John S. Barnes

“Remained with Me and has Never Left Me”

Posted on Updated on

Before leaving City Point the Admiral summoned me to the Malvern , and talked over the precautions to be taken during the trip, and for him exhibited great uneasiness and solicitude for the President’s safe conduct. As a result I caused to be domiciled on the Queen two officers, acting ensigns, with a guard of sailors, with minute instructions for guarding the President’s person day and night. The crew of the River Queen were examined and their records taken.

We left City Point on the morning of April 8th, the Queen leading under direction of a river pilot, the Bat following closely, pushed to her utmost speed. I remained on the Queen until our arrival at Fortress Monroe, where a brief stop was made for mails and to send and receive telegrams.

The President was more than kind in his manner and bearing toward me, and so endeared himself to me that the affection I felt for him became veneration. Mrs. Lincoln was indisposed and I did not meet her. It was clear that her illness gave the President grave concern.

After getting the mails, telegrams, and dispatches, also a Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River pilot, I bade the President farewell and returned to the Bat, lying close by, not anchored. Mr. Lincoln was kind enough to thank me for the good care taken of him, and made some jocular allusions to the comforts of navy men in war times as we parted. It was the last I saw of him. Probably he never again thought of me; but the memory of his warm hand-clasp and kindly look remained with me and has never left me.

We left Fortress Monroe that afternoon and steamed rapidly up the bay. The Bat’s boilers had a trick of foaming, when changing from salt water to fresh, so that we were hard put to it to keep pace with the Queen, and she slowed down once or twice to enable us to come up to her. After entering the Potomac River, despite our best effort, we fell behind, so that the Queen reached her dock at Washington some hours before us; and on going aboard of her I found that the President had’ been met by his carriage and had driven at once to the White House. This was on April 10th, the day after General Lee’s formal surrender to General Grant. I reported in person to the’ Secretary at the Navy Department, saw Mr. Fox for a moment, and was directed verbally to return to Fortress Monroe. After making some slight repairs to the engines at the Navy Yard I started for Hampton Roads on April 11th, stopped at Point Lookout to visit my father, General James Barnes, then in command of the District of St. Mary’s, visited the camp of Confederate prisoners established there, and witnessed their joyful reception of the news of Lee’s surrender and the prospect of the immediate ending of their captivity. The next day I proceeded on my way to Hampton Roads. The weather was thick and stormy, and being without a pilot I deemed it prudent to anchor in the dense fog when within twenty-five or thirty miles of the Roads. The fog lifting at last, I went ahead, reaching my anchorage on the 12th, and was informed by Commodore Rockendorf, senior officer, that he had a telegram from Admiral Porter at City Point, directing me to be ready to take him to Washington immediately on his arrival from the former place, and that he would be down the next day. On the 14th he came on the Tristram Shandy, also a converted blockade runner. I called upon him and found that he had made up his mind to continue on to Baltimore in the Shandy. He was delighted to know that the President was safe and sound in the White House.
General Grant had left for Washington on the 12th, and the Admiral thought he also ought to be there, and said that there was now nothing left for the Navy to do but “ clear up the decks”; that he should give up the squadron and seek rest and shore duty. He promised to look out for my interests in the same direction. Getting up anchor, he steamed off swiftly, leaving us to twirl our thumbs and wonder what next.

On the early morning of April 15th I was awakened by the orderly saying that the flagship had hoisted her colors at half-mast, and had made signals for me to come on board at once. It was an unusual hour for such a signal of distress and such a peremptory summons, so that I knew that something grave must have given occasion for it. I immediately thought of Admiral Porter, and feared that something had happened to the Tristram Shandy . I dressed in haste and, calling away my gig, was soon on the deck of the flagship Minnesota. Commodore Rockendorf received me at the gangway, his countenance showing the greatest consternation. He made no reply to my anxious inquiry, but taking me by the arm, led me to his cabin, and there placed in my hands this telegram from Mr. Welles, Secretary of the Navy:

“President Lincoln was assassinated last night in Ford’s Theater, and is dead.”

I read it and reread it. It seemed as though the fact could not impress itself upon my mind. For some moments I could not utter a word, while the Commodore walked away in silence. When at last I took in the meaning of those few words, I am not ashamed to say I sat down and gave way to a bitter grief that was heartfelt and sincere.

Quoted in John S. Barnes, “With Lincoln from Washington to Richmond in 1865,” Part 1, Appleton’s 9 (June 1907), p. 751.  Commander of the Bat, a fast-moving gunboat

“His Whole Face Showing Sympathetic Feeling”

Posted on Updated on

Mr. Lincoln was taken in charge by General Meade, and mounted on horseback rode to an eminence near by, from which a good view of the scene could be secured. Horses had been sent out on the train, and I was fortunate in securing one. We passed through the spot where the fight had been most severe, and where great numbers of dead were lying, with burial parties at their dreadful work. Many Confederate wounded were still lying on the ground, being attended to by surgeons and men of the Sanitary Commission, distributing water and bread. We passed by two thousand rebel prisoners of war, herded together, who had been captured within our lines only a few hours before. Mr. Lincoln remarked upon their sad and unhappy condition, and indeed they were as sorry and dirty a lot of humanity as can be imagined, but they had fought desperately, and no doubt were glad to be at rest. Mr. Lincoln was quiet and observant, makiijg few comments, and listened to explanations in a cool, collected manner, betraying no excitement, but his whole face showing sympathetic feeling for the suffering about him. Before returning to the train a flag of truce was flying between the opposing lines, now each reoccupied, and ambulances were moving and burial parties from the Confederate lines occupied in taking off the wounded and burying the dead lying between the lines where the slaughter of Confederates had been greatest. Once again on the train, to which cars filled with our wounded men had been attached, Mr. Lincoln looked worn and haggard. He remarked that he had seen enough of the horrors of war, that he hoped this was the beginning of the end, and that there would be no more bloodshed or ruin of homes. Indeed, then and many times after did he reiterate the same hope with grave earnestness.

Quoted in John S. Barnes, “With Lincoln from Washington to Richmond in 1865”

“There was no Triumph in his Gesture or Attitude”

Posted on Updated on

The President entered by the front door that opened into a small square hall with steps leading to the second story. He was then led into the room on the right, which had been Mr. Davis’s reception room and office. It was plainly but comfortably furnished — a large desk on one side, a table or two against the walls, a few chairs, and one large leather-covered arm or easy chair. The walls were decorated with prints and photographs, one or two of Confederate ironclads — one of the Sumter , that excited my covetousness.

Mr. Lincoln walked across the room to the easy chair and sank down in it. He was pale and haggard, and seemed utterly worn out with fatigue and the excitement of the past hour. A few of us were gathered about the door; little was said by anyone. It was a supreme moment — the home of the fleeing President of the Confederacy invaded by his opponents after years of bloody contests for its possession, and now occupied by the President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, seated in the chair almost warm from the pressure of the body of Jefferson Davis!

What thoughts were coursing through the mind of this great man no one can tell. He did not live to relate his own impressions; what he said remains fixed in my memory — the first expression of a natural want — “I wonder if I could get a drink of water.” He did not appeal to any particular person for it. I can see the tired look out of those kind blue eyes over which the lids half drooped; his voice was gentle and soft. There was no triumph in his gesture or attitude. He lay back in the chair like a tired man whose nerves had carried him beyond his strength. All he wanted was rest and a drink of water.

Very soon a large squadron of cavalry came clattering to the door. General Weitzel and General Shepley came in, and general conversation ensued. Congratulations were exchanged. In a few minutes luncheon was served, procured by the General — a soldier’s luncheon, simple and frugal.

Quoted in John S. Barnes, “With Lincoln from Washington to Richmond in 1865,” Part 1, Appleton’s 9 (June 1907), p. 489.

Commander of the Bat, a fast-moving gunboat