Albert Trorillo Siders Barnitz – Captain, United States Army

Albert Trorillo Siders Barnitz was born at Bloody Run, Pennsylvania, the son of Dr. Martin Eichelberger Barnitz and Martha McClintic Barnitz, on March 10, 1835. The family moved to Ohio shortly after his birth. Barnitz briefly attended Kenyon College in 1851 and the Cleveland Law College in 1858-59. During this time Barnitz published a book of poetry,The MysticDelvings (1857). While at Cleveland Law College, Barnitz married Eva Prouty. She died in childbirth in 1860.

In 1861 Barnitz joined the 13th Ohio Infantry as a three month volunteer. In August 1861 he enlisted in Company G, 2d Ohio Cavalry and was mustered as a Sergeant. The 2d Ohio Cavalry spent the next year in Missouri and in June 1862 Barnitz was promoted to Second Lieutenant. By February 1863 he had advanced to the rank of senior Captain.

Barnitz spent 1863 in Tennessee, and during a raid he suffered severe injuries when his horse fell on him. Barnitz was wounded in June 1864 at Ashland Station, Virginia. In autumn he returned to his regiment fighting under the command of George Armstrong Custer in the Shenandoah Valley. By 1865 Barnitz was in command of the 2d Ohio Cavalry. He participated in several battles, culminating in the Battle of Appomattox. In September 1865 he returned to civilian life, but in November 1866 he was commissioned a captain in the U. S. Cavalry. The following year Barnitz married Jennie Platt.

For the next two years Barnitz was stationed at various posts, including Fort
Leavenworth, Fort Harker, and Fort Riley, and was involved in Indian campaigns in
Kansas, Texas, Colorado, and the Indian Territory. During the Battle of the Washita River Barnitz was wounded. The severity of the wound forced his retirement in November 1870. He was, however, awarded the rank of brevet colonel for “distinguished gallantry.”

Barnitz returned to Cleveland with Jennie and daughter Bertha. The couple had two more daughters; Maidie, born on October 23, 1871, and Blanche, born on December 16, 1874. Barnitz continued his study of law, became involved in Republican politics, and was a frequent speaker at military reunions. By the late 1870’s the family began to travel extensively, and Barnitz wrote travelogues for theCleveland Morning Herald and the Daily Leader. Barnitz continued to travel until his death at Asbury Park, New Jersey on July 18, 1912.

The Albert Barnitz Papers document the life and career of Albert Trorillo Siders Barnitz. The papers span the dates 1852-1978, but the bulk of the material covers the years 1860-1910.

The collection has three series. Series I,Correspondence, consists primarily of letters between Barnitz and his family and is found in Boxes 1-3 of the Barnitz Papers. Series II,Diaries, Boxes 4-8, is composed of the diaries of Alfred, Jennie, and Bertha Barnitz. Series III,Family Papers, is located in Boxes 9-11, and contains the personal papers of Albert Barnitz and other material relating to him.

Series I, Correspondence, houses chronologically arranged correspondenceg between Albert and Jennie Barnitz and other family members. The letters span the years 1859-1913, but the bulk of the letters are between 1866-69. The correspondence primarily documents Barnitz’s military career. Later correspondence concerns finances and travels. Typescripts were produced for letters published inLife in Custer’s Cavalry and can be found with the original letters.

The correspondence for 1859-60 (Box 1, folder 2) is concerned mainly with Barnitz and his first wife, Eva Prouty. Letters between 1861 and 1865 (Box 1, folders 3-5) document his Civil War career. These letters, written to family and friends, discuss such topics as the misappropriation of horses, the lawlessness of the troops, and escaped slaves.

Barnitz’s correspondence with Jennie Platt began in 1866. The letters concern courtship, daily activities, and plans for the future (Box 1, folders 6-11). Early in 1867 Jennie married Albert who was almost immediately assigned to command Troop G of the 7th Cavalry. His letters to Jennie from the field offer a chronicle of the Indian Wars from 1867-68, details about military life, and Barnitz’s opinions of his fellow officers.

During the spring of 1867 Barnitz was involved in the unsuccessful Hancock expedition against the Cheyenne Indians. In both Albert’s and Jennie’s letters can be found descriptions of life at Fort Riley, military routines, the Cheyenne Indian camp, and the officers stationed with Barnitz.

Barnitz sent Jennie an account of the first important battle between the Indians and the 7th cavalry at Fort Wallace, as well as a copy of the official report (Box 1, Folders 24-25). He also wrote in great detail concerning Indian fighting techniques, the cholera epidemic at Fort Harker, and George Armstrong Custer’s unauthorized march to Fort Harker (Box 1, folders 24-28). Barnitz’s increasing disenchantment with Custer and his behavior was a major topic of discussion in 1867 (Box 2, folders 29-36).

Barnitz continued to send detailed accounts of military maneuvers in 1868. He described Indian skirmishes, Camp Alfred Gibbs, his fellow officers, his growing dissatisfaction with the army, and his receipt of the brevet major and brevet
lieutenant colonel ranks (Box 2, folders 44-54).

The correspondence from the later part of 1868 chronicles the Battle of the Washita River, his injuries, and includes letters from Lieutenant Edward S. Godfrey reporting on Barnitz’s condition (Box 3, folders 61-63). The letters of 1869-70 concern his retirement from the army.

The correspondence spanning the years 1872-1913 is concerned mainly with Barnitz’s financial affairs and travels (Box 3, folders 66-74). At the end of theCorrespondence series are undated letters, most of which were written by his daughters.

Series II,Diaries, can be found in Boxes 4-8 of the Barnitz Papers. The diaries span the years 1862-1910 and are arranged by author and date. The majority of the diaries were Albert’s, but there are four diaries belonging to Jennie, and one diary kept by Bertha Barnitz Byrne.

The earliest diaries date from the Civil War. Albert Barnitz kept records of military maneuvers, his daily routines, his health, and the weather. Also included are his field notes for the campaign of 1864, lists of wounded, and an account of a shooting involving “Wild Bill” Hickock (Box 4, folders 75-82).

Barnitz was a careful observer of events around him. During the Indian Wars he listed the letters he sent and received, made notes on the Arapaho Indian language, and provided detailed descriptions of cavalry expeditions on the Plains. He also recorded his impressions of fellow officers, his disapproval of the rampant alcoholism in the cavalry, social life, and events in daily life (Boxes 4 and 5, folders 86-89).

Barnitz continued to keep a diary after his retirement. He chronicled the birth and development of his three daughters, including their physical growth and their ailments. He copied Bertha and Maidie’s letters to Santa Claus, kept examples of their paper dolls, and noted their tantrums. He emphasized the fact that he and Jennie did not believe in spanking the children. Barnitz also discussed household maintenance, gardening, and problems with the servants, compiled genealogies of both the Barnitz and the Platt families, and kept records of household expenses.

The diaries from 1880 to the turn of the century were usually written in small pocket notebooks which Barnitz intended to copy into diary books. The diaries from this period detail his financial dealings, including those in real estate, and his involvement in lawsuits (Box 6, folders 97-102). He continued to discuss the activities of his daughters, including the marriage Bertha, his eldest daughter, the birth of her children, and the marriage and divorce of his youngest daughter, Blanche.

Barnitz noted “signs of depression” in his second daughter Maidie as early as 1895. Until her death sometime in 1909 Barnitz kept a detailed record of her deteriorating mental condition, her experience in the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, various treatments she underwent, and the opinions of the doctors who examined her.

The diary of Bertha Barnitz Byrne spans the years 1889-97 (Box 7, folder 124). She discussed her marriage, her children, and the divorce of her sister.

The diaries of Jennie Barnitz are not as detailed as those of her husband. They cover the years 1862-68 and describe her day-to-day activities and their courtship. The diaries from the later period describe her life in Kansas with Barnitz and a trip she made to the East during one of his campaigns (Box 7, folder 119-23).

Series III,Family Papers, is contained in Boxes 9-11 of the Barnitz Papers and is arranged alphabetically by subject and genre. Included in this series are financial papers, material relating to reunions of the Ohio Cavalry, and an autobiography of Bertha Barnitz Peele. A section of military papers contains Confederate Army financial records and Union Army prisoner interrogation reports, a Union Army inspection book, financial records, and papers relating to Barnitz’s disability (Box 9, folders 134-40). The section of newspaper clippings consists of biographical information, clippings pertaining to the Civil War, and the Indian Wars, and Barnitz’s campaign for sheriff of Cuyahoga County (Box 9, folders 141-45).

Also included is a section containing photographs. The photographs of the Barnitz family are reproductions of originals in the possession of the Marquesa de Zahara made forLife in Custer’s Cavalry. They were annotated by Robert M. Utley. There are also original photographs of unidentified Indians, Fort Hays, Fort Dodge, Fort Harker, and Fort Wallace.

“Writings” houses material by Albert Barnitz, including a copy of Mystic Delvings, folders of holograph writings, and copies of his travelogues theCleveland Morning Herald, and theDaily Leader. Also included are the typescripts and published version ofLife in Custer’s Cavalry. The book reproduces letters and diary entries for 1867-68, but it also includes additional biographical information and an appendix on the frontier forts.

Barnitz, Albert Barnitz of Ohio
Appointed from Pennsylvania, Sergeant of Cavalry 22 August 1861;
Second Lieutenant, 1 June 1862;
First Lieutenant, 18 February 1863
Captain, 26 February 1863
Major, 20 March 1865;
Honorably mustered out, 11 September 1865;
Appointed Captain, 7th United Stateds Cavalry, 28 July 1866;
Retired 15 December 1870;
Breveted Major, 2 March 1867 for gallant and meritorious service in action at Ashland Station Virginiaa
Breveted Lieutenant, 2 March 1867 for gallant and meritorious service in the
battle of Sailor’s Creek, Virginia
Breveted Colonel, 27 November 1868 for distinguished gallantry in the battle of
Washita, Indian Territory, 27 November 1868, in which engagement he was severely wounded.

Captain Albert Barnitz, Seventh Cavalry; buried in Arlington Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia

Life In Custer’s Cavalry: Diaries and Letters of Albert and Jennie Barniz,
Ed. by Robert M. Utley

  Albert Barnitz served with Custer’s famed Seventh Cavalry for four years, 1867-70. In 1867 Albert and Jennie (Platt), both of Ohio, married and headed for the Kansas frontier. Four months later the growing perils of Indian clashes forced her to return east. Their letters and diaries, dated from January 17, 1867, to February 10, 1869, are vivid and accurate. They provide a keen picture of life in the Seventh Cavalry, both in garrison and field, immediately after the Civil War. 320 pp; photos; illus; maps; appendices; bibliog, index.

General Custer to General Sheridan

Headquarters Seventh U.S. Cavalry, In The Field Of The Washita River, 28 November 1868.

On the morning of the 26th inst., this command, comprising eleven troops of the Seventh Cavalry, struck the trail of an Indian war party, numbering about one hundred (100) warriors. The trail was not quite twenty-four hours old, and was first discovered near the point where the Texas boundary line crosses the Canadian River. The  direction was toward the southeast. The ground being covered by over twelve inches of snow, no difficulty was experienced in following the trail. A vigorous pursuit was at once instituted. Wagons, tents and all other impediments to a rapid march were abandoned. From daylight until 9 o’clock at night the pursuit was unchecked. Horses and men were then allowed one hour for refreshment, and at 10 P.M. the march was resumed and continued until 1:30 A.M., when our Osage trailers reported a village within less than a mile from our advance.

The column was countermarched and withdrew to a retired point, to prevent discovery. After reconnoitering with all the officers of the command the location of the village, which was situated in a strip of heavy timber, I divided the command into four columns of nearly equal strength; the first consisting of three companies, under Major Elliott, was to attack in the timber from below the village; the second column, under Lieut. Col. Myers, was to move down the Washita and attack in the timber from above; Breves Col. Thompson, in command of the third column was to attack from the crest north of the village from the crest overlooking it, on the left bank of the  Washita.

The hour at which the four columns were to charge simultaneously was the first dawn of day, and, notwithstanding the fact that two of the columns were compelled to march several miles to reach their positions, the attack of three of  them made the attack so near together as to make it appear like one charge. The other column was only a few minutes late. There never was a more complete surprise. My men charged the village, and reached the lodge before the Indians were aware of our presence. The moment the charge was ordered the band struck up “Garrey Owen,”  and with cheers that strongly reminded me of scenes during the war, every trooper, led by his officer, rushed toward the village.

The Indians were caught napping for once, and the warriors rushed from their lodges and posited themselves behind trees and in the deep ravines, from which they began a most determined defense. The lodges and all their contents were in our possession within a few minutes after the charge was ordered; but the real fighting, such as rarely, if ever, been equaled in Indian warfare, began when attempting to clear out of kill the warriors posited in the ravines or underbrush; charge after charge was made, and most gallantly too, but the Indians had resolved to sell their lives as clearly as possible. After a desperate conflict of several hours, our efforts were crowned with the most complete and gratifying success.

The entire village, numbering forty-seven lodges of “Black Kettle’s” band of  Cheyenne’s, two lodges of Arapahos and two lodges of Sioux-fifty-one lodges in all, under command of their principal chief Black Kettle-fell into our hands. By a strict and careful examination after the battle, the following figures give some of the fruits of our victory:

The Indians left on the ground and in our possession, the bodies of 108 of their warriors, including “Black Kettle” himself, whose scalp is now in the possession of one of our Osage guides. We captured in good condition, 875 horses, ponies and mules, 241 saddles, some of very fine and costly workmanship; 523 buffalo robes, 210 axes, 140 hatchets, 35 revolvers, 47 rifles, 535 pounds of powder, 1050 pounds of lead, 4,000 arrows, 90 bullet-molds, 35 bows and quivers, 12 shields, 300 pounds of bullets, 775 lariats, 940 buckskin saddle-bags, 470 blankets, 93 coats, 700 pounds of
tobacco. In addition, we captured all their Winter supply of dried buffalo meat, all their meal, flour and other provisions, and, in fact, everything they possessed, even driving the warriors from the village with little or no clothing. We destroyed everything of value to the Indians, and have now in our possession, as prisoners of war, fifty-three squaws and their children. Among the prisoners are the survivors of Black Kettle’s and the family of Little Rock. We also secured two white children held captive by the Indians. One white woman who was in their possession was murdered by her captors the moment we attacked. A white boy held captive, about ten years old, when about to be secured, was brutally murdered by a squaw, who ripped out his entrails with a knife.  The Kiowas, under Satanta, and Arapahos, under Little Raven, were encamped six miles below Black Kettle’s village, and the warriors from these two villages came to attempt the rescue of the Cheyennes. They attacked my command from all sides about noon, hoping to recover the squaws and herds of he Cheyennes. In their attack they displayed great boldness, and compelled me to use all my force to repel them, but the counter charge of the cavalry was more than they could stand; by 3 o’clock we drove them in all directions, pursuing them several miles. I then moved my entire command in search of the village of the Kiowas and Arapahos, but after a march of eighty miles discovered they had taken alarm at the fate of the Cheyenne village and had fled.

I was then three days’ march from where I had left my train of supplies, and knew that wagons wound not follow me as the trail had led me over a section of country so cut up by ravines and other obstructions that cavalry could with difficulty move over it. The supplies carried from the train on the persons of the men were exhausted. My men, from loss of sleep and hard service, were wearied out; my horses were in the same condition for want of forage. I therefore began my return march about 8 P.M., and found my train of supplies at this point, it having accomplished only sixteen miles since I left it. In the excitement of the fight, as well as in self-defense, it so happened that some of  the squaws and a few children were killed and wounded. The latter I have brought with me, and they receive all the needful attention the circumstances of the case permit. Many of the squaws were taken with arms in their hands, and
several of my command are known to have been wounded by them.  The desperate character of the combat may be inferred from the fact that after the battle the bodies of thirty-eight dead warriors were found in a small ravine near the village in which they had posted themselves.

I now have to report the loss suffered by my own command. I regret to mention among the killed, Major Joel H. Elliott and Capt. Louis W. Hamilton, ad nineteen enlisted men; in wounded includes three officers and eleven enlisted men-in all thirty-five. Of the officers, Brevet Lieut.-Col. Albert Barnitz, Captain Seventh Cavalry, is seriously if not mortally wounded. Brevet Lieutn. Col. F.W. Benteen had his horse shot under him by a son of Black Kettle, whom he afterward killed. Col. Barnitz, before receiving his wound, killed two warriors.

I cannot sufficiently commend the admirable conduct of the officers and men. This command has marched constantly five days, amidst terrible snow storms and over a rough country covered by more than twelve inches of snow. Officers and men have slept in the snow without tents. The night preceding the attack officers and men stood at their horses’ heads for hours, awaiting the moment of attack, and this, too, when the temperature was far below the freezing point. They have endured every privation and fought with unsurpassed gallantry against a powerful and well-armed foe, and from first to last I have not heard a single murmur: but, on the contrary, the officers and men of the several squadrons and companies seemed to vie with each other in their attention to duty and their patience and perseverance under difficulties. Every officer, man, scout and Indian guide did their full duty.

I only regret the loss of the gallant spirits who fell in the battle of the Washita. Those whose loss we are called upon deplore were among our bravest and best.


NOTE: Bernard Albert Byrne, MOH: Born at Newport Barracks, Virginia, October 19, 1853, he entered the service from Washington, D.C. His parents were Major Bernard Myles and Louisa (Albert) Byrne. He was educated at Columbian (now George Washington) University and married Bartha, daughter of Albert Barnitz, February 11, 1892.

Albert Barnitz of Ohio
Appointed from Penneylvania and Ohio, Sergeant 2nd Ohio Volunteer Cavalry, 22 August 1861
Second Lieutenant, 1 June 1862
First Lieutenant, 18 February 1863
Captain, 26 February 1863
Major, 20 March 1865
Honorably mustered out of the volunter service, 11 September 1865
Captain, 7th United States Cavalry, 28 July 1866
Retired 15 December 1870
Breveted Major, 2 March 1867 for gallant and meritorious service in action at Ashland Station, Virginia; Lieutenant Colonel, 2 March 1867 for gallant and meritorious service in the battle of Washita, Indian Territory, in which engagement he was severely wounded

Colonel Barnitz, 1835-1912, was buried in Section 1 of Arlington National Cemetery.  His wife Jennie Platt, 1841-1923, is buried with him.

AR United States Army
DATE OF DEATH: 07/18/1912

DATE OF BIRTH: 12/16/1874
DATE OF DEATH: 01/25/1955

DATE OF DEATH: 07/30/1926

DATE OF DEATH: 12/10/1910



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