NORMANSTONE

Robert W. McGuire, Jr.

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Normanstone

SECESH, SPIES, AND OTHER VILLAINS

 

After the 1860 elections, moderate Republicans dominated Congress. Lincoln had won the presidential election in the electoral college with a total of 180 votes out of a possible 303 (152 was a majority) although he had won only a plurality of the popular vote. Lincoln put all political factions into his cabinet and in other key positions. Amongst these appointments were Simon Cameron (a Democrat turned Republican) as secretary of war and Edwin Stanton (a Democrat who opposed slavery and who had been attorney general in the Buchanan administration) appointed as legal advisor and assistant to Cameron.

 

In his 37 years of military service, adjutant general of the Army Lorenzo Thomas had never faced challenges anything like those that he recognized were now threatening to destroy his country and his beloved institution - the United States Army. On the cusp of an all-out civil war, the government and the war department were rife with traitors, spies, and profiteers. He did not have good feelings about either of his new civilian bosses: Cameron who was a Pennsylvania political boss with corruption scandals in his past, or Stanton, a quick-tempered lawyer who had become famous handling high profile controversial cases. He needed a trusted insider to help him identify those whose allegiance was to the Union and the Constitution, and those who were seeking to subvert and destroy all that he held dear. He sought someone who was intelligent, organized, and thorough in his dealings. Someone not flamboyant, but yet one who was courageous and diligent with a strong sense of duty and honor. He turned to Robert W. Barnard, a young man that had grown up at Normanstone Ė nearby his Woodley estate. Barnard had become almost like another son to Thomas over the years, as Robertís father had died shortly before Thomas purchased Woodley. Thomas and the younger man shared a love of quail hunting, and the two had spent many afternoons shooting game on Georgetown Heights.

 

It would not be enough for Lorenzo Thomas to simply identify subversive threats and deal with them through prosecution or otherwise. He knew well the limitations of his office. He needed the support of men at the highest levels of the government and the military to accomplish his purpose. One by one he held private discussions with men who, while of differing political stripes, shared an unwavering dedication to the preservation of the Union and a loyalty to President Abraham Lincoln. Thomas convinced each of them to support him and to meet with each other secretly for the purpose of coordinating their efforts in dealing with insidious threats against the United States and its President. Clandestine meetings would be held as necessary at the Woodley estate, remote from observation, but close enough for easy access.

 

Shortly after the April 1861 attack on Fort Sumter, Robert Barnard was commissioned a first lieutenant in the newly-formed 19th Infantry Regiment headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana. Officially, he was assigned to recruiting duty at Washington. The position made him part of the officer corps and gave him routine access to the war department, and particularly to the adjutant general. Over the next couple of years, he would be Thomasí eyes and ears in the headquarters and around the city. His task was to investigate possible subversive or spying activities, determine who the responsible parties were, and report back to Thomas. Absent an imminent threat, that was all he was expected to do. However, he was authorized to use ďnecessary forceĒ with judgment and discretion as circumstances warranted. He was to act with a high degree of independence, and his relationship with the adjutant general was to remain confidential.

 

Early in 1862 after Edwin Stanton replaced Simon Cameron as secretary of war, Robert Barnardís value to General Thomas increased even more. It soon became evident that Stanton was intent on building his own personal power through moving people he could control into key positions in the Army, filtering information provided to the President, and using strong-arm tactics against those who failed to yield to his wishes. Stanton centralized all telegraph communications at the War Department, next to his office, so that even President Lincoln had to go there to send or receive messages. Stanton was able to install the brutal and unprincipled Lafayette Baker to head up the Union Intelligence Service with Baker being Stantonís personal secret agent.

 

After a year and a half of fighting, Lincolnís Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in the rebellious southern states. Stanton had already issued orders for the enlistment of black soldiers in the south. Lincoln, while having reservations about arming ex-slaves and employing them as soldiers, ultimately decided that such an action is necessary to bring the war to conclusion. In March of 1863, Stanton banished General Thomas out of Washington, giving him twenty four hours to move West and start recruiting African Americans for the Army on a massive scale. Robert Barnard rejoined his Regiment which had been substantially decimated in 18 months of service in the field after fighting in the battles of Shiloh, Stones River and Chickamauga. The 19th Infantry had started out with 510 men and numbered less than 150 after Chickamauga. This closed out the first part of Barnardís Army career, and opened up a new chapter for both Barnard and Thomas.

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