A Civil War Biography

Samuel Barron

Barron was born 28 November 1809 in Hampton, Virginia. His father, who died in 1810, was a commodore in the US navy stationed there. As a tribute to his father Barron was appointed a midshipman on 1 January 1812. He was only two at the time. He entered active service with the navy in 1820. By 1855 he was a captain. By 1860 he was chief of the Bureau of Detail and one of the most powerful men in the navy. After Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated in 1861 there is evidence that Barron was actively attempting to take control of the Navy Department. Once Virginia left the Union he tendered his resignation. Gideon Welles, the Secretary of the Navy, refused to accepted the resignation and instead dismissed Barron on 22 April 1861.

Offering his services to his native state, Barron was named a captain and head of the Office of Naval Detail and Equipment. When Virginia'a navy became part of the Confederate navy he was given a commission as commander dated 10 June 1861 and appointed head of the Office of Orders and Details. He held this position only until 20 July 1861when he convinced the Confederate Secretary of the Navy, Stephen R. Mallory, to give him command of the coastal defenses of Virginia and North Carolina. Barron chose to administer his duties from Fort Hatteras, North Carolina. He arrived at the fort 28 August 1861, the day after a Union fleet began a bombardment and was forced to surrender the following day. He was held as a prisoner of war until exchanged 11 months later. He was returned to his duties commanding naval forces in Virginia but only for a short time. Mallory decided to send Barron, once referred to as "Navy Diplomat" by his colleagues in Washington, to Europe to oversee construction of vessels destined for the Confederate navy. He arrived in Europe in the summer of 1863 and oversaw the construction of the rams Stonewall and Georgia. When the British government seized the rams Barron moved his operations to France, setting up an office as flag officer commanding naval forces in Europe. His duties included little more than tending to the numerous Confederate naval officers who were awaiting assignments on cruisers. Barron resigned on 25 February 1865 after receiving orders to return to the Confederacy.

Following the war Barron returned to Virginia where he went into retirement. He died 26 February 1888.

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