A Civil War Biography

John Decatur Barry

Barry was born 21 June 1839 in Wilmington, North Carolina. He was a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina when he enlisted as a private in Company I of the 8th North Carolina Volunteers on 15 April 1861. The 8th was re-designated the 18th North Carolina on 14 November 1861. When the 18th was reorganized on 24 April 1862 Barry was elected captain.

Barry saw action during the Seven Days battles, at Second Manassas, and Sharpsburg. He was promoted to major on 11 November 1862. At Chancellorsville Barry wound up in command of the 18th NC, the unit that fired on "Stonewall" Jackson, after Colonel Thomas J. Purdie was killed and Lieutenant Colonel Forney George was wounded. The brigade commander, James H. Lane, praised Barry in the official battle reports for his handling of the 18th as well as holding the brigade which lost 3 colonels, 3 lieutenant colonels and 2 majors during the fight.

Barry was promoted to colonel on 27 May 1863 to rank from 3 May. He commanded the 18th at Gettysburg, leading the regiment towards the Union center on 3 July 1863 as part of what became known as Pickett's Charge. Barry remained in command of the 18th NC during Grant's Overland campaign. At Cold Harbor on 2 June 1864 when Lane, the brigade commander was wounded, Barry took over brigade command. Barry was wounded a month later on 2 July 1864 in the trenches at Petersburg. He was given temporary rank of brigadier general to date from 3 August 1864 but the rank was never confirmed by the Confederate Congress and the temporary rank was revoked when Lane was able to return to active duty before Barry. Barry would finally return to active duty in February 1865. He only remained with the Army of Northern Virginia for a month.

Records disagree as to where Barry was when the war ended. Some sources put him on detached duty in North Carolina while others claim his wounds or illness forced him from active duty. Following the war Barry was the editor of a newspaper in Wilmington, North Carolina where he died 27 March 1867.

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