Over the last eight years, Irvington High School history teacher Chris Barry – whose great-great-grandfather fought with the 65th New York Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War – spent most of his summers and school breaks retracing the steps of the regiment, visiting the battlefields where the men fought, doing extensive research and writing the chapters to his new book.
“No Flinching From Fire: The 65th New York Volunteer Infantry in the American Civil War,” which was released in August, is a comprehensive historical account that uses numerous soldier letters, memoirs and official records as sources. According to Barry, it is the first history of the regiment.
“I wrote the book after spending years reading about Civil War campaigns, visiting battlefields and reading general Civil War literature, which was in some way connected to where the 65th New York Volunteers fought,” Barry said. “I find that walking the places I am writing about helps me to better understand them. The Civil War was certainly one of the most important events in United States history, and its end resulted in a ‘more perfect Union,’ to quote Abraham Lincoln, and it went a long way to helping to make our country what it is today.”
Throughout the journey, Barry, who teaches Advanced Placement United States History, America’s Civil War, Russian Studies, and Sports History and Marketing at the high school, has been able to share his passion for history with his students. Over the years, he gave students in his Civil War class an optional extra credit assignment of reading drafts of chapters of the book, as long as they would write a brief review of the chapter and give their sense of the draft’s strengths and weaknesses. In addition, students in his AP U.S. History classes visit the 65th New York Volunteer Infantry monument on the Gettysburg battlefield each year.
“I hope our students learn that American history can be seen as a story of people who lived their lives and helped move us forward as a people and helped determine how we got to where we are now,” Barry said.
The 65th New York Volunteer Infantry, trained in New York during the summer of 1861 and arriving in Washington, D.C., in September of that year, saw action in most of the key battles in significant places fought by the Army of the Potomac in the Civil War. They lost hundreds of men and many more were wounded, including Barry’s great-great-grandfather Lt. Timothy Carroll, wounded three times. Barry’s book – which is supplemented and enriched by numerous images, photographs, maps, soldier letters, memoirs and official records – reveals the struggles, hardships, sacrifices and bloodshed suffered by the men fighting to restore their country.
“What interests me [about history] is not only how people like us lived and strived and sought to improve their lives, but also how an understanding of our history helps us to figure out how we got to where we are today, and how we became who we are,” he said.
For more information, visit www.amazon.com/No-Flinching-Fire-Volunteer-Infantry/dp/1794636617.