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Captain Francis H. Ross.
The preceding image, and the text that follows, are reproduced from (the report of the) Forty-first Annual Reunion of the Association of the Graduates of the United States Military Academy, June 14th, 1910.
Francis Hagaman Ross was born at Vincennes, Indiana on September 20, 1845. His father, John Ross, was for many years a very prominent banker of that city, being President of the Vincennes Branch of the State Bank of Indiana.
He entered the Military Academy in 1861, graduated in 1865, and was appointed Second Lieutenant, Sixteenth Infantry, June 23, 1865, and promoted to First Lieutenant, Sixteenth Infantry on the same date.
On September 21, 1866, he was transferred to the Twenty-fifth Infantry, and was promoted to Captain in that regiment on November 21, 1868.
In 1865 and 1866 he served as Assistant Provost Marshal and Chief of Patrols at Nashville, Tenn., and in 1867 and 1868, p96 in garrison at Chattanooga, Tenn., Corinth, Miss., Pittsburg Landing, Tenn., and Memphis, Tenn. In 1869 and 1870 he was on Signal duty at Headquarters Department of the Cumberland and in garrison at Fort Whipple, Virginia. He was honorably discharged from the Army at his own request on November 1, 1870.
Captain Ross was married at Louisville, Ky., on September 20, 1870, to Ella Vernon Wolfe, the daughter of Hon. Nathaniel Wolfe, a distinguished lawyer of that city. Their children were Francis H. Ross, Jr., Sophie Ross (now Mrs. Frederick Webster Loudon), and Nathaniel Wolfe Ross, all of whom are still living.
Upon his resignation from the Army, Captain Ross became Cashier and Manager of the Vincennes National Bank. He was also appointed by the Treasury Department a receiver for failing banks and a bank examiner. In 1891 he became Cashier of the Riverside National Bank of Riverside, Cal., a position for which he was strongly recommended by Hon. Hugh McCulloch, formerly Secretary of the Treasury, and other prominent western financiers. He continued to occupy this position until 1893, when the bank discontinued business, owing to changes in local economical conditions. He then removed to New York where he soon became associated with the New Mexico Railway and Coal Company, occupying the position of Secretary and Treasurer of the Company until his death.
The above is a brief and colorless account of the main events in the history of a man whose real life consisted more in what he was than in what he did. No just and adequate estimate of his personal character can be formed without considering his relations to his classmates at West Point, his comrades in the Army, his family and friends, and the business men with whom he was associated.
When he reported at West Point in June, 1861, he was required by the yearlings to sing a song. He sang a little p97 verse containing a name sounding something like Barney. This name took the fancy of the class, and from that time to the day of his death he was always known by his West Point classmates as Barney Ross.
During its first year, the Class of 1865 contained about 130 members, being the largest class, up to that time, that had ever entered West Point. The members came from all parts of the country, and naturally the class was divided into parties, each having its own personal feelings and interests. I suppose such divisions usually exist in large classes at West Point, especially during the earlier years of the course, but they must have been intensified in 1861, owing to the disturbance produced throughout the country by the Civil War. These small factions and the resulting dissensions had absolutely no significance to Barney Ross. He passed serenely through the whole course, the friend of everyone; and everyone was his friend. This was not the result of any weakness of character, or any conscious effort to please others. Courage, honor and simple straightforwardness were such marked elements of his character that they were beyond question. His popularity was due to a certain innate friendliness which made itself instantly felt by all with whom he associated. It was as natural to him to be unconscious of himself and to radiate with good will to others as it was to breathe.
For many years, owing to the conditions of his life, he rarely met with his West Point Classmates; but when the Class held a re‑union at West Point, in October, 1905, to celebrate the Fortieth Anniversary of its graduation, there was no one who received a warmer welcome or whose presence caused more pleasure than Barney Ross. He was an active member of the committee which made arrangements for the re‑union, and his interest in all his classmates was so warm and so sincere that it was hard to realize that his life had been separated from theirs for so many years.
p98 Those who were associated with Captain Ross in his business life testify to his courtesy, ability and integrity in all business relations. His personal character inspired confidence; indeed, honor and integrity were written on his face. When wise and conservative opinion, and above all, simple straightforward honesty, were needed, men turned to him for advice, for in his clear transparent nature there were no crooks nor turnings. He was a fine soldier, passionately devoted to reading which included a wide range of subjects; a linguist of ability, speaking French and Spanish fluently, and making some remarkably fine translations from the German poets.
His family life was of the most charming character. He was devoted to his wife, who was his constant and congenial companion, and when she died on May 9, 1908, the blow was more than he could bear. Although he continued to exhibit to his friends the same kindly and uncomplaining nature, his health and spirits slowly and steadily failed, until the end came. He died at New York on October 6, 1909.
The ruling element in Barney Ross' character was charity, which I understand to mean an abundant and habitual good will toward others. I shall always associate his memory with the words of the Apostle Paul: "Charity suffereth long and is kind; Charity envieth not; Charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth."
Men like Barney Ross, whose souls are inspired by Charity, give light to all around them, and when they die a shadow seems to fall upon the earth.
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Page updated: 13 Jul 20