The Civil War Flags Message Board

Ensign Joseph H. Pickle - Color Bearer, 50th VA

Joseph H. Pickle (also spelled Pickel and Pickell), the son of Amos and Polly Pickle, was from Grayson County, Virginia and was 17 years old when he enlisted in Co. D of the 50th Virginia Infantry as sergeant and regimental color bearer. He was commended for gallantry in the regimental report of the Fiftieth Virginia’s actions at Chancellorsville (see O.R., Series 1, Vol. 25, Part I – report #409 of Maj. Linnville J. Perkins). Apparently, he planted the regimental colors over a captured Union battery while they participated in Jackson's flank attack of May 2nd, 1863.

In April of 1864, Major Linnville Perkins wrote a letter to CSA Adjutant & Inspector General Samuel Cooper requesting that, then sergeant, Joseph H. Pickle be appointed to the newly created rank of 1st Lieutenant & Color Ensign of the regiment. Perkins stated that Pickle had distinguished himself for gallantry in several battles and that his conduct at the battles of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg highly deserves this promotion.

Pickle received his appointment to Color Ensign from Confederate Secretary of War James Seddon on April 28th (recorded to rank on the 20th of April). He held his new rank for 7 days before he was killed at the Battle of the Wilderness on May 5th, 1864. The 50th Virginia's battle flag was captured when he died.

Although Pvt John N. Opel of Co G, 7th Indiana was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for the capture of the flag of the 50th Virginia, there was some contention from fellow soldiers as to who actually overwhelmed the flag bearer and took the flag that day. From the regimental history of the 7th Indiana Infantry ("Narrative of the service of the Seventh Indiana Infantry in the war for the Union” By Orville Thomson, 1910) :

Statement of Private Thomas M. Mozingo, Co. E, 7th Indiana :

"The facts, as to the capture of the flag, were that Perry S. Tremain, Robert L. Alyea and myself had a personal scrap with a rebel color-bearer. I was trying to get my gun capped, and found the tube was blown out; just then it was that Alyea and myself went at the color-bearer - Alyea striking the rebel with the muzzle of his gun, and I with the butt of mine, and in the scrap Perry got the flag, tore it from its staff, and then we become separated. I was soon after captured, as the comrades know, along with Colonel Grover. Many times since coming home, however, Perry and I have talked this flag incident over, and he said on falling back from the place of its capture he met Captain Armstrong, who asked him where he got that flag, and on being informed expressed a wish for it, and Perry gave it to him.

These are the facts, and this is the way Captain Armstrong came to have the honor of capturing it. This happened near a branch that ran nearly parallel with the rebel line, on a hill where we, or lot of us went with Bob Curtiss, who carried our flag that day. I mention these things that you may know that my recollection is not so bad; you may consult any one now living, who was with me, among whom are George E. Gilchrist and J. T. Grayson, of Co. D, Abe Canary, George K. Covert and Nelson Richardson, of Co. F, and John Martin, Co. H."

Mozingo stuck with his account of the flag capture throughout his life; his story was repeated in his May 19, 1911 obituary in the local newspaper of Greensburg, Indiana. However, there were still living veterans of the 7th Indiana that disputed his version and wrote the newspaper editors the following week to support the story of John Opel's capture of the flag.