James Barnet Fry

James Barnet Fry was born on February 22, 1827, in the southwestern Illinois county seat of Carrollton. Entering West Point in 1843, he was graduated during the Mexican War in the class of 1847 and performed garrison duty in Mexico City the same year. Detailed as adjutant of the Military Academy from 1854 to 1859, at the outbreak of the Civil War he was commanding a battery of light artillery in Washington. Beginning with March 16, 1861, Fry's entire army career was devoted to staff service. During his twenty years of service he attained the grades of brigadier general of volunteers, of brevet major general, U. S. Army, and during the last year of the war of provost marshal general of the United States. In the interim he served as Irvin McDowell's chief of staff during the campaign of First Manassas and for a year was D. C. Buell's chief of staff in the Army and the Department of the Ohio. For tenaciously clinging, during the remainder of his life, to the conviction that Buell's contribution to the Federal victory at Shiloh was substantial, Fry met with the disapproval of Grant and Sherman, who insisted upon the fiction that they had not been surprised at that battle. However, when the Bureau of the Provost Marshal General was created in the army hierarchy, Fry was recommended by Grant as "the officer best fitted" to direct it. The bureau was charged by law with the suppression of desertion, the reorganization of recruiting, and the enforcement of the conscription acts; Fry performed his duties outstandingly. Inevitably there were charges and counter-charges involving the fixing of state quotas and the notorious activities of bounty jumpers and their principals, the substitute brokers, all of which created dissension when Fry's later promotions occurred. But at the close of the war he had been confirmed through all grades to that of brevet major general, U. S. Army. In 1875 he was promoted to colonel in the adjutant general's department, his own bureau ceasing to exist in 1866. Six years later he retired at his own request to continue his military writings, which were vastly informative and impressive in number. General Fry died in Newport, Rhode Island, on July 11, 1894, and was buried in the churchyard of St. James the Less, Philadelphia.

Previous Page

Reference:  Generals in Blue.  Lives of the Union Commanders by Ezra J. Warner.  Louisiana State University Press.  Baton Rouge.