The previous article featured Corporal Tilman Settles (1817-1861) of Benton County, Missouri and Private James Madison Whitney Sr. (1822-1885) of Dallas County, Missouri. Hickory County, Missouri is situated between Benton and Dallas Counties. Settles and Whitney served together in the Hickory County Battalion of the Osage County Regiment of the Unionist Missouri Home Guard, enlisting in July and June of 1861, respectively.
Settles and Whitney both discharged on December 20 of 1861, as the remaining Unionist Home Guard regiments, which formed hastily upon the outbreak of war, finally disbanded. Many Home Guard veterans would go on to enlist in the regular Unionist volunteer regiments, as well in the Federally-funded Missouri State Militia regiments – whose members included the most fearsome and brutal hunters of Missouri partisans in the Ozarks.
Four days after Settles and Whitney discharged from the Hickory County Battalion of the Osage County Home Guard Regiment, Missouri partisans murdered Settles and dumped his body in a river. In February of 1862, furnishing his own horse and equipment, James Madison Whitney Sr. enlisted for the duration of the war as a private in Captain John M. Richardson’s Mountain Ranger Battalion, which integrated into Federal service as Company B of the 14th Missouri State Militia Cavalry Regiment.
A year later, in February of 1863, Private James Madison Whitney Sr. transferred into the 4th Missouri State Militia Cavalry Regiment, where he attained the rank of corporal, and finished the war. In the 4th Missouri State Militia Cavalry Regiment, Corporal James Madison Whitney Sr. served with Corporal Isaac Henry Foster. They fought in many battles.
On August 14, 1947, a great-grandson of Corporal James Madison Whitney Sr. married a great-granddaughter of Corporal Isaac Henry Foster.
Cliff and Wanda Barnhart passed along a staggering amount of Civil War heritage to their descendants. Wanda’s maiden name was the surname of her adoptive father Lloyd Edward Vaughn (1912-1972), but her biological father was Everett Beecher Foster (1908-1976), a grandson of Corporal Isaac Henry Foster. Although his marriage to Wanda’s mother did not work out, Everett Foster served honorably as a Private First Class when the US Army drafted him for World War Two.
Clifford Barnhart was a grandson of Corporal Whitney’s daughter Malissa (1868-1907), and Robert Holly Barnhart (1868-1915). Although his own father stayed out of the Civil War, the uncles and cousins of Robert Holly Barnhart fought and died on each side. Within the common framework of their extended genealogy, they are known as the R-Line. For the purposes of Missouri Civil War history, they can be referred to as the Webster County Barnharts.
The history of the Barnharts of Webster County, Missouri actually begins in Guilford County, North Carolina, where David S. Barnhart and Elizabeth Cobb were born in 1794 and 1799, respectively. Guilford County is where they married on August 1, 1818. It is also where they lived at the time of the 1820 and 1830 censuses, and where their oldest children were born. According to the 1840 census, they lived in Marshall County, Tennessee. The remainder of their children were born in Tennessee before the family moved once again in 1846 to an area just south of Dallas County, Missouri, near a now-defunct settlement called Ozark, in Greene County. In 1855, this area was carved from Greene County, added to a chunk carved out of Wright County to the east, and incorporated as Webster County.
There is much conflicting information freely available concerning the true identity of his parents, and it is not known to this researcher if a member of the R-Line has yet confirmed the ancestry of David S. Barnhart through DNA testing. His family could have arrived with a wave of German settlers of the Reformed or Lutheran denominations who in the mid-1700’s moved to Guilford County, North Carolina from Pennsylvania. Various family histories confuse him with the unrelated David S. Barnhart of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania who was also born in 1794, and who also married an Elizabeth. The sons of David S. Barnhart of Webster County are also commonly mistaken with members of the unrelated Barnhart clusters found in the vicinity of Maries, Miller, and Osage Counties, Missouri at the time of the war. The confusion is due in part to the fact that the latter Barnharts lived in Greene County, Tennessee before moving to Missouri, whereas the Webster County Barnharts lived in Tennessee before moving to Greene County, Missouri. It is also due to their similar first names, and their similarly split wartime allegiances. A connection between these Barnhart lines, although irrelevant by the time of the Civil War, is likely to be found in the seventeenth or eighteenth centuries. The theory currently favored by this researcher is that the R-Line is a subset of the S-Line, and that David S. Barnhart of Webster County, Missouri is a son of John Joel Barnhart (born in 1775) of Guilford County, North Carolina. The fact that John Joel Barnhart had a father and a brother named Henry B. Barnhart, and a sister named Susannah, could explain why David S. Barnhart named a son and a daughter Henry B. and Susannah. This could also explain why David S. Barnhart moved to Marshall County, Tennessee: John Joel’s sister Susannah moved there from North Carolina, and is buried in the Neese-Wilson Cemetery. Marshall County, Tennessee is where David S. Barnhart’s oldest son John Virgil married a Wilson. David S. Barnhart and Elizabeth Cobb Barnhart of Webster County, Missouri are believed to have produced several daughters, however only four appear to have survived into adulthood. They also had six sons.
- John Virgil Barnhart (born on July 27, 1820)
- Susannah Barnhart (born in 1823)
- Delilah Adelia Barnhart (born in 1825)
- Alfred S. Barnhart (born in 1829 according to the 1850 census, and in 1826 according to the 1860 census)
- Charlotte Charity Barnhart (born on November 26, 1828)
- Robert Daniel Barnhart (born on May 7, 1830)
- Thomas Henderson Barnhart (born on July 15, 1835)
- Henry B. Barnhart (born around 1838)
- Mary Elizabeth Barnhart (born in 1841)
- David R. Barnhart (born on April 7, 1842)
John Virgil Barnhart, Alfred S. Barnhart, and Robert Daniel Barnhart were born in North Carolina. Thomas Henderson Barnhart, Henry B. Barnhart, and David R. Barnhart were born in Tennessee. At the time of the 1860 census, all of the Barnhart brothers lived in Webster County. Alfred S. Barnhart and David R. Barnhart lived in Union Township. The others remained in Ozark Township. The general consensus is that their father died before 1860. The fate of their mother from that time is uncertain. She may not have lived to see her family split by the Civil War.
From December of 1860 to February of 1861, the people of the Deep South states of South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas voted to secede from the United States, in reaction to the election of US President Abraham Lincoln. Together they created the Confederate government on February 8, 1861. The inauguration of US President Abraham Lincoln took place on March 4. In his first inaugural address, he stated his refusal to acknowledge the peaceful and democratic secessions of the Deep South states, and mentioned the use of force against the departed states for the purpose of renewing Federal revenue collection therein.
Amid the wave of secessions sweeping the Deep South in early 1861, the states of the Upper South also instituted conventions for the purpose of debating the question of secession. On January 21, the State of Missouri called:
a convention to consider the “relations between the Government of the United States … and the Government and people of the State of Missouri; and to adopt such measures for vindicating the sovereignty of the State, and the protection of its institutions, as shall appear to them to be demanded.” On February 18, voters elected an overwhelmingly pro-Union group of representatives to the convention.
On March 19, by a vote of ninety-eight to one, the State of Missouri chose to remain in the United States. The Upper South states of Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee also rejected secession. But then on April 4, US President Lincoln ordered a military incursion into the Harbor of Charleston, South Carolina.
As the US-flagged vessels approached the Confederate harbor on April 12 — without and against Confederate permission to enter Confederate territorial waters — the Battle of Fort Sumter inevitably ensued. It was not the first time that the South Carolinians fired upon an attempted US incursion into Charleston Harbor following their secession from the US in December of 1860. A general war did not break out as a result of the repulsion of the first incursion. The United States of America and the Confederate States of America coexisted in peace for months.
Following his deliberate provocation of the Confederates however, US President Abraham Lincoln ordered the states to call up their militias and to supply the Federal government with tens of thousands of troops for the purpose of invading, blockading, conquering, and annexing the Confederacy. In response, the Upper South states of Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee — all of which had elected to remain in the US throughout the preceding months — quickly voted to secede from the United States, and to join the Confederacy, in May and June.
Anti-secession and guarded neutrality had been the general sentiment among the Missourians throughout the months leading up to the Upper South secessions. The Missourians would not leave the Union, but they would also not participate in any anti-Constitutional war of conquest against the Confederacy. However, by the time of the inauguration of Missouri Governor Claiborne Fox Jackson — who campaigned for office throughout 1860 opposed to secession — in January of 1861, a radical paramilitary force numbering in the thousands had been organizing in Saint Louis for several months. Throughout the Northern United States, the Wide Awakes numbered more than a hundred-thousand. In Missouri, it consisted mostly of foreigners, with allegiance not to the State of Missouri, but to the Radical Republicans.
In St. Louis, the organization formed under the guidance of [Republican Congressman Francis Preston] Blair Jr. He became an important figure after the nomination of Lincoln because of his close connections with many in his administration including his brother, Montgomery Blair, Lincoln’s postmaster general . . . The Wide Awakes in St. Louis were composed primarily of the German American population. Southern supporters and conditional Unionists with nativist views resented their presence.
Throughout early 1861, Congressman Blair personally reorganized the Wide Awakes into an armed Unionist militia called the Home Guard, one purpose of which was to secure the contents of the Federal arsenal in Saint Louis for the radicals. To this end, Congressman Blair also used his connections in Washington DC to maneuver a political ally into place as the officer-in-charge of the arsenal, which fell under the jurisdiction of the Commander of the US Army Department of the West, Brigadier General William S. Harney. General Harney — to the dismay of the radicals — insisted upon maintaining peace and cordial relations between the US Army and the State of Missouri.
Into place as officer-in-charge of the Saint Louis Arsenal, Congressman Blair maneuvered a fellow Radical Republican, US Army Captain Nathaniel Lyon of Connecticut. Lyon lives in infamy as the officer-in-charge of the 1850 Bloody Island Massacre in which the US Army conveniently exterminated hundreds of young, elderly, and female members of the Pomo tribe while the Pomo men were away hunting. Toward the goal of forcing war upon the Missourians, Captain Lyon possessed the requisite temperament.
Lyon was very much an eccentric in the pre-war army; he was a fanatical abolitionist and Congregational zealot and used corporal punishment for even the smallest infractions.
Of course the underlying objective of Congressman Blair’s Home Guard was the circumvention of the constitutional, democratically-elected government of the State of Missouri to raise a Unionist army in Missouri for Federal service. When US President Abraham Lincoln issued his troop quota to the State of Missouri in mid-April of 1861, Missouri Governor Jackson duly refused to comply.
Frank Blair returned to St. Louis on the day of Jackson’s rejection of Lincoln’s call, armed with a War Department authorization of five thousand stand of arms to those Home Guard units who would enlist in the federal army. With an enlistment agent in the city (Lieutenant John M. Schofield, a West Pointer on leave in the city with orders to act as mustering officer in Missouri and whose presence Jackson had ignored), Blair and Lyon by week’s end had mustered and armed more than twenty-five hundred recruits, most of them Germans, at the St. Louis Arsenal, with authorization for as many as ten thousand. The action was unconstitutional; Congress alone had authority to create federal volunteers, who were neither state militia nor members of the U.S. Army. As many Missourians saw the matter, such enlistment only implicated government officials from Lyon and Blair to Lincoln in a vast conspiracy against the states.
Had Missouri not been settled by the Americans, then the organization of a lawless, radical, armed subversive group in Saint Louis might have been overlooked by the Missourians. However in January of 1861, an organization called the Minute Men inevitably organized in Saint Louis “to offset the Radical Republicans led by Frank Blair Jr.” In February, Missouri Volunteer Militia Brigadier General Daniel Marsh Frost greatly expanded the Missouri Volunteer Militia with members of the Minute Men. Unlike the Unionist Home Guard, the Missouri Volunteer Militia held the status of a legal entity – as the constitutional armed force of the State of Missouri.
Among the leaders of the Minute Men was a young, South Carolina-born, Saint Louis grocer named Colton Greene. Recognizing that the Unionists and the Federal war agenda represented the threat to law and order in Missouri, Governor Jackson sent Colton Greene to meet with and to secure weaponry for the State of Missouri from the Confederacy. On April 26, Lyon transferred a vast amount of weaponry from the Saint Louis Arsenal to Illinois. In early May, Missouri ordered the Volunteer Militia into service, and established a training camp near Saint Louis called Camp Jackson.
On May 10, Lyon and the Unionists launched an unprovoked attack upon Camp Jackson and forced the Missouri Volunteer Militia to surrender. As Lyon and his radical foreign legion began parading the captured Missourians through the streets of Saint Louis to the arsenal where they were to be paroled, civil unrest inevitably ensued. People in the crowd threw rocks at the Unionists, screaming “damn the Dutch,” and the latter responded by firing indiscriminately upon the crowd, killing dozens. Fear of the Germans spread throughout the area.
On May 11, the constitutional, democratically-elected state legislature of Missouri passed Governor Jackson’s Military Bill, which replaced the Missouri Volunteer Militia with the Missouri State Guard as the constitutional armed force of the State of Missouri. The state commissioned former-governor Sterling Price as the field commander of the State Guard, with Governor Jackson as commander-in-chief. The bill divided the counties of Missouri into several military divisions from which the State Guard would be recruited. The 7th and 8th Divisions consisted of the southwestern corner of the state, with Webster County in the 7th. Upon his commission as a captain in the Missouri State Guard, Colton Greene served as the artillery chief of the 7th Division, commanded by Brigadier General James Haggin McBride. Captain Greene soon received a promotion to lieutenant colonel and served as a 7th Division adjutant-general. Prior to the Battle of Elkhorn Tavern in March of 1862, Missouri State Guard troops from southwestern Missouri would be reorganized into the 3rd Brigade, also commanded by McBride before his replacement by Colonel Colton Greene.
In late May of 1861, US Army General Harney and Missouri State Guard General Sterling Price instituted the Price-Harney Truce to restore peace and order in Missouri. US President Abraham Lincoln immediately thwarted the truce by promoting the radical Captain Lyon to the rank of Brigadier General, and ordering his replacement of General Harney as the Commander of the US Army Department of the West. On June 11 of 1861, a month after Lyon attacked the State of Missouri with his illegal army of foreigners and radicals, Missouri Governor Jackson and Missouri State Guard General Sterling Price met the radicals Blair and Lyon at the Planter’s House Hotel in Saint Louis, for one last desperate bid to restore peace and order in Missouri. The meeting quickly ended when, in reply to the Missourians’ insistence that the laws of the land be respected, Lyon infamously declared that he would rather
“. . . see you, and you, and you, and you, [pointing to each man in the room] and every man, woman, and child in the State dead and buried. This means war. In an hour one of my officers will call for you and conduct you out of my lines.”
Governor Jackson and General Price ordered the railroad tracks to be dismantled behind them as they made their retreat to the capital, Jefferson City, which they deemed indefensible, before falling back to Boonville. The Unionists had allowed the Missouri state officials to leave Saint Louis but followed closely behind. On June 13, Lyon and his forces entered an abandoned Jefferson City, and then advanced on the Missourians at Boonville. The Unionists easily defeated the Missourians in the First Battle of Boonville on June 17; a relatively minor skirmish from which the Missouri government and State Guard fell back even further toward the safety of southwestern Missouri.
In late July, the Unionists instituted a puppet government in the capital to serve as the public face of Lyon’s nascent military dictatorship. A few days later, on July 25, US General John C. Fremont replaced General Lyon as the Commander of the US Army Department of the West, which Fremont also ruled as a corrupt despot, complete with a mounted bodyguard contingent of Hungarians outfitted as royal hussars. Fremont, another Radical Republican, earned the nickname “The Pathfinder” due to his career achievements in surveying and exploration – skills he developed in part by preparing for the ethnic cleansing of the Cherokee from their ancestral homeland. As Commander of the West, Fremont would prepare US forces to open up the Mississippi River, thereby splitting the Confederacy in two. His appointment freed Lyon to invade southwestern Missouri.
On July 5, US General Franz Sigel — another German, who received his Union Army commission for propaganda purposes aimed at potential German recruits whom the Unionists hoped to array against the Missourians, and in lieu of any real military competence — showed up in southwestern Missouri and lost the Battle of Carthage in Jasper County. Lyon occupied Springfield, eventually joined there by Sigel. A hostile population surrounded the Unionists in Springfield. Lyon requested reinforcements, but Fremont ordered Lyon to fall back to Rolla. Instead, on August 10 Lyon hastily rushed into disaster at the Battle of Wilson’s Creek near Springfield, where joint Missouri and Confederate forces inflicted a serious defeat against the Unionists in the “Bull Run of the West.” Lyon secured the honor of being the first US general officer to die in the war, and the remaining Unionists retreated to Rolla. One of the final orders Lyon had issued was the organization of a twenty-fourth Unionist volunteer infantry regiment. At Rolla, the Unionists organized the 24th Missouri Volunteer Infantry Regiment, and nicknamed it the “Lyon Legion.”
In spite of the lawless violence perpetrated by the Unionists upon the people and the constitutional, democratically-elected government, the State of Missouri still remained in the United States throughout the summer of 1861. On August 30, US General Fremont proclaimed martial law in Missouri, and ordered the summary execution of any Missourian captured bearing arms in defense of their state. He also issued a slave emancipation proclamation which sent shock waves throughout the US. The Unionists in Missouri and Kentucky warned Lincoln that suddenly making slavery an object of their war agenda had doomed their cause. Because his war effort relied so heavily upon the slave-owning Unionists, Lincoln first asked and then ordered General Fremont to rescind the Missouri emancipation proclamation. Lincoln told Fremont’s wife, whom the general sent to appeal in vain directly to the president, that Fremont “should never have dragged the Negro into the war.” Upon his unceremonious transfer to the Eastern theater, Fremont’s military career would be ended in the Shenandoah Valley by Confederate General Stonewall Jackson’s Foot Cavalry in 1862. Lincoln eventually issued his own Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, which he patterned on Fremont’s, in that they both only proclaimed the emancipation of slaves owned by Confederates. The slaves of the Unionists continued in their condition until the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, months after the war and the life of US President Abraham Lincoln were both ended in 1865.
According to the 1830 census, David S. Barnhart owned a family of four slaves. However it is now impossible to determine the impact of slavery on his sons’ motivation to fight either for the Union or for the State of Missouri. Although the Home Guard in Saint Louis possessed distinctly radical characteristics, the Home Guard units which formed throughout the counties of Missouri were generally more moderate.
Of the Webster County Home Guards twenty-five officers and 713 men, only one was dishonorably discharged. This command was organized to protect home interests; but many of its members, while sympathizing deeply with the cause of the South, did not look with favor on Gov. Jackson’s reply to the first call for volunteers, and entered the Guard simply to await a settlement of Missouri’s relation to the North and South, willing to uphold the National Government until such settlement, leaving their more violent friends to enter the State Guards under Gen. Price.
John Virgil Barnhart and his oldest son Robert Matthew Barnhart enlisted in the Webster County Home Guard at Marshfield on June 9, 1861. Corporal John Virgil Barnhart and Private Robert Matthew Barnhart served together in Captain Bodenhamer‘s Infantry, Company F.
Corporal John Virgil Barnhart mustered out of the Webster County Home Guard on August 20, 1861 at Rolla. That same day, he enlisted as a private in Company B of the Unionist 24th Missouri Volunteer Infantry Regiment. After his health rapidly deteriorated due to pneumonia, Private John Virgil Barnhart received a medical discharge on October 24, 1863.
Private Robert Matthew Barnhart discharged from the Webster County Home Guard and re-enlisted in Marshfield on July 27. He was sick when he did so, and although he was to be assigned to the Lyon Legion with his father, Private Robert Matthew Barnhart died of disease on October 17, before he could ever muster with his unit.
Another son of John Virgil Barnhart enlisted in the Unionist cause at Marshfield on September 27, 1864. Some Barnhart family trees list him as Aaron and alternatively as Anderson Barnhart. Some list his middle initial as C, while others give him the middle initials of C. A. His enlistment records confirm that his name is Private Aaron C. A. Barnhart from Company G of the 46th Missouri Volunteer Infantry Regiment.
John Virgil Barnhart’s younger brother Henry B. Barnhart also enlisted in the Webster County Home Guard, at White Oak, on June 10. Private Henry B. Barnhart served in Company E, discharged on August 11, and did not enlist for any further military service.
Their brother David R. Barnhart did not serve in the Home Guard, but enlisted in Company B of the Unionist 8th Missouri Volunteer Cavalry Regiment in Marshfield on July 20, 1862. Private David R. Barnhart received a medical discharge on April 7, 1863 due to a spinal injury.
Their sister Delilah Adelia Barnhart married John Garrett in Marshall County, Tennessee on April 13, 1845. John Garrett served as a private with James Madison Whitney Sr. in Company E of the Hickory County Battalion of the Osage County Home Guard Regiment.
Charlotte Charity Barnhart married Garrett D. Letterman in Greene County, Missouri on December 2, 1849. At the time of the 1860 census, they lived in Ozark with five children. Garrett and his brother John D. Letterman enlisted in the Webster County Home Guard on June 9, 1861 in Marshfield. They enlisted on the same day as John Virgil Barnhart and Robert Matthew Barnhart, and served as privates with the Barnharts in Company F. Garrett and John Letterman discharged on August 20 in Rolla with John Barnhart. Neither Garrett nor John Letterman would render any further military service.
Their brother James Israel Letterman served in the Dallas County Home Guard Regiment, and also served in the Unionist 8th Missouri Volunteer Cavalry Regiment with their brother Francis Letterman and Henry B. Barnhart. No Barnhart or Letterman was present for the Unionist 8th Missouri Volunteer Cavalry’s perpetration of the Huntsville Massacre.
The service record of the Missouri State Guard Private T. Barnhart who served in Captain Wood’s Company of Colonel Colton Greene’s 3rd Brigade at the Battle of Elkhorn Tavern does not list his first name, nor the location and date of his enlistment. However the only military-aged T. Barnhart in southwestern Missouri was Thomas Henderson Barnhart of Webster County. The only other military-aged T. Barnhart near that area was Thomas Wilkerson Barnhart of Osage County, who served in three separate Unionist regiments.
Private T. Barnhart was wounded in the Battle of Elkhorn Tavern, and made the retreat down Frog Bayou to the Arkansas River near Van Buren following the Unionist victory. It can be reasonably concluded that he is indeed Thomas Henderson Barnhart of Webster County. Although Webster County fell in the 7th Division, the roster compiled on this site states that T. Barnhart served in the 8th Division of the Missouri State Guard. The Battle of Carthage took place in the 8th Division county of Jasper. The Battle of Carthage greatly served to promote State Guard recruitment in southwestern Missouri, and it is likely that Thomas Henderson Barnhart went next door to enlist in the 8th Division when the Unionist forces of General Franz Sigel appeared in the area. He may have served in the Battle of Wilson’s Creek. According to the 1860 census, “T. H.” lived in Webster County with his wife Mary, and their sons William and Francis. In 1870, Thomas Henderson Barnhart, his wife Mary, and sons William and Francis lived in Albany, Oregon with a daughter named Mary who was born in Missouri in 1861, and a son named George who was born in Oregon, just months following the Battle of Elkhorn Tavern. After the battle, Confederate forces in the Trans-Mississippi Department were reorganized, and the men of the Missouri State Guard formally transferred into the Confederate States Army. No other T. Barnhart ever fought on the Confederate side of the war in Missouri. It is likely that Thomas Henderson Barnhart saw all the action he wanted at the tavern, and immediately took his family on the Oregon Trail to escape the war, including his then-pregnant wife. His Confederate military service likely explains why he listed his state of birth as Indiana on the Reconstruction-era 1870 census. All previous and subsequent census records correctly recorded his state of birth as Tennessee.
With the reorganization of the Confederate Trans-Mississippi Department came authorization for Colonel Colton Greene and Major Robert C. Wood to raise their own partisan ranger units. Robert Daniel Barnhart of Webster County stayed out of the war, but his wife was a sister of the prominent Springfield tobacconist John H. Caynor.
John H. Caynor enlisted with Colonel Colton Greene on September 22, 1862. Colonel Greene’s regiment ultimately served as a regular cavalry, designated the Confederate 3rd Missouri Cavalry Regiment. Private John H. Caynor however continued to function much like a partisan behind enemy lines. This is deduced from the fact that he gave an almost entirely false account of his service to the Unionists who on September 4, 1863 administered his oath of allegiance to the United States following his capture on September 3, 1863; and from the fact that his unit continued to muster him in 1864 not as missing, captured, or deserted, but as “detached.”
Alfred S. Barnhart enlisted in Wood’s Battalion of Partisan Rangers, also known as the 14th Missouri Cavalry Battalion before it increased to regimental strength and redesignated as the 13th Missouri Cavalry Regiment. According to his service record, he enlisted in Arkansas on May 18, 1863. His service as a Missouri Partisan Ranger most likely began in Missouri long before the formal organization of his regiment in Arkansas. He served in Company A, and according to his service record he deserted near Murfreesboro, Arkansas the day after Christmas of 1863. Deserting in the dead of winter so far from home, to cross the Ouachitas, the Arkansas River, and the Boston Mountains to get back home in the Ozarks seems like an unlikely scenario. However it is a possible scenario. He could have been captured by the Unionists and lynched without having deserted. He could have deserted, gotten captured, and executed by the Confederates. He could have frozen to death on the journey home, or taken an unauthorized absence and returned to his unit. Perhaps he followed General Price to serve Emperor Maximilian of Mexico rather than return home. His fate remains a mystery. His descendants list his date of death as April 6, 1864 but no documentation exists to confirm it. The Missouri State Parks site lists Private Alfred S. Barnhart as a veteran of Price’s Raid in late 1864, and the Sons of Confederate Veterans site lists him as a prisoner of war in Shreveport, Louisiana following the surrender of the Confederate Army of the Trans-Mississippi in 1865. Whatever the circumstances, it is likely that Private Alfred S. Barnhart died in the war, as his wife Harriet Ann Tindle Barnhart (1830-1868) is listed as “Mrs.” Harriet Barnhart in the record of her marriage to William Roden Vernon — a son of Colonel Miles Hicks Vernon — in Webster County on January 3, 1866. Although various Barnhart family trees affirm that his full name was Alfred Sigel Barnhart, no documentation exists to confirm whether or not he truly shared a name with the Unionist German General Franz Sigel. This could be a post-war addition, perhaps intended as an insult.
The Webster County Barnharts truly were a family split by the Civil War. But were they “literally brother against brother”? It was especially common in the Upper South for families to be split by the war. However the known instances of brothers who fought against each other in a specific battle are not so common. As for the Webster County Barnharts, we know that Private Thomas Henderson Barnhart of the 3rd Missouri Brigade sustained wounds at Elkhorn Tavern in the Battle of Pea Ridge. The Unionist headquarters regiment encamped at the tavern when the Missourians attacked in March of 1862 consisted partly of a few companies from the Lyon Legion. The companies present included Company B, in which Private John Virgil Barnhart served. At the time of the battle, Company B did indeed muster Private John Virgil Barnhart as present for duty. According to Captain Robert W. Fyan’s report, the men of Company B “were under arms speedily, all of the company, even the sick, turning out with the utmost promptness and alacrity.”
Upon submitting the question of whether or not any brothers are known to have fought against each other at Elkhorn Tavern, the Chief of Interpretation and Visitor Services at the Pea Ridge National Military Park, Troy Banzhaf, replied:
I am unaware of any brother vs brother incidents here at Pea Ridge. Very well could have happened but I have not come across it yet.
There remains no apparent reason why the brothers John Virgil Barnhart and Thomas Henderson Barnhart cannot be counted as the first uncovered example of brothers who fought against each other in the “Gettysburg of the West.”