Princess Anne County Families: David Barnes

My great-great grandfather David Barnes was born in Princess Anne County on September 29, 1843, the second of seven children born to John Barnes and Catherine Bonney. Their other children were two daughters, Elenora and Eliza, and four sons, Emperor, Henry, John, and Walter.

David spent his youth working on the family farm, where he was enumerated in the 1850 and 1860 census. But the Civil War was looming ever. On March 1, 1862 when David was nineteen years old, he enlisted for the duration of the war in Company G of the 16th Virginia Infantry at Tanners Creek Crossroads in what was then Norfolk County. Tanners Creek was the original name of the modern day Lafayette River. Tanners Creek Crossroad was near what is now the intersection of Little Creek, Old Ocean View, and Sewells Point roads. Company G, also known as the Atlantic Guard, was a local company from Princess Anne County commanded by Capt. William E. Williams and Capt. John T. Woodhouse, later promoted to Major.

The war was heating up in the Hampton Roads area in the months just before David enlisted. In January 1862 Gen. Burnside arrived with Federal troops at Fort Monroe and sent a force to capture Roanoke Island, North Carolina. As a result, CSA President Jefferson Davis declared martial law in a ten-mile radius around Norfolk and Portsmouth, and ordered all males between the age of eighteen and forty-five to report for duty. This is probably the reason David enlisted. Then on March 8, the Monitor and CSS Virginia fought their famous engagement in Hampton Roads harbor.

David’s muster rolls show that he was present for duty with the 16th Virginia for almost the entire war, except for two occasions. The first was on July 1, 1862, when he was wounded at Malvern Hill and sent to hospital in Richmond. The second was on February 23, 1863, when he was admitted to General Hospital No. 9 in Richmond.

The 16th Virginia was involved in almost every engagement of the Army of Northern Virginia beginning with the Seven Days in 1862 and ending with the Petersburg siege in 1864–65 and the retreat to Appomattox in April 1865. David was probably with the 16th for battles of 2nd Bull Run, Antietam, and Fredericksburg in 1862; for Chancellorsville and Gettysburg in 1863; for the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg in 1864. But David was definitely there for the Battle of the Crater.

In the summer of 1864, the Army of Northern Virginia lay entrenched around Petersburg, holding Grant from taking the city and cutting the railroad lines. To break the impasse, Union forces secretly dug tunnels under part of the Confederate lines and packed them with 8,000 pounds (four tons) of gunpowder. On July 30, the Federals lit the fuse. The explosion killed about 300 Confederate soldiers and created a crater roughly 170 feet long, 70 feet wide, and 30 feet deep—the size of a football field. Union forces then attacked with a mortar and heavy artillery barrage, followed by an advance of 15,000 men—an entire army corps.

The 16th and other regiments of Mahone’s brigade were entrenched about three miles south of the Crater when they were ordered to counter attack. Once within site of the Crater, they formed a battle line 200 yards wide and twenty feet deep, fixed bayonets, and charged. The fighting was brutal and hand-to-hand. There is a scene in the movie “Cold Mountain” that graphically depicts what it must have been like.

David Barnes not only survived the battle, but captured a Union Stars and Stripes during the fighting. For that achievement, he was added to the Confederate Roll of Honor.

The Army of Northern Virginia remained entrenched around Petersburg for the rest of 1864 and into the early months of 1865. David was probably with the 16th on March 3, 1865, when it returned to the Petersburg defenses with the rest of Mahone’s division after confronting Union forces on the Boydton Plank Road. According to his military records, David deserted that same day. Perhaps he saw the handwriting on the wall. Only a month later, Lee evacuated Petersburg and began the last march of the Army of Northern Virginia to Appomattox. On March 18, two weeks after he deserted, David took the oath of allegiance and was transported to Norfolk.

David was about twenty-seven years old when he married my great-great grandmother Sarah Virginia “Jennie” Widgeon on February 28, 1870. She was the daughter of Henry A. Widgeon and Martha Louise Petty. Three of Jennie’s brothers—Charles, Henry, and John—married three sisters—Margaret, Elizabeth, and Mary—the daughters of Andrew and Susan (Gallup) Shipp, my first cousin three times removed. Andrew was also a Confederate veteran. The local Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 1993 (now 484) restored their graves several years ago.

David was a farmer his entire life. He and Jennie lived on London Bridge Road. My mother believes the house was near the curve where the Lillian Vernon warehouse is located today. London Bridge road at that time was straighter, probably continuing across Oceana Air Field from its back gate to the Lillian Vernon warehouse location. David and Jennie had a large family: eight sons and one daughter. All but one survived to adulthood.

David died on March 2, 1921 at the age of seventy-seven. His wife Jennie passed away in 1944 at the age of ninety-seven. My mother was twenty at the time and still remembers her quite well. David and Jennie were buried at London Bridge Baptist Church. When the Norfolk-Virginia Beach toll road (I-264 east) was built in the 1960s, the State took some of the cemetery property where they were buried. Consequently, the Barnes family moved David and Jennie in 1966 to Forest Lawn Cemetery in Norfolk.

Copyright © 2012 Donald W. Moore. All rights reserved. May not be used without written permission.

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