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A final salute to a Civil War hero
by Joshua Robin
For 75 years, Lt. Jesse Barrick lay in an unmarked pauper's grave in Pasco, a patch of earth used as a footpath to other grave sites, not the tomb of a decorated Civil War hero.
If it weren't for other veterans from other wars, the story of Barrick, one of the state's first Medal of Honor winners, would have ended there, in obscurity beneath the grass.
Instead, Barrick will be honored Saturday by an estimated 1,000 people in a formal ceremony replete with a gun salute, flag detail and eulogies at Tahoma National Cemetery near Kent, where his remains now rest in a carefully tended grave marked by a gold-plated headstone.
"Our chests will be swelled with pride," said Mat Williams, an Army veteran who works at the cemetery.
"It's just an honor having him out here with other veterans who distinguished themselves during wartime."
Because of the work of several people, including Navy veteran and Pasco police Officer Dwight Davison, Barrick's remains were exhumed from his nondescript resting place in February and moved to a grave that veterans agree is more appropriate for a decorated war hero.
From the time he was young, Davison has had an interest in America's wars. But it wasn't until his wife bought him a book on Washington's Medal of Honor winners that the Civil War - and one of the war's heroes - became Davison's obsession.
Jesse Barrick is one of 84 soldiers whose exploits are recounted in the book "Washington State Men of Valor." But for Davison, Barrick's story was the most compelling.
According to the book, Barrick died in 1923 in Pasco, where he was visiting his daughter.
In late spring 1998, Davison started searching for the grave site with the help of his friend Bruce McCord, also a former Pasco police officer and former Navy man.
McCord talked with city officials and found that Barrick was buried in a city-owned cemetery. The two later learned from the cemetery caretaker, who had scoured plot maps, that, like about 200 other graves at the City View Cemetery, Barrick's plot had no marker.
"I thought, `This ain't right,' " Davison said. "I was thinking it was going to look like a standard military grave with a tall, oval gravestone."
Davison, whose patriotism never wavers, found Barrick's grave and immediately planted a flag on it.
Why Barrick was buried in an unmarked grave seemed obvious - he must have died indigent. But the rest of Barrick's history was unknown, and Davison and McCord found themselves wanting to know more: where he was from, what he did to earn the Medal of Honor, if he had any surviving relatives.
They dived into finding out more about Barrick, combing old letters and city records, and surfing the Internet to find relatives.
"He kind of became part of the family," Davison said.
Before long, the pair's friends got interested, and a loose-knit society was formed dedicated to finding out the story of Barrick. They called themselves "Barrick's Brigade."
Davison and McCord initially believed Barrick was black because records indicated he had been in the U.S. Colored Infantry, a Union division composed of African-American soldiers. They later learned that Barrick was a white officer commanding African-American troops.
From an old obituary in the Pasco Herald - now the Tri-City Herald - they learned Barrick had six children and a wife, Sarah Ann Strang Barrick, whose grave they couldn't locate. Through Internet searches, the only relatives Davison could find were descendants of Barrick's halfbrother, Alpheus.
Eugene Barrick, a farmer in Darwin, Minn., was one of them. Looking back, he said he was surprised to get the call, but he didn't need Davison to explain who Jesse Barrick was.
As a boy growing up in Meeker County, Minn., Eugene Barrick had heard bedtime stories about his grandfather's favorite uncle, Jesse, a Civil War hero.
"There was no radio, television, anything at that time," recalled Eugene, 69. "And so in the evening, I would get ready for bed, and then I would go and have Grandad tell me a good-night story. Jesse was his favorite topic."
Meanwhile, others in Barrick's Brigade sought the help of local legislators to plant a tombstone on Barrick's grave in Pasco.
Davison's wife sewed a covering for the marker, and on Nov. 11, 1998 - Veterans Day - Barrick was honored in a ceremony that included Civil War re-enactors, three generals and members of the Washington State National Guard.
The Civil War soldier's grave was finally marked. But it would be nearly two more years before he was in his final resting place. Meanwhile, Barrick's Brigade learned more about the man whose grave they had worked so hard to have properly marked.
Two months after he married, Barrick, 20, enlisted in the Union Army at Fort Snelling, Minn., on Oct. 25, 1861. The Confederate government was eight months old.
Barrick's wife, a year younger than her husband, also enlisted soon after their wedding and became a Union Army nurse.
In 1863, while Jesse Barrick was a scout in Tennessee searching for Confederate soldiers along the Duck River, records show he single-handedly captured two well-armed Confederate guerrillas and held them for eight days.
It was an act of heroism for which he would be honored with the Medal of Honor. But for some unknown reason, he didn't receive the medal until 54 years later, in 1917.
Records also show that in August 1863, soon after the capture along the Duck River, Barrick watched his nephew Isaac die from what was probably malaria.
Thousands of soldiers were sick or dead from the disease, contracted in the swamps of eastern Arkansas, where soldiers marched on the way to a bloody siege at Vicksburg, Miss.
A letter Barrick wrote - his only known existing correspondence - to Isaac's parents, Alpheus and Minerva Barrick, reads in part: "It is with painful feelings that I will try and write to you. It is hard, Brother and Sister, but it is so. Your son Isaac is no more. He died today at half past eleven o'clock and was buried at three this afternoon.
"He died happy and easy and the last words were `Father in heaven, take me home.' "
Leader of black platoon
In July 1864, Barrick was promoted to second lieutenant in the 57th regiment of the U.S. Colored Infantry.
Historian Shelby Foote, a commentator in Ken Burns' documentary "The Civil War" and an author of several books on the war, said a position in the Colored Infantry was not one many white soldiers would have wanted at that time.
"Nobody wanted to be known to be a commander of black troops," Foote said. "They were looked at like they couldn't be depended upon. . . . The prediction had been that black troops would not fight . . . (that) they would run, especially at the sight of bayonets.
"They disproved the hell out of that kind of statement."
The exploits of one such unit were recounted in the 1989 film "Glory," starring Matthew Broderick and Denzel Washington.
It isn't clear what exactly Barrick's platoon of black soldiers did. Foote said that by 1864, black soldiers had proved themselves in battle.
Barrick's stay in the Colored Infantry wasn't long. On Oct. 15, 1864, records show that Barrick was discharged "by reason of resignation on account of disability." It isn't clear what that disability was.
Less is known about Barrick's life after the war. He became a fur trader and in 1909 moved to Suquamish, Kitsap County, then to Pasco three years later.
On March 3, 1917, a Medal of Honor certificate was awarded to Barrick "for distinguished gallantry in action." Davison doesn't know why Barrick was given the award 52 years after the Civil War ended or where the medal is.
"It may be in somebody's box, in an attic," he said.
Foote said Medals of Honor were given out "like popcorn prizes" for Civil War veterans.
"It's not that they didn't amount to anything," he said. "It just not like the Medal of Honor that they give out today."
Davison and the others never found out where Sarah Barrick is buried, though he believes it is an unmarked grave in Mukilteo.
It also isn't clear why Barrick was originally buried in a pauper's grave when he died in Pasco on Nov. 3, 1923, at the home of his daughter, Dora Garwood. His military pension was $50 a month - $40 for his service, plus another $10 for receiving the Medal of Honor.
Foote suspects Barrick had "nobody left to put a stone on him."
When told by Davison about Barrick's story, the people at Tahoma National Cemetery were already familiar with the Civil War hero's name.
The traffic circle at the center of the cemetery is named for him; other roads at the cemetery are named for other state Medal of Honor winners.
The cemetery, which opened in 1997, was immediately interested in creating a place for Barrick's remains, making him the only Civil War veteran at Tahoma.
His final resting place
Davison received permission from Barrick's relatives to move his remains, and Barrick was reinterred at Tahoma National Cemetery last February.
The cemetery decided to wait for warmer weather for a ceremony marking the reinterment. Sarah Barrick's name is on the back of her husband's gold-plated headstone. Should her grave be found, cemetery officials said they would like to move it to Tahoma.
On Saturday, an empty coffin will be driven to Barrick's gravesite on a caisson. It will represent the journey to his final resting place, three-quarters of a century after his death. Another Medal of Honor winner, retired Col. Joe Jackson, will speak. Several distant relatives of Barrick will be there, some traveling from Minnesota. Soldiers will fire a salute with Civil War-era muskets.
Davison won't be there - he'll be attending his son's wedding.
But he has made a promise to himself to lay flowers on Barrick's grave each time he crosses the Cascades.
"I have a sense that he will be surrounded by other men of honor," Davison said. "Having given their most in their time, it's fitting company."
A service honoring Jesse Barrick, a Civil War veteran and Medal of Honor recipient, will be at 11a.m. Saturday at Tahoma National Cemetery, 18600 S.E. 240th St., near Kent.
© 2000, by The Seattle Times Company
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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News From The Past
September 11, 2000
Jesse Barrick - Crowd honors Civil War hero
Hundreds turned out near Kent for weekend services honoring Jesse Barrick, a Civil War hero and Medal of Honor winner whose remains were moved to Tahoma National Cemetery earlier this year from an unmarked grave in Central Washington.
The crowd stood in silence Saturday as bagpipes played and a caisson carrying an empty casket, escorted by an honor guard, circled the U.S. flag. A band played a slow, mournful "Dixie" and "Battle Hymn of the Republic."
"Jesse Barrick was an ordinary person, yet, on this day he performed an extraordinary act of bravery," said retired Air Force Col. Joe Jackson, a Medal of Honor winner who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
Barrick's great-great-grand-nephew Eugene Barrick, a farmer near Darwin, Minn., made the crowd chuckle when he recounted his grandfather's story of the family hero being treed by a bear.
Lacking shot for his musket, the story goes, Jesse Barrick stuffed a knife down the barrel and fired at the bear.
"By the time Jesse got down from the tree, the bear was half-skinned, Granddad said," Eugene Barrick recalled. "After that line I didn't put so much faith in Granddad's stories."
Eugene Barrick's daughter, Candace Barrick of Minneapolis, said her family learned what had become of Jesse Barrick last year when a group of Pasco researchers known as Jesse Barrick's Brigade invited them to a Veterans Day service in his honor.
"This has changed my life and the lives of others in ways you'll never know," she said.
Jesse Barrick, born in 1841 in Ohio, joined the Army 20 years later as a member of the 3rd Minnesota Regiment. His wife, Sarah, was an Army nurse.
The only Civil War veteran buried at Tahoma National Cemetery, he was awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism along Tennessee's Duck River, where he single-handedly captured two well-armed Confederate guerrillas and held them for eight days.
"Can you imagine the pounding of his heart and his anxiety?" Jackson asked Saturday.
Barrick was promoted to second lieutenant for that exploit and served out the war as a white officer in the 57th U.S. Colored Infantry.
After the war, he became a fur trader, moving west to Washington with his wife, who is believed to be buried in an unmarked grave in Mukilteo.
It wasn't until 1917 that the government gave him the military's highest honor. He died six years later in Pasco, shortly after moving there.
He is buried now near the Tahoma cemetery's Barrick Circle, which was named before Barrick's remains were discovered. All the roadways at the state's only national cemetery are named for Washington's Medal of Honor winners, though Barrick is the only one buried there.
Pasco police Officer Dwight Davison, a Vietnam War veteran, began the quest for Barrick's remains after reading a history of the 18 men with connections to Washington who earned the Medal of Honor in the Civil War.
Davison and fellow veteran Bruce McCord formed Barrick's Brigade. Davison also alerted Michele Dvorcek, program assistant for the national cemetery, and Dvorcek found Barrick's relatives, who approved relocation of the remains.
The Pasco group and Barrick's descendants determined that he and his wife had six children, but no direct descendants were located.
© 2000, by The Seattle Times Company
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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