From the Archives

Major Knipe Winging a Secessionist

Posted 8/15/2022 By Harper's Weekly
Joseph F. Knipe
Library of Congress

The following news item and image about an incident involving Union officer Joseph Knipe ran in Harper's Weekly on July 20, 1861—the day before the Battle of Bull Run. Knipe, a major and aide-de-camp to Brigadier General Edward Williams at the time, would be wounded several times during the war and rise to the rank of brigadier general. The Pennsylvania native survived the conflict and died in 1901 at 78. 


Our special war correspondent and artist of General Patterson's Division, now in Virginia, furnishes us this week with a sketch of an exciting incident which lately occurred at Williamsport.... Major Knipe, of General Williams's staff, was one morning riding leisurely along the already historic Potomac banks, accompanied by our artist, also a staff officer of the brigade, when he discovered a rebel soldier, likewise riding, upon a hill-side on the opposite shore, and about three-fourths of a mile distant.

As our volunteers of late have been annoyed by stray shots from Virginia at this point, and since to receive either Minie or spherical ball into one's soup-plate or possibly spoon, when the latter is in the act of finding its way northward, is, to say the least, unpleasant even to persons of the most imperturbable dispositions, the gallant Major Knipe deemed the gay cavalier of the Old Dominion fair game for his steady hand and finely-wrought Wessen rifle. So springing from his saddle, he drew bead on Mr. Secessionist. A report, a thin cloud of white smoke curling upward, and in an instant, like a wounded bird, the doomed foe was seen to fall off his steed. His two companions-in-arms, dismounting rapidly, rushed to his assistance, and presently laid him carefully beneath the sheltering branches of a neighboring tree. Whether death followed the unexpected wounding or not is unknown. 

The rapidity with which this little drama was enacted, and the extraordinary success of Major Knipe's aim at so distant an object, lend to the incident an interest by no means common. 

Harper's Weekly
"Major Knipe Winging a Secessionist."



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