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Barker, Augustus

AUGUSTUS BARKER. Second Lieutenant 5th New York Cavalry, October 31, 1861; First Lieutenant May 3, 1862; Captain, October 24, 1862; died near Kelly's Ford, Va., September 18, 1863, of wounds received from guerillas, September 17. AUGUSTUS BARKER was born in Albany, New York, April 24, 1842. He was the son of William Hazard and Jeannette (James) Barker. His grandfather on the paternal side was Jacob Barker of New Orleans, Louisiana. His mother, who died soon after his birth, was the daughter of the late William James of Albany. He attended a variety of schools, - at Albany, Sing-Sing, and Geneva, in New York; at New Haven, Connecticut; and finally at Exeter, New Hampshire, where he was a pupil of the Academy. In July, 1859, he entered the Freshman Class of Harvard University. In College he was genial, frank, and popular. His college life, however, closed with the second term of the Sophomore year, and he soon after entered the volunteer cavalry service of New York as a private in the Harris Light Cavalry, afterwards known as the Fifth New York Cavalry, Colonel De Forrest. His first commission as Second Lieutenant of Company L bore date October 31, i86 I; his commission as First Lieutenant, May 3, 1862; and his commission as Captain, October 24, 1862. His regiment passed much of its early career in camp near Annapolis, Maryland, under the command of Brigadier-General Hatch, United States Volunteers, " a very energetic and agreeable man," as Barker wrote, "who superintends in person, and instructs and suggests when he sees the officers at a loss." Although convinced of the necessity of drilling and disciplining the men for active service, Barker was soon weary of the monotony of camp life; for in a letter to his sister, under date of March 17, 1862, he said: "I wish that we could move immediately from here, as this fearful monotony is becoming wearisome, - anything but this passive warfare. I did not come here to wait and wear myself out with vain hopes of a speedy departure. I came here to learn to be a soldier, and then to practise; and as we have become quite efficient in this particular arm of the service, we are daily in expectation of orders to march..... To-day or to-morrow I would gladly go to fight, either to distinguish myself or die. It destroys my disposition to read of victories, day by day, on all sides of us, and not be able to share in any of them. It is too bad. Never mind. I will be in a battle, if practicable in the least degree, or never go home." The regiment was afterwards joined to the corps of General Banks, and was actively engaged in his disastrous Virginia campaign. While at Winchester, in April, Lieutenant Barker was ordered with a small body of picked men to escort General Rosecrans, of whom he speaks in the warmest terms, in a letter of May 2, 1862:" I found General Rosecrans a man full of sympathy, amiability, and yet thoroughly strict in everything he did or ordered; and so definite was he in all details, that I had no hesitation in the performance of my duty, knowing if I acted rightly I should receive his praise, and if I erred through inattention or negligence I should receive his severest rebuke. He appeared to delight in youthful company, throwing off all restraint and that military stiffness which is so apt to paralyze the free actions and thoughts of a young fellow; but he is such a man that he won my affections so much that I felt and even wished that danger might have threatened, so I could have shown my feeling towards him by my ardor and sincerity in averting it..... Besides the invaluable instruction I have received from him in person, his official business so required his presence here and there and everywhere, that I gained quite an idea of the country between Harper's Ferry and Woodstock (which was then the advanced head-quarters), a distance of sixty-two miles. My idea of scenery hitherto has been governed entirely by the region of the Catskills and Berkshire County; but never have I seen so beautiful and peaceful a scene, at the same time grand and extensive, as the Valley of the Shenandoah presented. Forever our home on the Hudson, and our haunt in the hills of Berkshire, may be silent when the recollections of Central Virginia occur." Very soon after the Virginia campaign, about the 1st of August, 1862, Lieutenant Barker was taken ill with typhoid fever, but before yielding to the disease, he had, in a severe skirmish near Culpeper CourtHouse, taken three prisoners single-handed and brought them in. He succeeded in getting to within a mile of Culpeper Court-House, more than a day's ride from where he started. There he was obliged to alight, being unable to proceed any farther. Having had a trooper detailed to escort him and assist him, he was placed under a tree by the roadside and was left alone; his companion spending a whole day in the effort, at last successful, to find him a conveyance to the Alexandria railway, whither he had been ordered. His father, hearing of his illness (but not until ten or twelve days after), proceeded at once to Alexandria, and found him in an extremely low condition, so much so that his surgeon had no hopes of his recovery. His father, however, took the responsibility of removing him to Washington, and to his great joy and happiness saw him begin to rally at once, convalescing so rapidly that in a fortnight he could set out for the North. He went by low stages to Lenox, Massachusetts, suffering no drawback. His health was rapidly restored, and he rejoined his regiment in the same year, November 16, 1862, at Fort Scott, Virginia, near Washington. On the 9th of March, 1863, Captain Barker was taken prisoner with Brigadier-General E. H. Stoughton, they having been surprised in their beds at midnight by Mosby, near Fairfax Court-House. The' General and his staff were betrayed into the hands of the Philistines by Miss Antonia J. Ford, - "Honorary Aid-de-Camp" to the Rebel General Stuart; she had planned the capture with Rebel officers. When near Centreville, on his way to Richmond, Captain Barker made a desperate effort to escape. He was on a strange horse, without saddle, and surrounded by fifteen or twenty Rebel cavalrymen; but, watching his opportunity, he suddenly wheeled, -in the effort unhorsing several of the enemy, - succeeded in getting clear of the guard, and dashed off, the Rebels in full pursuit; a dozen or more shots were fired at him without effect, but coming suddenly upon a formidable ditch, the horse bolted and threw him over his head, without serious injury. The Rebels were upon him in a moment, and knowing that it was useless to resist, he surrendered. A graphic description of this daring attempt, and of the subsequent demeanor of Captain Barker in prison, can fortunately be given in the words of his companion in the misadventure, General Stoughton. " Early in the month of March, 1863, before the gray dawn of day had replaced the darkness gathered during a stormy, cold, and gusty night of rain and sleet, I found myself riding side by side with a young man through the thick pine woods of Virginia, our horses floundering in the mud caused by the recent rains. We were surrounded by several Rebel soldiers, each carrying his pistol in his hand, cocked and ready for use should we attempt to escape; but in spite of this vigilance he managed to communicate to me his name, and his intention to escape as we neared Centreville, rouse the garrison there, and liberate his fellow-prisoners. I reminded him of the peril of the attempt under the circumstances, to which he paid little heed, seeming only anxious as to the horse's capacity to leap the stream which then separated us from Centreville, running only a few rods to our left, and parallel to our course of march. It was now the gray of the morning, and suddenly he dashed from my side directly toward the stream. Almost instantly the report ot several pistols broke the stillness of the morning air, and Barker fell forward on his horse's neck, the horse still plunging toward the stream, on reaching which he raised himself on his hind legs as if to make a spring to clear it, when, suddenly turning short to the left, Barker fell to the ground, as we all supposed at the time mortally wounded, in this most intrepid attempt to release his fellow-prisoners from captivity. Such was my first acquaintance with Augustus Barker, and so much was I pleased with him, that the next day, when I was paroled and permitted to leave the other prisoners, to become the guest of General Fitz-Hugh Lee, I asked that he might accompany me, which request was granted. Afterwards, in Libby Prison, under the most depressing circumstances, he displayed the rarest qualities; his buoyant spirits and good cheer never deserted him. He was, I may say, a great pet with all the prisoners, cheering the downcast and encouraging the anxious and low-spirited. He was a child in spirits, and eminently a man in action. His frank, joyous, and patient bearing was envied and admired by all. " I slept under the same blanket with him during his entire imprisonment, and I recollect very well that one morning, as upwards of sixty officers from the Western army were turned into our room, — which already literally swarmed with about one hundred and eighty inmates, - having been stripped of their blankets and overcoats by General Bragg, by whom they had been captured, Barker was the first to relieve their wants so far as lay in his power, and commenced by dividing his own blankets among them. His extreme generosity was, without consciousness or ostentation, made apparent in almost every act of his daily existence. "A harsh or unkind word I never heard him use to any one, and his careful attention to those stricken down by disease in prison bespoke the most gentle and thoughtful nature. "The beauties of his disposition, and his daily acts of kindness during an acquaintance of several months, had endeared him to me quite beyond my power of expression. I heard him repeatedly assert that he would never again be captured alive, and he indulged in great anxiety lest his friends should attribute fault to him for his capture; that was the only thought that ever seemed to affect his spirits. I never saw him after our release from captivity, but I learned of that brave, generous boy's untimely death with great sorrow." After two months of imprisonment, Captain Barker was, on the 6th of May, exchanged, and ordered to Annapolis, where he rejoined his regiment on the 27th of the same month. He was engaged in many severe fights and constantly in skirmishes, and his regiment particularly distinguished itself at the battle of Gettysburg, under General Kilpatrick. He went into the fray with thirty-two men, and came out with only three, the others being either killed, wounded, or missing. A minie-ball passed through his blanket, his horse was killed, and a round-shot struck the ground within a few feet of him, almost burying him with earth; but he escaped without a scratch. On the 16th of September, 1863, the regiment having moved from Hartwood Church, Virginia, and crossed to the southern side of the Rappahannock, Captain Barker was left behind in charge of three hundred men, picketing the river, and on the 17th while on the march to join his regiment, as he was riding with a single man some distance in front of the column, he was fired upon by guerillas concealed in an adjoining wood. Two balls took effect, -one in the right side and the other in the left breast, - each inflicting a mortal wound. He was immediately carried to the house of Mr. Harris Freeman, near Mount Holly Church, about one mile from Kelly's Ford. From this gentleman and his family the dying soldier received the most tender attentions. Everything in their power was done to alleviate his sufferings; but he survived his wounds only twelve hours, dying on the 18th of September, 1863, in the twenty-second year of his age. His body was taken to Albany, where it was buried with military honors from St. Peter's Church, October 1, 1863.

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