Barber, Merritt L.
Age: 26, credited to Pownal, VTVITALS
Birth: 07/31/1838, Pownal, VTADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Alias?: None notedDESCENDANTS
Arlington National Cemetery, VA
Check the cemetery for location/directions
and other veterans who may be buried there.
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(10th Regimental History)
More than 34,000 Vermonters volunteered and served their time during the Civil War. The majority of those who survived returned to their native state, at least for a while, and tried to resume a normal 'civilian' life in their home state; others moved out west looking for a better life. A small number, however, found army life appealing to them and remained in the regular army after the war. Merritt Barber was one of these, remaining in the army for 39 years.
Merritt Barber, son of Benjamin S. and Caroline Wright Barber, was born at Pownal, Bennington County, Vermont, on July 31, 1838. He received his early education at North Pownal Academy, under the tutelage of two future Presidents, Chester Arthur and James Garfield. In 1850, Merrit, age 15, was living in Pownal, Vermont, with his parents and siblings Andrew (age 17), Sarah (16) and Benjamin O. (1). He graduated from Williams College, in western Massachusetts, in 1857. After studying law for a period of time in the officer of A. B. Gardner at Bennington, he graduated from the State and Union Law college, Cleveland, Ohio, in 1859. He was admitted to the bar in Bennington county in June that year, and started a practice in his native town.
He was married first to Catherine E. Roberts, of Bennington, June 20, 1858; one daughter was born of this union, Sarah, who later became Mrs. Sarah B. Boyle, of Cincinnati, Ohio. Catherine died, and he married his second wife, Delilah Winne, of Troy, New York, on May 15, 1867. No children were born of this union.
He was also Assistant Clerk of the House of Representatives of Vermont during the 1860 and 1861 sessions, which included the special session that provided troops to suppress the southern rebellion.
In June, 1862, he enlisted in Company E, Tenth Vermont Infantry, and was commissioned 1st Lieutenant, Company B, on August 30 1862, and subsequently promoted to Captain of the company on July 11 1864, two days after being wounded at the battle of Monocacy. He was wounded again, at Fisher's Hill, on September 21, 1864. On October 19, 1864, he was brevetted Major for "gallantry in every action since May 5 1864, particularly at the battle of Cedar Creek. On Tuesday, December 24, 1864, he turned over On December 31, 1864, he was promoted to Captain, Assistant Adjutant-General, USV. He mustered out of volunteer service on September 19, 1865, having served in the following campaigns: Antietam, Gettysburg, Mine Run, Wilderness, Shenandoah and the storming of Petersburg on April 2, 1865..
Five months later, he was appointed 2nd Lieutenant, 16th USI, as of February 23, 1866, and was promoted to 1st Lieutenant on the same day, thanks to a nomination by Vermont Congressman F. E. Woodbridge. On September 21, he transferred to the 34th USI, and served as regimental adjutant and quartermaster from February 15, 1868 to April 14, 1869. On May 15 1867, Merritt married Delilah Winne Fowler, of New York. Their 34 year union produced no children. In 1870, Merrit, simply listed as a soldier, and his wife Delilah, were living in the town of Grenada, Mississippi, where the regimental headquarters and Companies D and L were stationed. He received brevets to Captain and Major on March 2, 1867 for gallant and meritorious services in the battle of the Wilderness, and Cedar Creek, respectively.
On April 14, 1869, he was transferred to the 16th USI, and served as regimental adjutant until April 30, 1872. In 1870, Merritt, simply listed as a soldier, and his wife Delilah, were living in the town of Grenada, Mississippi. Promotions followed slowly after that, as was typical of the post-war army. He was promoted Captain on March 4, 1879, major and Assistant Adjutant-General on June 29, 1882, lieutenant colonel on August 2, 1890 and colonel on November 15, 1862. He was promoted Brigadier-General, USV, April 26, 1901, discharged from the volunteers on 30 June 1901, and retired from the regular army on the same date.
In late 1881, during his service with the 16th US Infantry, Barber unsuccessfully defended Second Lieutenant Henry Ossian Flipper, the first Black graduate of West Point, against charges of misappropriation of funds. Flipper's commanding officer accused him of "embezzling funds and of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman." The court martial was held a Fort Davis, in southwestern Texas, where Flipper was stationed. Flipper initially had no representation, and frantically sought help from a number of individuals and groups, to no avail. An article on the Old Mobeetie Texas Association website provides some detail on Barber's involvement in the case:
Time was running out, when, as Flipper later wrote, "like a bolt out of a clear sky, I received a letter from Captain Merritt Barber of the 16th USI, white, offering to come and defend me. I had never seen or heard of him before, but . . . I accepted his offer at once, especially as I knew it would cost me nothing, officers not being allowed to charge anything for defending another." The Captain came to Fort Davis and lived with Flipper and made a brilliant defense. But Flipper was doomed.
The court-martial lasted until December, with Barber successfully bringing forth a string of witnesses testifying to Lieutenant Flipper's integrity, while also exposing inconsistencies in the prosecution's case. The lack of physical evidence proving embezzlement and Colonel Shafter's continued contradictions of his own testimony aided Flipper's case. Barber attributed the disappearance of the funds to Flipper's inexperience in financial matters, stating that "under Shafter's lax command,' his responsibilities were too much for Flipper to assume alone.
In a book review published in the Amarillo Globe-News in 2003, Deborah Elliot-Upton quotes Johnny D. Boggs, author of "Lonely Trumpet," detailing Flipper's court martial: "Capt. Merritt Barber, esteemed attorney with the 16th USI, agrees to defend Flipper, describing his credentials this way: '…my opponents say… if you were to cut my throat, I would bleed acid. But others… agree you have to have a heart to bleed, and I lack that particular organ.' … Flipper is surprised, not by the lawyer's candor but by his willingness to bunk with the only black man on post in order to cut expenses."
Although Flipper was acquitted of the embezzlement charge, the court found him guilty of conduct unbecoming an officer. The army's chief legal officer, the Judge Advocate General, recommended a lesser punishment after reviewing the case, and the Secretary of War, Robert Todd Lincoln, approved the finding, but for some reason, President Arthur approved the court's original sentence. Flipper went on to a brilliant post-military career, surveyor, cartographer, civil and mining engineer, translator, patented inventor, editor, author and special agent for the Justice Department. As assistant to the Secretary of the Interior, he was responsible for the planning and construction of the Alaskan railway system.
In 1888, Barber was living in Los Angeles, California, while assigned as Assistant Adjutant-General of the Department of Arizona. In 1890 and 1891, he lived in St. Paul, Minnesota. The following article from the St. Paul Dispatch, undated, provides a recap of his career to that point:
Colonel Merritt Barber, who has served as Adjutant-General of the Department of Dakota for four years, left last Saturday for his new station at Washington city (D.C.). Few officers in the West have been as popular as he has been, or their departure more widely regretted in military and social circles than his own. He has a fine record as a soldier, dating from his first entry into the service in 1862, as a private, from his native State of Vermont. He fought from that time to the end of the war, and won distinction in many of the memorable battles of the rebellion. He was engaged in the fierce conflicts at the Wilderness, Cedar Creek, Spotsylvania, and the storming of Petersburg, and was at Appomattox when Lee surrendered the remnant of his legions to the great General of the Northern forces. He was wounded twice during the war -- at Monocacy and again at Fisher's Hill. He was brevetted three times for bravery on the field -- for gallant conduct, and "or having born himself with distinguished gallantry in every engagement since May 5th (1864), and particularly in the engagement at Cedar Creek." The latter was an unusual and brilliant brevet, and one rarely earned and seldom accorded any soldier. For a time he was Adjutant-General of the famous old Vermont Brigade, which achieved such signal reputation as a fighting brigade. He was Captain in the Sixteenth Infantry when appointed, in recognition of his distinguished services, as Major and Assistant Adjutant-General in the regular army in 1882. The Indian outbreak in Dakota in 1889 was an active and arduous period in his military career, and toward the close of the struggle, when General Ruger was transferred to the Department of California, he was in temporary command of the Department, and the labor and strain overtaxed his strength, and it required several years for his recovery. Colonel Barber is a man of kindly impulse and sensitive honor, and, backed by a splendid record, executive ability of a high order and uncommon elements of popularity, he cannot fail to challenge the recognition of his military superiors, and his merit and faithful service be rewarded by the highest promotion.
At the beginning of the Spanish-American War, Barber was stationed at New York City. He was assigned to duty in the Philippine Islands as assistant Adjutant General on the staff of Major General Otis, and after his departure, Major General Arthur McArthur, commanding the Army of Occupation in Manila. On June 8, 1900, he and his wife Delilah, were listed as boarders in the household of Chauncey Rosenbury in Pownal, Vermont. That same year, his alma mater Williams College, conferred upon him the degree of LLD.
After spending two years in the Philippines, "worn down by constant exposure and arduous application to duty, he was ordered home." He returned to the United States by way of Japan and China, and became "an actor with the small military forces of the allied European nations in suppressing the uprising of the Boxers."
Following his retirement in mid-1901, Merritt and Delilah lived winters in Watervliet, New York, and summers in Pownal, "where he enjoys a well earned respite after a phenomenally long and active military career," according to biographer Hiram Carleton. Merritt died April 19, 1906. Delilah survived him by four years, dying August 1, 1910. They are buried together in Section 1, Site 113, at Arlington National Cemetery.
General Barber was a member of the New York Commandery of the Military order of the Loyal Legion, of the Sixth Corp Post, GAR, of Bennington, Vermont, and Sons of the American Revolution, having four great-grandparents with service in the Revolutionary War.
Written by Tom Ledoux using the following resources:
Abbott, Lemuel Abijah. Personal Recollections and Civil War Diary, 1864. Burlington: Free Press Printing Co., 1908.
Barber, Sharon. Bristol, CT. Barber family genealogy; sighted at www.ancestry.com, December 10, 2005; Internet.
Benedict, George G. Vermont in the Civil War. Burlington, VT: The Free Press Association, 1888.
Carleton, Hiram. Genealogical and Family History of the State of Vermont. New York: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1903.
Elliott-Upton, Deborah. "Lonely Trumpet." Amarillo Globe-News, Sunday, January 19, 2003; sighted at http://amarillo.com/stories/011903/boo_lonelytrumpet.shtml, December 10, 2005; Internet.
Haynes, E. M. A History of the Tenth Regiment, Vt. Vols. Rutland, VT: The Tuttle Company, 1894.
Heitman, Francis B. Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army, 1789-1903. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1903; sighted at www.ancestry.com, December 10, 2005; Internet.
"Lieutenant Henry O. Flipper," Old Mobeetie Texas Association; sighted at http://www.mobeetie.com/pages/flipper.htm, December 10, 2005; Internet.
"Lieutenant Henry Ossian Flipper, U. S. Army 1856-1940," U. S. Army Center of Military History; sighted at http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/topics/afam/flipper.htm, December 10, 2005; Internet.
Los Angeles, California. City Directions, 1888-1890; sighted at www.ancestry.com, December 10, 2005; Internet.
National Cemetery Administration. U. S. Veterans Cemeteries, ca. 1800-2004 [database online]. Provo, Utah: MyFamily.com, Inc., 2005. Original data: National Cemetery Administration. Nationwide Gravesite Locator.
"President Chester A. Arthur State Historic Site," in Vermont State Historic Sites, http://www.dhca.state.vt.us/HistoricSites/html/arthur2.html">, sighted December 10, 2005; Internet.
Richards, William V. "Sixteenth Regiment of Infantry," The Army of the United States; Historical Sketches of Staff and Line With Portraits of Generals-in-Chief; New York: Maynard, Merrill, & Co., 1896; available online at http://www.army.mil/cmh/books/R&H/R&H-FM.htm, sighted December 10, 2005; Internet.
"Second Lieutenant Henry O. Flipper, First Black Graduate of West Point," Fort Davis National Historic Site; sighted at http://www.nps.gov/foda/Fort_Davis_WEB_PAGE/About_the_Fort/Flipper_Site_Bulletin_WEB_PAGE.htm, December 10, 2005; Internet.
St. Paul, Minnesota. City Directories, 1889-1891; sighted at www.ancestry.com, December 10, 2005; Internet.
COL. MERRITT BARBER DEAD
Dies Yesterday at his Home
SERVED LONG IN THE ARMY
Native of Pownal Who Had a
Long and Honored
Col. Merritt Barber, USA retired, and one of the most prominent men in the service, which he left six years ago by reason of the age limit, died at his home in Watervliet yesterday. He had been ill several months. Col. Barber was 68 years of age and was born in Pownal. He secured his education at the public schools in that town and was for a time a pupil of the late Chester A, Arthur, afterward president of the United States. He graduated from Williams college in the class of 1857.
He had the distinction of being the first person to greet James A. Garfield when the president, to be, landed at Williamstown to enter Williams college and a friendship was forged between the two that lasted up to the time of Garfield's death.
After leaving college he studied law with A. B. Gardner of this village, was admitted to the bar but did not practice long.
In 1862 he enlisted in Bennington in the First (sic) Vermont Volunteers as a private and when mustered out in 1864 he held the position of Captain. In 1866 President Johnson commissioned him as second lieutenant in the 16th USI and in 1870 he was captain in the same regiment.
In June 1882 he was transferred to the Adjutant General's department with the rank of Captain, and in 1896 reached the rank of Colonel. In the battle of Fishers Hill in the Shenandoah Valley campaign he was wounded. He was present at the surrender of Lee at Appomattox, and also at the surrender of Johnson at Danville.
During his time as assistant adjutant general he served as such in the army headquarters at Washington, for the Department of the east at Governors Island, Department of the Lakes at Chicago, and for a couple of years for the department of the Philippines, and upon his return from that station he was retired.
During the Indian campaign he was with Gen. Crook, and later with Gen. Nelson A. Miles. He was a member of The Loyal Legion, of the local GAR post, of the Bennington branch Sons of Revolution. He was twice married and leaves a wife and one daughter. The interment will be in the national cemetery near Washington where his first wife is buried.
Source: Bennington Banner, April 20, 1906; contributed by Tom Boudreau