A brief biography of Major G. W. Garrett written for his children by his wife
George Washington (B.) Garrett was born in Union District SC March 5, 1840. He professed faith in Christ and joined the Missionary Baptist Church at the age of 16 years. In May or June 1861 he volunteered and entered the Confederate service as a private in Company C 3rd Mississippi Regiment and started from home as a drummer boy. The Regt. was sent to Iuka, MS to drill where he at once studied Hardee’s Military Tactics and learned it so well that he could drill others. He was elected 2nd Lt. Of Company C.
On the March to KY he took the flu, became very weak then took measles and was left on the ground beside the RR with other sick men and one of the Company to take care of them. Of course the army could not wait for a few sick men. I wish I could remember the name of the man left to take care of them. I am grateful to him. He hailed a passing train and asked the fireman to take the sick men aboard and he said he could not stop. Then the soldier raised his gun and said "I’ll shoot you if you do not stop," so the men were taken aboard and carried to Clarksville, TN and put in an old tobacco stemery which was used for a hospital where they had no comforts and not much care.
Company C was composed of friends from his home community and one of those men brought him some whiskey in his canteen, told him it was water and to drink it. Of course when he tasted it he knew it was not water but he drank some of it and that made the measles break out. In such and unsanitary and uncomfortable hospital and before he was able to sit up he took typhoid pneumonia and rapidly grew worse and some of his company wrote home about his condition. He was so low the Dr. gave orders for him to be sent to the dead house saying "He will not live till morning."
Through the blessings of God some ladies visited the hospital that day and Lt. Garrett asked them to take him to their house. The ladies asked the men who nursed the soldiers to carry him to their carriage and they refused because the doctor had ordered him sent to the dead house so the ladies said "If you will not carry him we will." They took him to the home of a citizen, a Mr. Heinly and sent for their family physician. As soon as his father and mother heard of his condition they went after him taking pillows, sheets, etc. and when they arrived at the station he told some man to go to the station and the man went just to please him. When they came to the house he said "Tell them to come in. I know they are here." Now how did he know it?
Next morning while they were at the breakfast table he got up on his feet and fainted and fell. As soon as it was possible for him to travel his parents took him to their home at Jonesborough, MS. He improved rapidly and as soon as he was able he returned to his command. His men were very fond of him and while he was at home sick they elected him Captain of Company C. He held this position and with his regiment was engaged in battle of Ft. Donaldson. I think it was fought February 16, 1862 and there was snow on the ground and it was very cold.
The Confederate Infantry was surrendered and only General Forest’s Cavalry made their escape. Captain Garrett and the other officers were taken to the military prison on Johnson’s Island in Lake Erie and remained there five months. They were then taken to Vicksburg and exchanged. The 3rd Miss. Regiment had lost so many men, killed in battle, wounded, or from sickness or death in military prison, that after the exchange the Regiment was consolidated with the 23rd Miss. Regiment. At this time Col. Joe Wells was elected Colonel of the 23rd and Captain Garrett was elected Major of the 23rd Miss. Regiment.
The command camped a while near Canton, Miss and later at Holly Springs, Miss. While there Major Garrett got a leave of absence and came to my father’s house to see me. He rode through the long ride on horseback, and he with Saul Street’s Company arrived about sundown and he only stayed a few hours and he and the men went to a thickly wooded place beyond Canaan and spent the remainder of the night. Then went back to his command the next day. That is the time he wore his fine uniform and his $700.00 coat, he was a fine looking young man and you can not imagine how glad I was to see him neither can you realize that he risked his life for that one short visit.
The Federals were not far away and he came alone till he met Saul Street’s Company. He only brought them with him to put out pickets and watch for the enemy the little while that he was in the house. Long years of anxiety, hardships and dangers elapsed ere we met again. We wrote to each other when there was a chance to send letters. There were no mail carriers and we received no papers and the letters were sent by soldiers who came home on furlough sick. Perhaps the soldier lived 15 0r 20 miles away and friends sent the letter from one neighbor to another till it reached me. Sometimes it had been opened, sometimes the envelope was worn out from carrying it so far. Then I wrote the answer and sent it to the soldier and if he lived and went back he took it. This is the way it was addressed: Major G.W. Garrett, 23rd Miss Regiment, Adams Brigade, Lorings Division, Army of the West Urbanity of M. or whoever carried it back. It was not addressed to any city or state.
The 23rd did not remain long in northern Mississippi but went to Alabama and were placed under the command of General Joseph E. Johnson, Commander in Chief of the Army of the West. Major Garrett rode at the head of Regiment and led them in battle for about 2 ˝ years before the war was closed. He was the only regimental officer on the field most of the time. His Lieutenant Colonel Mose McCarly was in prison and perhaps died there. Colonel Wells was an old man and though a brave man he was not able to endure the hardships of camp life and so he was oft times at home.
The following are the names of the battles in which Major Garrett was engaged: Ft. Donaldson, Coffeeville and Jackson, Miss., Bakers Creek, Crystal Springs, two battles near Lookout Mountain, Kennesaw Mountain, Altoony, Peachtree Creek, Atlanta, Jonesborough, Ga., Franklin and Nashville, Tenn. He was 109 days under fire during the continuous fighting in Ga. In recognition of his bravery and gallantry during the arduous campaign through Ga. President Davis appointed and commissioned him Colonel but owing to the fact that there was no mail and all letters were sent by hand, he did not receive his commission before he was captured in the battle of Nashville and he was not released for several months after the war closed.
He came near being killed in the battle of Ft. Donaldson. A ball cut across the top of his head and left a scar for life. During the Georgia campaign he was shot through his leg above the knee leaving a scar front and back of his leg, and shot in his foot and ankle. Once he received a partly spent ball in his breast which doubled him forward and the word went the line of soldiers "Our Major is shot, our Major is shot" and that would have caused a panic, as there was no regimental officer to take his place. As soon as possible he called to them "No, I’m not killed". His men were proud of him because he stood for what was right and honorable and they loved him because he led them instead of saying "Go on boys" and because he protected them and saw to it that they got rations whenever possible.
His brothers, Weir and Warren volunteered in Arkansas and went into an Ark. Regiment. The morning of the battle of Franklin, Warren had a presentiment that he would be killed and gave his watch to a friend to send home to his father. He went bravely forward into the battle and was shot down and Major Garrett detailed some of his men to go and bury him which they did and returned to the 23rd Miss.
From Franklin he soon passed on to Nashville, his last battle where he and his regiment were sacrificed to cover the retreat of the Confederate Army under General Hood. Because he was brave and reliable and could be depended on, his division commander chose him and commanded him to hold at all hazards a certain position until relieved. He and his brave regiment held back the enemy at that point until they were surrounded and when the Federal Officer came up he asked who was the commander and where were the men and when he found so few men he cursed and said he thought he was fighting the whole Southern army. When the Confederate General saw from a distance that Major Garrett was captured he wept like a child and said that Major Garrett was one of the finest young officers in the South.
Hard Garrett who was reared on the plantation of Major Garrett’s father and had been Major Garrett’s servant in the camps for several years, was with him in the beginning of the battle and asked to stay with him and fight. When Major Garrett was ordered to hold the position he was told to dismount, perhaps to prevent him from being conspicuous, he left his sword, sash, and horse with Hard and told him to go to the rear. After the battle Hard rode the horse home and returned it to Major Garrett’s father, for Hard had been emancipated before he ever went with him to the army. After the war Hard became a Baptist minister.
After the battle the Federals placed Major Garrett and other officers in dirty horse cars in which horses had been shipped and which had not been cleaned out and there was no place to sit down or lie down except in the filth. The officers were there for several days and then taken to Sandusky, Ohio and forced to walk across the frozen lake covered with deep snow three miles to Johnson’s Island, where they were stopped outside and searched and their money and other things taken from them while they shivered in the cold wind and snow. Major Garrett had left his overcoat and the wind blew off his hat and they would not let him pick it up. This was December 22, 1864.
In the prison they were given about enough fuel to make one good fire and that had to last twenty four hours and a small piece of bread and a piece of salty beef to each officer per day. They slept on bunks. Many stout healthy man starved to death on that allowance, others were wantonly shot down by the guards. Major Garrett was young and well and weighed 165 pounds when he entered the prison and when released he weighed a little more than 90 pounds and was not sick a day. The suffering from hunger was intense. They weighed each crumb of bread and divided it and they boiled the beef and drank the salt water to make them thirsty then filled up on water to try to satisfy their craving for food. They hunted for rats and ate them. Why did Major Garrett live and endure this suffering for months? In answer to prayer.
After Lee’s surrender many soldiers walked hundreds of miles from Virginia to Miss, Tenn, Ark, and Texas discouraged, dirty in their faded uniforms and ragged shoes, with blistered, bleeding feet, without money or food except as the people fed them along the way back to their plundered desolate homes. The officers on Johnson’s Island were all released after the surrender except 40 who were held as hostages. They were honorable men and had no idea what crime they were accused of or why they were held but to be hanged in retaliation if some Federal Officers should be hung by the Confederates. This was never done and they were finally released and given transportation home.
After a few days of rest after his long fast he came to see me and gave me the pretty ring which he had made for me in prison. It was made out of a button, the gold taken from the gold star in his coat, the silver from a dime, the pearl from Lake Erie, and all the delicate work and carving done with no implements except a pocket knife. I appreciated the gift more because he made it while he was starving.
His father gave him some land and he went there and under many difficulties rebuilt the dilapidated house, built fences, barn and stables, garden, etc. and we were married in the winter of 1866. If this were a novel it would close with the marriage. We began a life of hard work and strict economy in a country devastated by fire and sword and pillage, plundered and robbed of everything which the Federals would have, ground down under carpetbag dominion by our enemies. With a brave heart, with cheerfulness, with wonderful perseverance Major Garrett went forward to meet the many trials of life and by the grace of God to endure the losses of three tornadoes, by droughts, by overflows, by Yellow Fever, by five fires, by afflictions and last of all met death, trusting in Jesus Christ and saying in his last hours that God was with him.
My notes: The wife of G. W. Garrett and author of the above was Elizabeth J., daughter of Dr. Ralph L. and Anny J. Bouton of Ashland, Benton Co., Mississippi. Elizabeth and Maj. Garrett were married in Tippah County Jan. 9, 1866.