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Bill Thayer

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 [decorative delimiter] Class of 1833

Vol. I

(Born Mas.)

John G. Barnard​1

(Ap'd Mas.)


John Gross Barnard: Born May 19, 1815, Sheffield, MA.

Military History. — Cadet at the Military Academy, July 1, 1829, to July 1, 1833, when he was graduated and promoted in the Army to

Bvt. Second Lieut., Corps of Engineers, July 1, 1833.

Served: as Assistant to the Board of Engineers at Newport, R. I., 1833‑34; as Asst. Engineer in the construction of Ft. Schuyler, for the defense of the eastern entrance to New York harbor, 1834‑35, — on the

(Second Lieut., Corps of Engineers, May 15, 1835)

Fortifications of Pensacola harbor, Fla., 1835, — and of the Improvement of Pascagoula River, 1836, — and of Mobile harbor, Ala., 1837‑39; as

(Captain, Corps of Engineers, July 7, 1838)

Superintending Engineer of the repairs of the Defenses at Governor's Island, New York harbor, 1839‑40, — and of the construction of Ft. Livingston, Island of Grand Terre, La., and repairs of Fts. Jackson and St. Philip, at Plaquemine Bend of the Mississippi River, La., 1840‑46, 1847, and 1848‑50; in the War with Mexico, 1846‑47, 1847‑48, superintending the construction of the defenses of Tampico, 1846‑47, — and surveying

(Bvt. Major, May 30, 1848,
for Meritorious Conduct while serving in the Enemy's Country)

the battlefields about the City of Mexico, 1847‑48; as Chief Engineer for the Exploration and Survey of the projected Tehuantepec Railroad, Mex.,​a 1850‑51; on sick leave of absence, 1851‑52; as Member of Board of Officers for examining sites for Military Posts on the Western Frontier of Arkansas, 1841, — of special Board of Engineers for examination of Harbors, Channels, etc., on the Gulf Coast of Texas and Mississippi, 1845‑46, — of special Board for the protection of the site of Ft. McRee, Fla., 1847, — and of Navy and Engineer Board for devising Improvement of the mouths of the Mississippi River, 1852; as Superintending Engineer of Delaware Breakwater, of Harbor Improvements east of Cape Malabar, Mas., and of repairs of the defenses of Portland, Me., 1852‑53, — of construction of Fortifications at the entrance of San Francisco harbor, Cal., and Light at Alcatraz Island, Cal.; as Member of the Board of Engineers for Fortifications on the Pacific Coast, 1854; at the Military Academy, 1855‑56, as Instructor of Practical Military Engineering, and Commandant of Sappers, Miners, and Pontoniers, Mar. 2, 1855, to Sep. 8, 1856, — and Superintendent of the U. S. Military Academy, Mar. 31, 1855, to Sep. 8, 1856; as Superintending Engineer of construction and repairs of the defenses of New York harbor, and of the improvement of the Hudson River and New Jersey harbors, 1856‑57, — of construction of Ft. Gaines, and repairs of Ft. Morgan, Mobile harbor, Ala., 1857‑58, — and

(Major, Corps of Engineers, Dec. 13, 1858)

of the building of Fts. Richmond and Tompkins, Staten Island, N. Y., and repairs of the inner defenses of New York harbor, 1858‑59, 1860‑61; on leave of absence in Europe, 1859‑60; as Member of Board of Engineers for projecting fort on Ship Island, Mis., 1857, — of Board to devise the defenses of Sandy Hook, N. J., 1858, — of Board to select sites for additional Batteries near Ft. Hamilton, N. Y., 1860, — of Board to fix the Armament of Fortifications, 1861, — of the Board of Engineers for Atlantic Coast Defenses, 1857‑61, — and of various special Boards, 1860‑61.

Served during the Rebellion of the Seceding States, 1861‑66: as Chief Engineer of the Department of Washington, Apr. 21 to July 2,  p531 1861, — and in the Manassas Campaign of July, 1861, being present at the Action of Blackburn's Ford, July 18, and Battle of Bull Run, July 21, 1861, having directed the preliminary reconnoissance upon which it was planned; as Member of Joint Board constituted by the Navy Department, June 25, 1861, to devise measures for promoting the efficiency of the Blockade of the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts of the United States, — and of Board to regulate and fix the Ordnance of permanent fortifications and field batteries, Nov. 26, 1861, to Mar. 1, 1862; as Chief Engineer of the Army of the Potomac, July 2, 1861, to Aug. 16, 1862, superintending the construction of the defenses of Washington, D. C., Aug., 1861, to Mar.,

(Brig.‑General, U. S. Volunteers, Sep. 23, 1861)

1862, — and in the Virginia Peninsular Campaign, Mar.‑Aug., 1862, being engaged in directing the Siege Works at Yorktown, Apr. 5-May 4, 1862, and of offensive and defensive works on the Chickahominy, and on the march to Harrison's Landing on James River, May‑Aug., 1862, and was present at the Battle of Williamsburg, May 5, 1862, — Combat on Williamsburg Road, June 25, 1862, — reconnoitred and selected position upon which was fought the Battle of Gaines' Mill, June 27, 1862, — reconnoitred passages of the White Oak Swamp, June 28‑29, and position of Malvern Hill for defense, June 30, 1862, — and participated in the

(Bvt. Colonel, June 30, 1862,
for Gallant and Meritorious Services in the Campaign of the Peninsula, Va.)

Battle of Malvern Hill, July 1, 1862; in command of Washington, D. C., during the Rebel invasion of Eastern Virginia, Aug. 19-Sep. 13, 1862; as Chief Engineer of the defenses of Washington, D. C., Sep. 13, 1862, to

(Lieut.‑Colonel, Corps of Engineers, Mar. 3, 1863)

May 25, 1864; as the Military Member of a Scientific Commission for the investigation of subjects pertaining to the Navy Department, June 22, 1863, to June 6, 1864; in reconnoitring and devising the defenses of Pittsburg, Pa., June, 1863; in examining South Shore of Lake Erie, to devise measures to prevent Rebel raids from Canada, Dec., 1863; as Member of Commission to examine the plan and sufficiency of the defenses of Washington city, Oct. 29 to Dec. 24, 1862, — of Board of Engineers to examine Timby's Revolving Iron Tower for Harbor defense, Dec. 15, 1862, to June 23, 1863, — of Board for the Examination of Officers of the Corps of Engineers for Promotion, Aug. 1, 1863, to Mar. 8, 1864, and July 6 to Sep. 20, 1864, — of Board to devise defenses of Potomac Aqueduct, Aug. 29 to Sep. 3, 1863, — of Board for the Armament of the defenses of Washington, D. C., Nov. 10 to Dec. 3, 1863, — and of the Board of Engineers to Reorganize our System of Seacoast Fortification, Jan. 27 to May 31, 1864; as Chief Engineer "of the Armies in the field," on the Staff of Lieut.‑General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Grant, General-in‑Chief of the Armies of the United States, June 5, 1864, to Apr. 9, 1865, in the Richmond Campaign, being engaged in the Siege of Petersburg, and operations before Richmond, June 18, 1864, to Apr. 2, 1865, and was present at various engagements before Petersburg, June 16 to July 4, 1864, — Assault and

(Bvt. Maj.‑General, U. S. Volunteers, July 4, 1864, for Meritorious and Distinguished Services during the Rebellion)

Capture of Ft. Harrison, Sep. 29, 1864, — and Combat near Hatcher's Run, Oct. 27, 1864, — Assault of Petersburg, Apr. 2, 1865, and its Capture, Apr. 3, 1865, — and in the Pursuit and at the Surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, commanded by General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Lee, at Appomattox

(Bvt. Brig.‑General, U. S. Army, Mar. 13, 1865,
for Gallant and Meritorious Service in the Campaign terminating with the Surrender of the Insurgent Army under Gen. R. E. Lee)

C. H., Apr. 9, 1865; as Corporator of the National Military and Naval  p532 Asylum for totally disabled Volunteers, Mar. 3, 1865, to Mar. 21, 1866;

(Bvt. Maj.‑General, U. S. Army, Mar. 13, 1865,
for Gallant and Meritorious Services in the Field during the Rebellion)

as Member of the Board of Engineers, June 20, 1865, to May 18, 1867, to carry out in detail the modifications of the defenses in the vicinity of New York, as proposed by the Board of Jan. 27, 1864; as Senior Engineer of the defenses of New York harbor, and in charge of the construction of the Fortifications on Staten Island, N. Y., Aug. 3, 1865, to Dec. 10, 1866; as Member of Board for the Examination of Officers of Engineers for Promotion,

(Colonel, Corps of Engineers, Dec. 28, 1865)

Nov. 28, 1865, and Dec. 28, 1866, — of Joint Board of Army and

(Mustered out of Volunteer Service, Jan. 15, 1866)

Navy Officers, on Harbor Defenses, Torpedoes, etc., Feb. 9 to Sep. 1, 1866.

Served: as Member of Board to Conduct Experiments on the use of Iron in Permanent Defenses, Sep. 11, 1866, to May 18, 1867, — of Board for the Armament of Fortifications, Jan. 18 to Feb. 6, 1867, — of the Board of Engineers for Fortifications, and Harbor and River Obstructions, required for the Defense of the Territory of the United States, May 18, 1867, to Jan. 2, 1881; of the Light-house Board, Feb. 20, 1870, to Nov. 4, 1879; of the Commission to Europe to collect information upon the Fabrication of Iron for Defensive Purposes, June‑Nov., 1870, — of Board on Louisville and Portland Canal Locks, Nov. 22 to Dec. 19, 1871, — of Board to devise a Ship Canal to connect the Lower Mississippi with the Gulf of Mexico, July 20, 1873, to Jan. 20, 1874, — of Board to report upon the James River and Kanawha Canal project, Jan.‑May, 1874, — of Commission to report upon certain subjects connected with the Improvement of the South Pass of the Mississippi River, Nov., 1876, — of Board on Improvement of the low-water navigation of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, 1878, — of Board to report the progress of construction of the South Pass Jetties at the mouth of the Mississippi, 1878, — and of various special Boards, 1870‑81.

Retired from Active Service, Jan. 2, 1881,
he being over 62 Years of Age, and having Served over 45 Years.

Civil History. — Author of "Phenomena of the Gyroscope, analytically examined," 1858; of "Dangers and Defenses of New York," 1859; of "Notes on Seacoast Defense," 1861; of "The C. S. A. and the Battle of Bull Run," 1862; of (jointly with General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.W. F. Barry) "Reports of the Engineer and Artillery Operations of the Army of the Potomac, from its organization to the close of the Peninsular Campaign," 1863; of "Eulogy on the late Bvt. Maj‑General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Joseph G. Totten, late Chief Engineer, U. S. Army," 1866; of "Report on the Defenses of Washington" (Professional Papers of the Corps of Engineers, No. 20); of Report (jointly with Gen. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.H. G. Wright and Col. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.P. S. Michie) on the "Fabrication of Iron for Defensive Purposes" (Professional Papers of the Corps of Engineers, No. 21, and Supplement); of "Report on the North Sea Canal of Holland," etc. (Professional Papers of the Corps of Engineers, No. 22); of Papers on the Precession of the Equinoxes, the Pendulum, and the Internal Structure of the Earth (Smithsonian Contributions, Nos. 240 and 310); and of various Scientific and Professional Reports, 1833‑81.​b Degree of A. M. conferred by University of Alabama, 1838; and of LL. D., by Yale College, Ct., 1864. Corporator of the National Academy of Sciences, Mar. 3, 1863, to May 14, 1882. Member of the Commission, on behalf of the Tehuantepec Railway and Canal Company, to examine the principal waterways of Europe, Aug. 16 to Nov. 22, 1871, —  p533 and of Advisory Engineer Commission to consider James B. Eads's plans for the Improvement of the South Pass of the Mississippi River.

Note. — General Barnard was nominated by the President, on the death of General Totten, to succeed him as Brig.‑General, and Chief of Engineers, Apr. 22, 1864, but the nomination was withdrawn, at the request of General Barnard, before any action was taken by the Senate.

Died, May 14, 1882, Detroit, Mich.: Aged 67.

Buried, Barnard Cemetery, Sheffield, MA.

Biographical Sketch.

Bvt. Major-General John G. Barnard was born, May 19, 1815, at Sheffield, Mas., among the picturesque Berkshire hills, a region as remarkable for the production of eminent men as for the beauty of its natural scenery. At the early age of eighteen he was graduated from the Military Academy, July 1, 1833, second in a class pronounced by Colonel Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Thayer the ablest which left the institution during the sixteen years of his superintendency. While a Cadet, the boy Barnard showed remarkable mathematical talents, which were so developed in after years that he became one of the foremost scientists of his age. He was promoted to the Corps of Engineers, in which he was, during half a century of service, one of its most shining lights. His various duties, in peace and war, are so fully detailed in his preceding military and civil histories that it is only necessary to say that he performed every species of Engineer work; was noted as one of the most accomplished mathematicians of his country; became an erudite author of many valuable volumes; was a soldier ever ready to use his brilliant talents for the nation's welfare; and his high moral worth equaled his intellectual capacity. Many of his accomplishments were hidden from the world because of an inherited deafness, which deprived him of much social intercourse. Perhaps, however, this infirmity may have turned his mind from externals to the inward development of his higher faculties. He was always a student, and such was his love for scientific investigation that it was jocosely said he read Laplace's "Mécanique Céleste" every morning to get up an appetite for his breakfast.

As an engineer he was engaged in the construction of public works from the Northern Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast; and, as a member of the permanent Board of Engineers, he showed a perfect mastery of his profession, and a wealth of learning in all the collateral branches of knowledge, which he readily applied to the varied problems under discussion.

Twice he was ordered to Mexico during our war with that country and after the conquest of California he made an elaborate examination of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, with a view to establishing a route of commerce and travel to our newly acquired Pacific possessions.

Barnard's superintendency of the Military Academy was too short to make any special impress upon the institution, but it lost nothing of its great reputation at his hands.

In the Rebellion, he was the distinguished Chief Engineer of the Army of the Potomac in the opening and terminating campaigns of the war; but his great achievement, during this unhappy conflict, was in fortifying Washington by a cordon of field-works to protect the capital of the nation, our great depot of supplies and numerous hospitals. These defenses, as finally completed, consisted of 68 inclosed forts and batteries, having an aggregate perimeter of about 14 miles, and emplacements for 1,120 guns, of which 807, besides 98 mortars, were mounted; of 93 unarmed batteries, having 401 emplacements; and of 20 miles of infantry trenches. The entire circuit of the line was, exclusive of the Chain Bridge works, and of the stretch across the Potomac from Ft. Greble to Ft. Lyon, 33 miles. Thirty-two miles of military roads, besides the existing  p534 roads and avenues of the District of Columbia, afforded the means of communication from the interior to the periphery, and from point to point. These works exerted no small influence in saving Washington after the Bull Run defeat. They afforded a temporary shelter to the shattered national forces in Virginia after the disasters of the campaign of 1862, and they were again instrumental to the same result when Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Early marched on Washington — a third time saving the capital.

In addition to these various duties, performed by Barnard in peace and war, he was detailed on many boards and commissions, including the Light-house Board, of which he was a prominent member from Feb. 20, 1870, till Jan. 2, 1881, when he was retired from active service in the Army. For his distinguished services he received five brevets from Major to Major-General. Alabama University conferred upon him, in 1838, the degree of A. M., and Yale College, in 1864, that of LL. D. He was a working member of several learned associations, and one of the fifty original Corporators of the National Academy of Sciences. In this new Temple of Science Barnard had no mathematical superior, and few peers.

As an author, Barnard was prolific. Besides the numerous works whose titles are given in his preceding Civil History, he wrote numerous scientific pamphlets and elaborate professional reports. But in Johnson's "Universal New Cyclopedia" are best exhibited Barnard's mental strength, his versatility of talents, and his prodigious powers of production. More than seventy scientific and other articles from his able pen are here published: some almost complete treatises, as on Bridge-building, and Harbor, Breakwater, Jetty, and Light-house construction; elaborate mathematical dissertations upon the Calculus, Aëronautics, Imaginaries, Gyroscope, and Theory of Tides; valuable histories of the Engineer Corps of the Army, Light-house Board, Bull Run Battle, etc.; and much biographical and miscellaneous matter. Few men have labored so long and done so much useful work, leaving an emblazoned page in the annals of science.

Barnard's analytical discussion of the Gyroscope, which presents several new points and original discoveries, attracted the attention of physicists both at home and abroad, and is perhaps the most profound of his scientific investigations. This examination led him to study the Precession of the Equinoxes and Nutation as resulting from the theory of the Gyroscope, which was followed by a paper on the Internal Structure of the Earth considered as affecting the phenomena, and another on the relations of the Internal Fluidity of the Earth to the precession of the equinoxes. In all of these discussions, originating in his first upon the Gyroscope, he exhibited great acumen and persistent investigation, though his deductions may require some modification from newly discovered data.

Though Barnard loved science for science's sake and devoted much time to its study, he never neglected the duties with which he was charged; nor did he fail to write much upon the higher problems of his profession, requiring constant labor, wide research, and deep meditation. His reports on Coast Defense are masterly papers.

The admirable order of the Chief of Engineers, announcing the death of General Barnard to his corps-mates, concludes as follows: —

"A service of nearly fifty years in the Corps of Engineers has been closed by the death of one of the most prominent of its members.

"Of greatly varied intellectual capacity, of a very high order of scientific attainments, considerate and cautious, ripe in experience, sound in judgment, General Barnard has executed the important duties with which he has been charged, during his long and useful life, with conscientious care and regard for the public interests, and with an enthusiastic devotion to his profession. His corps, the army, and the country are his debtors.

 p535  "Modest and retiring in disposition, considerate and courteous, warm in his sympathies and affections, our deceased associate will be missed as few are missed, and his name, which will be held as one of the foremost names of the Corps of Engineers, will be cherished with peculiar love and affection by his brother officers."

The Author's Note:

1 Named Jonathan G. Barnard when he was graduated.

Thayer's Notes:

a The saga of the Tehuantepec Railroad is interestingly told in Diplomacy of the United States and Mexico regarding the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, 1848‑1860.

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b A partial list of his minor scientific writings is given on Prof. Rickey's site.

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Page updated: 17 Jun 14