Robert W. Barnard, a Georgetown businessman, commanded a regiment of African American infantry during the Civil War.
Col. Robert W. Barnard, circa 1864.
Robert William Barnard was born in 1827, one of twelve children of English immigrants Robert and Sophia Barnard, and grew up on their farm, Normanstone, on Georgetown Heights. In 1850 Barnard, a Georgetown auctioneer and commission merchant, married his cousin Katherine Theodosia Fuller of Montrose, Pennsylvania (National Intelligencer, September 16, 1850). In the 1860 census the couple have five children, and live on Bridge Street (M Street) near the Aqueduct.
Katherine Theodosia Fuller Barnard.
In May 1861, with the Civil War only a few weeks old, Robert W. Barnard received a commission as 1st Lt., 19th Infantry, and detailed to recruiting service. Early in 1863 he joined his regiment in Tennessee. Captain Barnard’s regiment earned its motto September 19-20, 1863: “The Rock of Chickamauga”; the 19th then took part in the Chattanooga and Atlanta Campaigns.
In November, 1864, Barnard was promoted to Brevet Major for meritorious conduct in the Atlanta Campaign, and was simultaneously appointed to be colonel of the 101st Infantry, Regiment, US Colored Troops. The 101st USCT, organized in Tennessee in September of 1864, to guard the railroad around the Union stronghold of Nashville, was a Veteran or Invalid Reserve unit, i.e. soldiers convalescing from wounds. Simultaneously, Barnard was commander of the Contraband Camp, Department of the Cumberland; five thousand refugee slaves. (Official Record III, 4, p.771)
Officers of the 101st U.S. Colored Troops, Col. Barnard, seated third from left. (William A. Gladstone, Men of Color, 1993)
At about this time the Confederates in Alabama under Gen. Hood prepared to attack Nashville, and if successful, to join forces with Gen. Lee in Virginia. The 101st USCT were part of force that succeeded in frustrating Hood’s intention, and saw action at Madison Station, Alabama (November 26, 1864). The 101st also participated in actions at Scottsboro (January 8, 1865), and Boyd’s Station, Alabama (March 18, 1865).
In March, 1865, Barnard became Lt. Colonel by Brevet; his family was with him in Nashville at this time. Barnard wrote his mother that his contrabands raise cotton, and that the local whites “bushwhack” soldiers and rob Union citizens. (Letter, Barnard Papers, March 19, 1865)
In January, 1866, Barnard returned to his former regiment, the 19th Infantry. At this time he asked for, but did not receive, a command of colored regiments being formed out west. Instead he was made commander at Fort Smith, Arkansas.
The following year Barnard was, with his family, at Ft. Riley, Kansas. He writes to his mother: “I wish the getter up of the affair [i.e. the present campaign] was subjected to Indian torture, for proposing such a wicked scheme, the Indians of this department are all friendly, and this raid against them is uncalled for.“ (Letter, March 17, 1867, Barnard Papers, Historical Society of Washington)
Navajo warriors interned at Fort Sumner (Bosque Redondo), New Mexico. (National Archives)
“My youngsters have turned about half Indian, go around with bows and arrows, with belts and scalping knives, wear moccasins and jabber Navajoe. I am here on a general court martial, as president of it, and a greater bore cannot be imagined.” (Letter from Fort Union, New Mexico, August 24, 1867)
Later that year the Barnard family were stationed at the Navajo internment camp at Fort Sumner, New Mexico. Edward Barnard was born there, October 21, 1867. Some time later Barnard’s family went back to Georgetown.
In 1869, now with the 28th Infantry, in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Barnard requested of the army that his family be allowed to join him again.
On July 21, 1870, Bvt. Col. Barnard, age 52, died of chronic hepatitis, at Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Georgetown Courier, July 23, 1870)
After Robert’s death in 1870, Kate and the children returned to Scranton, Pennsylvania, where her family lived.
Robert W. Barnard’s service record.
Barnard Papers, Historical Society of Washington (finding guide by Michelle Krowl).
William A. Gladstone, Men of Color, 1993
Correspondence and photographs, courtesy of a descendant.
The citation and acknowledgement of my research is greatly appreciated.
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