Monday, January 18, 2016

Was Colonel Barber Present at Gettysburg?

Pick up any order of battle for Confederate forces commanding at Gettysburg, and Col. William Barber, of the 37th North Carolina Troops, is not listed as being in command of the regiment during the battle. He was wounded at Chancellorsville, and, according to the North Carolina Troop  books, he did not return until "prior to September 1, 1863." Instead, many believe that the regiment was commanded by Lt. Col. William G. Morris, who was captured on July 3, 1863.

But I'm still not convinced. And here is why.

General Lane drafted his official report on August 13, 1863. Concerning the attack of Lane's brigade on the afternoon of July 1, the General writes, "We then moved forward about a mile, and as the Seventh Regiment had been detained a short time, Colonel Barbour threw out 40 men, under Captain [D. L.] Hudson, to keep back some of the enemy's cavalry....." Lane mentions Baber one other time, toward the close of the report, writing that "Colonel Barbour, of the Thirty-seventh, refers to his heavy loss as sufficient evidence of the gallantry of his command." Lane  never mentions Lieutenant Colonel Morris. These sources all come from the Official Records, Volume 27, pat. 2, page 664-668.

My second piece of evidence comes from the letter of Capt. Thomas L. Norwood of Company A, 37th North Carolina. Norwood was wounded and captured on July 3, and a couple of days later, escaped. Norwood arrived back within Confederate lines on July 12, and even had breakfast with Robert E. Lee. The general quizzed him about what he had seen on his sojourn through Federal lines. Norwood was in a hospital in Richmond when he wrote his father a letter about his adventures. In this letter, dated July 16, 1863, Norwood writes that after his breakfast with Lee, he "reported to Col. Barber who sent me to the hospital here at Richmond."

One final piece of evidence to consider: Lieutenant Morris was held as a prisoner of war until March 22, 1865, and never rejoined the regiment. On October 1, 1877, he wrote a letter to the Raleigh Observer about his Gettysburg experiences. At no point in the letter does Morris mention Barber, but at the same time, Morris never mentions being in command of the regiment. He does write: "I was Lieut. Colonel of my regiment." I would think that had he been in command, he would have noted it.
So there you have it, why I feel that Barber was in command of the 37th North Carolina at Gettysburg. Do you agree or disagree?

PS: Is it Barber or Barbour? The family spells it Barber. About half way through the war, it is clear that Barber started signing his correspondence Barbour. However, when it came time to erect a tombstone, the family went with Barber.

PSS - I found another piece. Barber endorsed the resignation letter of Lt. Thomas Kerns on May 17, 1863. Yet another piece, in my opinion, that points that Barber was present in this time frame. 

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