Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Who Remembers Private Barron?

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on August 20, 2011

Not all war casualties are the result of enemy action. From the New York Times, March 20, 1864:

GALVESTON, Wednesday, Feb. 17.

A terrible accident occurred yesterday morning, near Fort Point. A torpedo, about to be deposited in the bay, exploded in the hands of JOHN T. BARRON, from Falls County, belonging to Co. A., COOK’s regiment. Mr. BARRON’s left leg was shot off below the knee; his right hand shattered, requiring amputation; his clothes took fire and severely burnt his face and legs. The unfortunate man was sent to the hospital. He was still alive when last heard from.

Private J. W. Barron of Company I, of the 1st Texas Heavy Artillery (Cook’s Regiment), was a 42-year-old conscript from Falls County in central Texas, near present-day Waco. His brief compiled service record suggests he was enlisted on January 28, 1864, less than three weeks before the accident; perhaps his inexperience in handling mines contributed to the incident. We’ll never know.

Barron died in the General Hospital at Galveston on either February 23, as noted in his CSR, or February 25, according to the city’s interment record. He was buried on that latter date in potter’s field, which was standard practice for soldiers who died here during the war. Although the interment record lists Barron’s cause of death as “leg blown off,” the week or more between the date of the incident and his death suggests that he died not from circulatory shock, but from the complications of infection that typically accompanied traumatic amputation and burns in the 19th century.

Oleander Cemetery, Galveston, 2011. This cemetery, located on Broadway between 41st and 42nd Streets, was established in the early 1900s, and all the markers here date from that time to the present. In the 1860s, however, this was the site of Galveston’s potters field, where transients and the poor were buried. During the Civil War, it was also the burial place of Confederate garrison troops who died in service here, including Private Barron.

Marker placed by the local UDC chapter at Oleander Cemetery, noting the unmarked graves of soldiers buried at what was then a potters field.

I haven’t found a record of this event in the local newspapers, although the New York Times story was picked up by several other Northern papers. I also haven’t found out much definitive about him outside of his military service, alth0ugh at the time of the 1860 U.S. Census there was a John Barron in Falls County, whose listed age of 60 would make him significantly older than Private Barron. Perhaps he was a relative, or the census rolls gave his age incorrectly. In that census there was also a younger man, one J. W. Barron living near Tyler in east Texas, a 28-year-old farmer with a wife, Elizabeth (32), and three young daughters — Mary (8), Ann (6) and Theodosia (2). (See Vicki Betts’ update in the comments.)

Private Barron came to the ranks as a conscript, late in the war; it seems safe to say that one reason or another kept him from volunteering up to that date. In his early 40s, it seems likely that he had — or had had — a family, and perhaps those commitments kept him home. It’s entirely possible he has living descendants today; I wonder if they remember.
Thanks to the staff at the Galveston and Texas History Center, Rosenberg Library, for assisting with this research.

Famous “Negro Cooks Regiment” Found — In My Own Backyard!

Posted in African Americans by Andy Hall on August 8, 2011

More crackerjack analysis from the leading online researcher of “black Confederates”:

Captain P.P. Brotherson’s Confederate Officers record states eleven (11) blacks served with the 1st Texas Heavy Artillery in the “Negro Cooks Regiment.” This annotation can be viewed on See the third line on the left. Also, the record is cataloged in the National Archives Catalog ID 586957 and microfilm number M331 under “Confederate General and Staff Officers, and Nonregimental Enlisted Men.”

Could this be one of the types of regiments many Confederate historians have documented as part of Confederate History?

Here’s the document in question:

Note that the critical phrase “Negro Cooks Regiment,” as quoted by the researcher, does not appear in the document, which is a routine statement of rations drawn for conscripted laborers. The actual text reads, “Provision for Eleven Negroes Employed in the Quarter Masters department Cooks Regt Heavy Artillery at Galveston Texas for ten days commencing on the 11th day of May 1864 & Ending on the 20th of May 1864.” There’s a similar document in the same collection, covering the period May 21 to 31, as well.

“Cook’s Regiment” is an alternate name for the 1st Texas Heavy Artillery. Like many Civil War regiments, it was widely known and referred to by the name of its commanding officer, Colonel Joseph Jarvis Cook (right). The regiment, formed from a pre-war militia unit, served at Galveston through most of the war, manning the artillery batteries around the island. The African Americans referred to in the document, attached to the regiment’s quartermaster, were likely used in maintaining the trenchwork and fortifications occupied by the regiment, or moving supplies and munitions between them. After the war, the former members of the regiment reorganized themselves as a sort of unofficial militia unit again, which eventually morphed into a social club. The Galveston Artillery Club exists right down to the present day. (Highly recommended for lunch, if you can score an invite.)

I wouldn’t expect most people, even Civil War buffs, to know what “Cook’s Regiment” was off the top of their heads, but it’s quite clear from the original document that it’s an artillery unit, as opposed to a regiment of cooks. The key phrasing quoted, “Negro Cooks Regiment,” is an outright fabrication. And 30 seconds with a search engine would’ve clarified the situation immediately.

Or maybe doing minimal due diligence like that is just a trick used by politically-correct, revisionist “pundits” like myself.

Forget interpretation. Forget analysis. Forget trying to understand the document within the context of the time and place it was written; these people don’t even seem capable of reading the documents they cite. This particular researcher has a track record of misreading documents, and drawing conclusions based on that misreading. A few weeks ago she claimed that the record of one African American, attached to a cavalry regiment, carried the notation, “has no home,” and went on to argue this showed special commitment to the Confederate cause: “with no home, [he] was not phycially [sic.] bound to the south. However, he stayed and served the Confederate States Army.” The actual notation, repeated again and again on cards throughout his CSR, was “has no horse.”

On another occasion, she quoted from a book on Camp Douglas, supposedly to show that a black servant held there had not been released as a former slave, but was held as a prisoner because the Federal authorities had determined that he was a bona fide soldier. This, she argued, was evidence that enslaved personal servants were deemed Confederate soldiers by the Union military. Unfortunately, the very next lines of the book she was quoting from verify that the prison camp did, after months of dragging their heels, determine the man was a slave, and released him on exactly those grounds by order of the Secretary of War.

And now, an entire regiment of “Negro cooks,” right here in my own home town. How did I miss that one? 😉
Image: Order for the evacuation of Galveston, October 1862, signed by Col. Joseph Jarvis Cook, commanding Confederate troops on the island. Rosenberg Library, Galveston.