Thursday, November 21, 2013

Joseph's Story

Many of you know of my interest in the Barner family of Smithland, Kentucky. I've written about Sarah Jane Barner and her two daughters, Mollie and Pattie. Now it is time to tell the story of her son, Joseph M. Barner.

Joseph was born 18 April 1840  in Nashville, Tennessee. He was the son of Sterling M. Barner and Sarah Jane West and was their first child to survive infancy. Joseph moved with his family to Smithland ca 1840-41 and lived in the home of his uncle, Benjamin Barner, at the end of Charlotte Street where it meets Walnut Street.

His childhood was probably more privileged than that of his peers. His father and uncle were commission merchants for many years and if a needed item was not available in Smithland, it could easily be imported  from other cities, including Nashville and New Orleans. As the only male child in the family, his parents probably had high hopes for his future and to carry on the family name. Very likely he was looked up to by his younger sisters, Mollie and Pattie.

Joseph attended Bethel College, which was founded in 1842 in McLemoresville, Carroll County, Tennessee and which was affiliated with the West Tennessee Synod of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. The Civil War was hard on Bethel College and it had to close. When it re-opened n 1865, for the first time women were allowed to attend the school. Today this school is located in McKenzie, Tennessee.

The Federal army took possession of Joseph's hometown, Smithland, in September of 1861.  Penalties were severe for openly disagreeing with the authorities. No Confederate flags could be flown and no singing  of  "Dixie," the favored song of the Confederacy. Life changed quickly for Smithland residents, especially those who espoused the southern cause. Joseph wasted little time in choosing sides.

Cobb's Battery, also known as the 1st Kentucky Artillery, was organized at Mint Springs, Kuttawa, Lyon County, Kentucky, in 1861. Since Kentucky was technically a neutral state and outside the boundaries of the Confederacy, the battery moved to Clarksville, Tennessee for training. It was there that the entire battery enlisted and began training at Camp Boone. That is where Joseph M. Barner enlisted 26 July 1861. On the 1st of October 1861, he was appointed Sergeant and his rate of pay was 25 cents per day.

Cobb's Battery was present when Forts Henry and Donelson fell in the winter of 1862. The battery also participated in the Battle of Shiloh on 6 April 1862. Shortly after Shiloh, malaria struck the battery, leaving only a small number of men fit for duty.  Cobb's Battery also participated in battles at Baton Rouge (5 August 1862), Hartsville (7 December 1862) and Stone River or Murfreesboro (31 December 1862 - 3 January 1863). 

We don't know how often Joseph saw action in the war, but we do know that in March and April of 1863 he was sick in a hospital.  His death occurred at  one of the Confederate hospitals in Catoosa Springs, Georgia. He died  of erysipelas, a bacterial infection of the skin. Today antibiotics would treat and cure this disease, but antibiotics were not available at the time of Joseph's death.  The military record gives his death as 26 May 1863, but an entry by his mother in the family Bible states he died 16 June 1863. He was 23 years of age. He had been a soldier less than two years.

As far as I can tell, Joseph M. Barner left no descendants. His survivors included his mother, sister Pattie and uncle Benjamin Barner.  It is unknown if he was buried in Georgia or if his remains were brought to Smithland. There is no tombstone for him in the Barner family plot in Smithland Cemetery.

Published 21 November 2013, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

No comments: