Guide to the Barrier Family Letters

MSN/CW 5057


Collection Summary

Title: Barrier family letters
Dates: 1861-1868(bulk 1861-1865)
Collection No.: MSN/CW 5057
Creator: Barrier, William L. (William Lafayette), 1834-1864
Creator: Barrier, Rufus A. (Rufus Alexander), 1836-1876
Extent: 123 items; 2 containers; 1 linear foot
Language: Collection material in English
Repository: University of Notre Dame. Hesburgh Libraries, Department of Special Collections. 102 Hesburgh Library, Notre Dame, IN 46556
Abstract: More than one hundred letters written during the Civil War by two brothers serving in the Confederate army, Sgt. William Lafayette Barrier (1st North Carolina Cavalry) and Col. Rufus Barrier (8th North Carolina Infantry). The letters are mostly directed to the brothers' father, Mathias Barrier, in Mt. Pleasant, Cabarrus County, North Carolina.

Selected Search Terms

United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Personal narratives, Confederate
United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Correspondence
Confederate States of America. Army. North Carolina Infantry Regiment, 8th
Confederate States of America. Army. North Carolina Cavalry Regiment, 1st
North Carolina -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865
Cabarrus County (N.C.) -- History

Administrative Information

Restrictions: Persons interested in consulting this collection should contact the curator for Americana in Rare Books and Special Collections.

Preferred Citation: [Identification of item], Barrier Family Letters, [Collection and folder no.], Rare Books and Special Collections, Hesburgh Libraries of Notre Dame.

Acquisition and Processing Note: The Barrier letters were preserved as a group by Rufus Barrier's children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, before being gifted to Notre Dame in 2007 by Beverly Troxler O'Grady and Robert O'Grady. Arranged and described 2008, by George Rugg. Finding aid 2016, by Thomson Guster and George Rugg.

Biographical Note

The primary authors of this correspondence, William Lafayette Barrier (29 April 1834-17 May 1864) and his brother Rufus Alexander Barrier (28 June 1836-8 April 1876), were born in Cabarrus County in the North Carolina Piedmont, the sons of Mathias Barrier and Margaret Mitchel (m. 1828). Mathias Barrier (1803-1873) was a prominent local planter and civic leader, whose two-story Greek Revival residence in Mt. Pleasant (1853) still stands. He was a deacon at St. Stephen's Evangelical Lutheran Church and a trustee of North Carolina College, built in Mt Pleasant in the 1850s on land deeded by Barrier to the North Carolina Evangelical Lutheran Synod. The 1860 Federal Census values his real estate at $2640 and his personal estate at $7500. He held 11 slaves. The older of Matthias Barrier's two sons, William Lafayette, is identified in the 1860 Census as a dentist, living unmarried in Mt. Pleasant. In June 1861 he enlisted in the army, and was mustered in to Confederate service as a sergeant in Co. F, 1st North Carolina Cavalry. This was one of the storied Confederate cavalry regiments of the war, veterans of some 160 engagements, attached mainly to the Cavalry Division (later Cavalry Corps) of the Army of Northern Virginia. Barrier received a saber wound to the head on the third day of the battle of Gettysburg (3 July 1863), and was reduced in rank to private shortly thereafter, for reasons that are not clear. He was shot in the arm at the Wilderness (6 June 1864), and died following surgery at Seabrook's Hospital in Richmond, 17 May 1864. The younger of Mathias's sons, Rufus Alexander Barrier, is identifed in the 1860 Census as a farmer, with real estate valued at $1400 and a personal estate of $774. With the advent of war he raised a company of men from Cabarrus and was mustered in to Confederate service on 13 September 1861, as captain of Co. H, 8th North Carolina Infantry. (Many students from North Carolina College were members of Barrier's company). On 8 February 1862 the entire regiment was captured at the battle of Roanoke Island; Barrier was paroled on 21 February and exchanged in August 1862. Until the spring of 1864 the 8th North Carolina, attached to Clingman's Brigade, served mainly in the Carolinas, and avoided large-scale engagements. But it was decimated in a sequence of battles spanning little more than a month, at Plymouth (17-20 April 1864), Drewry's Bluff (16 May), and Cold Harbor (1-3 June). Barrier had been transferred to regimental Field & Staff and promoted to major on 1 February 1864; after Cold Harbor he was given command of the regiment, as lieutenant colonel. He remained in command until the close of the war, though he suffered a gunshot wound to the left eye on 22 Aug 1864, and was away from the regiment until October. After the war Barrier returned to his farm at Mt.Pleasant, and married Roxanna Anthony (1845-1905). He died on 8 April 1876.

Scope and Content Note

The Barrier Family correspondence includes 123 letters. Thirty-four of these were written by William Lafayette Barrier during the Civil War (9 July 1861 to 8 May 1864), 33 to his father Mathias in Mt. Pleasant. Eighty-two were written by Rufus Alexander Barrier to Mathias during the war (20 December 1861 to 17 March 1865). Each brother's letters cover close to the full period of his military service, and so provide a relatively seamless account of his years in the field. The seven remaining letters were written by as many different correspondents, and are addressed to either Rufus or Mathias. Most notable is a letter to Mathias from Mrs. S. I. Epps of Richmond, informing him of the death of William Lafayette. About half the letters retain their original covers.

Arrangement Note

Letters written by or relating to William Lafayette Barrier are in folders 1 to 34, ordered chronologically, one to a folder. Letters written by or relating to Rufus Alexander Barrier are in folders 35 to 123, ordered chronologically, one to a folder.

Related Material

These letters were published by Beverly Barrier Troxler and Billy Dawn Barrier Auciello as Dear Father: Confederate Letters Never Before Published, North Billerica MA: Autumn Printing Corp., 1989.

Container List