Library Collections: Document: Full Text
A Brilliant War Record
While our people can never forget the great results of our Civil War, nor the names of a few of its heroes made glorious for all time, they are likely to lose sight of the many splendid examples of heroism, of grand manhood, which the War developed among the Volunteers. It is our purpose, from time to time, to remind our readers of conspicuous examples of citizen soldiership, and with this number we present at brief summary of the brilliant war record of
BREVET MAJOR-GENERAL HENRY A. BARNUM.
Immediately upon the receipt of the news of the firing upon Sumter, General Barnum, then a Lieutenant of Company D, 51st Regiment, of the National Guard of our State, located at Syracuse, took active part with other officers of the Regiment in offering its services, through the Governor, for the defense of the assaulted flag.
Immediately, also, on the passage of the law authorizing the formation of thirty-eight regiments of Volunteers, Lieut. Barnum was among the first to move in raising a Volunteer Infantry regiment, which was numbered the 12th, though it was the first Volunteer regiment ready for muster in this State. Abandoning his profession of the law, and bidding adieu to a devoted young wife and a first born son of three weeks age, he enlisted as a private in Co. 1, of the 12th Regiment, on the 22d of April, 1861, nine days after the echoes of the first rebel gun had vibrated upon the northern air. Under the provisions of the law, he was elected Captain of his Company, proceeded with the regiment to the rendezvous at Elmira, April 30, 1861, was mustered into the United States service as Captain Co. 1, 12th N. Y. Volunteer Infantry, May 13th, 1861, and with his command encamped on Capitol Hill, Washington, the night of June 1, 1861, that being the first regiment to leave the Elmira rendezvous for the defense of the imperiled Capitol.
The regiment was first under fire at Blackburn's Ford, July 18, 1861, in the fighting preliminary to the first battle of Bull Run. Receiving a fearful fire of artillery and musketry, while forming the line of battle on thickly wooded ground, the regiment broke and flew to the rear, an unauthorized order to retreat having been given by one of the officers. Captain Barnum, however, was especially complimented in the report of General Tyler, for holding his company intact on the line until orders were sent to him to withdraw, and the regiment was re-formed at the rear on his unbroken command. In the Sunday battle following, and during two years service, the regiment made a splendid record.
In October, 1861, Captain Barnum was promoted to be Major of his regiment, and in the advance on Manassas in the Spring of 1862, his regiment being on duty garrisoning the forts in front of Washington, he was on his own request assigned, by orders of the War Department, to duty on the staff of the lamented General Wadsworth, and proceeded with that officer to the front.
On General Wadsworth being made Military Governor of Washington, he invited Major Barnum to continue service on his staff, but a month later, when his regiment was ordered to the Peninsula under General McClellan, he was, also at his own request, relieved and permitted to join his regiment, which he reached just as they were embarking at Alexandria.
Serving through the campaign and the seven days' fights with conspicuous gallantry, at Malvern Hill he was detailed to the staff of General Butterfield, his Brigade Commander, most of whose staff officers were either killed or disabled.
General Butterfield, under General Fitz John Porter, had command of the left wing of our army, and Major Barnum, all that gallantly fought day, was almost constantly under fire, carrying and bringing orders, and placing regiments, brigades, and batteries in positions. Late in the evening, having conducted each of the regiments of his brigade except his own into the fight, to strengthen the line at different points, he was directed to place the 12th N.Y., on the line of battle. His request to remain with it was granted by General Butterfield, and soon after becoming engaged, the regiment was ordered to cease firing, as the supposed enemy was displaying our flag. Major Barnum personally went to the front and about midway between the lines, while trying to determine if the force in front were friends or foes, he was shot through the body with a musket ball. He walked back to his command and gave the order to renew the firing, but becoming too weak to stand by great loss of blood, he was borne from the field. Surgeons pronounced the wound fatal, and on the retreat of the army that night, his comrades left him on the field in an unconscious state, and supposing him dead, he was so named in the official reports of the battle. The newspapers announced his death, giving his dying words, his funeral oration was eloquently pronounced by Hon. Robert McCarthy, at his home in Syracuse, and on the banks of the James River, at Harrison's Landing, under the friendly shade of a broad spreading oak, a trellised-fenced grave bore on its rough headboard the words