A Civil War Biography

Henry Alanson Barnum

Barnum was born 24 September 1833 in Jamesville, New York. After receiving a good education he became a teacher, studied the law, was admitted to the bar, established a law practice, and joined the local militia.

When the war started Barnum joined the army on 13 May 1861 as the captain of company I of the 12th New York Infantry and saw action at First Bull Run. He was promoted to major in late October 1861 and took part in the peninsula campaign. He was severely wounded at Malvern Hill on 1 July 1862 and left for dead. A body believed to be his was buried and a funeral was held for him in New York but in actuality he had been captured and sent to Libby Prison.

After being exchanged he was commissioned, to rank from 17 September 1862, a colonel in the 149th New York which he had helped form. The 149th was mustered in on 4 October 1862. Barnum was frequently absent due to complications from his wound. He commanded the regiment at Gettysburg which took part in the action on Culp's Hill and was wounded. He next saw action at Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga, Tennessee on 23 November 1863 where he was again wounded and would, in July 1889, be awarded the Medal of Honor. The citation reads "Although suffering severely from wounds, he led his regiment, inciting the men to greater action by word and example until again severely wounded."

On 23 December 1863 he was honored with the duty of delivering captured flags to the War Department in Washington DC. Following his return to the front Barnum took part in the Atlanta campaign and was wounded on 20 July 1864 at Peach Tree Creek. On 10 September 1864 Barnum took over command of the 3rd brigade of the 2nd division of the XX Corps. He remained in brigade command during the March to the Sea at the conclusion of which the 3rd brigade was honored with being the first to enter Savannah. He continued in command through the Carolina campaign until the end of the war. He was brevetted brigadier general of volunteers on 12 January 1865 then major general of volunteers on 13 March. He was given the rank of brigadier general of volunteers on 31 May. He resigned from the army on 9 January 1866.

Following the war Barnum served as the inspector of New York State prisons. He was a member of the state legislature, the New York Harbor Master, and a deputy tax commissioner. He was director of the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association for New York and a department commander of the Grand Army of the Republic.

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