Captain Barnes and the Wilderness

barnesThe story of Capt. Dennis Edwin Barnes of the 93rd New York Infantry is now available on the New York Times blog Disunion is now available. An excerpt:

Suddenly the haunting voice of a man in prayer rose above the cries of the wounded. One Union soldier who had nodded off to sleep after that first day of hellish fighting awoke to the sound with a start.

“I never before nor since heard such a prayer,” he noted years later. “It seemed, lying there in the darkness of the night in the woods, that his deep, sympathetic voice, mingled with the voices and groans of the dying ones, sounded as from some other world.”

The soldier recognized the voice. It belonged to Dennis Barnes, his captain, a square-shouldered, six-foot lumberman from New York who was on a self-appointed mission to rescue the wounded from his company after the day’s desperate fighting. Barnes was picking his way across the densely wooded landscape, exhausted and pained from an injury he had suffered to his hand. It was near midnight when he found a corporal who had succumbed to the gaping wound in his belly.

I appreciated this comment on Capt. Barnes’s story by Hal Cheney of Martinsville, Ill.: “One reads so many rather sterile accounts of the Wilderness, that seem to take for granted the horrors of that epic struggle. This recounting by Mr. Coddington, puts a personal face on this human tragedy, while preserving its standing as the unmistakeable beginning of the end for the Confederate States.”

Thank you, Mr, Cheney.

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