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The Boy General: The Life and Careers of Francis Channing Barlow Paperback

Book Review bt Andrew Gill

I remember the first time I saw the iconic Brady photo of WS Hancock and his Division leaders which was taken during the Wilderness campaign. The image of a dapper but still in pain Hancock seated presumably because of his unhealed Gettysburg wound and next to him both bearded and looking all too weary are David Birney and John Gibbon. To his right what I took at first to be a favoured aide or perhaps a nephew stands a very young man with an enormous cavalry sabre and a very unmilitary check shirt. It was only on close inspection of the rank badges I realised that this was none other than Francis Channing Barlow. At the time I thought I must seek more of this man.

Throughout the many periods of lockdown here in New Zealand I spent a lot of time deep in the jungle of where I came across this book on Barlow which I purchased post haste.

It eventually arrived and I set in for a good read. I was not to be disappointed as this is very well written and easy to read history of Barlow and whilst promoting his virtues it does also address some flaws in his character. What is obvious is what a remarkable young man he was.

Valedictorian in his class at Harvard 1855 he then enlists on the night of his honeymoon and finishes the war as a much-respected Brevit Major General. Another JL Chamberlain it seems!

The book covers his early life and the struggles of his mother to bring him up after the strange departure of his father. Even in those days it was apparent that there was something different to him and he was driven by objectives he would not back away from.

The book then goes on to his war career and all his battle wounds and both success and failure are open to discussion so the reader gets a balanced look at him. He has, all in all, a good war and Grant is keen to make use of him after the war in his legal guise.

I would recommend this book as a good read on an interesting man.

He regrettably dies at a fairly young age of 61 and is buried in Brookline Massachusetts.

I have not written too much about him as I hope readers will find out one or two surprises about him and can then get their own decision on this unconventional man.


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