A new, romantic view of General Barksdale

This is, by far, the most romantic idealization of Gen. William Barksdale that I’ve ever seen. Especially because of his hair, which here looks quite full on top.

He was well-known, however, to be a bald man who wore a toupee when he was in Congress, though he presumably dispensed with it on the battlefield. It’s curious that painters, like romantic novelists generally, need a full head of hair on their heroic subjects for them to be sufficiently inspired.

Most descriptions of Barksdale have his hair, indeed, shoulder-length on the sides, as it is shown here, and flowing back, as in the charge at Gettysburg, where Captain G.B. Lamar later wrote, it looked from a distance like “the white-plume of Navarre,” a reference to King Henry IV of Navarre in Thomas Babington Macaulay’s then-popular 1857 poem Ivry.

A pre-war newspaper editor, Lieutenant George G. Benedict of the 12th Vermont Regiment, wrote in a letter included in his 1895 book Army Life in Virginia, that he recognized the dead Barksdale at a Union aid station on Cemetery Ridge from having seen him before on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives in the 1850s.

Barksdale’s “bald head and broad face, with open, unblinking eyes, lay uncovered in the sunshine,” Benedict wrote. “There he lay alone, without a comrade to brush the flies from his corpse.”

Thus, the histories generally agree that Barksdale was quite bald on the top of his head, front and back.

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About Dick Stanley

Retired Texas daily newspaperman
This entry was posted in Barksdale's Mississippi Brigade, Battles: Gettysburg, Gen. William Barksdale and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to A new, romantic view of General Barksdale

  1. At least the artist got the whiskey bottle right.

  2. Andy Hall says:

    “It’s curious that painters, like romantic novelists generally, need a full head of hair on their heroic subjects for them to be sufficiently inspired.”

    It’s the Fabio effect.

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