John Barnard graduated from West Point in 1833 at the ripe old age of eighteen. He was simultaneously an engineering instructor and superintendent of the academy in 1855-1856. As McDowell’s chief engineer in the First Bull Run campaign, on July 18th he demurred when “requested” by his chief to accompany him on a reconnaissance of the ground over which the proposed turning movement (the Federal left) was to be conducted. Later, his inspection of the terrain and roads north of the Warrenton Turnpike, the area chosen by McDowell after he decided to act against the enemy’s left, produced less than accurate information. If you ask me, he “screwed the pooch”, as Chuck Yeager might say, and poorly served McDowell. After the battle he wrote a very long letter in response to the reporting of William Howard “Bull Run” Russell, titled The CSA and the Battle of Bull Run. He was also responsible for the design of the defenses of Washington – one look at a map of the forts ringing the city makes it hard not to conclude that Edwin Stanton was either hopelessly paranoid or simply a coward. Auntie Em!!!! (I’m very down on Stanton just now, if you can’t tell).
This article was originally posted on 8/5/2007, as part of the John Gross Barnard biographical sketch.