Remembering Dick Garnett
I suspect I’m not the only kid during the Centennial who pored through Ezra J. Warner’s Generals in Gray (1959). My copy of this fine old standard had fallen into such bad shape through constant use that fully thirty years ago I had to have it rebound.
One of the stories I carried from it was how Confederate Brig. Gen. Richard B. Garnett, brigade leader in Pickett’s division, was killed in the famous charge at Gettysburg. Afterward Federals buried the general in a mass grave. Some Yankee must have stolen his effects so that, without an officer’s emblems, he would have been laid in a mass grave with other soldiers. His engraved sword showed up years later in a Baltimore pawnshop.
Warner speculates that General Garnett returned to his native state in the early 1870s. Richmond’s Hollywood Cemetery Association found money then for the ossiferous remains of Confederate soldiers buried at Gettysburg to be returned to Virginia. “It is entirely possible,” Warner writes, “that the General’s remains now rest in ‘Gettysburg Hill,’ Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond.”
Well, years later that got me thinking. In 1990 I was writing a newsletter, Grave Matters, focused on Civil War soldiers’ graves. I had several hundred subscribers, so in one issue I sent out a call for donations to raise money for a cenotaphic stone to General Garnett’s memory, to be set at Gettysburg Hill.
Word spread, thanks to such friends as Dave Roth of Blue & Gray, Bob Younger of the Morningside Bookshop, Peter Jorgenson of Civil War News, plus the newsletters of many Civil War Round Tables and camps of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
By early ’91 I had received more than $4,000 from over 150 individuals. CWRTs from as far away as Los Angeles sent in checks. I remember when my astonished wife called me at the office when she had opened an envelope with a $1,000 check inside.
We set July 3, 1991 as date for our memorial dedication. In the meantime I composed an inscription, arranged for the stone to be manufactured in north Georgia and transported to Richmond by rail. I even visited Hollywood that spring to fix an appropriate site where the cemetery staff would place our monument.
I organized a program of ceremonies, including invocation (I chose “Let us now praise famous men” from Ecclesiasticus). We would have a presentation of colors and rifle salute by reenactors, laying of wreaths by SCV and UDC chapters, and acceptance by a member of the Garnett family. I sent the program with invitation to everyone who had sent in money.
I was astonished that on the appointed day—like July 3, 1863, it was hot enough to scorch a feather—we had a huge crowd around the draped stone. (Yes, the gentleman from Los Angeles who had sent in that big check was there, too.) During the ceremonies that afternoon I was honored to give the address, “Why We Honor General Garnett.”
Local TV cameras were on hand to film us, especially the unveiling of the stone. We were on the radio, evening news, and in the Richmond News Leader. (I wonder if we’d get that kind of coverage now, 25 years later.)
So go to Hollywood Cemetery when you’re next in Richmond and you’ll see our stone. It’s in the northmost grounds, near the Confederate Soldiers’ Section.
AMONG THE CONFEDERATE SOLDIERS’ GRAVES IN
THIS AREA IS THE PROBABLE RESTING PLACE OF
BRIGADIER GENERAL RICHARD BROOKEGARNETT,
C.S.A. WHO WAS KILLED IN ACTION JULY 3, 1863, AS
HE LED HIS BRIGADE IN THE CHARGE OF PICKETT’S
DIVISION ON THE FINAL DAY OF THE BATTLE OF
GETTYSBURG. FIRST BURIED ON THE BATTLEFIELD,
GENERAL GARNETT’S REMAINS WERE LIKELY
REMOVED TO THIS AREA IN 1872 ALONG WITH OTHER
CONFEDERATE DEAD BROUGHT FROM GETTYSBURG
BY THE HOLLYWOOD MEMORIAL ASSOCIATION.
REQUIESCAT IN PACE RICHARD BROOKE GARNETT
So ends our story. I can proudly say that at least figuratively, I helped bury a Confederate general killed in Pickett’s Charge.
5 Responses to Remembering Dick Garnett
Yankee that I am, I still love General Garnett, for some reason. As a student of battlefield medicine, and all that entails, I have often wondered just why some claim that artillery did little damage, as few examples of artillery damage can be found. Yet soldier letters have many examples of soldiers being harmed or killed by artillery. I guess I like Garnett in part because he is one example I can point to as a possible victim of artillery. I suspect there wasn’t much body to be found, if he was hit directly by any sort of airborne missile. That is truly giving one’s “last full measure.” He was ill, he couldn’t walk very well, so he rode his horse in that ill-fated charge, because–to the last–he knew his duty as a soldier and an officer. Much-maligned by Jackson, he fought to clear his name, and, of all the Confederates available, he is certainly one of my favorites. I am so glad you took action to honor his memory. Thank you!
May I interest you in helping me do something about getting the simple U.S. Army headstone that marks McDowell’s grave in California to at least get the man’s name right? Currently it says “Irwin” McDowell . . . Argh!
Meg: thanks for this. You can see that our dedication of General Garnett’s stone touched a lot of people. I’m sorry about General McDowell’s stone. I wonder if the VA would commit to a do-over?
One of the few things on my bucket list is that stone! Harry Smeltzer has warned me, however–there may be reasons and obstacles. I believe the VA has changed their rules about incorrect stones, so it is doable. Is it right to do it? We shall see–I have to finish sourcing the Ellsworth book–then on to McDowell. Want to help?
McDowell’s grave isn’t going anywhere. VA regulations: “Please note that historic headstones (those greater than 50 years of age) will not be replaced to correct inscription inaccuracies based on modern research;”
The only way stones are replaced are if: “for replacement of historic headstones will only be honored when inscriptions are worn to the point that they can no longer be read or if the headstone is otherwise damaged beyond repair.”
I am not arguing at all–here is my dilemma: I spoke at Sons of Confederate Veterans meeting a couple of months ago (on the Hunley, one of my few Southern topics!) and, since it was a regular meeting, they conducted regular business.mSince we are in CA, one of their pieces of business is to locate graves here of Confederate soldiers and have them properly identified. I mentioned McDowell. One of the men said that regulations had recently been changed and that it was now permissible to change something on a grave if that grave was issued by the VA. He even googled up the “new” regulation for me, but I did not really read it very well. I know they will change “new” headstones–I think, however, than McDowell is sufficiently well-known to deserve at least some modicum of respect.
But I agree–McDowell isn’t going anywhere! LOL!