by Clara Firpo-Cappiello —
Christopher Barry, a Westchester resident and history teacher of 21 years at Irvington High School, recently published his first book, No Flinching From Fire: The 65th New York Volunteers in the Civil War.
The 65th New York Volunteer Infantry, sometimes referred to as the 1st United States Chasseurs, served with the Army of the Potomac and the Army of the Shenandoah up until the end of the war. Not necessarily taught to us, as we learn about this dark part of our country’s history, are the stories of the lives of the soldiers who fought in this violent struggle.
The Civil War is often viewed through a “big picture” lens, but Barry’s work highlights the importance of the lives of these soldiers, proving that every man does, indeed, count. The words, memoirs and letters of soldiers in the 65th New York Volunteer Infantry shine light on the hopes, dreams, fears and desires of the men who fought for the abolishment of slaves and keeping our country whole.
Trying to gain more understanding of not only No Flinching From Fire, but the writing process, too, I asked Barry questions about the inspiration for, and the importance of his book.
Q: What inspired you to write this book?
A: “I was inspired by the commission paper from my great-great grandfather, Lieutenant Timothy Carroll, which hung on the wall of my parents’ house, and which I was always curious about. When I went to the National Archives and found out how many battles he had been in, and how he was wounded three times, it got me hooked on learning more about them [The 65th New York Volunteers].”
Q: What resources did you use to research the 65th New York Volunteers?
A: “The resources include a couple of memoirs written by soldiers of the regiment, many letters published in newspapers from 65th soldiers, a couple of diaries held at Syracuse University and the New York Historical Society, and also many trips to battlefield sites, accompanying secondary and primary reading about these battles and the role of the 65th New York Volunteers there.”
Q: Has teaching helped you with your writing?
A: “Teaching has helped my writing, as has being a student and writing many papers over the years.”
Q: What motivated you to keep writing?
A: “I kept writing because I enjoyed it, and because I decided it was important to tell the story of this regiment, which had no history written about it.”
Q: What about the 65th New York Volunteers is important to you? Why do these stories need to be shared?
A: “I believe the Civil War was certainly one of the seminal moments in U.S. History. Many regiments have had their stories told. The 65th New York hadn’t. My great-great grandfather was a part of it; I wanted to tell their story.”