Barney enlists in the Union Army
As told in Shirt-tail Sunday: Barney Rosenblatt, Part 1, Barney embarked on his trans-Atlantic journey and arrived safely on these shores.
Though research has not yet uncovered evidence of where Barney first stepped foot in the United States, family lore has said Barney’s final destination was New York City and somehow he found himself in Charleston, South Carolina while the country was at war.
Barney’s daughter Rose said,
After much suffering, he took sail from Germany on a boat bound for New York. When the boat reached New York City harbor, much to the dismay of the captain, they found the harbor closed due to the Civil War. The boat finally found anchorage in the harbor at Charleston, South Carolina. The relief/joy of the passengers was soon quenched when a band of soldiers boarded the boat and ordered every able-bodied man or boy to fall in line.Then they were marched into a camp where the bewildered passengers were handed a gun. They were told that there was a war going on and that they must shoot and kill the enemies. Who, why or where the enemies were was not told them. After a few days of asking questions a group of men and boys sneaked away from the southern camp and joined a nearby northern camp, the New York Infantry.”
While documentation has not yet been found verifying Barney landed in Charleston and was drafted into the Confederate Army, his service in the Union Army is unquestionable. In Brooklyn, New York on February 29, 1864 Barney enlisted in the Union Army in the 2nd New York Cavalry Regiment (Harris Light Brigade). He enlisted and served under the name Solomon Smith [Schmidt] during his Civil War service. Why Barney was called Solomon Smith is still a mystery, but his company commander, Captain Derrick F. Hamlink, recalled:
When enlisted, Rosenblatt could speak little or no English. He was told by the orderly [when Barney was at City Point Hospital in 1865] to answer to the name of Sol Smith and his name was carried on the muster rolls under that alias.”
As a bonus for a three-year enlistment, Barney earned a federal bounty of $300—equivalent to $4,545 in today’s dollars—which was quite a sum for a 19-year old immigrant. The $300 bounty was to be paid in four installments. He was paid the first installment, $60, and he was given a $13 advance on his first month’s pay.
On March 7, Barney joined other new recruits and draftees at Hart Island, an army rendezvous and training camp in Long Island Sound northeast of the borough of the Bronx, New York.
After about a week, a steamship transported him from Hart Island to Alexandria, Virginia. In Alexandria, Barney was re-assigned from the Harris Light Calvary to Company D of the 4th New York Heavy Artillery Regiment (NYHA). At the time, Company D was stationed at Fort Ethan Allen along the Potomac River in present-day Arlington, Virginia. Fort Ethan Allen was an earthenwork fortification with wooden barracks that housed the enlisted men. It was one of 164 forts that encircled Washington D.C. during the civil war to protect it from attacks by rebel forces. The ring of forts was so successful in protecting the nation’s capitol that it was never attacked by rebel forces during the course of the war.
While troops saw little action at Fort Ethan Allen, they continually trained and maintained their weapons in readiness. They felled trees to keep a clear line of sight toward Chain Bridge that spanned the Potomac River at a key access point to Washington D.C. from Virginia. The soldiers were trained to use the heavy artillery at the fort, which included cannons, guns, howitzers, and mortar. Their drills also included instruction in infantry, bayonet, and sabre.
Their idle time was occupied with writing letters, reading, and playing cards. They even had opportunities to visit the sites in the Capitol. It was a comfortable and easy life for a soldier.
Barney, though, would not be given a chance to experience the comforts at Fort Ethan Allen.
Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant had been appointed commander of the Union Armies by President Abraham Lincoln on March 3, 1864. The rebel forces were still camped south of the Rapidan River in Virginia. A year of battles between the Union and Confederate armies in Northern Virginia had resulted in an impasse. Draft riots had been suppressed in New York City, as the nation tired of war. Lincoln needed Grant to deliver a military victory or he could lose re-election in the fall of 1864 to a pro-peace candidate.
Grant decided to march south to the James River and crush the Confederate’s Virginia Army. Part of his strategy was to reorganize his troops to take advantage of the bloated artillery regiments manning the fortifications around Washington D.C. and redeploy them to the battlefield in Virginia.
On March 26, Company D—along with the rest of the 4th NYHA regiment at Fort Ethan Allen and Fort Marcy—was ordered to leave its fort to join the Army of the Potomac at its winter camp in Virginia. Rations and tents were issued and soldiers packed up. The next day, the soldiers marched along the south side of the Potomac River to Alexandria.
That afternoon, 2,400 of the regiment’s soldiers—including Barney—boarded a train in Alexandria. They left with a brass band playing Yankee Doodle and hundreds of onlookers cheering them off.
The train reached Brandy Station, Virginia late that evening and the men spent the night near the depot, sleeping on the ground. The next day, the regiment marched two miles and pitched their tents, setting up camp.
To be continued – Part 3: Barney crosses the Rapidan
Memories of Rose Rosenblatt Witkower, 1980
Pension File of Bernard Rosenblatt, National Archives, St. Louis, Missouri, File No. XC 2,674,957.
Muster Roll file for Solomon Schmidt (Smith) aka Bernard Rosenblatt, National Archives, Washington D.C.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 4, 1864, page 2, column 2, bklyn.newspapers.com, accessed Feb. 25, 2015.
Mr. Lincoln’s Forts : a Guide to the Civil War Defenses of Washington, Benjamin Franklin Cooling, III; Walton H Owen
Fort Marcy to Fort Ethan Allen website at http://www.nps.gov/gwmp/planyourvisit/upload/Fort-Marcy-to-Fort-Ethan-Allen-self-guiding-walk.pdf, accessed 11/10/2014
Heavy guns and light: a history of the 4th New York Heavy Artillery, by Hyland C. Kirk, 1890, New York: C.T. Dillingham
NOTE: While no confirmation has been found of Barney’s Confederate service, there is evidence that Barney might have enlisted twice in the Union Army, first as Bernard Rosenbalt in Utica, NY on Feb. 10, 1864, and a second time in Brooklyn as Solomon Schmidt on Feb. 29. This might explain why he used a pseudonym.