Seth Maxwell Barton
Seth Maxwell Barton was born on September 8, 1829, in Fredericksburg,
Virginia. He was one of four sons of Thomas Bowerbank Barton, a lawyer
of Fredericksburg, Va., all of whom served in the Confederate States
army. Barton was two months shy of his 16th birthday when, on July 1,
1845, he was admitted to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He
graduated in 1849, ranking twenty-eighth in a class of forty-three. As a
cadet, Barton was said to be "fond of reading and gave more attention to
the pursuit of general knowledge than to the specific requirements of
the course." |
Barton's first assignment as a second lieutenant of infantry was at Fort Columbus in New York Harbor. A year later he was transferred to New Mexico and placed on frontier duty, winning promotion to first lieutenant in 1853 and captain in 1857. He was stationed during most of this period at the Texas forts, was adjutant of his regiment, 1855 to 1857, fought against the Comanche Indians in 1857, and in 1861 participated in the march to Fort Leavenworth.
By the time the Civil War began, Barton was a captain at Fort Leavenworth. After his resignation, which took effect June 11, 1861, he entered the Confederate service, with the rank of captain of infantry, C. S. A., and became lieutenant-colonel of the Third Arkansas regiment, Col. Albert Rust, which constituted part of the command of Gen. Henry R. Jackson, in the West Virginia campaign of 1861. He fortified Camp Bartow, on the Greenbrier, and in command of his regiment participated in the heroic defense of the works in October, at which the enemy met with his first repulse in that region.
He subsequently acted as chief engineer of the army during the Bath and Romney expedition, winning special mention by Stonewall Jackson. Jackson thought so highly of Barton that he recommended him for a brigadier's commission. The nomination was submitted to the Senate, withdrawn by Jefferson Davis a few days later, and ultimately confirmed on March 11, 1862. When Gen. E. Kirby Smith was assigned to the department of East Tennessee, Barton was sent to his assistance. During the Cumberland Gap campaign he commanded the Fourth brigade, consisting of Alabama and Georgia regiments and Anderson's Virginia battery. Subsequently, with Stevenson's division, he took part in the defense of Vicksburg. At the time of Sherman's advance by way of Chickasaw bayou late in December, 1862, he commanded the Confederate center, his troops bravely holding their ground under a severe fire of musketry and artillery, which continued for three days, and repulsing five assaults on the 29th. The siege of Vicksburg followed, and he was surrendered July 4, 1863, but soon afterward exchanged.
He was then given command of Armistead's brigade, Pickett's division; was stationed at Kinston, N. C., during the latter part of the year, and was the leader of one of the columns in the demonstration against New Bern about February 1, 1864. Pickett registered a formal complaint against Barton, who was censured for "want of cooperation." On May 10th he participated in the battle of Drewry's Bluff, against Butler, fighting bravely in the midst of his men, and being the first to take possession of the guns from which the enemy were driven. Immediately after this he was relieved from command by Gen. Robert Ransom, who agreed with Pickett's previous negative assessment. Bartron's restoration was petitioned for twice by the regimental officers of the brigade, who expressed entire confidence in his skill and bravery. General Ransom himself admitted that the personal gallantry of General Barton could not be questioned. Though feeling that injustice had been done him, he remained in the service, and accepted command of a brigade for the defense of Richmond, comprising artillery and reserve infantry, under Lieutenant-General Ewell. He served at Chaffin's farm until the evacuation of Richmond, and then joined in the retreat of Custis Lee's command, as far as Sayler's Creek, where he was captured April 6, 1865. Barton was imprisoned at Fort Warren at Boston Harbor.
Released about three months later after taking an oath of loyalty to the Union, Barton spent the years after the war in Fredericksburg, where he was "one of the finest chemists in the country." He died on April 11, 1900, while visiting his son in Washington, D.C., and was buried in City Cemetery, Fredericksburg.