Wednesday, July 3, 2013

His Body Was Never Found

Confederate General Richard Brooke Garnett was killed while taking part in Pickett’s Charge on July 3rd 1863.

Richard Brooke Garnett was born at Rose Hill the family’s estate in Essex County, Virginia November 21st 1817, the son of William Henry and Anna Maria (Brooke) Garnett.  He attended the United State Military Academy at West Point with his cousin Robert Selden Garnett.  They graduated in 1841 ranking 29th and 27th out of 52 in the class.  Garnett received a commission to Second Lieutenant and served with the 6th United State Infantry, seeing action in Florida, Fort Laramie, and with the Utah Expedition.  During the Mexican American war Garnett served as a staff officer in New Orleans.  He was serving in California with the rank of Captain when the Civil War began.  He resigned his commission May 17th 1861.

Returning to Virginia Garnett offered his service to the Confederacy, first as a Major in the Artillery, and then as a Lieutenant Colonel in Cobb’s Legion.  On November 14th 1861 he was promoted to Brigadier General and placed in command of the First Brigade of the Army of the Valley District.   It was in this position that Garnett ran afoul of Confederate General Thomas J "Stonewall" Jackson.  During the Battle of Kernstown finding his men outnumbered and running low on ammunition Garnett ordered a retreat.  Jackson accused him of disobeying orders and had him arrested for “neglect of duty” and removed from command.  Garnett’s court martial trail started in August 1862, but was suspended when the campaign including the Second Battle of Manassas started.  General Robert E Lee ordered that Garnett be released from arrest and he assigned Garnett a command in Lieutenant General James Longstreet’s Corps. He showed his abilities at the Battles of Antietam and Fredericksburg.

During the Gettysburg Campaign Garnett’s brigade was assigned to Confederate General George Pickett’s division and so did not get to the battlefield until late afternoon on July 2nd 1863.  Garnett arrived on the battlefield with a fever and an injury from where his horse had kicked him in the leg.  When the form of what we now know as Pickett’s charge began to take place Garnett and his Brigade were to be in the front center, just to the left of Brigadier General James L Kemper men.  As Garnett was unable to walk he led his men on horseback.  He got to about 20 yard of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge before he was killed on July 3rd 1863.  Garnett’s courier Private Robert H Irvine of the 19th Virginia saw him fall.  Garnett’s body was never found and was most likely buried with his men in a mass grave in front of Cemetery Ridge.  His body is thought to have been removed to Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia after the war with the other Confederate dead.

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