January 1864 marked the start the final full year of the American Civil War. The War had already raged for almost three years and the outcome of the fighting was still very much in doubt. President Lincoln himself faced a steep uphill battle of his own for re-election.
The staggering cost in lives, the immense cost in property, and no satisfying end in sight had left many Americans grief-stricken, weary of the fighting, and doubtful of Lincoln's policy goal to maintain the Union at any cost. They were losing faith in the administration and in their generals.
In Tama County, Iowa, a 36 year old farmer named JOSEPH CHANDLER BARRETT still believed in the Cause. He was born in New Hampshire, the son of Oliver Barrett and Oldis Cutter and in February 1864 he enlisted as a private into Company G of the 14th Iowa Infantry.
Within two months of his enlistment Barrett was on a long hard march through the hot wet climate of Louisiana. He participated in the Red River campaign, the taking of Fort deRussy, and several minor skirmishes which culminated in the intense battle at Pleasant Hill. There, after holding their ground for several hours, suffering many casualties in deaths, severe wounds and men taken prisoner by the enemy, the brave men of the 14th Iowa played a crucial role in securing the costly victory.
Later Barrett and his Company marched on campaigns, and fought several smaller battles, through Mississippi and Missouri.
In November 1864 the three-year men of the 14th Iowa, those who had enlisted in 1861, were mustered out at the end of their term of duty. Barrett and the other 1864 recruits left over in Company G were then re-organized into Company A of the 14th Iowa Residuary Battalion.
Early in 1865, after a year of combat, Barrett and the remainder of the 14th Iowa were stationed at Camp Butler outside Springfield, Illinois. The War was finally coming to a climax around Richmond and heading toward the surrender at Appomattax.
Following the fall of Atlanta, Lincoln had been re-elected and the feeling throughout the North was one of relief and joyous hope, the long terrible ordeal was finally nearing an end. Then in April, a week after Lee's surrender. came the shocking, incredible news of Lincoln's assassination.
The 14th Iowa was in the right place and in the right time to become a part of Lincoln's funeral and burial in Springfield. They helped escort the President's body from
the train station to the rotunda of the Illinois statehouse where it lie in state and where some of the Iowa combat veterans were chosen as special honor guards at the bier. The 14th Iowa helped in the ceremonies at the funeral and in the procession to the cemetery. After Lincoln's entombment some stood guard at the crypt.
Joseph Barrett's exact role is not known but he most likely was a particpant in, and witness to, one of the saddest events in our nation's history. Today, April 14, is the anniversary of Lincoln's shooting.
Barrett's wife was Susan P, who was a milliner. They had a daughter Lizzie, shown in the 1870 census and the 1880 census in Iowa. After 1880 Barrett left Iowa and moved to Broken Bow Custer County Nebraska. He was a member of the local GAR, but died not long after their family arrived in Nebraska.
Joseph C Barrett died September 151884 and is buried in Broken Bow Cemetery.
Here is Joseph Barrett's entry in the published roster of the 14th Iowa Volunteer Infantry, Company G:
Barrett, Joseph C. Age 36. Residence Tama County, nativity New Hampshire. Enlisted February 3, 1864. Mustered February 3, 1864. -- Consolidated into Company A, Residuary Battalion Fourteenth Infantry Mustered out August 8, 1865, Davenport, Iowa.
Although Barrett is specifically mentioned only in footnotes, a new book of first-hand narratives about the 14th Iowa Infantry has been recently published by the Traer, Iowa museum. The book, SOLDIER LIFE - MANY MUST FALL, contains a complete wartime diary and a full volume of letters written by some of Leach's fellow soldiers, three-year men from Tama County who served with Barrett in Company G. Anyone interested in learning more details of Barrett's day to day wartime experience, or in good first-person accounts from frontline soldiers of the Civil War, may enjoy this book which can be seen at the museum website, www.traermuseum.com .