Monday, October 26, 2015

Francis Bartow's Manassas Monument

Civil War battlefields that later became National Parks are often filled with monuments to the regiments and individual officers that fought there. The reason many generals have monuments on these battlefields is because they had earned a name and reputation fighting in previous battles. However, there is a monument at the Manassas National Battlefield Park who honors an officer who died in his first battle.

When it was mentioned on my recent extended tour how tragic it would have been to have died in the fighting at, say Sailor's Creek, or Appomattox with Lee's surrender only a few days or even hours away, it made me think. But it also struck me that dying early in the war prevented some soldiers the opportunity to be remembered as well as those that fought in many later battles and earned a respected reputation. For example, what if Thomas Jonathan Jackson had been killed at Manassas instead of "standing like a stonewall?" Would he have all the recognition he eventually received without his effective 1862 Valley Campaign or his significant role in the Battle of Chancellorsville? Not likely.

Francis Bartow's (pictured above) and Bernard Bee's monuments at Manassas honor two soldiers who fell in their first fight. They would not receive other military honors. But it makes one wonder what would they have done if they had lived. Would they have had outstanding careers? Or would they have faded or been transferred to some backwater of the war? We'll never know.

Francis Bartow had a lot to fight for. He was a wealthy attorney who had received about as good of an education as one could get in 19th century America. He married the daughter of a well to do Georgia politician, which added land and slaves to his growing riches. The 1860 census show Bartow owning over 80 slaves on is Chatham County, Georgia plantation.

Bartow started the war as the captain of a Savannah militia company, but was soon elected to the Confederate Provisional Congress. He decided a military career was a better fit and became captain of a company of the 8th Georgia Infantry in May 1861. The following month Bartow was made colonel of the 8th. His leadership would be short, as he was killed in the Manassas fighting on July 21. He fell near the Henry House, which was at the center of the fighting after attempting to rally his troops who had suffered a flanck attack from their Union opponents. He died after reportedly stating, "They have killed me, boys, but never give up the field." His body was returned to Savannah, and that same year a Georgia county was renamed in his honor.

Although Bartow was indeed leading a brigade when he died at Manassas, apparently he never formally received a brigadier general's commission.

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