|Date(s):||May 4, 1864 to May 11, 1864|
|Tag(s):||"Officer's Report", The Wilderness|
|Course:||“American Civil War Era,” Furman University|
There were no heroics, tragedy, emotion or names in Joseph Barnes’ report of the Wilderness. Rather, his report of the onerous seven day battle was like a warehouse manager’s inventory report. Perhaps, the thirty one year old man did not want to relive one of the worst times of his life. At the age of 28, Joseph Barnes joined the Union army on May 18, 1861. A few months later he was promoted to Promoted to Full Lieutenant Colonel on December 13, 1861. That is quite the responsibility to give a man who was a professional printer in 1860. Joseph had to quickly adapt to the new trials and challenges of war with no background or knowledge. Before the Wilderness, he was only responsible for a person’s manuscripts. Now, Joseph’s decisions would put men into the lines of rifle fire and bayonets.
Joseph was a common mid level officer. Prior to the war, he had no military experience, and his military skills as a commander would be formed through battle. There were no drills or instructive videos. There were only orders from his superiors that he was expected and needed to execute. Joseph’s 29 Massachusetts was present at the battles of Antietam, Savage’s Station and Knoxville before they were needed to fight at the Wilderness. At the Wilderness, Joseph’s 29 Massachusetts was under the command of Ambrose E. Burnside’s 9th Corps. Since Burnside’s troops remained north of the river to protect the lengthy supply chains, Joseph was lucky and did not see much fighting at the Battle of the Wilderness. Like many, this young man was asked to command an army of men with no experience. He carried out the orders from his superiors. He was expected to write a report of the battle, so he simply executed the order. Joseph could not have wanted to watch his fellow men die in battle, and his report reflects his desired distance from the tragic events of the Wilderness.