1864: Harrison Henry Barnard to Family

Pvt. Elias Warner wears the uniform of the 3rd New York Cavalry

These letters were written by Harrison Henry Barnard (1837-1880) who enlisted on 10 August 1861 at Lowville, in Co. G, 3rd New York Cavalry to serve three years. He was promoted to sergeant and re-enlisted prior to his capture at Reams Station on 29 July 1864. He was held in captivity at Andersonville Prison until his release — nothing but “skin and bones” according to his sister Julia. He was transferred to Co. F, First Mounted Rifles in July 1865 which was later renamed the Fourth Provisional Cavalry in September 1865.

Harrison was the son of William P. Barnard (1805-1874) and Eliza A. Gates (1804-1888) of Lowville, New York. He died at Millburn, New Jersey in 1880 of “malarial fever and congestion of the brain.” [See also — 1865: Julia M. (Barnard) Wellstood to Cousin Hellen)


Camp Peck near Newbern, North Carolina
March 27th 1864

My Dear Uncle,

I take this opportunity of writing a few lines to you to let you know that I am still in the land of the living and in the enjoyment of first rate health, and as fat and tough as a bear. I have no doubt but that you will be surprised at receiving this my first letter to you but you know there must be a beginning to all things so here goes. If my letter is not very interesting this time, you must excuse me for I have not much to write and I promise to do better the next time.

I was very sorry that circumstances happened which prevented me from visiting you while I was home on furlough. My furlough was for only thirty days and I staid at home forty-five. Then I came on to New York and was obliged to wait there two weeks before I could get transportation to my regiment. Had I known that I should have to wait so long, I should certainly have made you a visit but as it was, I had been absent so long that I was anxious to get back for fear that the powers that be might take it into their heads to try to court martial and punish me for not reporting to my regiment at the expiration of my furlough. I was absent fifty-nine days which I think was a pretty good thirty-day furlough, don’t you? When I reported to the captain for duty the next day after I got back, everything was alright and he did not find any fault or say a word because I staid away so long. I enjoyed myself very well while I was at home and only for the death of poor Johney should have enjoyed myself perfectly. I had a very pleasant visit with Em, Julia, & Len while waiting for transportation. Em is quite pleasantly located in Hoboken [New Jersey] and likes it much better than when she first went there. Julia has got a very pleasant home at Greenwich [Connecticut] and quite a smart boy [Willie] too. Len is at Millburn, New Jersey, and is doing very well.

There is a prospect of our having lively times here this summer with the Rebs and the probabilities are that we shall make a raid up in the country towards Raleigh as soon as the roads get a little better so that the artillery can move.

By the way, you wrote to father that Walter had enlisted. I wish you would send me the no. of his regiment and letter of his company for it may be possible that I may get in his vicinity some time and if I knew his regiment and company I might hunt him up.

I will now draw this uninteresting letter to a close. I would like very much to have you write and I would also like to have Hellen write to me and I promise to answer all communications with which you may favor me promptly and I hope to have something a little more interesting to write in my next. Enclosed I send you my photograph. It is not a very good one but will give you some idea of how I looked after a forty-five day furlough. I will now close with much love to yourself and the rest of your family. I remain your affectionate nephew.

Direct to H. H. Barnard, Sergt. Co. G, 3rd New York Cavalry, Newbern, North Carolina

This letter was written by Sgt. Harrison H. Barnard after the assault on Petersburg in mid-June 1864 but only a little over a month before he was captured by the Confederates at Reams Station on 29 July 1864.


Camp in the field near Petersburg, Virginia
June 20th 1864

My Dear Sister,

I received your excellent letter of the first inst. in due time but have been so busy ever since that I could not get time to answer it until this evening and in fact, I have not got much time to write tonight as we have orders to march with three days rations at 3 o’clock in the morning and I have a considerable to do to get ready.

Mix Photo _0
Col. Simon Hosack Mix, 3rd NY Cavalry (ca. 1860)

We have had rather exciting times here for the last week and some hard fighting which has resulted in the capture of Petersburg by our forces but it has cost a fearful price in life and limb. The battle commenced on Wednesday morning and lasted almost without intermission until Friday noon when the last line of Reb works were carried and the Rebs skedaddled for the town. Our division, under command of Gen. [August] Kautz, participated in the fight on Wednesday and Thursday. A portion of our brigade (the 1st) dismounted and made a charge upon the Reb breastworks led by Col. [Simon Hosack] Mix who was acting Brig. Gen. in command of the brigade, but they were deceived as to the force behind the works and were driven back. The Colonel was mortally wounded in the head by a piece of shell and was taken prisoner and we learned by some prisoners which we took the next morning that he died the same night that he was taken prisoner. Our loss — aside from the Colonel — was light but I don’t know the exact number. Our regiment feels the loss of the Colonel severely and well we might for he was a first rate man and we shall not get another as good a one to fill his place.

I happened to be on picket when the regiment went away at midnight Tuesday night & was not relieved and so did not have to go. Consequently did not take any part in the fight and I assure you that I was not a bit sorry that it happened so. (Did not join the company until Thursday afternoon.) One of our fellows had his horse killed under him by a piece of shell and another one by the name of [Mortimer] Odett ¹ accidentally shot himself with a pistol on Wednesday night and did not live — only about three minutes. He did not speak after he was shot and the whole matter as to how the accident happened is shrouded in mystery and probably always will be. This accident has cast a gloom over the whole company as he was a jovial, wide-awake fellow and well liked by all.

I suppose that [brother] Will [1st New York Light Artillery] — if he is still alive and well — is somewhere in this vicinity as nearly all of the Army of the Potomac is here. I have made some inquiry in regard to his battery but have learned nothing satisfactory about it. The 5th Corps is on the other side of the Appomattox [River] and if we go over there tomorrow, I shall try to find him if I can. I have not heard anything from him since before I left Portsmouth and I don’t know whether he is alive or not but I sincerely hope he is and has escaped the late awful battles unharmed.

I am enjoying first rate health and hope this will find you all enjoying the same blessing. I received a letter from father last Saturday night. The folks were all well when he wrote. I must now close. Write soon. I wrote to [sister] Jule [Julia Wellstood] a long time ago but have received no answer. I don’t know the reason why. I should think she could take time to answer my letters.

With much love to all, I remain as ever your affectionate brother, — Hat

P. S. Write soon and direct as before.

P. S.  It has been comparatively quiet here since Friday afternoon, but the probability is that the ball (“Lanigan’s Ball” as the boys call it) will open tomorrow and there is no knowing when it will end or what will be the result. I suppose that the next place will be Richmond. Grant is a fighting man and he has got good fighting men under him and they intend to take Richmond & wind up this war as soon as possible. But I tell you, they are a hard-looking set and they fairly worship their commander altho’ he does march and fight them pretty hard. They will abuse him in conversation and wind up by saying, “Well, he is the best General we have ever had.” — Hat B.

¹ Pvt. Mortimer Odett enlisted at age 18 at West Lowville in Co. G, 3rd New York Cavalry. We learn from this letter that he died on 15 June, 1864, from an accidental discharge from his own pistol.

This letter was written by Sgt. Harrison H. Barnard from his home in Lowville, New York, after his release from Andersonville Prison.


Lowville, [New York]
March 13th 1865

My Dear Cousin,

I presume you are looking anxiously for a letter from me and I ought to have written to you long ago but I have had so much visiting to do that I have neglected to do so. As I have not much to write that would interest you, you will excuse me is my letter is brief.

We arrived home all safe and sound on Tuesday night after leaving your place. The train on the Central [raid]road did not connect with the Black River train for Boonville so I staid in Utica until Tuesday afternoon and Father and Mother went on to Rome and staid over night and took the stage over the hills for Lowville. Mother caught a severe cold and was quite unwell for several days but has got smart again.

My health is a great deal better than it was when I was at your house and I am getting as fat as a pig and gaining in flesh and strength every day and am in hopes of being as tough as ever in the course of two or three months. I have not been notified of an exchange yet and shall not go back until I am ordered back. I got my furlough extended last week for thirty days more and when that runs out, I shall get it extended for thirty more. I don’t want to go back to my regiment until it gets warm weather for I am sure that I can’t stand it there to do duty for two months to come.

I received a letter from Len last Saturday. He was well and so were the rest of the folks. He wrote that Sylvester was drafted in Hoboken but had no fears that he would be obliged to go. Len has put in a substitute and is clear for three years.

I must now close. With love to all I subscribe myself your affectionate cousin. — H. H. Barnard

P. S. Write soon and let me know how you are getting along. — H. H. B.




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