William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan
Finding aid for
Edward Barker Journals, 1855; 1865
James S. Schoff Civil War CollectionFinding aid created by
Rob S. Cox, January 1993
Edward Barker journals
Barker, Edward, b. ca. 1823
296 pages (2 volumes)
Edward Barker's journals include documentation of Mr. Barker's 1855 emigration from England to America and his later Civil War service as chaplain in the 40th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment.
The material is in English
William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu
Access and Use
The collection is open for research.
Copyright status is unknown.
Edward Barker Journals, James S. Schoff Civil War Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan
Barker, Edward, b. ca. 1823
Rank : Chaplain
Regiment : 40th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment (1862-1865)
Service : 1864 November 5-1865 June 16
In the winter of 1854-55, Edward Barker made the difficult decision to emigrate from Birmingham, England, to Monson, Massachusetts. An educated man blessed with many talents, Barker had been a teacher in a boys' school, but finding himself with four young children to support and ruined finances, he decided to join his brother, Jacob -- who had emigrated in 1840 -- to attempt to work his way out of his troubles. His decision to emigrate was made all the more difficult by being forced to leave behind his wife, Lydia, two sons and a daughter for want of money, bringing with him only the eldest son, Edward (Teddy). Further, he suffered under the embarrassment of financial failure: "Though I never lost a day's wages during the seven years I was there [in Birmingham]," he wrote, "still I not only left in poverty, but I'm sorry to say in debt."
On March 29th, having borrowed money from Jacob for steerage passage to Boston, Barker and son traveled to Berkinhead to await the emigrant ship, Oliver Putnam . While the ship sat in harbor for nearly three weeks, apparently to maximize profit for the captain, Barker and son were subjected to miserable living conditions and poor food, and at this time, too, Barker learned that his sisters had been tormenting his wife, telling her that he never intended to send for her and the children to join him in America. Nor did his luck improve during the passage. Almost from the time of departure on April 16th, the voyage was alternately violently stormy and becalmed, and toward the end, the ship was beset with strong headwinds. Worse, Barker was incapacitated with seasickness for much of the time.
When not too ill, Barker taught classes for the betterment of other passengers, and delivered lectures on such topics as Columbus' discovery of America. His sense of morality, though, does not seem to have been shared by other passengers or the crew. Barker often professed to be shocked by the crudeness and moral laxity of others on board, and he displayed an unforgiving attitude. Of one young man who was immigrating to Canada after leaving three (unmarried) women pregnant, Barker wrote: "I said at the time that he deserved hanging. But no, I think solitary confinement for three years would do him good" (1855 April 28). He wrote the "country people" berthed with him "have no other feeling in this world than that of stuffing and gourmandizing" (1855 May 4), and he grew concerned that Ted's association with the country boys was corrupting.
Once arrived in Massachusetts, Barker apparently received formal religious training, perhaps at the Meadville Theological School, and he later served as a minister at Charlestown, N.H. The Civil War interrupted his ministry when, in October, 1862, he enlisted as a private in the 3rd Massachusetts Cavalry. He served with the Cavalry only until the following July when he received an appointment as Chaplain of the 91st New York Infantry. One year later, he resigned, but reenlisted as Chaplain of the 40th Massachusetts Infantry in November to fill a vacancy left by the resignation of Augustus Haskell in May.
Shortly after Barker joined the 40th Regiment, it was assigned to 3rd Brigade, 3rd Division, XXIV Corps on the Richmond front. For a short time in March, 1865, the regiment did provost duty at Fredericksburg and assisted in destroying the railway line to Richmond near Hamilton's Crossing, but they returned to Signal Hill above Richmond on March 26th. The 40th was one of the first regiments to enter the Confederate capital after its fall on the morning of April 3rd, and they camped at various places in and around Richmond for the next five weeks, including on Mayo's Plantation and on the Benson estate near Manchester. As Chaplain, Barker had considerably greater mobility than the average soldier and fewer constraints on his time. As a result, he was able to move about the city more or less at will, and he visited a number of well-known sights and battlefields. The 40th Regiment mustered out of the service on June 17th.
Collection Scope and Content Note
Barker's Civil War diary contains a unique record of the events leading up to the fall of Richmond. It is written, interestingly enough, in a ledger book taken from the Confederate Provost Marshal's office in Fredericksburg when the 40th Massachusetts occupied that town. The first six pages of the ledger contain brief medical records (little more than notes) on Confederate soldiers, apparently kept by a Confederate surgeon at Fredericksburg in February, 1865.
As a Chaplain, drawing comparatively high pay and being freed from many of the routine duties of other soldiers, Barker had far more opportunities to observe the area around Richmond and to visit different parts of Richmond than the average soldier. Barker's curiosity led him to visit several of the better-known sights, including Chimborazo Hospital, Hollywood Cemetery, the prison, and the area of town where the "F.F.V.'s" lived. Most interestingly, he often took the opportunity to speak with local inhabitants, both Union sympathizers and die-hard Confederates, other clergymen, and physicians. Barker writes clearly, intelligently, and with insight about the end of the war, and he provides vivid accounts of the first days of Union occupation in Richmond. The diary also includes a particularly valuable account of Fredericksburg when occupied by Union forces in February, 1865.
The diary that Barker kept during his passage from England to America in 1855 contains daily accounts of his activities from the first of the year through the time of his sea voyage and arrival in Monson. A few entries, most notably those at the beginning of the diary, during the days surrounding his departure, and those written immediately preceding and upon his arrival in Boston are very full, and contain unusually detailed accounts of the emotions and experiences of a young man emigrating to America for economic betterment, who is forced, albeit temporarily, to leave most of his family behind. Like his Civil War diary, it is marked with intelligent, though occasionally overly moralistic observations. Included at the end of the diary are 18 poems written by Barker during the voyage on various topics, including freedom in a slave-holding society, the ocean, his family, and emigration.
- Barker, Edward Poyntze.
- Dutch Gap Canal (Va.)
- Fredericksburg (Va.)
- Hollywood Cemetery (Richmond, Va.)
- Immigrants--Great Britain.
- Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865--Assassination.
- Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865--Death and burial.
- Manchester (England)
- Motion sickness.
- Religious gatherings.
- Richmond (Va.)
- Soldiers--Alcohol use.
- Soldiers--Religious life.
- United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Hospitals.
Additional Descriptive Data
African Americans-- Social conditions.Barker, Edward Poyntze.Barker, Jacob.Abused women.Beauty--Poetry.
Berkinhead (England)"Between decks".Boston--Description.Burial at sea.Burial at sea--Poetry.
- See "Where is beauty found?" at end of diary for 1855
Childrens' shoes.Daguerreotypes.Debt, Personal.Farewells.Galleys (Ship kitchens)Gluttony.Hargroves, Mrs.Herring.Housing--Social aspects.Husband and wife.Illegitimate children.Immigrants--Great Britain.
- See "A funeral at sea" at end of diary for 1855
- 1855 April 12, 28, May 16
"Landfall".Manchester (England)Mormons--Great Britain.Mothers--Poetry.
- See poetry at end of diary for 1855
New Year.Ocean travel--Poetry.
- See "My mother and my early days" at end of diary for 1855
Oliver Putnam (Vessel)Poetry."Quarantine doctors".Sailing ship travel.Seamen.Seasickness.Sermons--Great Britain.Sisters-in-law.Slavery--Anti-slavery--Poetry.
- See poetry at end of diary for 1855
- See "Freedom" at end of diary for 1855
- See "My three little boys" at end of diary for 1855
Belle Isle (Va.) Military Prison.Books and reading.Booth, John Wilkes, 1838-1865.Burials.Chaplains.Chaplains--Confederate States of America.Chimborazo Hospital (Richmond, Va.)Church and state--Confederate States of America.Churches--Virginia.Civilians--Virginia--Civil War, 1861-1865.Cold Harbor (Va.) Battlefield.Confederate States of America. Army of Northern Virginia--Surrender.Confederate States of America. Army of the Tennessee--Surrender.Confiscations and contraband.Death.Devens, Charles, 1820-1891.Dutch Gap Canal (Va.)Episcopal Church--Virginia.Episcopal Church--Virginia--Clergy.Fort Darling (Va.)Fort Field (Va.)Fort Gilmer (Va.)Fort Harrison (Va.)Fredericksburg (Va.)Fredericksburg (Va.) Battlefield.Fredericksburg (Va.)--Expedition, 1865.Grave robbery--Virginia.Hollywood Cemetery (Richmond, Va.)Libby Prison.Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865--Assassination.Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865--Death and funeral.
Liquors.Malvern Hill (Va.)Manchester (Va.)Marches--Virginia.Memorial service.Mines, Military.Monroe, James, 1758-1831--Tomb.Oak Grove Cemetery (Richmond, Va.)Ord, Edward Otho Cresap, 1818-1883.Ordnance--Confederate States of America.Parades--Virginia--Richmond.Petersburg (Va.) Battlefield.Pillage--Virginia--Fredericksburg.Pillage--Virginia--Richmond.Point Lookout (Md.)Political prisoners--Confederate States of America.Prayer meetings.Preaching.Prisoners of War.Prisoners of War--Confederate States of America.Prisons--Virginia--Richmond.Religious gatherings.
- 1865 April 19, 24, May 16
Richmond (Va.)Richmond (Va.)--Capture, 1865.Richmond (Va.)--Defences.Sheridan, Philip Henry, 1831-1888.Slavery and the Church.Slavery--Justification.Soldiers' bodies, Disposition of.Soldiers--Alcohol.Soldiers--Death.Soldiers--Religious life.
- 1865 February 16, 19; April 9
Union sympathizers--Virginia.Unitarian Church--Virginia--Richmond.United States Christian Commission.United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Hospitals.United States. Army--Barracks and quarters.Virginia--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Destruction.Waterworks--Virginia--Richmond.Westmoreland County (Va.)--Expedition, 1865.Women--Virginia.
- 1865 February 26; April 10
- 1865 March 7, April 22, 24