Francis C. Barlow

Francis C. Barlow

Francis Channing Barlow (October 19, 1834 – January 11, 1896) was a lawyer, politician, and Union General during the American Civil War.

Early life and career

Barlow was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of a Unitarian minister, but was raised in his mother's home town of Brookline, Massachusetts. He studied law at Harvard University, graduated first in his class, and was practicing law on the staff of the New York Tribune newspaper when the Civil War broke out in 1861.

Civil War

In April 1861, Barlow enlisted as a private in the 12th New York Militia, leaving behind his new bride, Arabella Wharton Griffith Barlow, after one day of marriage. He was commissioned a first lieutenant in his first month of service. His regiment had only a three-month term of enlistment and he mustered out with his men, but soon found a new regiment. By November he was a lieutenant colonel in the 61st New York, and by the time of the Peninsula Campaign in the spring of 1862, he became its colonel.

Barlow saw his first action at the Battle of Seven Pines as part of the brigade commanded by Brig. Gen. Oliver O. Howard in the II Corps of the Army of the Potomac. At Glendale, in the Seven Days Battles, his regiment became separated from the rest of the brigade and he exercised personal initiative by advancing his men to the sound of the fighting, encountering a Confederate battle line and leading his men in a bayonet charge against it. The enemy fled and Barlow picked up a fallen Confederate flag. At the Battle of Malvern Hill, Barlow and his men successfully defended the line against repeated Confederate assaults.

At the Battle of Antietam, commanding the 1st Brigade, 1st Division, II Corps, Barlow's men were in the center of fighting at the infamous sunken road ("Bloody Lane") and captured about 300 prisoners. He was wounded by an artillery shell in the face and by grapeshot in the groin. Brig. Gen. John C. Caldwell wrote about Barlow in his official report:

Two days after the battle, Barlow was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers. He was an unusual general, slight of build with a peaceful, boyish face, colorless cheeks without a typical general's beard, and a thin voice. He dressed informally, often wearing a "checked flannel lumberjack shirt"Tagg, p. 125.] under an unbuttoned uniform coat. One of General George G. Meade's staff officers wrote that he looked "like a highly independent mounted newsboy." But Barlow had a reputation as an aggressive fighter with strong personal confidence. Rather than carrying the Army-issued officer sword, he wore a heavy enlisted man's cavalry saber, which he used to whack the backsides of stragglers. (His disdain for stragglers became a personal obsession. His columns on the march would be followed by a company in skirmish line with fixed bayonets to move them along.)

Barlow suffered from his Antietam wound for months, becoming emaciated and suffering from what doctors called an "influence of malaria." Although he was not fully recovered, he returned to the Army in April 1863 and commanded the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, XI Corps, at the Battle of Chancellorsville. There, his corps was subjected to the devastating flank attack of Lieutenant General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson that routed it, but Barlow's brigade had been detached to support the III Corps and thus escaped the humiliation. After the battle, General Howard promoted Barlow to command of the 1st Division, XI Corps, replacing its wounded commander, with orders to restore the fighting qualities of its defeated brigades. Barlow immediately angered his men by arresting the popular Col. Leopold von Gilsa and they considered him a "petty tyrant."

In July 1863, Barlow commanded his unhappy division at the Battle of Gettysburg, where he led them to a defensive position on Blocher's Knoll, which is now known as Barlow's Knoll. Unfortunately, this slight rise in the terrain was too far forward in comparison to the other XI Corps division and Barlow's position formed a salient that could be attacked from multiple sides. Lt. Gen. Jubal Early's division overwhelmed Barlow's division, causing serious losses and Barlow himself was wounded and left for dead on the field. He was found and cared for by Confederate Major general John B. Gordon, who sent him to a field hospital. According to an account written by Gordon in 1901, he allowed Barlow's wife Arabella to enter the Confederate camp to tend to her wounded husband, but this account is deemed apocryphal. The popular story continued that Gordon presumed Barlow had died and that both men met years later, being very surprised each was still alive. An examination of Barlow's subsequent war record makes this story very unlikely.

As the Confederates retreated from Gettysburg on July 4, Barlow was left behind and recovered by Federal forces. He was hospitalized for a lengthy period and could not return to the Army until April 1864, just in time for Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's Overland Campaign. He commanded the 1st Division of Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock's II Corps, at the Battle of the Wilderness. At Spotsylvania Court House, his division incorporated shock tactics developed by Col. Emory Upton to quickly assault the rebel entrenchments in the "Mule Shoe", effecting a breakthrough that could be exploited by reinforcements. Hand-to-hand fighting ensued for 21 hours, the longest hand-to-hand combat in the entire war, before Barlow's division finally broke through. He fought at the Battle of Cold Harbor and the Siege of Petersburg in the same command. At Petersburg, he took another sick leave in July, but returned to command the 2nd Division, II Corps, during the Appomattox Campaign. He was promoted to major general of volunteers on May 25 1865.

Postbellum life

Arabella Barlow, serving as an Army nurse, died of typhus in the summer of 1864 while Francis was battling in the Overland Campaign. After the war, he married Ellen Shaw, sister of Robert Gould Shaw.

Leaving the army in November 1865, Barlow served as a United States Marshal and the New York Secretary of State and New York State Attorney General, prosecuting the Boss Tweed ring, before he returned to his law practice. He was a founder of the American Bar Association. He was active in Republican politics and investigated the Hayes-Tilden election irregulaties.

Francis Barlow died of Bright's disease in New York City and is buried in Walnut Street Cemetery, Brookline, Massachusetts.

ee also

* List of American Civil War generals


* Eicher, John H., and Eicher, David J., "Civil War High Commands", Stanford University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
* Tagg, Larry, [ "The Generals of Gettysburg"] , Savas Publishing, 1998, ISBN 1-882810-30-9.
* Warner, Ezra J., "Generals in Blue: Lives of the Union Commanders", Louisiana State University Press, 1964, ISBN 0-8071-0822-7.


External links

* [ Civil War nurse site entry on Arabella Barlow]
*findagrave|5842014 Retrieved on 2008-02-12
* [ Article on the Gordon/Barlow story in]

NAME= Barlow, Francis C.

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