Passing Tracy Park, one can’t but notice the impressive Civil War Monument dedicated to Union Soldiers from Scioto County. If you stop and take a closer look you will notice an inscription on the monument. “In Honor of our Soldiers – The Brave Men Who Fought, And The Heroes Who Fell – In The War For The Preservation Of The Union – 1861 – 1865.” A fitting tribute indeed, to all soldiers of that terrible war. As you stand and gaze upward toward the bearded soldier mounted on top. You notice he is holding the flag of the United States. A silent sentinel watching over the park and a stark reminder of all that is sacred and of the sacrifices made. Who then is that soldier who is astride that magnificent monument? His name is John R.T. Barnes, the first Soldier in the County – who was Killed-in-Action during the Civil War. He was born near Waverly on May 17, 1830.
In an issue of “Pike Speaks,” dated July 7, 2014 – Newsletter of “Pike County (Ohio) Genealogy.” An article notes that his Grandfather, John, had served as a Lieutenant with the 7th Virginia in the Revolutionary War. His Father, William, had served as an adjutant in the War of 1812. John R.T.Barnes – came to Portsmouth in 1858 and worked as a clerk at a dry goods store on Front Street owned by William Elden.
When war broke out Barnes enlisted in Company G of the First Ohio Volunteer Infantry on April 16, 1861. He was killed at the battle of Vienna, Virginia (now in West Virginia) on June 17, 1861, along with five of his comrades from Portsmouth – including Eugene G. Burke, Thomas C. Finton, Joseph C. Smith, Philip Stroad and Daniel Sullivan. The unit was actively engaged in the battle of Vienna, Va., with a loss of 9 killed (6 being from Portsmouth,) and 2 wounded. The First Ohio Infantry was commanded by Col., Alexander MCD. McCook; The First Ohio was organized at Columbus, April 18, 1861, in response to the call of the president, dated April 15, for volunteers to serve “three months.” It was composed of companies from all over the State; Company H from Portsmouth. (The Union Army Vol. 2)
He was described in writings from the period as, “a noble-hearted young man of honorable ancestry and pure morals, who led a sound and upright life.” But wait, there’s more to the Barnes’ story. After his death he was mourned by a special someone that loved him dearly. An obituary dated, Feb. 14, 1918 in the Waverly Watchman, about Henrietta Roe, who died at the home of her nephew, J.B. Kinney. “Miss Henrietta Roe, departed this life at age 85. Miss Roe was born 1834 at Richmond Dale, moving to Waverly with her parents when she was but five years of age. She has resided here ever since. She was the aunt of Mrs. W.V. Watts and J.B. Kinney, of Waverly, T.E. Kinney, Columbus, and Charles Kinney, Newark, both former residents of this village – Interment in Waverly’s Evergreen Cemetery.”
“A Civil War Romance.” – “The death at Waverly, of Henrietta Roe, familiarly known to many residents of Pike County as: “Aunty” Roe, at an advanced age, recalls to mind that in her life – which a few other persons remember, is that when the Civil War broke out, she was engaged to wed John Barnes, who at Lincoln’s call enlisted in Co. G. Volunteer Infantry and went to the war front. He was the first to give up his life for two counties – ( a favorite son of both – born in Pike and living in Scioto,) in the war; and a statue of him is above the soldier’s monument in Tracy Park in Portsmouth beside Chillicothe Street.” “Naturally Miss Roe (Rowe) mourned the death of her lover, and as her true sweetheart, she never married, but spent her life at the old home, surrounded in her declining years by friends and relatives who ministered to her every wish.” I suppose she could love no other than John and remained single – and forever and a day with an aching heart.
April 4, 1918 “Waverly Watchman:” In the years following the war the Ladies of the Union Soldiers’ Aid Society raised funds to erect a monument to honor those who served and gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country in the Civil War. It took a dozen years to raise the $7,500 for the 40-foot monument. On May 30, 1879, a dedication took place in Tracy Park. Atop the monument is a statue of John R.T. Barnes, who was the first man from Scioto County to die during the Civil War.
Bob Boldman is a local historian. He can be reached by email: email@example.com