"Tennessee Trails" through Bedford County

Bedford County TN Biographies


Joseph Benjamin Palmer was born in Bedford County, Tennessee, November 1, 1825, and died November 4, 1890. He was educated in the primary schools of the neighborhood, and was afterwards, for two years and more, at the Union University, Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Leaving the University, probably in 1846, he studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1848. He was a Whig, and took an active part in politics from 1851 to 1861, standing fast for the Union until Mr. Lincoln's call for volunteers was made. Like Bell, and Hatton and Marshall, he believed that his first duty was to the people of Tennessee. He therefore raised a company and afterwards a regiment of infantry for the Confederate service. This regiment was the Eighteenth Tennessee, and he was unanimously elected Colonel. At Fort Donelson, the ill-fated, he was captured with his regiment. Sent, a prisoner, to Fort Warren, in Boston Harbor, he was exchanged in May, 1862, and was at once re-elected Colonel of his old regiment. In the fighting around Murfreesboro in the succeeding winter, he was dangerously wounded, and was unable to return to his command until April, 1863. On the first day of the great battle of Chickamauga, he led a gallant and successful charge of his regiment, in which he was desperately, and to appearances, fatally wounded. For the remainder of the day on which he was wounded, and during the succeeding night, he lay upon the battle-field, neglected, and at the very point of death. His body was cruelly torn and mutilated, and his vital forces almost destroyed by the shock and by loss of blood.

Added to all this he suffered intensely from a sickness which had recently come upon him, and which now attacked him with great violence. In time he recovered, but his right arm was permanently paralyzed, and his constitution irreparably injured. Nevertheless he rejoined the army, and in July, 1864, was made a Brigadier-General, richly deserving the promotion, and was assigned to the brigade formerly commanded by John C. Brown. He was at Franklin and at Nashville, following Hood's gallant but fatal lead. Holding together the remnants of his brigade, he retreated with others, after Hood's last disastrous defeat, through Mississippi, and then, proceeding by way of Mobile and Augusta, joined General Joe Johnston. The reorganization of the residuum of Hood's army being necessary, Johnston placed all the Tennesseeans together and gave the command of them to General Palmer. Under him they participated gallantly in the final battle of Bentonville, March 20, 1865. They surrendered with Johnston, and were paroled May 2, 1865. General Palmer, still faithful to his duties, led them home to Tennessee and dismissed them. There were other Confederate Generals from Tennessee who reached higher rank and became more widely known than General Palmer, but there was none who rendered better service, or suffered more, or displayed more courage, fortitude and fidelity. No soldier ever gave stronger proofs of courage and devotion. After the war General Palmer returned to his profession, and continued to have an active interest in politics. He was not a good politician, because, if it may respectfully and safely be said, he was too modest and not sufficiently artful. He was recognized, however, as one of the foremost and most deserving men in the State, and more than once his friends made the effort to induce him to seek the Democratic nomination for Governor. As Governor he would have honored himself and the State. He was a man of ability, of courage and convictions. His whole life was clean and admirable.

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