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.