Brigadier General John Whitney Barlow is remembered not for a battle but for a park. In 1871, General Philip Sheridan sent Barlow, his chief engineer, to map the Yellowstone Basin. Barlow’s report helped to promote Yellowstone. Congress soon passed legislation, which President Grant signed in 1872, making Yellowstone America’s first national park. John Barlow was a graduate of West Point, Class of 1861. On the day after Christmas of that same year, Barlow married Hessie McNaughten Birnie at the Church of the Epiphany. Fellow West Point classmate Henry Kingsbury had been married at Epiphany three weeks earlier. Kingsbury would be killed in the war the following September.
Barlow fought with the regular Army at Bull Run through the Peninsula Campaign before transferring to the Corps of Engineers. He served as the chief engineer of Sherman’s Army Corps in Georgia. After the war, Barlow stayed in the engineers and supervised construction of forts in Florida, New York, and Connecticut. He worked on harbors in the Great Lakes and along the Hudson River. He commanded a joint commission of engineers that surveyed and marked the U.S.-Mexican border from El Paso to the Pacific Ocean. Barlow’s West Point classmates remembered him “as a devout Christian and loyal Churchman. Modesty, courtesy, bravery, and wisdom were his attributes.”