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MS-105: John L. Barry Civil War Letters

Processed by Kate Boeree
June 2009

Download Finding Aid - Adobe PDF (142KB)


Purchased from Charles Apfelbaum in 2009.


                John L. Barry of Dunkirk, New York enlisted in the army as a private on May 16th 1861 at the age of 25, where he joined Company E 72nd Infantry Regiment of New York - Excelsior Brigade.  He was killed in combat July 1st, 1862 at the Battle of Malvern Hill, the last of the Seven Days Battles in Henrico County, Virginia.

Scope and Content Note:

This collection contains 47 letters, 37 of which are written by John L. Barry during his time in the Civil War between 20 June 1861 and 7 June 1862. The letters are written to his family in Dunkirk, New York, addressing his mother, father, sister Ellen, and brother Robert.

                Throughout all of these letters John describes his living conditions, the status of the Rebel troops, and his concern and love for his family, as well as a few interesting stories from life on the front. He describes what he had heard about the Battle of Bull Run (28 July 1861). In one letter he tells of a fake funeral procession in which they discovered the coffin to be filled with guns and the minister was a Rebel captain (13 October 1861). Another story is about a soldier picking up a live shell and bringing it back to camp, where he accidentally set it off, killing himself and badly wounding ten others (26 October 1861). He also gives details about helping with an amputation (4 November 1861), and a young soldier committing suicide (29 December 1861). In January of 1862 his camp imprisons three men who were crossing the river. They are dressed as civilians and claim that they don't belong to the Rebel troops, but the Union men assume that they are Rebel spies (3 January 1862). In February of 1862 Barry starts mentioning the possibility of his death, particularly after making gravestones for two men from his camp (1 February 1862). His last letter is dated 7 June 1862, less than one month before he was killed at the Battle of Malvern Hill.

                Additional correspondence in this collection (Folder 1-5) includes five letters from family friend Anthony J. Softus, also a soldier in the Civil War, addressed to his mother, Ellen and Robert Barry; two letters from John's sister Mary Barry, addressed to Ellen Barry; one letter from Charles Griffith addressed to Robert Barry; and one letter from Dennis Barry, John's uncle, addressed to John's father in sympathy shortly after hearing of John's death.

                Letters are arranged chronologically.

Download Finding Aid - Adobe PDF (142KB)

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