Richard Brooke Garnett

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#1
I have never been concerned about what happened to Garnett's remains after he was killed at Gettysburg...until now.
It has been assumed he was buried in a mass grave at the battlefield, then reburied in Virginia later, but unidentified.. The reason usually cited is he was unidentifiable due to battle action.
His sword was discovered by George H. Steurt ("Maryland Steurt") in a Baltimore pawn shop (or second hand store) 3 decades later. That suggests that at least some of Garnett's personal items changed hands after the battle.
This: http://www.gdg.org/research/SHSP/shgarnet.html got me thinking about what really happened on 3 July with Garnett.
A witness in Garnett's command during the fight said this:
"General Garnett wore a uniform coat, almost new, with a general's star and wreath on the collar, and top boots, with trousers inside, and spurs. It is, therefore, inexplicable that his remains were not identified."
What got my attention was "a general's star". The soldier might have been referring to a large star between two smaller ones, or, literally a single star.
The fact the rank insignia was described might have meant it was, like the coat, rather new and possibly attractive to someone looking for souvenirs.
The fact is, the coat itself might have "disappeared". There was no mention of lower sleeve "knots" on the coat that would also have given away that the coat was on a general. One would think those "knots" were there. In addition the coat's button arrangement should have indicated a general.
It would seem unlikely that action would have caused Garnett's coat to become fully unidentifiable as a general's. That is, if his coat was more or less regulation.
Did Garnett's coat have only one star on the collar? If so, that might explain Federals reckoning him as a major (ignoring the wreath) and maybe not worth extra trouble.
Or, did Garnett's coat and other personal items "disappear", making identification unlikely?
I'm sure others know more than I about such things, how much more is there?
 

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Ole Miss

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#2
After 3 hard days of fighting, high temperatures, little or just bad water and at the end of a truly horrific day, I can only imagine how indifferent the Union soldiers would have been of the bodies in front of their lines. Just throwing the dead into piles to be buried would have provided opportunities for enlisted men to pilfer what they encountered and destroy any evidence of an general to prevent their treasurers being taken away. Of course this is just my opinion and may be I am whistling in the wind.
Regards
David
 
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#4
According to Henry Hunt, a pre-war friend, Garnett's body was recovered so he was identified immediately following the attack. I agree with @Ole Miss that at some point between when the bodies were gathered and buried, his identifying accoutrements were pilfered.

Ryan
I think the point is that it was usual for general officers to be recognized if fallen, and notification sent to the other army.
 
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#6
After 3 hard days of fighting, high temperatures, little or just bad water and at the end of a truly horrific day, I can only imagine how indifferent the Union soldiers would have been of the bodies in front of their lines. Just throwing the dead into piles to be buried would have provided opportunities for enlisted men to pilfer what they encountered and destroy any evidence of an general to prevent their treasurers being taken away. Of course this is just my opinion and may be I am whistling in the wind.
Regards
David
I think it would be rather hard to hide a sword from officers.... that sets off a lot of bells in my head.
 
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#9
I have looked again, and now as before,I can find no reference to finding Garnett's body. Only that Henry Hunt looked for it without result.
Is there a cite for this?
I misspoke. Hunt spoke about looking for Garnett's body; Colonel Norman Hall wrote that Garnett was recovered. From his report:

The line remained in this way for about ten minutes, rather giving way than advancing, when, by a simultaneous effort upon the part of all the officers I could instruct, aided by the general advance of many of the colors, the line closed with the enemy, and, after a few minutes of desperate, often hand-to-hand fighting, the crowd--for such had become that part of the enemy's column that had passed the fence--threw down their arms and were taken prisoners of war, while the remainder broke and fled in great disorder. The Second Brigade had again joined the right of my line, which now occupied the position originally held by that command.

Generals Garnett and Armistead were picked up near this point, together with many colonels and officers of other grades.
Ryan
 
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#10
Plus, we don't know what was done with Garnett's body after it was "picked up", as Colonel Hall stated. And we know that men were walking among the bodies since the skirmish line was pushed out beyond the Emmitsburg Road. An example of what may have happened is the story of Colonel Joseph Wasden of the 22nd Georgia. He was killed along the road on July 2 and some men from the 2nd Rhode Island came across him and found a masonic medal on his body. This was brought to Colonel Rogers, also a Mason, who had some of his Masons give Colonel Wasden an individual burial. IIRC, the location of Wasden's grave is even depicted on the Elliott map. I could easily see that Garnett's effects could have been taken with all of the men walking about, especially as night fell.

Ryan
 
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#11
I misspoke. Hunt spoke about looking for Garnett's body; Colonel Norman Hall wrote that Garnett was recovered. From his report:


Ryan
Thanks for the citation. My take on Hall's words is that Armistead and Garnett were captured. What Col Hall wrote next was very interesting:
" Generals Garnett and Armistead were picked up near this point, together with many colonels and officers of other grades.
Twenty battle-flags were captured in a space of 100 yards square. Several colors were stolen or taken with violence by officers of high rank from brave soldiers who had rushed forward and honestly captured them from the enemy, and were probably turned in as taken by commands which were not within 100 yards of the point of attack. Death is too light a punishment for such a dastardly offense. "

Hall seemed to believe some officers were in the appropriation business that day.
 
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#12
Men were taking souvenirs all over battlefields. Many officers would simply look the other way so long as discipline wasn't affected.

Ryan
I do not doubt that. The thing is, a sword cannot be stuffed into a pocket or knapsack. My first thought was that the sword found its way to a senior artillery non-com, who might have worn it in the open, or it found its way into an officer's baggage.....or.........
 
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#13
I have heard several descriptions of what happened to Garnett at Gettysburg. The majority indicate that he was killed by a rifle shot to the head, while some say he was killed by a blast of canister as shown in the movie Gettysburg. I understand the chaos and confusion of combat would account for the conflicting reports, but could it be possible that Colonel Hall was mistaken in his identification and that Garnett's body was damaged beyond reasonable recognition?
 
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#14
I have heard several descriptions of what happened to Garnett at Gettysburg. The majority indicate that he was killed by a rifle shot to the head, while some say he was killed by a blast of canister as shown in the movie Gettysburg. I understand the chaos and confusion of combat would account for the conflicting reports, but could it be possible that Colonel Hall was mistaken in his identification and that Garnett's body was damaged beyond reasonable recognition?
That would have meant his coat, and/or sword was not with him. We know his sword went astray.
Possibly Garnett was not immediately killed when he was de-horsed. Among a thousand possibilities was he was carried a ways to the rear by Federal soldiers, they maybe looking for a reason to get to the rear. Then his coat and sword got "lost". Without his coat, he might not have later been recognized as Confederate. He might have been buried as a Union soldier.
Hall did not identify Garnett except to say he had been "taken". Possibly Reb prisoners said they saw Garnett go down and be carried off.
 
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#15
However Dick Garnett was treated in death, the treatment was in sharp contrast to earlier in the war when his cousin Bob became the first general to be killed in the war. Robert Garnett's body was taken to Confederate lines by a Union honor guard.
 

E_just_E

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#16
Plus, we don't know what was done with Garnett's body after it was "picked up", as Colonel Hall stated. And we know that men were walking among the bodies since the skirmish line was pushed out beyond the Emmitsburg Road. An example of what may have happened is the story of Colonel Joseph Wasden of the 22nd Georgia. He was killed along the road on July 2 and some men from the 2nd Rhode Island came across him and found a masonic medal on his body. This was brought to Colonel Rogers, also a Mason, who had some of his Masons give Colonel Wasden an individual burial. IIRC, the location of Wasden's grave is even depicted on the Elliott map. I could easily see that Garnett's effects could have been taken with all of the men walking about, especially as night fell.

Ryan
Hall is not talking about Garnett's body, is he? He is talking about Garnett being picked up :smile:
 
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#18
I have heard several descriptions of what happened to Garnett at Gettysburg. The majority indicate that he was killed by a rifle shot to the head, while some say he was killed by a blast of canister as shown in the movie Gettysburg. I understand the chaos and confusion of combat would account for the conflicting reports, but could it be possible that Colonel Hall was mistaken in his identification and that Garnett's body was damaged beyond reasonable recognition?
There are two Confederate accounts from eyewitnesses that state he was shot in the head and killed about 30 yards from the stone wall. His aide, whose horse had been killed just before, saw Garnett be shot and fall from his horse. Lt. Farley of the 18th Virginia, who had taken cover with his men at the wall, looked back after a volley from the Union lines (probably from the 72nd Pennsylvania on the ridge top) and saw Garnett fall from his horse. The only account of Garnett being killed by canister is from someone who didn't see Garnett but saw Red Eye (Garnett's horse) running to the rear with a canister wound which gouged a chunk of flesh from the back of his neck. I personally think that the two witnesses, who describe the event very similarly, are the more accurate.

Ryan
 

E_just_E

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#19
My thoughts about what happened to Garnett, based on contemporary accounts and reports are here.

About that sword that surfaced in Baltimore: The story was written in the 20th century and it described the sword as an artillery sword that was rusted and needed restoration. Pictures of the restored sword show clearly the engraving restored as R.B.Garnett. There is a slight issue though: Dick Garnett was never issued an artillery sword. Unfortunately we do not have a picture of the rusted sword to look at the name. His cousin, Robert Shelden Garnett, however, was an artillery officer who was issued an artillery sword after graduating USMA, engraved R.S.Garnett. Depending on the condition of the engraving it is fairly easy to mistake the S for a B... My running hypothesis is that it was Robert's and not Dick's sword.
 

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