Saturday, July 14, 2012

Faces of the Civil War: Private Gideon S. Barnes

A private in the 16th Connecticut from Burlington, Conn., 
Gideon Barnes was wounded at Antietam.  He died two months later.
(Photo courtesy Lester Larrabee)

Unlike many Civil War soldiers who died far from home, Gideon S. Barnes spent the final days of his life in his home state, where he suffered an agonizing death.

A laborer from Burlington, Conn., Barnes had been married for a little more than six years to a woman named Lydia Ann Hall (they had no children) when he made a life-changing decision to enlist in the Union army on July 26, 1862. Nearly a month later, he was mustered into the 16th Connecticut Infantry's Company K, commanded by well-respected Captain Newton Manross of Bristol, Conn.
Gideon Barnes was among the many 
16th Connecticut  Antietam casualties 
listed in the Hartford Courant
on Sept. 23, 1862, six days after the battle.

Events moved swiftly for Barnes and the 16th Connecticut.

After organizing near Hartford, the regiment was sent to Washington in late August, where it was attached to the Ninth Corps of the Army of the Potomac. The 700-plus barely trained soldiers of the regiment found themselves on the front lines at the Battle of Antietam on Sept. 17, 1862.

As the 16th Connecticut was routed late that Wednesday afternoon in farmer John Otto's 40-acre cornfield, Barnes took a bullet in the left thigh and was carried from the field. Timothy Robinson, a 2nd lieutenant in Company K, recalled that Barnes was shot "through the leg above the knee, which disabled him from service, and he went home on a furlough." (1)

By Oct. 9, 1862, Barnes had arrived back in Connecticut, along with four other soldiers wounded at Antietam, to continue his recuperation in Burlington at the home of his father, Sherman, a War of 1812 veteran, who enjoyed making telescopes. Barnes' grandfather, Joel, served in the militia during the  Revolutionary War. (Interestingly, Sherman suffered a broken thigh bone when the breech of his cannon exploded when it was fired during an 1838 Fourth of July celebration in the Whigville section of Burlington. (2) The wound never healed properly, according to a Barnes descendant.)

Gideon Barnes' wife received an 
$8-a-month pension
from the government after his death.
Gideon Barnes never recovered from his wound, and exactly two months after Antietam, the 32-year-old soldier died. In an affidavit supporting Lydia Ann's widow's pension claim, the Bristol physician who treated Barnes noted a grisly combination of factors that caused his demise.

"Wounds and injuries received in the battle of Antietam by rifle ball through the thick portion of the thigh causing explosive separation with sloughing," Dr. T.W. Camp noted. "This in connection with an uncontrollable camp diarrhea accompanied with delirium and typhoid fever were more than sufficient to cause death." (3)

Twenty-four-year-old Lydia Ann applied for a widow’s pension shortly after Gideon’s death, eventually receiving $8 a month from Uncle Sam. On Oct. 1, 1865, she married a clockmaker from Bristol named Valentine Atkins, who died in 1895. Financially supported only by her son-in-law and meager income from a rental property, Lydia applied for the restoration of her Civil War widow’s pension in 1901, and at the time of her death on Feb. 26, 1918, she was receiving $25 a month. (4)

Gideon Barnes is buried under a plain, gray state-issued marker in Bristol's Forestville Cemetery, 25 feet across the cemetery road from the gravestone of Manross, who was killed at Antietam when his arm was blown off by artillery fire, exposing his beating heart.

(1) Widow's pension affidavit, Timothy Robinson, Aug. 14, 1863
(2) 1838 diary of Leavett Mills, Whigville, Conn.
(3) Widow's pension affidavit, Dr. T.W. Camp, Oct. 3, 1863
(4) Lydia Barnes' widow's pension file

Gideon S. Barnes' gravestone in Forestville Cemetery in Bristol, Conn.
Gideon Barnes' name appears on the Burlington (Conn.) Civil War memorial, which honors the
 88 town residents or natives who served during the war. A star next to a name denotes those who 
died in service in the Union army.  (Visit for more on Connecticut war memorials.)


  1. I haven't commented for awhile but wanted to do so today to let you know how much I'm enjoying your blog and that I truly appreciate you honoring these soldiers.

    Thank you & keep up the good work!

    Patricia Kitto

  2. Thank you so much for including Gideon's photo in your efforts. I know the Barnes family would be proud. This branch of the Barnes family descends from Thomas Barnes of New Haven Ct. (c.1640's). The photo was past down thru many generations and my wife kept the box with many old family photo's.

  3. Patricia: Many more good stories coming! thanks for reading.