Alfred Madison Barbour

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Alfred Madison Barbour
Born Alfred Madison Barbour
(1829-04-17)April 17, 1829
Culpeper County, Virginia
Died April 4, 1866(1866-04-04) (aged 36)
Montgomery, Alabama
Resting place Fairview Cemetery, Culpeper, Virginia
Nationality American
Citizenship United States of America
Confederate States of America
Alma mater University of Virginia
Harvard University
Occupation lawyer, statesman, military serviceman
Political party Democratic Party
Religion Presbyterian
Spouse(s) Kate Daniels
Parent(s) John S. Barbour
Ella A. Byrne
Relatives brother of John S. Barbour, Jr.
first cousin once removed of James Barbour and Philip Pendleton Barbour

Alfred Madison Barbour (April 17, 1829 – April 4, 1866)[1][2][3] was a prominent American lawyer, delegate to the 1861 Virginia secession convention, and a major in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War.[1][2][3] Barbour is best known for his role as Superintendent of the Harpers Ferry Armory in Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia) during John Brown's raid.[2]

Early life[edit]

Barbour was born on April 17, 1829 in Culpeper County, Virginia.[1][2][3] He was the son of John S. Barbour, Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Virginia's 15th congressional district, and his wife Ella A. Byrne.[1][2][3]

Barbour attended the University of Virginia and Harvard University's Harvard Law School.[3]

Government service[edit]

Following his completion of law school, Barbour served as a pre-war legislator in Virginia.[3] In January 1859, he was appointed as the Superintendent at the federal armory in Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia).[4] He served there until 1861 and the beginning of the American Civil War.[5] In October 1859, abolitionist John Brown raided the arsenal,.[5] Allegedly this was done to steal weapons in an attempt to start an armed rebellion by slaves. However, more recent research has shown that Brown made no attempt to remove the Harper's Ferry weapons, and actually denied the charge repeatedly, stating further that he brought superior Sharps repeating rifles in comparison to the breech-loading guns manufactured at Harper's Ferry. Certainly none of the testimony affirms the notion that Brown intended to seize the weapons and he brought no means even to remove them. Historian Louis DeCaro Jr. thus concludes that the conventional notion of Brown wanting the arsenal weapons was Virginia propaganda that became embedded in the state record.[6] The raid was successful in capturing the entire armory and town, which Brown knew to be minimally guarded by civilians, although ultimately he failed because he remained in town too long.[5][7] In 1860, Barbour wrote to that he was not present in Harper's Ferry at the time of the raid, as he was visiting the federal armory at Springfield, Mass. "Had I been here, I could have done no good. Old Brown would have taken Gen. Scott if he had been here. A military man could have done nothing more than a civilian, unless there had been a corps of soldiers under him. . . . It is ridiculous to talk about it, as if the presence of a military man [at Harper's Ferry] would have awed Old Brown."[8] Barbour and his brother James Barbour,were later delegates to the 1861 Virginia secession convention.[1]

American Civil War[edit]

During the American Civil War, Barbour served in the Confederate States Army as a quartermaster.[3] Barbour served as an aid to both Joseph E. Johnston and Leonidas Polk.[3] As quartermaster, Barbour served in Montgomery, Alabama and Meridian, Mississippi.[3] Jubal Anderson Early disliked Barbour, who termed him "not energetic or efficient."[3]


Alfred Madison Barbour died on April 4, 1866 in Montgomery, Alabama and was interred at Fairview Cemetery in Culpeper in Culpeper County, Virginia.[1][2][3]


  1. ^ a b c d e f The Political Graveyard (March 24, 2009). "Index to Politicians: Barbour". The Political Graveyard. Archived from the original on 2 March 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-05. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Find A Grave (Apr 26, 2004). "Alfred Madison Barbour". Find A Grave. Retrieved 2009-04-05. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Beckham Family Tree (Mar 22, 2005). "(Major) Alfred Madison BARBOUR". Beckham Family Tree. Retrieved 2009-04-05. 
  4. ^ United States Senate (1887). "Thursday, January 13, 1859". Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States. Government Printing Office. 11: 34. 
  5. ^ a b c Barry, Joseph (1872). The Annals of Harper's Ferry: With Sketches of Its Founder, and Many Prominent Characters Connected with Its History, Anecdotes (2nd ed.). Berkeley Union. pp. 29–61. 
  6. ^ Louis A. DeCaro, Jr., Freedom's Dawn: The Last Days of John Brown in Virginia, (Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2015), 55-56.
  7. ^ DeCaro, Freedom's Dawn,31-35.
  8. ^ See Alfred M. Barbour to Roger Pryor, Apr. 2, 1860, transcribed in "Notes and Queries," The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography Vol. XLII: 1 (1918): 175-76.