Sheridan “Butch” Barringer won the 2016 Douglas Southall Freeman History Award for his first book, “Fighting for General Lee.” Staff writer Alexandra Blazevich spoke with him about his journey as an author writing this story.
Daily Tar Heel: What inspired you to write this book? Do you have any personal ties to the Civil War?
Sheridan “Butch” Barringer: Actually, many years ago, I was doing (genealogical) research, looking for my great-grandfather — who was Rufus Barringer — and I kept coming across a lot of information about this General Rufus Barringer, who turns out to be a first cousin of my ancestor. So that’s how I got started. I said, "Well, I’m just going to start collecting all this information on him." I started getting interested in Civil War battlefields and touring them, and I ran into the generals’ grandsons and we toured together some battlefields. Then I met his great-grandsons, two of them. They wanted a book about their ancestor and I said, "I want to do it!" So that’s how that started many years ago.
DTH: Can you tell me more about Rufus Barringer?
SB: I will say he was a progressive man both before and after the war, and that’s one of the things I loved about him. He helped expand the North Carolina railroad. This book delves into all of his relationships with, it turns out, Abraham Lincoln, all the cavalry commanders and the state politicians. He was one of not too many Civil War commanders turned Republican after the war. He was almost murdered in 1848 by a political opponent there, on the streets of Charlotte, so he almost didn’t come back to fight the war. It was fascinating. And it’s amazing, the battlefields, I visited Brandy Station and I went down to the spot where he was shot off his horse and out of action for four months before he returned. He served in the House of Commons and Senate from 1848 to 1850. He stood up for the masses and supported black suffrage as early as 1866. He ran for lieutenant governor as a Progressive Republican and lost.