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General Francis Channing Barlow  ~ 'The Boy General'

Son of Reverend David Hatch Barlow and Almire Cornelia Penniman          


Reproduction Number: LC-MSS-44297-33-194 (b&w negative)
Collection: James Wadsworth Family Papers
Repository: Library of Congress Manuscript Div Washington, D.C.

.... Fort Sumter was fired upon on April 12, 1861, and President Lincoln called for 75,000 militia from the northern states on April 15th. Francis C. Barlow enlisted as a Private in Company F of a three month militia regiment, the 12th New York, on April 19, 1861.

Francis married Arabella Wharton Griffith on April 20th and sailed from New York to Fortress Monroe, Virginia, on April 21. The 12th New York was sent to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and served in General Patterson's Army north of Winchester. The Battle of Bull Run was being fought at that time, but Francis did not participate. On May 1rst Francis C. Barlow was appointed a First Lieutenant.

The three month term of the 12th New York expired and Francis Barlow was mustered out at New York City on August 5, 1861.

Francis C. Barlow re-entered the service on November 09, 1861, as Lieutenant Colonel of the 61st New York Infantry Regiment, the "Astor Regiment." The regiment left New York on November 9th for Washington D.C., where it became part of the 2nd Corps of the newly formed Army of the Potomac commanded by General McClelland.

The 61st New York participated in McClelland's Peninsula Campaign and saw action at the Siege of Yorktown and the Battle of Fair Oaks. Francis C. Barlow was promoted to full Colonel on April 14, 1862, during this campaign.

After the Peninsula Campaign, Lee invaded Maryland which led to the Battle of Antietam near Sharpsburg, Maryland. Colonel Barlow commanded jointly the 61st New York and the 64th New York, and they were positioned in front of a Confederate position called the Sunken Road. As the Union forces were following up their repulse of a Confederate counter attack, Colonel Barlow was severly wounded in the groin by grape-shot. On September 19, 1862, two days after the Battle of Antietam, Francis C. Barlow was promoted to Brigadier General.

General Barlow commanded a brigade at the Battle of Chancellorsville, Virginia, on May 1-4, 1863, and at the Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on July 1-3. 1863. At Gettysburg he fought on the right flank of the Union position, had a hill (Barlow's Knoll) named for him, was severely wounded and his brigade was overwhelmed by the Confederates. He was found on the field by Confederate General John B. Gordon and from this incident has come one of the most notable human interest stories of the Civil War.

General Gordon discovered General Barlow on his back and did not appear likely to survive. A minie ball had passed through his body near the spine and he was paralyzed. Gordon gave him a drink, carried him to the shade of a tree and asked his name. Barlow told him,gave him some letters and asked that his wife, a nurse with the Union Army, be sent for. General Gordon sent her a flag of truce and arranged for her safe passage through the lines. Under her care, Francis Barlow survived and recovered, and he went on to other battles in the war. On August 1, 1864, he was breveted to Major General and this promotion was confirmed on May 25, 1865. He resigned his commission on November 16, 1865.

After the war, Francis C. Barlow resumed his law practice at New York City. He was active in Republican politics, he was one of the founders of the American Bar Association, he investigated the Hayes-Tilden election irregularities and he held several public offices. As Attorney General for New York, he conducted the prosecution of the "Boss" Tweed ring of Tammany Hall.

Meanwhile, General John B. Gordon had risen to prominence as both Senator and Governor of Georgia. By coincidence, and unknown to each other, both he and Barlow were invited to a political dinner at Washington. Their re-introduction to each other after the span of years evoked a curious and happy reunion. Both had believed the other to be dead and this chance reunion resulted in a lasting relationship.

Francis Barlow's wife Arabella had died during the war on July 27, 1864, at Washington DC and they had no children. After the war, in 1867, he married second, Ellen Shaw, a daughter of Francis George Shaw of West Roxbury, Massachusetts. Their children were Robert Shaw Barlow, born July 4, 1869, Charles Lowell Barlow, born on October 10, 1871, and Louisa Shaw Barlow, born on July 27, 1873.

General Francis Channing Barlow died on January 11, 1896, at New York City and he was buried at Brookline, Massachusetts.

 

 
The Dublin Post, originally published in the Boston Globe                       Copy of Original Article

Dublin, Georgia Wednesday, March 19, 1879

Francis C. Barlow and John B. Gordon 
Boston Transcript    Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Keene

You may not be aware that it was General Gordon's command which struck the flank of the eleventh corps on the afternoon of the first day at Gettysburg, and after a short but desperate conflict, broke its lines and swept it from the field.

In that fight General Barlow, of New York, commander of the first division, fell dangerously, and it was thought, mortally wounded. He was shot directly through the body. Two of his men attempted to bear him through that shower of lead from the field, but one was instantly killed, and General Barlow magnanimously said to the other: "You can do me no good; save yourself if you can." Gordon's Brigade of Georgian's in its wild charge, swept over him, and he was found by General Gordon himself, lying with up-turned face in the hot July sun, nearly paralyzed and apparently dying. General Gordon dismounted from his horse, gave him a drink of water from his canteen, and inquired of General Barlow his name and wishes.

General Barlow said: "I shall probably live but a short time. Please take from my breast pocket the packet of my wife's letters and read one of them to me," which was done.

He then asked that the others be torn up, as he did not wish them to fall into others hands. This General Gordon did, and then asked: "Can I do anything else for you, general?" "Yes," replied General Barlow, earnestly. "My wife is behind our army. Can you send a message through the lines?" "Certanly, I will," said Gordon, and he did. Then directing General Barlow to be borne to the shade of a tree at the rear, he rode on his command. The wife received the message and came harmlessly through both lines of battle and found her husband, who eventually recovered.

Since General Gordon's election to the United States senate, both he and General Barlow were invited to a dinner party in Washington, and occupied opposite seats at the table. After introductions, General Gordon said: "General Barlow, are you related to the officer of your name who was killed at Gettysburg?" "I am the man," said Barlow. "Are you related to the Gordon who is supposed to have killed me?" "I am the man," said General Gordon. The hearty greeting which followed the touching story, as related to the interested guests by General Barlow, and the thrilling effect upon the the company can better be imagined than described.

<< Major General Francis C. Barlow
Brigadier General John B. Gordon>>
From Francis Channing Barlow by Edwin H. Abbot, Harvard Graduates Magazine, June 1896:

"Francis Channing Barlow was born in Brooklyn, New York, on Octo¬ber 19, 1834, but was raised in his mother's hometown, Brookline, Massachusetts. Graduated from Harvard in 1855, he went to New York, studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1858, and practiced until the outbreak of the Civil War. Barlow enlisted as a private in the 12th New York, a three-month regiment from which he was mustered out in August. He reentered the army as lieutenant colonel of the 61st New York to commence a meritorious military career. As colonel of the 61st and later as brigadier general of volunteers (September 19, 1862), he served throughout the Peninsular campaign and at Sharpsburg under George B. McClellan, where he was severely wounded. "After the war Francis Channing Barlow entered politics and was twice elected secretary of the state of New York; served as United States Marshall; was elected state attorney general, in 1871, and initiated the prosecution of the 'Tweed Ring.' After the expiration of his term he practiced law until his death in New York City on January 11, 1896; he was buried in Brookline."
 
Harpers Weekly, October 07, 1865

General Barlow

Major-General Francis C. Barlow, the Union candidate for Secretary of State in New York, is one of the most heroic and skillful of our soldiers. One of his achievements, the capture of a whole rebel division with its Generals at Spottsylvania, was perhaps the most brillian single feat of the war. Enlisting as a private in New York regiment upon the fall of Sumter, his high capacity, dauntless courage, and loyal devotion, carried him rapidly from the ranks to the Colonecy. At Fair Oaks his regiment, the New York Sixty-first, was nobly conspicupuous. At Antietam he captured two stands of colors and three hundred prisoners, and, leading in the hottest fire, was fearfully wounded and left for dead upon the field.

Promoted to Brigadier his recovery from apparently hopeless injuries enabled him to take part in the great day of Gettysburg, when he was again so severly wounded that he fell into the hands of the enemy, but seemed so nearly dead that they left him, and he was recaptured by our men. By the most unremitting and tender care once more able to join the army, he commaned the first division of Hancock's Second Corps when the final campaign in Virginia opened. The army moved on the 3d of May, and forced its bloody way through the Wilderness. On the 12th, at the earliest dawan, Barlow's Division at the head of the assaulting column broke over the rebel works, and, clubbing muskets, captured three thousand prisoners, an entire division, with Major-General Edward Johnson and Brigadier Stuart. Pushing on with his division and fortunately unhurt, he was actively engaged in the field when the sad news of his wife's death reached him - a wife worthy of a soldier.

Married upon the even of his departure for the war, his wife shared his fortunes, and with a zeal like that of her husband in the field, this accomplished and admirable woman devoted herself to the care of the sick and wounded soldiers in the hospitals. Her duties were most arduous; her devotion unwearied; and stricken at last by mortal illness in the Fredericksburg hospital, she died, refusing to allow her husband to know of her peril until it was too late.

During the final campaign, at the instance of General Grant, the Brigadier was made a Major-General, and emerged untouched, save by the prostration of illness.

Young, accomplished, experienced, of tried ability, and utterly free from personal and partisan cliques and intrigues, General Barlow __ly heads the ticket of the great body of honest men of New York who will have no terms with any kind of rebellion, and whose hearts beat in unison with his own for that Union and Liberty for which he has so bravely fought and so cruelly suffered.

Copy of the original article

THE ELEVENTH CORP, from Gettysburg National Park
The Eleventh Army Corps of the Army of the Potomac was organized in 1862 under General Franz Siegel. Many of the Union regiments of this corps were composed of German immigrants and had served honorably up until the Battle of Chancellorsville, Virginia. It was there that the corps was stampeded during an overwhelming assault by General "Stonewall" Jackson's corps, driving the Union soldiers from the field.

Post-battle accusations of cowardice caused the morale in the Eleventh Corps to plummet. A stigma of shame hung over the corps, though they knew that they were good soldiers and could fight well if led well. The disaster at Chancellorsville was caused by a poor choice of position. The position assigned them at Gettysburg on July 1 was not any better than the one from which they ran two months prior.

After the death of General Reynolds on July 1, General Oliver O. Howard assumed command of all Union forces at Gettysburg, and command of the Eleventh Corps fell upon the shoulders of Major General Carl Schurz. After conferring with Howard near Cemetery Hill, Schurz pushed two divisions of the corps through Gettysburg and into the fields north of the college on the right flank of the First Corps. Quickly taking advantage of what ground was available, Major General Francis Barlow pushed  his 1st Division to a small hill overlooking Rock Creek, driving back Confederate skirmishers from Brigadeer General George Doles' brigade. It was not long before Doles' men returned and skirmishing broke out along the front as Confederate batteries on Oak Ridge and north of Gettysburg began to send shot and shell into the Union regiments.

The few Union batteries responded with accurate and destructive fire. Captain Hubert Dilger's Battery I, 1st Ohio Light Artillery was placed on a small knoll west of the Carlisle Road. Captain Dilger was an expert artilleryman and used his battery to flank Confederate positions on the ridge.

The captain was known amongst his men as "leather breeches" for the leather pad sewn to the seat of his riding trousers though this was not all he was known for. He had a keen eye for placing artillery and his battery had gained a reputation with their fighting skills displayed at Chancellorsville. (Dilger eventually received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions there.) From this rise of ground, Dilger's gunners set to work shattering one of the southern batteries on Oak Ridge and driving another into retreat. Joined by the 13th New York Battery, Dilger's gunners fought throughout the afternoon and were some of the last Union troops to leave this portion of the field. The battery even fought within the town limits until finally being pulled into a position near Cemetery Hill that evening.

On July 01, 1863, this scenic knoll saw the first day's struggle of the Battle of Gettysburg. It was here that Union Major-General Francis C. Barlow, of Howard's Eleventh Corps, met with Confederate Brigadier General John B. Gordon.
Though outnumbered three to one, General Doles sent his Georgia regiments forward. The rattle of musketry echoed over the fields as the lines closed. The 4th and 44th Georgia regiments marched headlong toward Union troops at the small hill, today called Barlow's Knoll. At approximately the same time, General Early's division arrived on the field and charged the Union position centered around the knoll. Early's artillery opened with an explosion of shells into the Union line.

General Barlow wrote: "The enemy soon opened on us with his artillery. His number of guns was superior to mine and though another battery was furnished me, I never got it. The captain of my battery had one leg carried away, one gun disabled and several horses killed, but still kept in position." Barlow was referring to Lt. Bayard Wilkeson and Battery G, 4th US Artillery. Though mortally wounded, Wilkeson continued to direct his gunners as the infantry units gave way all about him.

Doles' Georgians were quick to take advantage of the situation and charged into Barlow's men, breaking the line west of the knoll near the Alms House cemetery. Another Union brigade, commanded by Brig. General Kryzanowski, approached the Confederates and after a brief fight, was thrown back in confusion.

"A force came up against our front in line of battle with supports in the rear," Barlow continued. "We ought to have held the place easily ...but the enemy's skirmishers had hardly attacked us before my men began to run. No fight at all was made. I started to get ahead of them to rally them and form another line. Before I could turn my horse I was shot in the left side, dismounted and tried to walk to the rear. I then got a spent ball in my back which has made quite a bruise. Soon I got too faint to go any further and lay down. I lay in the midst of the fire some five minutes as the enemy were firing at our running men. I did not expect to get out alive."

Luckily for Barlow, a Confederate officer chanced upon the wounded general. General John B. Gordon, whose brigade had just shattered Barlow's position on the knoll, looked down upon the pale officer, dismounted and raised Barlow up from the grass. After giving Barlow some water and a sip of some spirits, Gordon ordered that he be carried to a nearby farm for shelter. This remarkable act of compassion probably saved Barlow's life. Confederate surgeons treated the wounded officer who appeared to be close to death. A message was passed between the lines to General Barlow's wife who accompanied the Union army, and she made her way through the lines the next day to find her wounded husband. With her help, the general slowly recovered from his wounds, returned to the army the following year,and led a division of the Second Corps in the Wilderness Campaign.

The last of Early's brigades, under General Harry Hays and Colonel Isaac Avery, charged around and into the rear of the line. The overwhelming attack collapsed the fragile Union line and a retreat ensued through the streets of Gettysburg. No threats, pleas, or orders could stay the men from leaving the field. "We ran them through the town," wrote Colonel Clement Evans of the 31st Georgia, "and drove them back to their entrenched hills. The victory on the first day was of the most complete character." Fleeing northerners ran into blind alleys and were captured. Others hid in homes and outbuildings. Brig. General Alexander Schimmelfennig took refuge in a pig shed where he hid for several days. Some of the retreating soldiers panicked, leaving equipment and wounded comrades to the fate of the Confederates. Eventually those exhausted Union survivors who could, made their way back to Cemetery Hill where General O.O. Howard and General Winfield Scott Hancock were then organizing the defenses there. The end of the day appeared to be a humiliating Union defeat, but the soldiers had bought time for General Meade to concentrate his forces and forward them to the Gettysburg battlefield.

Cold Harbor, Virginia 1864 from NARA Records
Left to right, Division Commanders: Francis C. Barlow, David B. Birney and John Gibbon, seated General Winfield Scott Hancock

General Winfield S. Hancock and staff of twenty-three, recognized. General Francis C. Barlow, General David B. Birney, General John Gibbon, and Lieutenant Edward Moalf

References for General Francis Barlow, Civil War: 

GENERAL BARLOW'S HEADQUARTERS

 

 

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