| || Notes for ROBERT SELDEN GARNETT, JR.:|
From Doug Garnett:
Robert Selden Garnett Jr. was born at "Champlain", in Essex County, Virginia. Robert attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and graduated 27th in his class in 1841, two places ahead of his cousin Richard Brooke Garnett. He was commissioned a Bvt. Second Lieutenant in the 4th Artillery, and served in Buffalo and Fort Ontario, New York. In 1842, he was promoted to Second Lieutenant and served at Fort Monroe, as a aide de camp in the military occupation of Texas, and as an instructor at West Point specializing in infantry tactics (1843-44).
Robert served in the Mexican War from 1846-48, fighting in the battles of Palo Alto, Resaca de la Palma, Monterey (1846), and Buena Vista (1847). He served as aide-de-camp to General Zachary Taylor from 1846 to 1849.
In 1848 he was transferred to the 7th Infantry and fought in the Seminole Uprisings, served on a national board of proper military dress in Washington D.C., and served on frontier duty at Corpus Christi. In 1851 he was promoted to Captain of the 7th Infantry and served in Ringold Barracks, Fort Monroe, and perhaps his most important position he held before the Civil War, serving as Commandant of Cadets at West Point, under General Robert E. Lee, from November 1852 to July 1854.
On March 27, 1855, he was promoted to Major of the 9th Infantry, and sent to the Northwest, where he commanded the Puget Sound and Yakima expeditions, and remained on there, mostly at Fort Simcoe,until 1858. He distinguished himself in operations against the Indians in the Washington Territory in this period.
He married Mary Neilson of New York City in 1857.
From 1858 to 1861, he requested and was granted a leave of absence to travel to Europe and study military tactics in the Crimea. He returned when the Civil War broke out. He was torn between his loyalty to the "old Army" and the rising support for independence in the South. On April 30, 1861, he resigned his commission in the U.S. Army, and offered his services to the Confederacy.
Robert was initially appointed adjutant general of the state troops of Virginia, a given the task of organizing the heterogeneous force into an army. In early June, he was commissioned Brigadier General and given command of the Confederate troops operating in the northwestern area of Virginia.
Circumstances were against him from the start of his campaign. Sentiment in that part of the state was against the Confederacy, he lacked cavalry and guns, and he had serious problems obtaining supplies. He saw that his little army could not hope to accomplish much against the overwhelming enemy forces, but undaunted he established headquarters at Laurel Hill, entrenching half his forces there and half at Rich Mountain under Pengram.
When the Federal troops dislodged the Confederates from Rich Mountain, General Garnett was compelled to abandon Laurel Hill. He saved his army, outnumbered more than six to one by McClellan's men, by a masterly retreat. In the heat of the retreat, Robert shouted, "They need a little lesson. They may get away if they like." These were said to be his last words. On July 13, 1861, General Robert Selden Garnett was killed instantly while directing the conduct of his rear guard after the sharp engagement at Carrick's Ford, on Cheat River.
Robert Garnett had the distinction of being the first General killed in the Civil War.