Francis G. Barnes
|Quantity:||2 Boxes (0.50 cubic ft.)|
|Access:||Open to research|
|Acquisition:||Gift: Julia Bradt Taylor, Lincoln, Massachusetts, April 1992|
|Processed By:||Fred Bassett, Senior Librarian, Manuscripts and Special Collections, December 1992; revised March 2011|
Scope and Content Note:
This collection consists of 69 letters written by Francis G. Barnes to his wife, Frances M. Barnes, plus two manuscript documents that cover his entire career in the army during the Civil War. Barnes was a native of Phoenix, Oswego County, New York. Military records indicated Barnes served with the 21st New York Independent Battery Light Artillery from 1862 to 1864. He mustered in as a private on December 12, 1862, and attained the rank of first lieutenant before mustering out September 8, 1865.
The letters commence November 21, 1862, from French’s Hotel in New York City where Barnes received the New York State bounty of $50.00. On December 12 he wrote that he and the rest of the men who volunteered at the same time had been mustered in as an independent battery. By December 15 he was writing from the ship taking them to Fortress Monroe. Once there, he spent two extra weeks in the hospital attending his brother who had suffered an accident. By February 1863 he and his shipmates were in quarantine in the port of New Orleans because of an outbreak of smallpox. Once released into the city itself, their first duty was to guard a railroad 40 miles above New Orleans. His battery was posted at Jefferson College (where Barnes pilfered books); their first battle was a skirmish preparing to assault Port Hudson, which they did in the wake of July’s Vicksburg victory, under General Nathaniel Banks. Barnes was granted leave in the summer of 1863, and he returned in late fall to Louisiana via Cairo, Illinois.
Barnes was discharged from 21st Independent Battery in January 1864 to accept a commission as a second lieutenant in the 8th Regiment Corps d’Afrique, which became the 80th Regiment U.S. Colored Infantry. Evidentially, Barnes already had had some experience working with African-Americans in the past and held a somewhat favorable opinion of their abilities. While serving with the 21st Battery, he had been in charge of African-American laborers and admired their prowess. On June 23, 1863, he wrote his wife that he thought preparing “colored men a grand idea” and Lincoln should have done it sooner.
In April 1864 the Corps d’Afrique moved up to St. James Parish, where they remained guarding river traffic almost to the end of the war, with occasional forays to a camp at Bonnet Carré, Louisiana. Barnes had apparently rejoined the 21st Independent Battery near Mobile, Alabama, in mid-April 1865, at which time he learned of Lee’s surrender. On his letter of April 25, 1865, written from a desolate camp on the Tombigbee River, he offered somewhat prophetic thoughts upon learning the news about Lincoln’s assassination: “His [Lincoln’s] name will go down to posterity equally honored and venerated with Washington ... I think that in reality that his death is a greater loss to the south than the north ...” Barnes remained camped near Mobile, Alabama, until late July, when his battery was ordered for duty at Galveston, Texas.
This is a fine collection of letters, in terms of their completeness and quality of content. Barnes’s propensity to record his experiences in detail and at length is excellent. His war career, while not exciting militarily, placed him in the South, and with African-American troops, and his observations on both are valuable. John Demos, historian, transcribed all the letters in the course of preparing an undergraduate thesis, which included essays on Barnes’s religious beliefs, on his attitude toward African-Americans and on his impressions of the South, as well as Demos’s footnotes that trace Barnes’s biography. Generally, Demos showed that Barnes was typical of an educated, rural-dwelling Northerner, including his prejudices. Even as he defended the worth of African-American soldiers, he decried their inability to handle money responsibly, to withstand the cold, to act on initiative. By January 1865 he declared himself sick of living among soldiers. He was both fascinated and repelled by the South. He considered it, always, to be akin to a foreign country, and the Secessionists themselves were not much better than agents of the devil. Yet, despite his many vindictive harangues, he mused in his very last letter that he might like to move to the South after the war.
Box and Folder List:
|1||0||Finding aid and historical information|
|Original manuscript letters of Francis G. Barnes to his wife, 1862-1865|
|1||1||Letters, November-December 1862
|1||2||Letters, January-March 1863
|1||3||Letters, April-June 1863
|1||4||Letters, July-December 1863
|1||5||Letters, January-February 1864
|1||6||Letters, March-June 1864
|1||7||Letters, July-December 1864
|1||8||Letters, January-April 1865
|1||9||Letters, May-August 1865
|1||10||Military orders, etc.
|2||Transcripts and Appendices compiled by John Demos|
|2||1-2||Transcripts of the letters of Francis G. Barnes to his wife, Frances M. Barnes, 1862-1865; (394 p.)|
|2||3||Endnotes (30 p.)|
|2||4||“Appendix one: Barnes’ religious faith and the war” (22 p.)|
|2||5||“Appendix two: Barnes’ impressions of the south” (6 p.)|
|2||6||“Appendix three: Barnes’ opinion on the Negro soldier question” (8 p.)|