price had gone far he was met and reinforced by a strong Confederate army under General Van Dorn. He now thought the advantage of numbers being with him he could retrieve his former disasters, so he turned and by a swift movement, nearly surrounded the Federals on Pea Ridge, in Benton county, Arkansas. Here developed the fiercest battle of the entire war, so far as the territory west of the Mississippi was concerned. For three days, March 6, 7 and 8, the conflict raged. General Van Dorn and many high officers of the Confederates were slain, with hundreds of others on either side. But at last the scales turned once more in favor of the Union, and Price retreated with the remnant of his forces. In this fight no less than twenty-three men of Captain Coleman's company were killed or wounded. A percentage of nearly one-fourth of all engaged shows two things: the fact that the captain led into the thickest of the fight, and that his men followed where he led.

This company was mustered out on the 11th of April, 1862, their term of enlistment having expired. On August 2d, of that same year, Mr. Coleman was elected captain of Company B, of the Seventy-fourth Regiment of Enrolled Missouri Militia. With this new command he was in active service under Generals Totten, Schofield, McNiel and Holland. In November, 1862, he was promoted to be the lieutenant colonel of the Seventy-fourth, and continued active work against the enemy. In January, 1863, his command was attacked by the Confederate general, John S. Marmaduke, who was retiring after being defeated in an attempt to capture Springfield. Under Colonel Coleman's charge at the time was some government trains, which would have been a rich prize forthe Confederates if they could have taken them. Again and again Marmaduke's men charged with great gallantry, but the Seventy fourth Missouri and their lieutenant colonel held like a stone wall, and the disappointed rebels were compelled to give up and retire.

March 26, 1863, Colonel Coleman was transferred as lieutenant colonel of the Sixth Provisional Regiment Missouri Rangers. His field of operations was in the counties of Lawrence, Jasper, Newton, McDonald, Barry, Stone and other southwest Missouri counties. John S. Coleman was not a man to do his duty in any but the most thorough manner. To him that class that has come down in history as "Copperheads," was more obnoxious than the open enemies of his cause who met him in battle. So thoroughly was this class made to conform to orders that a great cry was raised of oppression. These men evidently had friends at court, for Lieutenant Governor Hall, who in the absence of Governor Gamble was temporarily acting governor of the state, demanded his commission. Colonel Coleman afterwards assisted in organizing the Forty-sixth Missouri Infantry of Volunteers, and would have been its major, had not the lieutenant governor again interfered.

But not to be kept out of the fight by any injustice, Colonel Coleman at once went into the ranks as a private until the end of his term of enlistment. In 1865 Governor Thomas C. Fletcher, who evidently did not sympathize with the acts of his predecessor, presented Coleman with a colonel's commission. This unsolicited honor can well be set against the acts of Hall, and clearly gave the fighting captain-lieutenant-colonel-private, Coleman, a clean record sheet. But the war was closing and the newly made colonel did not again enlist. He had given four of the best years of his life to the cause, and served with courage, honor and efficiency, and was en titled to return to his home and begin the rehabiliment of his wast ed fortuntes...

The end came to his long, brave and useful life on the Ioth of September, 1903, when he lay down to his eternal rest, leaving a name to his children as an inheritance beyond all riches of gold and silver. Mr. Coleman was a devoted member of the Baptist church, and a staunch and active republican in his politics."