Abandoned. The Newport Barracks and Their History, Heroes and Hereafter. Some Notes Upon the Oldest Military Station in the Country. The Men, the Memories, the Music, and the Military.
Yesterday morning Colonel Mason and his command marched with colors flying and to the music of 'Auld Lang Syne' out of the historic Newport Barracks, "abandoned" by order of the Government. How often, oh how often, we have heard the same fine band play "The Girl I left Behind Me," as it escorted poor fellows bound for the frontier to the ferry. But now the musicians themselves were departing, and appropriately they performed an air that awakened a flood of memories in the minds of the gathered citizens of the town. The troops marched to the Little Miami Depot and embarked for Columbus, filling eight cars.
Alas! for Newport Barracks. Their glory has departed. The halls which have echoed to the tread of a Grant and a Sherman in their earliest days of military life are silent and deserted. The parade-ground, where a Sheridan shouted out his oiders to raw recruits, will witness the evolutions of the awkward aquad no longer. The military head-quaiters, where every recruit for the Mexican War shouldered his musket and made for the battle-field, will issue muskets and send out soldiers no more, and the spot where Red Coats wero imprisoned during the War of 1812 will know the guard-house and listen to the sentry's tread no more. With the departure of Colonel Mason, the commanding officer and his force, the glory, the prospect of the pride, and everything but the history or Newport Barracks, the principal recruiting and supply depot of the country, has passed away; and even now, before the last echo of the departing military has died out, the practical Newporters, with a keen appreciation of the province of Governments, are preparing to petition for the donation of the grounds and buildings for park purposes, and for a general sweeping away of the landmarks and killing off of the reminders which appear everywhere on and about the grounds. True, there are a few men left to "hold the post" and a Sergeant to command them and to examine recruits and to send to Columbus those he thinks likely to be acceptable, but the military station, and, in fact, every thing of military matters connected with Newport is, no doubt, virtually at an end. There is little doubt that the post will be, in a brief space of time, entirely abondoned and not even used, as now, as a recruiting rendezvous.
The history or cause of the removal is too well known to need a review. The authorities at the seat of Government decided that there were too many recruiting and supply depots in the country, and propposed to lessen the number. The grounds and buildings at Newport were small and comparatively vallueless. Those at Columbus were commodious adn costly, and if sold would, as is every thing belonging to the Government, be sacrificed to a ring. The consequence was that it was decided to remove the Newport depot to Columbus and abandon this point. The small force left at present will merely act as a guard for the buildings and property until disposition is made of them, and the work will be at an end.
For ten years the heroes at the head of the Military Department have been struggling with the momentous questions of how to get rid of Newport, and they have at length succeedded. The point established as a military head-quarters in 1803 was, before the building of railroads, a very important one, as it connected by river with the Upper and Lower Mississippi, all parts of the Ohio, and, in fact, the whole Western country. Since the construction of the numerous rail lines all over the county, however, other points are equally, and even more, available, and if possessed of other advantages are certain to prove more attractive.
The grounds at Columbus contain eighty acres and the building are valued at upward of $200,000. The opportunities for reaching them are excellent, and the change will in many regards prove beneficial. Columubs, St. Louis, and Governor's Island, New York, will now be the only recruiting stations and depots, in the country. The one at St. Louis will be entirely for cavalry, and the other two for infantry and artillery. Tributary to these will be here and there throughout the country a recruiting rendezvous whence recruits will be sent to the three stations for final examination. They are now being received at the three at the rate of only abuot one hundred per month, the standard of physical excellence required being higher than at any time since the beginning of the Mexican War.
Connected with the history of the Newport Garrison are many matters of historical interest, particularly worthy of local mention and local review. Hardly an officer of the regular army who has arrived at any distinction has failed to do military service at Newport Barracks at some period of his career, and nearly every regular army recruit for the Mexican War and the War of 1812 went from this point. The spot was selected by the government for a militray supply depot and recruiting station about the beginning of the present centruy. Regarding the exact date local authorities do not fully agree, some putting it in 1799, some in 1801, and some a couple of years later.
The following document from the records of the Board of Trustees of the town of Newport in the year of our Lord 1803 throws some light upon the time at which active operations were commenced: "At a meeting of the Trustees of the town of Newport, at the house of Jacob Fowler, in the said town of Newport, on Thursday, the 28th day of July, 1803, present: Washington Berry, Archibald Brown, Thomas Kennedy and James McClure, Trustees, a deed was executed from the said Trustees of said town to the United States of America for a lot or parcel of land, containing five (5) square acres and six (6) square poles of land lying on the Licking near the mouth, and extending from the Esplanade to Taylor street, which land is for the purpose of erecting thereon a magazine, aresenal, etc., General Charles Scott having produced a receipt for the purchase money of said land from James Taylor, agent for James Taylor, sen., proprietor of said town. (Signed) "James Taylor, Clerk of the Board of Trustees."
The above is from the records of the town of Newport, as kept by General James Taylor and preserved by Colonel Taylor, his son, at the family mansion in Newport. The consideration was a nominal one. The deed was made to General Dearborn, then Secretary of War. The erection of buildings was immediately commenced, the contract being let to General Taylor, who employed a number of men, the boss brick and stone-mason being Thomas Metcalf, afterward Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentuck. Mr. Metcalf himself built one small stone and two small brick houses, the first building for quarters erected. They were used for many years for the residence of the commandant adn for officers' quarters. A block-house was built on a point of land projecting into the Ohio at the mouth of the Licking, and became a companion piece, as it were, to Fort Washginton, then doing service on this side the river at the point now the intersection of Third and Lawrence streets. In addition to these were two rows of small wooden buildings, also erected by General Taylor for soldiers' quarters.
The first commandant at the Barracks were Major Thomas Martin, a prominent Revolutionary officer, and counted one of the best military men of his time. Bold, utterly fearless, and of great physical, as well as mental, ability, he was one of the prominent men of that early day, when all those characteristics were necessary to success as an officer in the American army. His entire life from that time on was spent in Newport and his descendants, members of the best families of Newport cherish his memory with pride and devotion. His physical strength was very great. At one time he was a prisoner in the bands of the British soldiery, and breaking away from his captors seized a dray-pin which lay near at hand, and laying about him right and left killed two or three soldiers outright, and after injuring several others managed to escape. Numerous other instances of his strength, and also his other special abilities, are related by those who knew of him in his career both in Newport and elsewhere. He died at the Garrison in 1814. A life-sized portrait of him adorns the walls of the residence of Mr. james Berry in Newport.
Major Martin was succeeded by Major Whistler, who was followed by Captain Bryson, a son-in-law of Major Martin. He in turn gave place to Major Oldham, also a son-in-law of the first commandant. Since that time the commanders have been numerous, many of them remaining but a short time.
During the War of 1812 the Post was used as a prison for British soldiers captured by the American forces. One fo these died in the prison, adn was buried near the buildings, as were also on the same spot several others, either officers or relatives of officers. A few months since when it became necessary to extned some of the buildings over the spot where the graves were made, the remains were by Colonel Mason's orders removed to the Newport Cemetery. The graves had, according to the custom of these days, been bricked up and arched over, forming a vault in which the remains rested. Since about 1815 the remains of all those dying at the Garrison, when not called for by friends, are interred in the public cemetery at Government expense.
During the Mexican War all the recruits for the Regular Army went from Newport Barracks, and the list of names is a long one, and contains many of note and prominence during the late war. Unfortunately, the records of the Garrison were taken to Washington in 1865, when the subject of the removal of the post was first agitated. The consequence is that many items of local interest are lost to the reading public. Among the names of those known to have been on duty at the Barracks, however, are Lieutenant Sheridan, and a host of others whose names were prominent during the war.
The present buildings were a portion of those erected about the time of, or shortly after the Mexican war. The "Administration building," so called because it is occupied by the commanding officer and his subordinates, is the oldest of those now standing. The site of the old aresenal is occupied by the first building at the right of the gate. The original contract by which the arsenal and the magazine building were erected in 1803-4 is still in the posession of Colonel Taylor, whose father constructed for the construction of the buildings. Since the close of the war but little attention has been paid to keeping the buildings in repair, and the result is that they have been almost unihabitable for some years past. The Government approrpirations for their benefit have been so small as to render any permanent repairs or additions to the building impossible, and the value of the whole group is comparatively small.
Colonel Mason, who has been in command during the past year, has been for nearly fifteen years in the service. He is a small, wiry, compactly built man, with a keen black eye, hair slightly gray, and a countenance that shows valor, determination and sagacity. He is a splendid Indian fighter, as every one familiar with the details of the Morloc war will recollect. He has done service both North and South, and is probably unequaled in nerve, endurance, and in the ability to match eht Indian in tactics. As a recruiting officer he is especially careful and useful, and no man not thoroughly fit for service in every emergency is allowed by him to pass examination.
It has been claimed by some that the lands occupied by the Garrison would, if not used for such purpose by the Government, revert to the Taylor estate from which they were originall derived. Such is, however, not the case, except with the small strip of ground in front of the Barracks, known as the Esplanade. This was given at a later period, and whether the change will cause it to revert to the original owners is as yet undecided. Beside the ground already referred to, there were purchased at a later period, two lots of ground for the sum of $148. A movement is on foot to petition the Government, in view of the fact that the land was formerly donated for military purposes, to donate the grounds and buildings to the city of Newport for park purposes, and for the approach to the proposed free bridge between Newport and Cincinnatti.
An article of this length upon Newport Garrison should contain something regarding the Barracks Band, so well and favorably known in Cincinnati. It has long been as it now is the pride of those connected with the Garrison, or with the command which has hust left the Garrison. Its memory is closely allied with the remembrance of numerous festive and joyous occasions on both sided of the river, and it is to be hoped that the removal of the command to Columbus may not entirely deprive Cincinnati of Hornes' Barracks Band. [Source: Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, November 20, 1875, Transcribed by C. Anthony]
THE BARRACKS AT NEWPORT
A Favorite Station of United States Army Officers.
THE TRANSFER OF MAJ. TAYLOR TO THE FRONTIER.
The Headquarters of the Department of the South—The Commandant's Services—The Ground bought from Gen. James Taylor and the Post Approved by Gen. Scott—Early History of the Barracks-Distinguished Men Who Have Been at Newport.
Newport Barracks, toward which the eye of desire of all pets of the army appears to be turned at the present moment, and from which it is a misdemeanor even not to want to go away, is the official headquarters of the Department of the South, whose geographical limits include the States of Georgia, Florida, the Carolinas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and Arkansas. The Commanding General is Brev. Brig. Gen. Henry J. Hunt, Colonel of the 5th U.S. Artillery, and one of the most distinguished artillery officers in the service. An old Mexican veteran, he was brevetted for gallantry on nearly every field of honor in the Mexican war. He kept the same pace during the rebellion, which found him Major of the 5th Artillery, and saw him as Chief of Artillery of the Army of the Potomac in every fray from the first Bull Run to the capitulation of Lee at Appomattox, and always at the post of danger. His personal staff are: First Lieut. E. S. Dudley, of the 3d Artillery, and First Lieut. John M. Baldwin, of the 5th Artillery, a brilliant young Louisianan, who ranked twelfth in a class (1875) which numbered forty-three. The officers composingthe department staff are Maj. J. H. Taylor, Adjutant General; Lieut John M. Baldwin, A. D. C., Acting Judge Advocate and in charge of the Inspector's office; Lieut. Col. James F. Dana, Chief Quartermaster; Capt. Wm. H. Bell, Chief Commissary of Subsistence; Lieut. Col. John Campbell, Surgeon and Medical Director; Maj. George E. Glenn, Paymaster; Lieut. Ira MacNutt, Chief Ordinance officer. The post is garrisoned at present by one battery of dismounted artillery officered by Capt. C. A. Woodruff and Lieut. Tallie Thompson, Maj. J. M. Brown is Post Surgeon. This was the roster on Saturday, but the military man is a living illustration of the Scriptural "here to-day and gone to-morrow," and its accuracy to-day is not vouched for. These officers, after the routine of the day which fills the hours from 9 to 3, take their constitutional around the charming parade ground, and loiter under den linden, or, rather, under den pappel, to be botanically exact, and are supposed to ponder much on the uncertainty of life and staff detail. The young officer cometh up like a flower, and just begins to spread his gold laced petals in the sunshine of society, and he is cut down by an order to report at Key West or Tampa. The veteran officer, after a quarter of a century of raging up and down the continent, settles himself to a bit of quiet ease in his pretty quarters and presto! he is wanted in Montana, or at the gulf, and so the whirligig goes round. Col. Taylor, Adjutant General, whose name appears in the above roster, was relieved from duty at the barracks Monday, and ordered to report to Gen. Howard, commanding Department of the Piatt, headquarters at Omaha, and is en route to his new post. The duties of the Adjutant General's office are important. There is, of course, but one Adjutant General, as there is but one prophet, and he is located at Washington, and swallows up all the Assistant Adjutant Generals, as Aaron's serpent swallowed up all the others. But in order to facilitate the business of the Adjutant General's Department there exists a corps of Assistant Adjutant Generals in which no officer ranked below a Major. Vacancies in this corps are painfully infrequent, for, in the language of Mr. Jefferson, few die and none resign, but when there is a vacancy it is filled by the appointment of a Captain of the line. Col. Corbin who relieves Col. Taylor, has been on duty at Washington since'76, is one of the junior officers in the corps, and was appointed at the request of President Hayes. No political influence is ever brought to bear to secure these positions, of course, because that would be prejudicial to good order and military discipline, and very naughty, besides, but the maneuvering by which these plums fall into the mouths of line Captains who are solid at the National Capital is one of the things no fellow on the frontier can find out by any tactics laid down in Hardee or Upton. The Department Adjutant General's Office is a busy one. To him all the mails from all the posts in the department are addressed, the mails from higher headquarters only being addressed to the Commanding General. All these communications are acted upon, telegrams are sent, papers forwarded, and any inspections necessary ordered. The Commanding General knows every day, through his Adjutant, what is going on in every corner of his department, and by wire or post directs, even in matters of minutiae, its affairs. It may be stated for the benefit of those who never hear its sunrise gun or seethe "grid-iron" float lazily above its clustering trees, that Newport Barracks lies just opposing Cincinnati, at the mouth of the Licking, on the Kentucky side of Ohio, in the picturesque little town of Newport. The location, on a broad bend of the river, is a lovely one, The ivy mantled homes of Newport are built up to its gates on the east, to the west the spires of Covington rise up out of her forest of trees, and across the tawny river stretches for miles away the Queen City with her encircling belt of hills. This military post is one of the oldest in the country. The site comprises about six acres, and was purchased by the government of Gen. James Taylor in 1803, and the buildings erected under his superintendence. The work was finished in 1804, personally inspected by Gen. Scott, approved and accepted. The original buildings consisted of a capacious oblong two story armory of brick, a fireproof conical magazine, a stone house for the keeper, and wooden barracks for the accommodation of two or three regiments of men, the whole inclosed in a stockade. Cincinnati at that time was a place of 700 inhabitants, which, in 1805, had swelled to 960. It was the ill wind of war in 1812 which paralyzed the industries of the Atlantic States, that filled the barracks with soldiers, and sent a tide of immigration westward that made Cincinnati a city in less than a single decade. The brick portion of the barracks buildings was made in '43 and '48, and there have been various improvements since. There was a chapel one, but the sword proved to be mightier than the gown, for the place knows it no more. Tradition preserves the memory of one Cromwellian old commandant who used to march the whole garrison over to Christ Church for Sunday service, and woe betide the trooper whose gennflexions and responses were not up to the army standard.
However dull "the cankers of a calm world and a long peace" may make the barracks to-day, its early social history is full of interest. Whoever writes it will record no annals of a quiet neighborhood, for the story is full of drum beat and war's alarms, and of summons to bridal, banquet, and burial.
Biddings to wine that long has ceased to flow. Gay meetings with good fellows long laid low.
In the early days the assignments were for long periods. Col. Thomas Martin, a distinguished revolutionary soldier, was the first Commandment of the barracks, and also Military Storekeeper. Mrs. Col. Thomas Martin, in her admirable history of Campbell County, read at the Centennial says of him: "Col. Martin possessed extraordinary physical powers and infinite humor;" he was exceedingly popular in dispensing his hospitalities and good cheer to the officers, and it is related that their parting toast over the flowing bowl was 'Col. Martin, may the war last as long as he lives, and the troops always lie at the mouth of the Licking. In 1811-12 Newport Barracks was an important depot for military stores. From here were sent supplies of arms, ammunition, and provisions to Gen. Harrison at Vincennes. Here, in 1811, Gen. Boyd came with the gallant 4th Infantry, and for six months their white tents ranged from the mouth of the Licking to Taylor's Creek, and from here they marched to the battle of Tippecanoe. Zachary Taylor, when Captain, was stationed at this post. We have in hand the original order from Col. Wm. Russell (the property of Ms. Col. Jones, of Newport) directing Capt. Taylor to take command of certain recruits at Newport, "Sincinnatta," and 'Louis Ville,' and proceed at onceto Fort Harrison, and warning him, in ceremonious phrase, of the importance of the command, because the troops are 'new and consequently raw as to their duty.' During the war of 1812 800 British soldiers at onetime were confined in a pen made of stout palings in the barracks yard, and 500 Indian prisoners lay in boats upon the river. Mr. Richard South gate, himself of English birth, did much to relieve the discomforts of the English prisoners. He secured the release on parole of many of the better sort among them, and set them to work building the house on Taylor street now occupied by his daughter, the venerable Mrs. Dr. Parker. They repaid him by breaking into his store and robbing him, and several were sent to jail. Years afterward, when Mr. South gate was in the Senate, he found one of the culprits was a member of the lower house—an instance of the 'queer bed-fellows' politics made even in the good old days."
Col. Martin, who, by the way, was the grandfather of Mrs. Gov. Stevenson, was succeeded by his son-in-law, Col. Richard Oldham, and by Capt. James W. Bryson, also a son-in-law of Col. Martin. In 1818 Capt. Rob Richard became commandant, and from then till 1830 peace and an Ordnance Sergeant reigned at the barracks. Then the quarters were put in order, and the trolling of the drum sticks and the blare of bugles began again.
The military academy, which had been suggested by Col. Thomas Pickering at the close of the revolution, and dawdled along until Madison took it in hand, was now firmly established and turning out every year batches of brand new and beautiful "Lieutenants." The barracks became a depot for recruits and for years almost all the young officers were sent here on leaving the Point to wait assignments to their commands. Thus it happens that almost every infantry man of prominence in the old army has at some period of his career been stationed at Newport Barracks. The beauty and hospitality of the ladies made the gayety of Newport, as a garrison town, proverbial in the old army. Here a stolid old fellow by the name of U.S. Grant lounged around the parade ground for a season. Phil. Sheridan learned his first lesson in Cupid's primer loitering with a fair Kentuckian up and down the long popular walk, and young Lieut. W. S. Hancock, handsome as Achilles and brave as Hector, awaited orders from the Texan border.
From 1841 to '52, gayety at the barracks reached its zenith. The 3d Regiment Band made music, and balls, masques, and dinners were the business of life. During these years Maj. Nat. C. Macrae was Commandant. He was a typical Virginian and an old Indian fighter, who had lost his left leg in the wars. His tales of battles fierce and warriors big, of how his heroes slashed and slew, were a military education in themselves. Major Macrae had a charming family, and the barracks headquarters blossomed with pretty girls and was in a constant state of sentimental siege. It was no longer a desire to write their names in glory's page, but the marriage register that fired the souls of these young sons of Mars. The sharpest matrimonial engagement on the record at the barracks was that of a gallant Kentuckian, Lieut. J. O. McFerran, and Miss Rose Green, a charming niece of Maj. Macrae in the year of grace 1844. The "Leftenant" met his fate on Monday, wooed and won on Tuesday, the wedding was on Wednesday, and they were off to the wars on Thursday! It should be mentioned, too, that McFerran fought with the same clan with which he wooed. The wedding was like a page out of Charles O'Malley, and was the first bridal in the old Episcopal Church at Newport. The garrison was full of young fellows praying that the cloud on the Texan border would gather into a storm of war. President Van Buren and Waddy Thompson had been making faces at Mexico for a year, and Bocanegra and Almonte had been calling upon God and the Mexican nation to defend its just cause, So the situation was most encouraging. There were a half dozen groomsmen from the barracks, among them Lieut. W. S. Hancock and Walker, who won a name as the "Texas Ranger" and died in his boots. He was a horseman without a rival—could pick up a glove or a coin from the back of his flying steed—and was—cela va sans dire—adored by the ladies.
Ingalls, Lieut. Grant, McClelland, Judah, Franklin were classmates of McFerran, and they won their spurs together in the campaign which followed this wedding. A soldier's bridal, to which a mournful interest attaches, was that of Lieut. Alex. Montgomery, who married the beautiful Elizabeth, daughter of Griffin Taylor, about 1839-40. They left at once for Florida, where, a few weeks later, the pretty bride, venturing beyond the fort, was killed by Indians, almost under her husband's eyes. Gen. Sidney Burbank was in command of 1859 to 1861, and again from 1864 to 1866, and now lives in Newport, a few rods from his old headquarters. He is a son of Col. Sullivan Burbank, a gallant officer of the war of 1812, and is a man of high courage, fine intellect, and a great student. This makes his affliction - rapidly approaching blindness - all the more cruel.
From 1863 to 1864 Col. J. T. Foster, of the Engineers, an officer of great attainment, was in command. Col. Foster married Miss Kilgour, and was (he died at Nashua in 1874) a brother-in-law of Mr. Reuben R. Springer. From 1873 to 1874 Gen. J. N. G. Whistler, son of old Col. Whistler, of revolutionary fame, was commandant. From 1878 to 1880 Gen. C. C. Augur was a charming woman and was much sought in Cincinnati society, and the barracks circle was very gay under her regime. Col. Thompson, who married a granddaughter of Richard Southgate, Julia, daughter of Mrs. Dr. Parker, commanded the batteries at Newport during the war. His son, Lieut. Thompson, who married the other day Miss Juliet Hagans, is spending his honeymoon in pretty quarters at the barracks. Col. Hoffman is another name associated with the early days of the arsenal. There are many besides, mention of whom, even, lack of space forbids. Some are"enskied and sainted," some have made a name in glory's page, but none alive or dead answer the roll call for common men. [Source: Transcribed by Rachel Eustache]
The brig, St. Clair, commodore Whipple, burthen 100 tons, built at Marietta, anchored of Cincinati (sic), in the Western territory, on the 27th April. She is the first vessel that has defended the Ohio equipped for sea, and excited the astonishment of a great crowd of spectators, who considered her as a “pleasing prefage (sic) of the future greatness of our country.” [New Hampshire Gazette, Pg 3, June 9, 1801 – Transcribed by AFOFG]
The members of the old Ohio Brigade, composed of the 39th, 43d, 63d and 27th Ohio Volunteers, during the rebellion, had a meeting at the Armory of the Putnam Light Artillery in Marietta on Monday evening last. [Source: January 15, 1880, The Athens Messenger; Tr. by TK]
BACK -- HOME
© Copyright by GenealogyTrails