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Midi Sequence by Barry Taylor

      I have been working on a biography of the great Civil War soldier pictured above for the past few years. Why, you might ask, Barlow? Well, for a number of reasons, among which are: 1) he was one of the very best division commanders of the Army of the Potomac, but potential biographers have completely ignored him; 2) he, like myself, spent most of his adult life practicing law in New York; 3)among his many post-war accomplishments, most of which have been forgotten, was his successful prosecution, as Attorney General of New York, of the infamous ring of Boss Tweed, the New York City Democratic Party machine whose corruption was of a staggering magnitude; 4) unlike most of the top generals in the Union Army, Barlow had absolutely no previous military training, had never held a gun for that matter, but through intensive self-education made himself into one of the front rank among Union generals; 5) last, but not least, his first command in the Army of the Potomac was as colonel of the 61st New York Volunteers, an entire company of which was recruited from the alumni, students and neighbors of my alma mater, Colgate University(then called, "Madison"), a regiment he led with great distinction at the Battle of Antietam(September 17, 1862) where he was severely wounded.


      General Barlow was born in 1834 in Brooklyn, New York where his father was a minister. When he was still very young his family relocated to Brookline, Massachusetts, where he spent most of his growing up years. He entered Harvard University, and graduated first in his class in 1855. After graduation he moved to New York City where he did some editorial work for the "New York Tribune" while studying law and thereafter practicing in the City with another lawyer.
      At the beginning of war, Barlow joined a New York militia regiment as a private, having rejected the offer of a commission because he did not consider himself competent to hold one at this time, but it wasn't long before he was promoted to First Lieutenant. After the disaster at Bull Run in July of 1861, Barlow's>[IMAGE]regiment was mustered out of service, and he went home to study the military arts so as to be prepared for the inevitable return to the military. He joined the 61st New York as Lieutentant Colonel and second in command, and succeeded to the command of the regiment in April of 1862. Barlow led the 61st New York with distinction throughout General George B. McClellan's undistinguished and unsuccessful Peninsula Campaign of the Spring and early summer of 1862, the "On to Richmond" campaign. While missing Second Bull run, the 61st was in the center of things at Antietam and, thanks to a brilliant flanking movement conceived by Barlow, destroyed the Confederate force defending the famous "Sunken Road." In the course of this action Barlow was severely wounded, and was forced to leave the Army until the following year. He was promoted to Brigadier General the day after the battle.
      After leading a brigade which saw little action at Chancellorsville in May of 1863, Barlow commmanded a division of the 11th Corps at Gettysburg which helped to delay the Confederates for long enough to enable the Army of the Potomac to get up in strength.[IMAGE]Again, Barlow was severely wounded(his wound was thought to be mortal at the time) while standing firm against overwhelming numbers, and his statue now graces the spot where he fell on what will forever be known as, "Barlow's Knoll." Barlow miraculously survived his Gettysburg wounds and returned to the Army of the Potomac in the Spring of 1864 as commander of the First Division of General Winfield Scott Hancock's Second Corps, the shock troops of the Army(Hancock's general staff was at that time arguably the best corps staff in the Army. His division commanders pictured below were: seated- Corps commander, Major General Winfield Scott Hancock; standing, from left to right- Barlow, Major General David Bell Birney, Major General John J. Gibbon). It was in this capacity that Barlow was to perform what would perhaps be his greatest service to his country. He led his division in the Wilderness, and was at the point of the famous attack at the salient of Spottsylvania and the almost suicidal charge at Cold Harbor.

      After leading his division in the early battles of the seige of Petersburg in the summer of 1864 Barlow, suffering from his prior wounds, exhausted from his non-stop duties and, probably most important, grieving for his wife who had just died of a disease contracted while serving in a military hospital,[IMAGE] received a leave of absence, and did not return to the Army until the beginning of April, 1865, when Lee had already commenced his retreat toward Appomattox Court House. While only serving for the nine remaining days of the war in Virginia, Barlow's division nonetheless managed in that short period to save an Appomattox River bridge which the Confederates were attempting to destroy to prevent the Union forces from pursuing Lee. Had they been successful in this venture there is a good chance that Lee would have made good his escape from Grant as a result of the time thus gained.
      After the Civil War Barlow resumed the practice of law in New York City, and served at various times as Secretary of State of New York, United States Marshal for the Southern District of New York and, as stated above, as Attorney General of New York. His political career lasted only until 1877 when he retreated into the world of what would now be called the Wall Street lawyer, never again being in the public eye. It was said of him that he was much too honest and had too much integrity to survive for long in the sewer of New York politics as practiced in the late 19th century. Perhaps the final blow came when, as a Republican Party representative on a commission to examine into possible election fraud in the Hayes-Tilden presidential campaign of 1876, Barlow produced a report which was favorable to the Democrat position!
      While a biography of General Barlow has yet to be written he was immortalized by the[IMAGE] great 19th Century artist, Winslow Homer in perhaps his most famous Civil War painting, "Prisoners FromThe Front" which was painted in 1866,(This work is the property of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City). Homer was attached to General Barlow's staff as an aide-de-camp, and was, like Barlow, still a very young man. Not surprisingly, the Union officer depicted in this painting is General Barlow, probably at some point during the Overland Campaign in the Spring of 1864.


Colgate Seal

THE COLGATE CONNECTION: It was while doing some research for my Barlow opus that I came across the recently published Civil War memoirs of one Charlie Fuller who served with 61st New York from its organization until his Gettysburg wounds put him out of the war for good. Charlie was a Colgate(I use the current rather than the contemporary name, "Madison") graduate and a native of Sherburne, New York, some ten miles south of Hamilton where Colgate is located. It was from Charlie's memoirs that I learned that an entire company of the 61st was recruited from the students and alumni of Colgate and the Hamilton, New York area. I have since learned from materials kindly supplied to me by Carol Smith of the Case Library at Colgate that when Colonel Barlow took the 61st into battle for the first time, at Fair Oaks Virginia on June 1, 1862, three companies of his command were led by Colgate men.

The Colgate man who would rise to the highest rank in the 61st New York(and, I believe, in the Army, as well) was K. Oscar Broady(how's that for a monniker!) who would rise to command the 61st early in 1864(it might be noted that 61st served in Barlow's division of the Second Corps after Barlow returned to the Army in the spring of 1864 and until Barlow left the Army that summer), and would command a Second Corps brigade during the seige of Petersburg.

Colgate's connection to General Barlow is, as far as I know, limited to the men of the 61st New York with one interesting exception: the Eleventh Corps chief of artillery who commanded the guns which covered the retreat of Barlow's men on the first day of Gettysburg was one Major Thomas Ward Osborn, a man whom some in the Army of the Potomac considered to be the best artillerist in the Army next to his commander, General Hunt. Osborn's outstanding performance throughout this battle is commemorated at Gettysburg by a plaque which was placed next to the memorial to General John F. Reynolds, the First Corps commander who was killed on the first day of the battle.



This page was created and is maintained by Charles M. Welch.Click on the statue to e-mail me any comments you may have concerning this page. Mailbox