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This webpage reproduces part of the
G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1936
This text has been carefully proofread
Martha Isabella Hopkins, my maternal grandmother, was born in Henderson, Kentucky, on February 6, 1824, and died January 12, 1888. She was the daughter of Jacob Bugg Hopkins, son of General Samuel Hopkins of Revolutionary fame. General Samuel Hopkins was aide-de‑camp to General Washington, and a representative of the Henderson Land Grant Company of Virginia. He was also one of the original members of the Society of the Cincinnati and a member of Congress from 1813 to 1815. Was Chief Justice of the First Court of Criminal Common Law and Chancery Jurisdiction in 1799 and served until his resignation in 1801. Was appointed in 1812 Commander-in‑Chief of the Western Frontier, with title of Major-General. Martha Isabella Hopkins' mother was born Caroline Imlay Brent of Virginia. She lost her mother at an early age and was brought up principally by her maternal grandmother, Mrs. Innes Baxter Brent, in Henderson, Kentucky. She married her first cousin, Philip Norbourne Barbour, in 1843, and some years after his death married my grandfather, the Honorable John T. Bunch, Speaker of the House of Representatives of Kentucky, a member of the Kentucky Legislature and a lawyer at the bar. She was a figure p. viii of grace and charm and was noted both in Louisville and Henderson, where she lived, for her beauty, intellect and good works.a
To throw further light upon Major Barbour's interests and character, I feel I cannot do better than to reprint herewith an article which appeared in the Daily Commonwealth of Frankfort, Kentucky, of Saturday, January 2, 1847, written by Mr. Isaac Shelby, after Major Barbour's heroic death:
"In the prosecution of the existing war with Mexico, occasion has been furnished for the display of those high qualities of heroic patriotism, which never fail to distinguish a free people in trying emergencies. The fame of Zachary Taylor, as one of the greatest Generals whose military genius and deeds have shed unfailing luster upon the arms of his country, is already established; and history has also taken into her charge, the honorable preservation of the names of many other sons of the Republic who have signalized their devotion to their country on the memorable fields of Palo Alto, Resaca de la Palma and Monterey. And among them all, none have asserted more irresistible claims to the admiration and gratitude of their countrymen — none have won title to more just and enduring fame — than the subject of this brief sketch.
"Philip Norbourne Barbour was born in the p. ix town of Henderson, Kentucky, on the 14th day of April, 1813, of a parentage distinguished in the military service of the country. His father, Col. Philip Barbour, commanded a regiment of volunteers in the last War with Great Britain, under Gov. Shelby, and was in the glorious battle of the Thames, fought and won under the orders of Gen. Harrison. His mother was the day of Gen. Samuel Hopkins, an officer in the regular service during the Revolutionary War, who commanded an expedition of Kentucky Militia against the Indians in the Northwest in the War of 1812, and was tendered the commission of Major General by President Madison.
"The subject of this notice received his early education in his native town. The characteristics of his mind, displayed even in his schoolboy days, were those of steadiness, patience and perseverance; and his great application always secured him a high standing in his class. The amiability of his bearing made him a general favorite with his young companions; for he possessed from his infancy that sweetness of disposition and benevolence of feeling, for which, in after life, he was so remarkable. Yet these traits were mingled with great decision and firmness. Some portion of his juvenile years was spent with his excellent aunt, Mrs. Sarah P. Bibb, from whom the facts of his early life, here noted, are derived. And here we cannot forbear copying, as appropriate to this sketch, a touching paragraph of a letter from this estimable lady to a distinguished officer of the 3d p. x Regiment of Infantry, and a dear friend of her departed relative:
" ' Major Barbour,' she says, 'was my beloved nephew. He lived with me when a boy. When I say he combined more rare excellences of character than any one I have ever known, I am not influenced by blind partiality, but am only paying a merited tribute to the dead. It may be emphatically said of him, the first pang he ever occasioned his friends, was his untimely death. But his sun has gone down while it was yet day; and although it set in blood has left a glorious trail behind. But so overwhelming is the affliction of his friends, they as yet can derive no consolation from considerations connected with his fame as a soldier.'
"The promise of future distinction, which he gave in early life, has been more than realized.
"In the year 1828, he proceeded to Washington, and, under the care and direction of the Hon. Mark Alexander, a member of Congress from Virginia, was placed in a military school at Georgetown, D. C. From thence, he was appointed a Cadet in the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1829. All accounts of him while at these schools, confirmed the high expectations founded on his early promise. He graduated with credit in June, 1834, and was thereupon commissioned a Lieutenant in the 3d Regiment of Infantry. Before joining his regiment, he visited his family and friends in Kentucky, who felt themselves fully compensated for his absence of more than p. xi five years, by finding in him all their most ambitious wishes could desire.
"While a 2d Lieutenant he was appointed Adjutant of his regiment, a distinction of itself, proving that the soldierly merit of its recipient was justly appreciated in higher quarters.
"In 1840 his regiment was ordered to Florida; and for meritorious services in the field, in that difficult and protracted war with savages, he was breveted a Captain.
"From the time he joined his regiment in the autumn of 1834, he never deemed that he could, with propriety, ask leave of absence, until ordered to Jefferson Barracks in 1843, when, after a separation of nine years, he was once more, and for the last time, among his family and friends. It was during this visit that he united in wedlock with his cousin, Miss Martha Isabella Hopkins. From this period, he remained in the constant and unremitted service of his country.
"In 1845 his regiment was ordered to Texas. In the battles of Palo Alto, and Resaca de la Palma, Capt. Barbour exhibited his accustomed gallantry. In the latter action, he was so fortunate as to meet and successfully repel a large body of Mexican Lancers with a small party of his brave soldiers. This exploit, which deserved and received high commendation, was of incalculable importance at the moment of its achievement; and it was for this that the Executive of his grateful country breveted him a Major.
p. xii "We must now present the last scene of his brief but eventful and brilliant career. In the bloody streets of Monterey, on the 21st of September, 1846 —
Midst flame and smoke,
And shout, and groan, and saber stroke,
And death-shots falling thick and fast
As lightnings from the mountain cloud —
was heard the trumpet voice of Barbour, as brandishing his own bright blade in the van, he cheered on his brave comrades. At the very moment when his sword was thus flashing, like circlets of terrific flame over his head, and his trumpet tones were inspiring his gallant band, this noble son of Kentucky chivalry received a ball, discharged from a housetop, which, entering his shoulder, passed out at his left breast. He fell instantly dead, thus yielding up his great soul on the field of battle in the face of the foe. Never hero terminated a career more heroically; and while true heroism and true merit shall be appreciated, and applauded on earth, the name of Barbour will be celebrated in story, and song, and history, and his admiring and grateful countrymen will listen with tears of joy and exultation.
"The distinguished merit of Major Barbour requires an appropriate acknowledgment from the government of his native State. It cannot be, that while Maryland shows just and appropriate honors to the memory of her Ringgold, Kentucky, gallant, chivalrous, high-souled Kentucky, can forget what she p. xiii owes to the memory of her no less meritorious Barbour.
"Let public honors then be decreed to the worthy dead, where deeds have added fresh glory to the renown of the State and Nation. Let the Legislature of Kentucky bring home the remains of Major Barbour and mingle his sacred dust with that of his native soil. If his family desire the precious dust of the departed hero and patriot, be it so; but the State should tender a public burial in the magnificent cemetery at the seat of government; and, wherever his last sacred resting place, let the State build a monument to his memory. Let a sword be voted to his representative; and let unanimous resolutions of the Legislature testify the public sense of the extraordinary merits of Philip Norbourne Barbour. It is by such manifestations that States grow great and exhibit true greatness and true soul. Let the action of the Legislature apostrophize the gallant Barbour as the noble Bard of our land, before quoted, addressed the departed spirit of the high-souled Marco Bozzaris:b
With the storied brave
Greece nurtured in her glory's time —
Rest thee: There is no prouder grave
E'en in her own proud clime.
We tell they fate without a sigh;
For thou art Freedom's son and Fame's,
One of the few, the immortal names
That were not born to die.
p. xiv Major Barbour's remains were brought back from Mexico by State of Kentucky, where a military funeral preceded his burial in the cemetery at Frankfort, capital of Kentucky. The State erected a monument to his memory and the Legislature presented a very beautiful sword to his widow in recognition of his patriotic services, with the inscription —
"in token of the glory of his life and the chivalry of his death."
Rhoda van Bibber Tanner Doubleday.
a She is buried next to her second husband in Fernwood Cemetery, Henderson, KY. Her tombstone (as shown at Find-a‑Grave) reads, in full — the last line very much in character as we see her in her journal:
John Thomas Bunch
Feb. 6, 1824
entered into life
Jan. 12, 1888
"She hath done what she could."
She predeceased her second husband, having been married to him for 35 years; their tombstones match.
b The reference is to Greek national hero Marcos Botsaris; the poem, "Marco Bozzaris", is by Fitz-Greene Halleck, and was very widely printed in American newspapers.
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Philip Barbour's Journal
History of West Point
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