One of the more overlooked heroes of Dixie was Francis S Bartow. Bartow’s name isn’t well known or acknowledged today but Bartow was a founding father of the Southern Confederacy. Born in 1816 to wealthy Southern aristocrats in Savanah, he was born and bred for greatness. He would go to UGA where he became friends with a young Thomas Cobb, another later famous Secessionist, he’d graduate in 1835 at age 19. Later he would finish his law education up at Yale. He’d soon become a fairly successful attorney making a name for himself in Coastal Georgia. In the 1840s he would become an active political campaigner and get elected to the Georgia General Assembly in both the House and state Senate. He would also get married in 1844 to Louisa Greene Berrien. Like his friend and fellow classmate Cobb, Bartow would become more radicalized during the 1850s when the South was under attack by Northern equalitarians. Bartow would take a run for the US house in 1856 but lose. He soon became involved in the local militia, Savannah’s 21st Oglethorpe Light Infantry, being made captain. He would work on readying his fellow Savannahians for the defense of their rights. Savanah at the time was one of the most powerful, oldest and beautiful cities in Georgia. Bartow would soon become a leading secessionist, like many young men of the deep South, he would come to see his mission in life as gaining Southern Independence. He fully dedicated himself to Southern Nationalism by 1860 and would make many powerful speeches advocating secession. He would be chosen to represent his region during the January Georgia Secession Convention where he along with other Georgians would choose secession. He would be one of the energetic secessionists during the Convention and would play a major role there in swaying his fellow delegates to vote for Independence. On January 19th Georgia became an independent state. As the state descended into a jubilant celebration with fireworks and torch lite parades Bartow’s duty towards Southern secession was still not over. Bartow was soon elected to head to Montgomery as part of the Georgia delegation to form a Confederacy with the other Deep South states. There he alongside his close friend Tom Cobb would try to get Howell Cobb, Older brother of the former and ex-US Senator, elected President of the Confederacy. Their attempts failed, however Bartow would play a part in selecting the color gray as the CSA uniform. Bartow would sit on the military board in the newly formed Southern congress thus why he was able to have so much sway and pick the uniform design for the armed forces of the Confederacy. However, Bartow realizing that he was duty bound to fight for the Confederacy he helped create, thus he would resign his spot in congress after the firing on Fort Sumter. He reflected on his choice saying
“After my public compelling to achieve it … I had pledged myself to meet all the consequences of secession. I am bound, therefore, in honor, and still more strongly by duty, to be among the foremost in accepting the bloody consequences which seem to threaten us.”
Thus, he would join the CSA army in the war for Southern Independence. It really is inspiring and might come as a shock to modern people that we used to actually have responsible honorable men as politicians. In modern times this would be like having your local senator volunteering to fight in the Middle East and give up his comfy and usually profitable desk job. This blows the scalawag narrative that the war was “the poor man’s fight” when you have wealthy statesmen like Bartow joining the war. He by no means had to considering he was exempt from service but as he explained, he was honor bound to fight. And fight he would.
His military career would start him off in his local area in Coastal Georgia. Under Orders from Governor Joe Brown Bartow and his men, Oglethorpe Light Infantry, he would take Fort Pulaski from federal troopers. However, Brown and Bartow’s professional relationship would soon sour after the Governor shutdown a parade planned by Bartow. Brown was strictly a states righter and was in fierce opposition to having Georgia troopers used for anything other than Georgia state defense. Bartow called on President Davis and his men were soon accepted into the CSA army and were scheduled to be sent to Virginia. The two men had a bitter controversy where Governor Brown accused Bartow as a glory seeker and egotistical and thus sacrificing Georgia’s safety. Quite frankly I think Joe Brown was being dogmatic and juvenile with his claims against Bartow. Bartow took these outrageous claims seriously and before leaving on May the 21st he told a crowd of supporters that “I go to illustrate Georgia”. Once in Virginia Bartow would publish a letter stating that in his current mission, he was under direction of President Jeff Davis and not Governor Brown. Whatever the case Governor Brown was not done causing friction and trouble between Georgia and the Confederate Government and Richmond.
Bartow would arrive in the new Confederate capitol with his Infantrymen. On the June 1st Bartow would be promoted to Colonel and given the command of the 8th Georgia. Georgia recruits were soon being sent to his camp and Colonel Bartow would be tasked with drilling his men for the defense of the Confederate capitol. He was now part of the Army of the Shenandoah and would be commanding the Second Brigade though still as a Colonel. News was sent that Bartow and his men were to be sent to Manassas to reinforce General Beauregard and his Army of the Potomac.
Bartow and his men would soon arrive to Manassas, to which Bartow gave a ominous warning to his spirited green troops saying, “but remember, boys, that battle and fighting mean death, and probably before sunrise some of us will be dead.” Bartow wasn’t going to sugar coat it to his men, he knew they were facing death in the eyes. The next day he would lead the 7th and 8th Georgia on the field of battle making they way towards Henry House Hill alongside Barnard Bee’s men. General Bee would move his own brigade with Bartow’s Georgians defending his right flank. At this point it was reported that the Georgians began taking immense casualties under fire as they fought for over an hour long. Despite the bravery shown by Bartow’s men they would be force on the back foot. Colonel Bartow would find his commander General Beauregard and would ask the Cajun General “”What shall now be done? Tell me, and if human efforts can avail, I will do it.” After getting a response from the General to put down the enemy’s cannons, he would rush into battle with the 7th Georgia to do just that. He would even do so when losing a horse and being hit. He would ready his men to battle with the roar of “Boys, follow me!” to which the Georgia patriot would soon be hit through his mighty Southern heart. Bartow would not be able to keep on but he would give his faithful men their last orders saying “Boys, they have killed me, but never give up the field.” Those would be his last words; thus, the Southern Nationalist Francis S Bartow would pass on to the next world. His gallant boys made sure to make their slain commander proud and would push on until they accomplished triumph that day promoting Beauregard to say, “You Georgians saved me”.
After the bloody battle of Manassas Bartow would be hailed as the hero he was, with fellow friend Thomas Cobb giving a speech on Bartow’s death in the newly formed Confederate Congress. The death of Bartow would be one of the playing factors in Cobb himself joining the army. His death would heavily be felt throughout Georgia, he was the first Commander killed during the Civil War in fact, the first of many Southern leaders to die fighting the Northern invaders. Bartow’s body itself was transported back to his home in Savanah. He still lays there today with a beautiful dedication and bust in his honor. We should follow Bartow in his ways and his mission, we do indeed share the same mission of seeing a Free Dixie. That’s what he died for. His legacy should be a reminder that bravery and dedication are amongst the upmost values. That we too should strive to be great. He should be lifted up as a patriot for all the Southern youth to see and admire. Bartow is the hero our children should be reading and watching movies on not some sleezy barbaric rappers. Furthermore, his words should ring to us, Never give up the Field.