Alfred Madison Barbour

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Alfred Madison Barbour
Member of the Virginia House of Delegates
from the Monongalia County district
In office
December 7, 1857 – March, 1861
Serving with A. G. Davis
Preceded byWilliam Lantz
Succeeded byAndrew Brown
Personal details
Alfred Madison Barbour

(1829-04-17)April 17, 1829
Culpeper County, Virginia
DiedApril 4, 1866(1866-04-04) (aged 36)
Montgomery, Alabama
Resting placeFairview Cemetery, Culpeper, Virginia
CitizenshipUnited States of America
Confederate States of America
Political partyDemocratic Party
Spouse(s)Kate Daniels
Relationsbrother of John S. Barbour, Jr.
first cousin once removed of James Barbour and Philip Pendleton Barbour
ParentsJohn S. Barbour
Ella A. Byrne
Alma materUniversity of Virginia
Harvard University
Occupationlawyer, politician, soldier
Military service
Allegiance Confederate States
Branch/service Virginia Militia
 Confederate States Army
RankConfederate States of America Major.png Major(CSA)

Alfred Madison Barbour (April 17, 1829 – April 4, 1866) was a Virginia lawyer, one-term delegate in the Virginia House of Delegates and also in the Virginia Secession Convention of 1861. He may be best known for his role as Superintendent of the Harpers Ferry Armory in Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia) during John Brown's raid.[1] Although Barbour voted against secession, he became a major in the Confederate States Army and served as a quartermaster during the American Civil War.[2]

Early life[edit]

Barbour was born on April 17, 1829, on a plantation in Culpeper County, Virginia. 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, and had several siblings.[2][1]

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

Government service[edit]

Returning to Virginia, Barbour moved to the state's northwest corner. Monongalia County voters once elected him as one of their two representatives in the Virginia House of Delegates, where he served in 1857-58.[4]

In January 1859, he was appointed as Superintendent at the federal armory in Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia).[5] He served there until the American Civil War began in 1861.[6] In October 1859, abolitionist John Brown raided the arsenal. Brown's raiders captured the entire armory and town, which Brown knew to be minimally guarded by civilians, although ultimately he failed and was captured because he remained in town too long.[6] Recent research questions whether Brown really attempted to steal the weapons to support a slave rebellion, considering that explanation Virginia slaveholder propaganda.[7] Barbour wrote that he was visiting the federal armory at Springfield, Massachusetts. "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]

Despite the fiasco, voters from Jefferson County elected Barbour and fellow former delegate Logan Osburn to represent them in the Virginia Secession Convention of 1861. While Osburn resolutely voted against secession on both April 4 and April 17, Barbour switched his vote, voting on April 17 to secede, as did his brother James Barbour, who was a delegate representing their native Culpeper County.[9]

American Civil War[edit]

During the American Civil War, Barbour served in the Confederate States Army as a quartermaster, on the staff of Joseph E. Johnston as well as Leonidas Polk. By December 1861, he had been promoted to quartermaster of all the Confederate armies, but complaints soon arose that he failed to settle accounts, gambled extensively and managed loosely.[10] Major Barbour served in Meridian, Mississippi and by 1864 was demoted to assistant quartermaster in Montgomery, Alabama, where he remained after the war ended, although paroled in Greensboro. Jubal Anderson Early disliked Barbour, who termed him "not energetic or efficient."[11]


Alfred Madison Barbour died on April 4, 1866, in Montgomery, Alabama. His remains were returned to Culpeper, Culpeper County, Virginia and interred at Fairview Cemetery.[1]


  1. ^ a b c Find A Grave (Apr 26, 2004). "Alfred Madison Barbour". Find A Grave. Archived from the original on 2009-09-01. Retrieved 2009-04-05.
  2. ^ a b 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.
  3. ^ Helen P. Trimpi, Crimson Confederates: Harvard Men who Fought for the South (University of Tennessee Press 2010) p. 12
  4. ^ Cynthia Miller Leonard, Virginia General Assembly 1619-1978 (Richmong, Virginia State Library 1978) p.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ a b 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.
  7. ^ Louis A. DeCaro, Jr., Freedom's Dawn: The Last Days of John Brown in Virginia, (Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2015)pp. 31-35, 55-56.
  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.
  9. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2015-07-08. Retrieved 2016-07-16.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ Papers of Jefferson Davis, 1862, p. 98 available at "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2017-12-18. Retrieved 2017-06-13.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ Robert E..L. Krick, Staff Officers in Gray: A Biographical Register of the Staff Officers in the Army of Northern Virginia(University of North Carolina Press 2003) p. 67