Friday, April 3, 2015

General Barringer's Ride

The Appomattox Campaign

Lee and Grant's strategies for the next week were simple.  For Lee, it was to keep his army ahead of the Federals and to move west quickly towards Danville and then south to united with General Johnston in North Carolina.  For Grant it was to keep his army on the south side of Lee's march to prevent the linkup with Johnston and to eventually get ahead of the Confederates and block their route to the west.

The tactical execution of these strategies was much more complex.  To move quickly, Lee needed to keep his army moving in columns on different roads.  To have all the army moving on the same route would have slowed them down considerably.  This meant having the bridges across the Appomattox west of Amelia Court House open and for his army to be resupplied with ammunition and rations along the way.

Grant needed to have part of his army push Lee along and for that task he chose the deliberate and careful General Meade.  The other part of his force needed to race along south of Lee and find a place to get ahead of him and cut him off from further movement westward.  For the task he selected the aggressive and irascible General Sheridan.

(To see entire map move it towards the left - Appomattox end) Civil War

On April 3 both armies were on the move and with the Confederate head start there was very little combat.  One exception was a cavalry engagement at Namozine Church, halfway between Petersburg and Amelia Court House, and an incident in that fight illustrates the strength of the long-standing relationships among the general officers on both sides as well as the comity that still existed between combatants even after four years of bloodshed.

Commanding the Confederate cavalry that day was General Rufus Barringer.  After his rearguard stand was broken by Union cavalry, Barringer and some of his men tried to escape but were captured by Union soldiers dressed as rebel soldiers.  The general and his officers were taken to that evening to General Sheridan's headquarters at the home of a Mrs Cousins on the Namozine Road.  They had dinner that night with Sheridan, his staff and Mrs Cousins and the next morning were invited to breakfast with Sheridan. 
                                                                                   (Rufus Barringer from ncpedia. org)
Engraving of Rufus Clay Barringer by J.K. Campbell. Image from
After breakfast, Barringer and his men set off eastwards with an escort for the Union headquarters at City Point on the James River.  While on the road they passed enormous columns of Federal troops and supplies moving west and one of Barringer's party recognized General Meade, with whom he had served in the pre-war U.S. Army, riding by, and stopped to introduce Barringer to him.  Meade offered the general some greenbacks to take with him to prison but the general refused but did ask that he be allowed to communicate with friends to supply him while a prisoner.  Then, according to Chris Calkins in The Appomattox Campaign:
Meade noticed that Sheridan had place only a corporal over the Confederate officers and immediately ordered a general officer to take his place, instructing him to tell the provost marshal in City Point that Barringer could reach anybody he wanted.
On April 5 after reaching City Point, Barringer met with the site commander, General Charles    Collis and President Abraham Lincoln who had been there since March 24.  Lincoln reminisced with Barringer about the days he'd served in Congress with his brother and asked him "Do you think I could be of any service to you?"  Lincoln gave the general a card of introduction for his use.  Barringer wrote in his diary of the meeting:
Called to see Mr Lincoln at Gen. Grant's H Qtrs - Pleased with him.  His leadership & manners have been misrepresented [by the] South.  Gave me a card to Mr Staunton [Secretary of War Edward Stanton].
General Barringer was released from prison on July 25, reaching home on July 8.  Barringer, who had opposed secession in 1860, became a Republican after the war and was condemned as a traitor by the Democratic press in North Carolina, before switching parties in 1888 to endorse the Democrat Grover Cleveland for President.  He died in 1895.

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