Reading Matters

‘Fighting for General Lee’ wins award from N.C. Society of Historians

Last May, a gentleman from Newport News, Va., called to ask if I’d take a look at a biography he’d written of his cousin five times removed -- the late Rufus Barringer.

The name rang a bell, of course. The old Barringer Hotel here in Charlotte, for one. And I had a faint recollection that I’d read that Osmond Barringer owned the first car in Charlotte.

That was enough to ask Sheridan R. Barringer (“Butch”) to send the book along.

“Fighting for General Lee: Confederate General Rufus Barringer and the North Carolina Calvary Brigade” (Savas Beatie), I discovered, was a rare hybrid: a scholarly book that read like a novel.

Now I have word that that book has won the North Carolina Society of Historians 2016 Historical Book Award. Last spring, the book won the Douglas Southall Freeman Award from the Military Order of the Stars and Bars.

Rufus Barringer was born near Concord, in 1821, and studied law at UNC, where he joined The Temperance Society.

Before his marriage to Rev. Robert Hall Morrison’s daughter Eugenia (she would die of typhoid after two children and four years of marriage), Barringer reflected in his journal: “I set out upon my new career with the fixed & firm resolution to make a fortune. I now deeply regret that I had no higher motive ...I came to reflect every day that wealth did not & never could give the bliss, for which we seek.”

An early anti-secessionist, Barringer led the North Carolina Cavalry Brigade in some of the war’s most difficult combats. After the war, he became a champion of the poor, the black and the masses – “a southern gentleman ...decades ahead of his time.”