Colonel (later General) Francis Stebbins "Frank" Bartow, C. S. A.
In 1861 one Georgia county had a big problem. During the invasion of the Cherokee Nation the county founders chose to honor Lewis Cass, a national politician who strongly supported the removal of the Cherokee. Thirty years later, though, Cass was on opposite sides with many in the county, for he was an outspoken abolitionist who resigned his position as Secretary of State under James Buchanan because the President failed to secure Fort Moultrie and Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. In late 1861 residents of Cass County were looking to rename the county after a Georgia hero of the Civil War.
Colonel (posthumously brevetted to General) Francis Stebbins Bartow was born in Savannah on September 6, 1816 and attended Franklin College (now University of Georgia, Athens). While at Franklin, Frank Bartow met many of the politicians he would serve with later in life including Howell Cobb and his brother Tom, Robert Toombs and Alexander Stephens. Upon graduating he continued his legal education at Yale, then joined the law firm of Berrien & Law. Its founder, John Berrien, happened to be a U. S. Senator and Attorney General of the United States during Andrew Jackson's term of office. Berrien had been forced to resign his position under Jackson in disgrace over the Peggy Eaton affair.
Francis Bartow fell in love with Berrien's daughter Louisa and they married in 1838. During the election of 1840 both Berrien and Bartow were stalwarts of William Henry Harrison's campaign in Georgia, and to no one's surprise Harrison swept the state. Berrien was returned to Washington as a U. S. Senator (Whig) on Harrison's coattails and Law and Berrien was renamed to Law and Bartow, later adding a third partner. At the age of 25 Bartow was a highly respected, wealthy slaveholder. Over the next 20 years he continued his work as a lawyer and state representative, eventually joining the Democratic Party. He also became a heavy drinker. During this time he visited north Georgia in the company of his friend, Godfrey Barnsley and stayed at today's Barnsley Gardens (it was called Woodlands at the time). Other notables that Bartow knew well were Rev. William Henry Stiles and Charles Wallace Howard, who can best be described as a natural scientist.
Frank Bartow is sometimes described as a flaming secessionist. Following the secession of South Carolina the city of Savannah passed ordinances calling for the immediate secession of Georgia. At the time Savannah was the largest city in Georgia in many ways. It was the economic and population center, although Atlanta and Macon were starting to compete economically. Bartow, of course, was at the center of this secessionist movement.
The threat against Fort Moultrie and Fort Sumter in South Carolina made the United States government preoccupied with its fortifications along the Southeastern coast. On the Savannah River near Tybee Roads sat Fort Pulaski, a Third System fort constructed between 1829 and 1846, and an important element in the defense of Savannah and her shipping lanes. While Georgia was holding its vote for a secessionist convention, Colonel Alexander Lawton wired Governor Joseph Brown and requested the governor join him in Savannah. Lawton did not want his message to be passed on the telegraph wire because he intended to ask permission to storm Fort Pulaski before it was reinforced by the Federal government. On January_3, 1861, Brown arrived and immediately gave Lawton permission to take the Fort.
In 1861 the condition of the fort was deplorable. The federal government had overextended itself building the Third System forts, leaving little money for maintenance. At Fort Pulaski the moat was filled with mud and had been for so long that it was topped with substantial tufts of sea grass. - Our Georgia History
Lawton order Captain Francis Bartow and his regiment, the Oglethorpe Lights, to take the fort. Boarding the steamship Ida on a regularly scheduled trip to the fort, Bartow seized Pulaski that afternoon from a civilian contractor and ordinance officer. The Lights had been hastily organized for the attack and never trained as a unit. They immediately set out to learn the fundamentals of drill on Fort Pulaski's parade ground. In the meantime Bartow was off to the convention in Milledgeville to decide if Georgia would secede. He had not been elected as a member of the Chatham County delegation but added as a delegate-at-large, just as other well-known politicians like Robert Toombs and Alexander Stephens. The convention voted for secession and Francis Bartow looked forward to his next political assignment.
The independent state of Georgia quickly decided a nation needed to be formed and invited the other five seceded states, South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana to join them in Montgomery. Bartow was a member of the Georgia delegation, outspoken in his support of a southern nation, but he did not support Jefferson Davis for president. When it appeared the Convention of Seceding States would select Davis as president he and Tom Cobb made a last ditch effort to secure the nomination for Howell Cobb. The attempt failed and when the vote for Provisional President was called the following day Bartow joined the Cobb brothers when they walked out of the convention.
In spite of this action, Bartow's name was proposed for a cabinet position, although that did not happen. He did, however, get appointed to the military affairs committee and expressed his belief that the Yankees would back down if challenged on the field of battle. Many in Montgomery and elsewhere questioned whether Bartow had the background to make such a statement. Returning to Savannah he was reunited with his men and in June, 1861, they began their trip north, ending up under Joseph E. Johnston's command at Winchester, Virginia. Johnston formed his Second Brigade out of the 7th, 8th and 9th Georgia Regiments, the 1st Kentucky and the Wise County Artillery under Ephraim G. Alburtis. Johnston put Bartow, still a colonel, in charge of this brigade.
For the next month Bartow's Second Brigade had duty near the Potomac, never anything more than pickets firing at skirmishers who got too close. Then the news came - Irvin McDowell and the Army of the Potomac were advancing in force against the Alexandria Line. Johnston had to move quickly to get his men to support those of P. G. T. Beauregard. Thomas Jackson moved first, then came Bartow's turn. The men that could fit on the train came onto the battlefield about 8:00am on July_20, 1861. Initial plans called for Bartow to be held in reserve, but early in the morning of July 21 he was moved to support General James Longstreet at Blackburn's Ford. General Barnard Bee, also from Johnston's command, had been assigned similar duty. Strategically, when McDowell struck Johnston and Beauregard's combined army on the left flank, Longstreet, Bee and Bartow would strike McDowell's right flank. Bartow told his men he had a promise from Beauregard that they would be in on the early action but "...battle means death and before sunrise some of us will be dead." The Confederate flank attack never happened.
The first Union attack at Manassas, actually a feint to distract attention from the massive Union column moving to Sudley Springs, hit Nathan Evans' brigade at the Stone Bridge over Bull Run. Evans realized quickly that the attack was a diversion and spotted the column. He moved about 800 men to Mathews Hill to form a weak line. Bee moved west to the Stone Bridge to replace Evans men. Thomas Jackson, too, moved in support of Bee's Brigade. Bee's men, rather that stopping at the Stone Bridge as ordered, continued on to the sound of fighting at the slope on the far side of Mathews Hill. At first they were supporting Evans men but quickly found themselves under fire when Evans pulled back.
Finally at 8:00am Bartow rode off to find Beauregard or Johnston. He quickly returned with orders to move to his left (the west) in support of Bee and reached the top of Mathews Hill about the time Bee's men were coming under fire. According to one of Bartow's men they reached the battlefield breathless and exhausted. Bartow's artillery began a long distance battle with the artillery battery of Captain J. B. Ricketts, who would leave the battlefield a prisoner, but a famous one. Bee, and a few minutes later, Evans, would hold a line on top of Mathews Hill, but not for long. They began a somewhat disorganized retreat to Young’s Branch, a small stream between Mathews Hill and Henry Hill.
Marker at Manassas that designates the spot where Frank Bartow fell
Here, Bartow's men withstood a flank attack by William Tecumseh Sherman's New Yorkers. It seemed Sherman was about to end the battle then and there, but a hasty retreat brought Bartow, Bee and Evans to the top of Henry Hill, where additional Rebel forces had been forming. McDowell's 22,000 man juggernaut continued forward, rolling across Young's Branch and climbing Henry Hill. It was now time for an enduring legend to be born.
Near the top of Henry Hill the "hasty retreat" of the Confederates became disorganized. Men scrambled in many directions to get away from the advancing Union line. In command of the troops at the top of the hill was the peculiar, laconic Tom Jackson and Bee, in overall command of his and Bartow's retreating troops, rode up to him and reported "General, they are beating us back." Jackson replied "Sir, we'll give them the bayonet." Bee then rode up to the 4th Alabama. Their officers had been killed in the fighting, so he addressed the troops, "What regiment is this?" An enlisted man responded "Why General, don't you recognize your own troops? We're the 4th Alabama." Bee directed his next statement to all the men. "There is Jackson, standing like a stone wall. Let us determine to die here and we will conquer. Follow me." From that day forward Tom Jackson was known by his sobriquet, Stonewall.
With Bee in front of the 4th Alabama he rode towards the Yankee line. Unfortunately, he fell victim to an artillery shell from Rickett's battery and the men of the 4th pulled back. The action did give the Rebels time to reform a line next to Stonewall Jackson's men, which anchored the left flank. Evans took the center and Bartow the right when General Beauregard rode up. Bartow approached the general and requested orders and Beauregard told him to move his men to the left of Jackson. Joe Johnston worked on reorganizing Bee's men and moved them between Jackson and Bartow. On Bartow's left Beauregard placed Col. "Extra Billy" Smith.
Frank Bartows hat In the Manasas display at the Museum of the Confederacy, Richmond, Virginia
Retuning to his men, Bartow took the colors of the Georgia 8th, his original regiment and used them to lead his men to Stonewall Jackson's left. Unfortunately, Bartow's position held little natural cover and a Yankee advance was making its way up Henry Hill. As his men formed a line Bartow told them, "General Beauregard expects us to hold this position and Georgians, I expect you to hold it." Bartow turned to give the regimental colors back to the color bearer as a Yankee bullet struck him. They moved him under the cover of a tree, just behind the line and the popular colonel told them, "They have killed me, but, boys, never give up." Bartow died a few minutes later.
Virgil A. Stewart, a member of the Rome Light Guard under the command of Col. Bartow said "Practically half of the 8th Regiment's one thousand men fell dead or wounded." He continued, "Col. Bartow had led his men to an exposed eminence which was too hot to hold."
President Jefferson Davis anxiously advanced to the field of battle from the Confederate White House in Richmond, Virginia. When he arrived Joe Johnston gave him a status report, telling him of the rout of Union troops at the top of Henry Hill, their wild retreat and the death of General Barnard Bee and Colonel Francis Bartow. Davis and Bartow had met a number of times and their wives were also acquainted. Mrs. Davis was the first civilian to know what occurred at the battle and Varina took it upon herself to telegram news of Bartow's death to his wife.
Four months later Bartow's fame for his stand at Manassas had not diminished and the voters easily approved renaming of Cass County to Bartow County in his honor that November.
The story of J. B. Ricketts: Commander of the artillery battery that did so much damage to the Rebel lines in the battle of Manassas, Ricketts advanced his battery to top of Henry Hill and opened fire on the Confederates without infantry support. Unknown to Ricketts, Rebel soldiers had taken a position in the Henry House nearby and opened fire after Ricketts battery had begun to fire on their friends across the hill. Ricketts ordered the cannon to fire on Henry House and destroyed it with a single blast. Unknown to Ricketts at the time, elderly Widow Henry was in the house and died in the explosion.
Ricketts position was overrun and he was severely wounded. When his effects were returned to his wife he was reported as dead but his wife, who had been with him in Texas when he served as a cavalry officer knew the confusion during and after a battle. She rode to Joe Johnston's command post and got a pass to look for her husband (Johnston had served in the unit as Lt. Colonel). Mrs. Ricketts found him in a Confederate field hospital and nursed him back to health for five months, when he was brought home in a prisoner exchange.
Site of Francis Bartow's death, Manassas, Virginia
Biographies Biographies of famous, not so famous and infamous people from the North Georgia area or who had an effect on North Georgia The Civil War in Georgia Beginning with the Great Locomotive Chase and the battle of Chickamauga, to the Atlanta Campaign and the March to the Sea