Well, it seems we have a bit of a mystery on our hands. Those of us who are captivated by the Battle of Gettysburg story know that Confederate general Richard B. Garnett was killed in the battle.
Garnett, as you probably know, was a brigade commander in George Pickett’s division…and led his troops in the ill-fated Pickett-Pettigrew Assault on July 3rd, 1863. There are a couple of eye-witness accounts of how he was killed.
Apparently, Garnett got within about twenty feet of the famous “angle” on Cemetery Ridge where he was shot in the head while waving his men forward with his hat. Soon after, his courier’s horse was also hit and fell on the dead general’s body. The courier in question, one Robert Irvine, pulled Garnett’s body from under the horse, and managed to retrieve his watch before moving on. This wasn’t shady or anything, later Irvine gave the watch to the brigade adjutant – or that’s at least how the story goes…
Now this is where things get sort of cloudy. First, there are conflicting reports as to whether or not the general’s horse made it back to the Rebel lines. Second, and more important, Garnett’s body was never recovered. More than likely, he was buried in a mass grave along with his men.
Which means we have a very probable resting place for Richard Garnett. In the early 1870s, Ladies’ Memorial Assocaitions were instrumental in reinterring the Confederate dead of Gettysburg in Richmond’s Hollywood Cemetery. Bodies were removed from mass graves and brought south (for a fee) where they would have a proper – Confederate – burial.
So many, including military historian Robert Krick, believe that Garnett is there. Probably, but we cannot be certain. In 1991, the Hollywood Memorial Association just flat out assumed he was there and erected a cenotaph in his honor. Nothing else has ever surfaced concerning Garnett, with one notable exception. Soon after the war, his sword turned up in a Baltimore pawn shop…where it was purchased by former Confederate general George H. Steuart.
So there you have it – mystery not (entirely) solved.