Friday, August 19, 2016

General John G. Barnard - Distinguished Officer of the Corps of Engineers

General John G. Barnard
General John G. Barnard was born on May 19, 1815 in Sheffield, Massachusetts among the picturesque Berkshire Hills. John was part of a large and gifted family. His brother, Frederick Augustus Porter Barnard was a longtime educator, president of Columbia University, and namesake of Barnard College. John, Frederick, and other members of their family suffered from a hereditary form of deafness, which worsened with age. In early life, when stationed in New Orleans, Barnard married Jane Elizabeth Brand, of Maryland, with whom he had four children. In 1860, he married Anna E. Hall of Harford County, Maryland, with whom he had three children.

He performed every species of Engineer work; was noted as one of the most accomplished mathematicians of his country; became an erudite author of many valuable volumes; was a soldier ever ready to use his brilliant talents for the nation's welfare; and his high moral worth equaled his intellectual capacity. Many of his accomplishments were hidden from the world because of an inherited deafness, which limited his conversations. However, this infirmity may have turned his mind from externals to the inward development of his higher faculties. He was always a student, and such was his love for scientific investigation that it was jocosely said he read Laplace's "Mécanique Céleste" every morning to get up an appetite for his breakfast.

John received an appointment to the US Military Academy at West Point in July 1829. He was an excellent student and demonstrated remarkable mathematical talents. Superintendent Colonel Thayer said that John was the ablest Cadet that left the institution during the Thayer's sixteen years at the Academy. Barnard graduated second in a class of forty-three cadets in 1833. As one of the top Cadets, he joined Army Corps of Engineers and began a forty-eight-year career in that branch.

Second Lieutenant Barnard's first assignment was as an assistant to Colonel Joseph G. Totten in constructing Fort Adams in Newport, Rhode Island from 1833 to 1834. Totten was the foremost American military engineer of his day and served as Chief Engineer of the Army for much of Barnard's career. There two officers formed a close friendship as evidenced by Barnard's extensive eulogy of Totten in 1866.

Barnard helped construct coastal defenses at Fort Columbus/Fort Jay, Fort Hamilton, and Fort Wadsworth in New York City; New Orleans; Pensacola; Mobile; Fort Livingston, Fort Jackson, and Fort St. Philip, Louisiana; and on the Pacific Coast at San Francisco.

In the Mexican-American War, he directed construction of defenses at the captured Mexican port of Tampico, which protected the city and secured its role as a vital supply line for American forces advancing on Mexico City. He surveyed battlefields for Winfield Scott to assist in infantry and artillery placement. After the conquest of California, he served as Chief Engineer for the Exploration and Survey of the projected Tehuantepec Railroad in Mexico, in 1850–1851 to examine a possible route to the newly acquired Pacific possessions.

From May 31, 1855 through September 8, 1856, Barnard was Superintendent of the United States Military Academy. Following his brief tenure, he returned to work on coastal defenses, especially in the New York and New Jersey area. During a leave of absence, he studied construction projects in Europe.

Soon after the outbreak of the Civil War, US Army commander General Winfield Scott assigned Barnard to the Department of Washington. This Army unit was in charge of defending the capital. On April 28, 1861, Colonel Joseph K. Mansfield, the department commander, attached Barnard to his headquarters as chief engineer.

When the Union Army moved into Northern Virginia on May 24, 1861, Barnard directed building of fortifications on the Arlington hills. He also accompanied the Army to Manassas in July 1861 and was present at the Union defeat at the First Battle of Bull Run (Manassas). Between June 1861 and September 1861, Barnard also served on the US Navy's Blockade Strategy Board. When Major General George B. McClellan assumed command of the Military Division of the Potomac and subsequently command of the Army and Department of the Potomac, Barnard became chief engineer of the Military District of Washington. He implemented McClellan ideas for the defenses around Washington. Barnard planned, designed, and directed construction of the network of forts that protected the capital.

Historic Map of Defenses of Washington
In Barnard's A Report on the Defenses of Washington, published after the Civil War, he commented on the complexity and ever-changing nature of the project.  From a few isolated works covering bridges or protecting several important points, Barnard developed a connected system of fortifications at intervals of 800 to 1,000 yards. He placed enclosed field-forts to defend every prominent point and located batteries for field guns to sweep important approaches and depressions unseen from the forts. General Barnard connected the forts and batteries by rifle-trenches or more appropriately lines of infantry parapets. The parapets had room for two ranks of men and allowed for covered communication along the line. Barnard had new roads built to supplement existing roads so troops and artillery could be moved rapidly from one point on the immense periphery to another, or under cover, from point to point along the line. When finally completed, the defenses consisted of sixty-eight enclosed forts and batteries around a defensive perimeter of about fourteen miles. The fortifications had emplacements for 1,120 guns of which 807 guns and 98 mortars were mounted. There were also 93 unarmed batteries with places for 401 guns. Twenty miles of infantry trenches connected the emplacements. The entire circuit of the line was thirty-three miles, excluding the Chain Bridge works and the stretch across the Potomac from Fort Greble to Fort Lyon. Thirty-two miles of military roads, besides the existing roads and avenues of the District of Columbia, provided the means of communication from the interior to the periphery, and from point to point. These works helped save Washington after the Bull Run defeat. They provided temporary shelter to the shattered national forces in Virginia after the disasters of the campaign of 1862. They helped defend the capital a third time when General Early's troops attacked the city.

On September 23, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln appointed Barnard Brigadier General of US Volunteers and the U.S. Senate confirmed the promotion on March 24, 1862. Barnard was Engineer for the Army of the Potomac between August 20, 1861 and August 16, 1862. He participated in the Peninsula Campaign and directed the siege works at Yorktown, Virginia of offensive and defensive works on the Chickahominy River. On the march to Harrison's Landing on the James River, he reconnoitered and selected positions for the Battle of Gaines Mill, the passage of White Oak Swamp and the Battle of Malvern Hill. After he finished with his assignment in that campaign, he returned to his work on the defenses of Washington as chief engineer of the Department of Washington. In addition to this task, he had special assignments such as devising the defenses of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Following the death of Brigadier General Joseph Totten on April 22, 1864, President Lincoln nominated Barnard to be the next chief of the US Army Corps of Engineers. However, Barnard immediately asked the president to withdraw the nomination.

Barnard was an Engineer in the XXII Corps, Department of Washington, between February 2, 1863 and May 25, 1864. Between May 25, 1864 and June 5, 1864, he was Chief Engineer for the Army of the Potomac. He was on the staff of General Ulysses S. Grant in the Overland Campaign between June 5, 1864 and July 4, 1864. On July 4, 1864, President Lincoln nominated and the Senate confirmed to award General Barnard the honorary rank of brevet major general, US Volunteers, to rank from July 4, 1864 for "Meritorious and Distinguished Services during the Rebellion."

The Army appointed General Barnard Chief Engineer of the armies in the field and assigned him to General Grant's staff. He held this position from the Siege of Petersburg, including the capture of Fort Harrison, the Battle of Hatcher's Run, and the final assault on Petersburg, until the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox, Virginia on April 9, 1865.

General Barnard served in the honor guard for President Lincoln's funeral in April 1865.

The Army mustered Barnard out of the US Volunteers on January 15, 1866. On April 10, 1866, President Andrew Johnson nominated Barnard and the Senate confirmed the honorary grade of brevet brigadier general, USA, (Regular Army) to rank from March 13, 1865 for "Gallant and Meritorious Service in the Campaign terminating with the Surrender of the Insurgent Army under Gen. R. E. Lee." On July 17, 1866, President Johnson nominated and the Senate confirmed to award Barnard the honorary grade of brevet major general, USA, to rank from March 13, 1865 "for Gallant and Meritorious Services in the Field during the Rebellion." The military promoted Barnard to colonel in the Regular Army on December 28, 1865, and he remained in the Army Corps of Engineers until January 1881.

After the war, the Army appointed Barnard president of the permanent Board of Engineers for Fortifications and River and Harbor Improvements. He held this position until his retirement. Barnard successfully recast the approach to coastal defenses, which was required because of the obsolescence of wooden ships and muzzle loading guns. He also advocated the successful use of parallel jetties to improve the mouth of the Mississippi River. He was a prominent member of the United States Lighthouse Board from February 20, 1870 until his retirement.

In addition to his assigned duties, Barnard contributed greatly to scientific literature during his lifetime.
Barnard was the author of numerous scientific and engineering reports:
  • "Phenomena of the Gyroscope, analytically examined" - 1858
  • "Dangers and Defenses of New York" - 1859
  • "Notes on Seacoast Defense" - 1861
  • "'The C. S. A. and the Battle of Bull Run" - 1862
  • With General W. F. Barry, "Reports of the Engineer and Artillery Operations of the Army of the Potomac, from its organization to the close of the Peninsular Campaign" - 1863
  • "Eulogy on the late Bvt. Maj.-General Joseph G. Totten, late Chief Engineer, U. S. Army" - 1866
  • "Report on the Defenses of Washington" (Professional Papers of the Corps of Engineers, No. 20)
  • With Gen. H. G. Wright and Col. P. S. Michie, "Report on the Fabrication of Iron for Defensive Purposes " (Professional Papers of the Corps of Engineers, No. 21, and Supplement)
  • "Report on the North Sea Canal of Holland," (Professional Papers of the Corps of Engineers, No. 22)
  • Papers on the Precession of the Equinoxes, the Pendulum, and the Internal Structure of the Earth (Smithsonian Contributions, Nos. 240 and 310) 

      Besides, the above the works, he wrote numerous scientific pamphlets and elaborate professional reports. He published over seventy articles in Johnson's "Universal New Cyclopedia" that illustrated Barnard's mental strength, his versatility of talents, and his prodigious powers of production. The studies include treatises on Bridge-building and Harbor, Breakwater, Jetty, and Lighthouse construction; complex mathematical dissertations on Calculus, Aeronautics, Imaginaries, Gyroscope, and the Theory of Tides; and valuable histories of the Army Corps of Engineers, Lighthouse Board, and the battle of Bull Run.

Barnard was an original member of the Aztec Club of 1847 as well as the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States.

In 1838, Alabama University conferred upon him the degree of A. M., and in 1864, Yale College awarded him an LL. D. He was a working member of several learned associations. Barnard, along with several other senior officers of the Army Corps of Engineers, was one of the fifty original founders of the National Academy of Sciences.

General Barnard retired from the Army on January 2, 1881 and died in Detroit, Michigan on May 14, 1882. He is interred in Sheffield, Massachusetts.

The announcement of his death by the Chief of Engineers concludes with the following epitaph:

A service of nearly fifty years in the Corps of Engineers has been closed by the death of one of the most prominent of its members.
Of greatly varied intellectual capacity, of a very high order of scientific attainments, considerate and cautious, ripe in experience, sound in judgment, General Barnard has executed the important duties with which he has been charged, during his long and useful life, with conscientious care and regard for the public interests, and with an enthusiastic devotion to his profession. His corps, the army, and the country are his debtors.
Modest and retiring in disposition, considerate and courteous, warm in his sympathies and affections, our deceased associate will be missed as few are missed, and his name, which will be held as one of the foremost names of the Corps of Engineers, will be cherished with peculiar love and affection by his brother officers.

John G. Barnard, Cullum Register, 530-535.
John G. Barnard,
Defenses of Washington, National Park Service,

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