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The lost sword of Gen. Richard B. Garnett, who fell at Gettysburg, (from the Baltimore sun, of November 4, and December 3, 1905.)

Returned to his niece, Mrs. John B. Purcell, Richmond, Va.,

By Col. Winfield Peters, Quarter Master General, U. C. V., with account of how General Garnett met his death.
A valuable relic of the war between the States, which had been in the possession of Mr. James E. Steuart, was yesterday forwarded to the rightful owner. It is the sword of Gen. Richard B. Garnett, who commanded a brigade in the famous charge of Pickett's division at Gettysburg, in which General Garnett was killed. The sword is after the pattern for artillery officers in the United States Army, and is inscribed ‘R. B. Garnett, U. S. A.,’ with the name of the maker. The blade is of fine metal, elaborately embellished, and is in perfect order. The scabbard is of fine steel, but somewhat rusty.

General Garnett resigned from the United States Army in 1861, at the outbreak of the war for Southern Independence, and was promptly commissioned in the Confederate Army. Prior to serving under General Pickett he served under General T. J. (Stonewall) Jackson, and was rated among the bravest and ablest of the Westpointers who served the Confederacy. General Garnett was last seen leading his brigade in Pickett's charge. He was mounted and his horse was bleeding from a wound. His body was not identified and will always lie among the unknown Confederate dead.

The recovery of General Garnett's sword is due to the late Gen. George H. Steuart, of Baltimore, likewise a West Point graduate, who also led his brigade in a desperate charge at Gettysburg a few hours before Pickett's charge. Had both charges (Johnson's and Pickett's divisions) been entirely successful, the two Confederate lines, moving toward each other, from opposite directions, would have overlapped.

Years ago General Steuart found, in a second-hand shop in Baltimore, [27] this sword of General Garnett and purchased it. General Steuart died November 22, 1903. Mr. James E. Steuart, his nephew is now enabled to forward the sword to its rightful possessor by descent, who is the wife of Col. John B. Purcell, Richmond, Va. General Garnett was the only remaining brother of Mrs. Purcell's mother, who was deeply attached to him, and, through Col. Purcell, has assured Mr. Steuart, that the sword will be treasured by her, a niece of General Garnett, as a precious heirloon.

The restoration of the sword has been accomplished through Col. Winfield Peters, in connection with his recent duties with the United Confederate Veterans in Richmond and Petersburg during the late convention of the Grand Camp of Virginia.

Colonel Peters relates that the Confederate dead in the battle of Gettysburg, having been interred on the field; following the retreat of General Lee's army, two physicians named Weaver—father and son—residents of Gettysburg, gave diligent personal attention and saw that the graves were marked, or otherwise indicated, looking to the ultimate removal of the remains. After the war many of the dead were taken away by relatives.

In 1872 and 1873 the younger Dr. Weaver (the father having died) began sending the remains to points in the South, such as Richmond, Va., Raleigh, N. C., Charleston, S. C., and Savannah, Ga., under agreements with Confederate memorial associations in those cities, and the work was completed during the years stated. Dr. Weaver having met Col. Peters in Baltimore and disclosed his operations, the bodies of Marylanders were sent here and reinterred in Loudon Park Cemetery. Col. Peters says Dr. Weaver's efforts were a labor of love, for which he was never fully reimbursed or compensated. About 3,000 was the number of Confederate dead cared for by the two doctors, chiefly by the son, who stated that all the Confederate dead were removed except about 40 buried in Sherfey's peach orchard.

How Garnett died.

The story of the return by Mr. James E. Steuart of the sword of Brig.-Gen. Richard B. Garnett, of the Confederate Army, to his niece, told in The Sun of November 4, has aroused interest in the death of General Garnett, who was killed in Pickett's charge at Gettysburg. General Garnett's body was never identified and rests with the unknown Confederate dead.

Col. Winfield Peters, Q. M. Gen. Army of Northern Virginia [28] Department U. C. V., who was instrumental in having General Garnett's sword returned to the General's nearest kin, sends the following article to The Sun:

Pickett's division at Gettysburg consisted of the brigades of Armistead, Garnett and Kemper, numbering fewer than 5,000 rifles. The brigades of Corse and Jenkins were detached to protect exposed points in Virginia. Garnett's brigade consisted of five skeleton regiments, viz: from right to left, the Eighth, Eighteenth, Nineteenth, Twenty-eighth and Fifty-sixth Virginia Regiments. In Pickett's charge Garnett's and Kemper's brigades were aligned, with Armistead's brigade in the rear of Garnett's—enchelon—until nearing the enemy's line, when Armistead obliqued to the left and aligned on Garnett, so that the division was aligned when they carried the enemy's line and were repulsed, frightfully decimated, because not supported, and reinforcements having also reached the enemy.

The following correct story is told by Mr. James W. Clay, private in Company G, Capt. Archer Campbell, Eighteenth Virginia Infantry, of how Brig. General, Richard B. Garnett met his death at Gettysburg, on the afternoon of July 3, 1863.

General Garnett was killed while leading his brigade in Pickett's charge across the field and up the slope between the two contending battle lines. Immediately after the great artilery duel, during which many of the enemy's guns were silenced, orders came for the general advance of Pickett's division, but it was not until we had covered nearly the entire distance between the two lines that the General received his death wound.

I was struck down (hit in the forehead by a fragment of shell) about 100 yards from the clump of trees near the farthest point reached by our brigade (reduced to a mere handful), now indicated by a bronze tablet; also the place is marked where General Garnett was killed. Semi-conscious, my blood almost blinding me, I stumbled and fell among some rocks, severely injuring my knee and preventing further locomotion. The last I saw of General Garnett he was astride his big black charger in the forefront of the charge and near the stone wall, just beyond which is marked the farthest point reached by the Southern troops. The few that were left of our brigade advanced to this point.

Killed by a grape shot.

General Garnett was gallantly waving his hat and cheering the [29] men on to renewed efforts against the enemy. I remember that he wore a black felt hat with a silver cord. His sword hung at his side. After falling among the rocks I lost sight of him. Captain Campbell, retiring from the front with a broken arm, came to me. During the next 15 minutes the contending forces were engaged in a life and death struggle, our men desperately using the butts of their rifles, during all of which I could detect our regimental colors to the farthest point reached.

At this time a number of the Federals threw down their arms and started across the field to our rear. Two of these deserters came to the clump of rocks where the Captain and I were and asked to be allowed to assist us to our rear, obviously for mutual safety, and the kind proffer was accepted. These men told us that our brigade general had been killed, having been shot through the body at the waist by a grape shot. Just before these men reached us General Garnett's black war horse came galloping toward us with a huge gash in his right shoulder, evidently struck by a piece of shell. The horse in its mad flight jumped over Captain Campbell and me.

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.

Was soldier and gentleman.

I knew General Garnett well and personally and served as his orderly for ten days a month or more before he was killed. He was a perfect type of the gentleman and soldier, with lovable characteristics. His manner was charming, with almost the gentleness of a woman. As a soldier he was able, skillful and exacting; in battle a warrior and among the bravest and most daring, his dark eyes flashing and as black as coals. He wore a black beard and hair rather long.

To recur to the battlefield: Having, in the charge, crossed the Emmitsburg road and being in the line of skirmishers, the index finger of my right hand was shot off near the hand by a bullet, yet it hung from the stump. I tied it up and marched on, firing 20 or more rounds, pulling the trigger with my second finger.

As Captain Campbell, myself and the two Yankee soldiers moved to the rear, a heavy fire was kept up from the Federal lines. Near [30] Willoughby's run we were accosted by a wounded Confederate lieutenant, also going to the rear. In an instant a cannon shot passed through his head, leaving only the lower part of his face, with mustache and goatee.

We soon found a field hospital, where I noticed some Sisters of Charity, but my wounds receiving no attention except from these good Sisters, became very painful. Next day we had to stand in line and wait our turn to be treated. After four hours waiting—watching men drop from exhaustion, and some died—my turn came. The front (outer bone) of my forehead was found to be fractured and was set and dressed and my finger was amputated, all of which was done without an anaesthetic. The place was like a slaughter pen—legs, arms, hands, etc., all piled up. I saw pits dug to bury the dead, the Federals and Confederates being first separated. One deep trench was about 20 feet long, 12 feet wide and 20 feet deep, and it was filled. I was enabled to keep up with our army, retreating to Virginia, and finally reached my home in Nottoway county, Va., about August 15th, which occasioned some surprise and rejoicing, as I had been reported dead.

Marylanders with Garnett.

At Gettysburg our company was just 100 strong—a fine body of men and officers. We had a number of recruits from Maryland who, though untrained, were as brave and excellent soldiers as the veterans. We volunteered as skirmishers to our regiment in Pickett's charge. This was done in the presence of General Robert E. Lee, who seemed to personally look after this hazardous duty in our three brigades. Of our 100 men on the skirmish line but 8 went through the charge unscathed; more than 90 were killed or wounded. Our good and brave Capt. Camphell was killed at Five Forks, Va., April 1st, 1865. The adjutant of our regiment, Hugh McCullough, of Maryland, was always conspicuously brave and capable.

My company “G” of the 18th Virginia Infantry, was raised in Nottoway county, Va., and started out 100 strong, but only 28 surrendered at Appomattox, and of these only 3 men among the original 100. During the four years war 473 names appeared on the company roll, and these are inscribed on the Confederate monument erected at Nottoway Court-house. Of all these, beside [31] myself, I believe that only two survive: Junius Hardaway, of Crewe, Va., and James Farley, of Blackstone, Va. Having been asked the question as to myself, will say: I enlisted in my company in March, 1862, at the age of 17, was in 26 battles and surrendered at Appomattox April 9th, 1865.

Mr. Clay, who by occupation is a collector and clerk, has resided in Baltimore since 1868 and lives with his family at 666 West Fayette street. Mr.Clay and Mrs. Clay were married in Petersburg, Va., in 1866. Of their 11 children 6 survive.

Virginians should proudly erect statues to the three fearless and gallant generals who led their brigades—less than 5,000 strong—in the world-famous charge of Pickett's Division at Gettysburg: Garnett, killed on the enemy's line; Armistead, mortally wounded, with his hand on a captured cannon; and Kemper, left for dead, but rescued from the grave by a Sister of Charity, to become Governor of Virginia, and spread on enduring canvas, the battle scene, as a true and marvelous example of Southern valor.

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