Joseph Nicholson Barney:


Joseph Nicholson Barney was born on 25 august 1818 in Baltimore City to parents, John Barney and Elizabeth Nicholson Hindman. Joseph’s early years were heavily influenced by stories of his grandfather, Commodore Joshua Barney, (1759 - 1818) renowned for his defence of Philadelphia during the American Revolution and defeating the British man o' war, ‘General Monk’ whilst commanding the frigate ‘Hyder Ally’. Joseph's father, the Honourable John Barney served in the US Congress, representing Maryland's 5th District from 1825 to 1829.

At the age of fourteen, Joseph enlisted with the United States Navy, graduating top of his class in 1835. He served afloat continuously for almost twenty six years, circumnavigating the world twice. During these times he visited Singapore and the East Indies aboard the frigate ‘Columbia’ and became familiar with the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of South America during his time aboard the USS Vincennes. He married Eliza Rogers in 1846 and later, Nannie Seddon Dornin of Norfolk in 1859, finding enough time to father eight children with the latter.

In June 1861, while 1st Lt. Barney was serving aboard the USS Susquehanna in the Mediterranean, he resigned his commission and returned to America to offer his service to the new Confederacy. Barney was immediately assigned to the CSS Jamestown a 1300-ton side-wheel gunboat, built in at New York City in 1853 as a civilian steamer; but seized by the State of Virginia in April 1861 for use by its navy. (The vessel was formally renamed 'Thomas Jefferson' but continued to be known as 'Jamestown' as part of the James River Squadron). Under Barney's command, the 'Jamestown' accompanied the CSS Virginia which destroyed USS Cumberland and USS Congress. Barney was also involved during the famous 9th March 1862 engagement between the Virginia and USS Monitor. When the CSS Virginia sailed again on 11 April 1862, 'Jamestown' steamed over to the north side of Hampton Roads to assist in the captured of three, armed Union merchant ships. The ‘Jamestown’ was subsequently used to transfer army ordnance from Norfolk to Richmond, running past Union-held Ft. Monroe under cover of night.

As the Confederate position at Norfolk became tenuous in late April and early May, the Joseph Barney's vessel helped evacuate casualties and supplies from there to safer areas on the James River. When the Federal fleet came up-river to attack Richmond, he ordered the guns of the ‘Jamestown’ to be removed and sited on Drury's Bluffs overlooking the city before his ship was scuttled nearby to block the deep water channel. Her wreck sadly remained in that location for the rest of the Civil War. Barney’s leadership and skilful gunnery however, was crucial in defeating the Federal fleet and secured his promotion to Commander for ‘gallant and meritorious conduct’, the only such commendation and promotion in the Confederate States Navy.

In 1862 Barney was appointed to command of the CSS Harriett Lake, captured from the Union at Galveston, Texas. He was then ordered to France to take command of the CSS Florida, which had escaped the authorities in England and was being fitted out in Brest, France. The ‘Florida's’ original commander had been taken ill and as luck would have it, Barney too succumbed to illness shortly after his arrival and had to be relieved of his new command. On his recovery, Joseph Barney was ordered to remained in Europe until the end of the war, acting as a Naval Purchasing Agent.

Following the defeat of the south, Barney returned to Virginia and lived in Powhatan County from 1866 to 1874. He died on 16th June 1899 in Fredericksburg, Va., after twenty one years in the insurance business. Throughout his later years, Joseph Nicholson Barney became very active in religious and charitable affairs which benefitted many, less fortunate individuals and families throughout the County and State.
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