Brevet Brigadier General John Baptiste de Barth Walbach, Baron de Walbach (1766 - 1857) was a career officer in the United States Army who served for over 57 years until his death. He was one of the few foreign born senior officers in the US Army prior to the Civil War.
Early years in Europe
Walbach was born in Münster as the third son of Count Joseph de Barth. He received his military education at Strasbourg. He was a lieutenant in the Lauzun hussars from 1786 to 1792. He returned to his native land to join the army of the Comte d'Artois, brother of Louis XVI. He was present during the campaign of 1792 in Champagne in the advance of the Prussian army until it was disbanded at Maastricht, on 6 January 1793, participated in the attack on Frankfurt, and subsequently served during the campaign of 1793 in attacks on the French lines at Germersheim, Langenkandel, and Weissenburg. In October 1793, he accepted a captaincy in the Hussars de Rohan in the German service, and took part in covering the retreat of the Duke of York upon the Netherlands and Germany.
Early United States military career
In 1798 he obtained a six months' leave of absence, with a view of visiting his father, who had come to the United States at the opening of the French Revolution. But the father had died in Philadelphia, and his estate had been sold by the sheriff. Walbach resigned his commission in the Hussars de Rohan in April 1798, and was appointed aide-de-camp to Gen. William Macpherson.
He became 1st lieutenant of U. S. cavalry and adjutant on 10 January 1799, was aide-de-camp to General Alexander Hamilton in May, assistant adjutant-general to General William North in September, and in December was assigned to the staff of General Charles C. Pinckney, whom he assisted in preparing regulations for the cavalry. In February 1801, he was made 1st lieutenant in the regiment of artillerists and engineers, and on 25 October following he was appointed aide-de-camp to Brigadier General James Wilkinson, then the commanding general of the Army.
Walbach was retained in the Army in April 1802 as 1st lieutenant of artillery, and became adjutant 1 December 1804. He was promoted captain 31 January 1806, made assistant deputy quartermaster general in March 1812, assistant adjutant general, with the rank of major, in June 1813, and on 6 August 1813 adjutant general of the Army with the rank of colonel.
He took part in the Battle of Crysler's Farm, Canada, 11 November 1813. General George W. Cullum, in his Campaigns and Engineers of the War of 1812-1815 says that the enemy, “discovering our disorder and slackened fire, pushed vigorously forward and endeavored by a flank movement to capture our cannon, when Adjutant-General Walbach, a German veteran in our army who had seen much foreign service, gave the order to 'charge mit de dragoons,' and thus saved the pieces.” On 1 May 1815, he received a brevet (honorary promotion) as a lieutenant-colonel “for meritorious service.”
He spent much of his later career in command of coastal fortifications including Fort Constitution near Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Fort Trumbull in New London, Connecticut (as of January 1, 1825 to as of January 1st, 1827), Fort Severn in Annapolis, Maryland (as of January 1, 1828), Commandant, Artillery School of Practice at Fortress Monroe (as of January 1, 1830), Frankford Arsenal in Pennsylvania (as of January 1, 1831 to as of January 1st, 1832) and Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland (as of January 1, 1833 to as of January 1st, 1834), and Fort Severn in Annapolis, Maryland (as of January 1, 1835 and as of January 1st, 1836). (Source - Official Army Registers 1825 to 1836.)
While at Fort Constitution he oversaw construction of a Martello Tower to cover the land approaches to the fort. This fortification, commonly called the Walbach tower, was allowed to deteriorate over years of disuse but its ruins can be seen to this day.
He was promoted to colonel and placed in command of the 4th Artillery Regiment on 15 March 1842.
He was not sent to Mexico during the Mexican War due to his age at the time (80 years).
In May 1850 he received a brevet (honorary promotion) to the rank of brigadier general retroactive to 1823.
Walbach possessed mental and physical vigor until an advanced age. As there was no mandatory retirement age prior to the Civil War, he remained on active duty until he died, at the age of 90, in Baltimore, Maryland on June 10, 1857.
Dates of rank
- 2nd lieutenant, Light Dragoons – 8 January 1799
- Discharged - 15 June 1800
- Lieutenant, 2nd Regiment of Artillerists and Engineers - 16 February 1801
- Captain, Artillerists - 31 January 1806
- Major, assistant adjutant general - 27 June 1813
- Colonel, Adjutant General - 6 August 1813
- Brevet major "for gallant conduct in the Battle of Chrystler's Field, Upper Canada" - 11 November 1813
- Brevet lieutenant colonel “for meritorious service” - 1 May 1815
- Relieved as Adjutant General and retained as Captain, Corps of Artillery - 15 June 1815
- Major, Corps of Artillery - 25 April 1818
- Brevet colonel “for ten years faithful service in one grade” - 1 May 1825
- Lieutenant colonel, 1st Artillery - 30 May 1832
- Colonel, 4th Artillery - 19 March 1842
- Brevet brigadier general "for meritorious service" - May 1850 (to date from 11 November 1823)
He married in Philadelphia in 1807, and had two sons, John de Barth, who entered the United States Navy in 1827 and resigned as a lieutenant in 1861, and Louis Augustus de Barth, who was graduated at West Point Military Academy in 1834, and died a captain of ordnance, 26 June 1853.
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- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Wilson, James Grant; Fiske, John, eds. (1889). "Walbach, John Baptiste de Barth". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton