John Gross Barnard

John Gross Barnard was born at Sheffield, Massachusetts, on May 19, 1815. A relative, General Peter Buel Porter, Secretary of War under John Quincy Adams, secured him an appointment to the Military Academy, from which he was graduated second in the class of 1833. During forty-eight years in the Corps of Engineers, despite an inherited deafness, Barnard achieved high rank in a body of men whose duties included the construction of coast defenses, the improvement of rivers and harbors, and the supervision of West Point. Before the Civil War he served in the construction of fortifications along the Atlantic Coast, the Pacific Coast, and the Delaware breakwater. He assisted in the improvement of New York Harbor, in work in the Gulf of Mexico at Tampico, and in the survey of the Mexican War battlefields. Upon the outbreak of the Civil War he was charged with constructing the defenses of Washington. He had been promoted to major in the Regular Army in 1858 and, on September 23, 1861, was appointed brigadier general of volunteers. Barnard was chief engineer of the Army of the Potomac under George B. McClellan, then in charge of the Washington defenses until U. S. Grant's assumption of command, when Barnard became chief engineer of the armies in the field on the staff of the lieutenant general. For his distinguished services he received the brevets of major general in both the Regular Army and the volunteers. On December 28, 1865, he was commissioned colonel, Corps of Engineers. General Barnard's postbellum contributions were also valuable to his country. Ordered to recast the whole approach to coastal defenses occasioned by the obsolescence of wooden vessels and muzzle loading guns, he did so with success. He advocated the use of parallel jetties in improving the mouth of the Mississippi (a system in use today). He also wrote many scientific treatises and made several valuable contributions to the history of the Civil War. Retired in 1881, he died at Detroit, Michigan, on May 14, 1882, and was buried in Sheffield, Massachusetts.

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