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Submitted by Charlie Robinson.

Civil War Prisoner Saved From Execution by Chum

Silas Barnes Gaines Reprieve From Man Who Recognizes Old Buddy

West Virginia Times

by Rev. I. A. Barnes

     About fifty years ago I was an overnight guest in the home of Col. Larkin Pierpont, at Pullman, West Virginia. Knowing that I was from Marion County, he asked about my family connections, and when I told him he said, "Your father and I were boys together. "Then he had many questions to ask about all of my uncles with whom he had been associated in his boyhood. He inquired particularly about my Uncle Silas Barnes, who lived near the village of Watson and owned the farm now partly belonging to the estate of the late Sam R. Nuzum and partly by the estate of the late Billy Criss. He is buried in a little family cemetery on the Nuzum estate, near the cutoff on the Grafton Road, and I wonder if the G.A.R. has ever put up a flag upon his grave. He was a member of Co. F of the 12th West Virginia Volunteer Infantry.
     When I told Col. Pierpont that my Uncle Silas Barnes had been dead for some years, he said. "Well, he was a good soldier and I always have been glad that I saved his life, during the war of the rebellion, even though it was not according to strict army rules and regulations.
     In the summer of 1864, I was on duty in the city of Cumberland, Maryland, as commander of the post, and provost marshal. A part of my duty was to receive convalescents from the hospitals, and forward them to their regiments. One evening in August a sergeant with guard reported to my headquarters with some sixty convalescents and deserters. The men were formed in line in front of my office, and as their names were called, were ordered to step two paces to the front so that I could inspect each man. I called the list .... Silas Barnes .......name with which I had been familiar in my boyhood. When I called the name their was no response. I called again, ' Silas Barnes, ' if present, why don't you step forward ? And answer your name ? The man answered, ' I cannot for I am chained to another man, but so so as his name is called I will step forward with him ! When the other name was called they both stepped forward. Both were charged with desertion.
     I dismissed the other men for the night, but retained Barnes and his companion. Ordering the sergeant to remove the chains, which he did I receipted to him for the men and sent the prisoners into my office. Barnes did not recognize me, but I was satisfied that I was not mistaken as to his identity. I asked him a number of questions about his nativity, and boyhood, which he answered readily. Then I asked why he was charged with desertion and wearing chains? For answer he told me the following story. After the battle at Winchester, Va., I was sent to the hospital at Grafton and then to Parkersburg. While I was at the Parkersburg Hospital I received intelligence that an attempt had been made by some bushwhackers to rob my home, and that my wife had been shot. I obtained leave of absence from the surgeon to go home.
     When I reached home I found my wife in very critical condition, having a dangerous wound in her arm and breast. When my leave of absence expired, her condition was so critical that the attending physician advised me not to leave her until the crisis should be passed, which would be only a short time. In a few days I started to return to Parkersburg to report at the hospital. But when I stepped from the train at Grafton I was arrested as a deserter and taken to Wheeling by a deputy, and a demand for my arrest. My papers were made out and I was forwarded to you chained to another man.
     Said Col. Pierpont, "I sent the other prisoner to the guardhouse and sent Barnes with an orderly to the soldiers rest for his supper. When he returned we sat down and had a long talk, and I made myself known to him, for as yet he did not know into whose hands he had fallen. He was weary in body and broken in spirit. I prepared a bed in a room adjoining my office and told him to retire for the night. I then prepared the necessary papers to send the prisoners and convalescents on the early train in the morning.
     Having finished my work I locked my office and went to my room at the hotel, and went to bed, but not to sleep. I was not satisfied as what I should do with these deserters. I arose at four o'clock and went to my office fully determined to sink the papers concerning the deserters, which I did. "I then wrote an order naming Silas Barnes, as sergeant in charge of a squad of convalescents returning to their command for duty. I then awakened the prisoner in the back room and sent him to the soldiers rest for breakfast, with orders to return at once, which he did.
     When the convalescents reported ready to continue their journey, I put their papers in the hands of Silas Barnes, with orders to deliver them to the provost marshal at Martinsburg, and return me a receipt for them, which he did in due time. I also placed in his hands an order for Silas Barnes, sergeant of Co. F 12th West Virginia Vol. Infantry to proceed with this to Martinsburg and hand them over to the provost marshal.
     "You should have seen the faces of the two prisoners as they filed out of Harrison Street into Baltimore without their chains. When I bid Barnes goodbye, his feelings overcame him and he wept.
     "The deputy who had arrested these two men never made any inquiry about their papers, or tried to collect their fees. After a few moments of silence Col. Pierpont remarked, "It is great satisfaction to know that you have saved the life of a brave and worthy man, and lifted the stigma of desertion from a honorable name, even though you have acted arbitrarily. "I was satisfied that the Silas Barnes whom I had known from boyhood, was not a deserter, and when he told me the story I just knew it was the truth. But just what to do I did not know until I decided to destroy their old papers as I have told you.
     I never saw or heard of Silas Barnes again until several years after the war closed. I came to Fairmont to visit my brother, the governor during the county fair. At the fairgrounds I was talking with William Barnes, Richard Thomas and Zebulaon and John Musgrove, when Silas Barnes came up and began to talk with his brother William. I recognized his face and turning towards him I asked, "Silas Barnes is that you?" He grabbed my hand and burst into tears unable to speak."

William Barnes was Peter T. Barnes' brother
Silas Barnes was Peter T. Barnes' brother
Richard Thomas was Anna M. Harr’s grandfather
Larkin Pierpont was Francais H. Robinson's 2nd cousin, as was the Governor, Francais H. Pierpont.
Rufus Harr also fought with the 12th West Virginia Infantry