Thirty-seven-year-old Ernest A. Garlington was the First Lieutenant of Captain Moylan’s A Troop and was commanding a detachment of that troop posted as sentinels just south of the dry ravine on the morning of 29 December 1890. Lieutenant Nicholson, the acting adjutant for 1st Battalion, mentioned speaking with Garlington just prior to the first shots fired that morning.
Garlington promptly took his place among the fighting men and kneeling in plain view of Indians who, not 30 yards away, were pouring a galling fire into his little party, he continued the fight against overwhelming odds and held the ravine.
–Col. James W. Forsyth
Just before the firing took place, I was in rear of the center of the line of tepees on the edge of the ravine with Lieut. Garlington, who was one of the officers on guard, when he remarked to me that the squaws were saddling up and packing and that he was satisfied that they would make a break. He advised me to report the fact to Major Whitside, and I was on my way to him and had reached the opening between B and K Troops when the first shot was fired by the Indians.
Garlington’s actions at the ravine that morning were highlighted in greater detail in an article in the New York Times some years later.
In the battle Garlington had drawn his revolver, rallied his men and was directing a return fire, steadying his force by his example of cool commands. A rifle ball tore through his right arm, smashing forearm and elbow and the lower part of the upper arm. He fell, bleeding badly, but remained conscious. From the ground he continued to direct his men.
One of the soldiers in Garlington’s troop, Private Andrew Flynn, was serving as a medic during the campaign. In later years he reminisced on treating his lieutenant’s wounds that fateful day.
As I had charge of a squad of first aid men, I handled the bandages and other medical supplies and was quite busy. I may say here that the first man we picked up was our first lieutenant, Ernest A. Garlington, of Troop A. He had a compound fracture of the right elbow. I first stopped the flow of blood, although he had lost quite a lot of it. I took my lance and ripped the sleeve from his blouse. But before I had it all done, he said, “Hell! That’s my new blouse!” I cut not only the sleeve of his blouse, but his shirt sleeve, too, and stopped the flow of blood, and then took him to his tent and laid him on his bed.
Then he fainted and I had quite a time with him, but had a little medicine on my hip and found a silver teaspoon and put some of the “medicine” in it and worked till I got some of it into his mouth and he opened his eyes and said, “The red devils got me!” He wanted to get his pistol, but I told him he did not need it and if he did have it he could not use it.
Just four days after the battle, Colonel Forsyth recommended Garlington for a brevet promotion. He was the first soldier recommended for any form of official commendation from the campaign.
I have the honor to recommend First Lieut. E. A. Garlington, Seventh Cavalry, for the brevet of captain for the admirable manner in which he managed the portion of his troop under his charge and the fighting qualities displayed by him in the performance of his duties during the battle with Big Foot’s band of hostile Indians at the crossing of Wounded Knee Creek, S. Dak., December 29, 1890.
Unfortunately Lieutenant Garlington’s wounds necessitated his being evacuated to Fort Riley in early January and he was not available to testify at Major General Miles’ inquiry into the Wounded Knee affair.
A little over a year after the battle Captain Ewing addressed the Association of Military Surgeons of the National Guard at St. Louis, Missouri, on April 19, 1892, wherein he provided a detailed description of wounds he treated both on the field of battle and subsequently in the field hospital at Pine Ridge. Following is his medical description of Garlington’s wounds.
Lieutenant G… received a shot which entered olecranon process of right ulna, comminuting that part, passing forwards through shaft, and gained exit at the posterior surface of arm, at junction of inferior with middle third. Treatment consisted of removing portions of bone; applying antiseptic dressings, and supporting arm. This case was turned over to another surgeon the day following his arrival at the field hospital. I have since learned that this officer has rejoined his regiment.
In the fall of 1891, Lieutenant Garlington was interviewed by Colonel E. M. Heyl, who at Major General N. A. Miles’s behest was investigating acts of gallantry, heroism, and fortitude on the part of the soldiers at Wounded Knee. Garlington provided the following testimony.
I left camp at Wounded Knee December 27th, 1890, with a detachment of 20 men and one Indian, and made a scout down Porcupine Creek about 26 miles, to Old Batt’s Place. The Indian with me learned that two of Big Foot’s band had been there that day; that the band was to camp that night on the first creek east of Porcupine Creek on their way to the agency. I returned with my command to Major Whitside’s camp [having ridden 52 miles that day], and reported what I had learned about Big Foot’s band. The next morning Major Whitside sent Little Batt [U.S. Scout Baptiste Garnier] on the hill with a pair of field glasses to look for Big Foot. He returned shortly and reported that he saw them going (as he supposed) into camp on Porcupine Creek. Major Whitside moved out with the command, and met Big Foot with his band coming in, on their way to the agency, displaying a white flag. Major Whitside had a short talk with Big Foot, who was sick in a wagon, after which the Indians were surrounded by the troops and marched back to the 7th Cavalry camp, they had just left.
I was on guard the night before the fight at Wounded Knee and that morning. I occupied the ravine when the firing began and was shortly afterwards wounded in the arm, the shot cutting off the elbow joint. I did not notice any of the officers. I left the field shortly after being wounded. Sergeant Neder, “A” Troop, 7th Cavalry, was in the ravine and exposed himself conspicuously. He has since received a medal.
Private Schutt, Troop “A”, 7th Cavalry, was very conspicuous for his coolness and bravery under a very hot fire. This man has not received a medal or been mentioned.
Sergeant Howard, Troop “I”, (since dead), was very gallant and conspicuous, and did most excellent work as a sharpshooter. It would probably be a source of gratification to his family to have his name mentioned honorably in orders.
The War Department recognized Garlington’s gallantry with honorable mention in General Order 100, but did not act on the brevet recommendation. Two years later Forsyth wrote a letter reiterating his original recommendation and provided additional detail regarding Garlington’s actions at Wounded Knee. Four days later on 11 March 1893, Major General Nelson A. Miles, Commanding the Department of Missouri, endorsed Forsyth’s recommendation, and Lieutenant Garlington was awarded the Medal of Honor on September 26, 1893, for his actions at the dry ravine near the Wounded Knee Creek. Following is Forsyth’s second letter of recommendation.
A line of sentinels were thrown around the Indian village, behind which ran a deep ravine. Capt. Garlington was in command of a small portion of this line, and in order to prevent escape into the high grass up this ravine leading into the foothills he ordered his party, in case the Indians made a break, to immediately gather ‘behind the cut banks of a road crossing the ravine and to hold it at all hazards. As was anticipated, the Indians, upon the opening of the fight, rushed for the ravine, but Capt. Garlington with his party, having seized the road crossing, held it so well that not an Indian escaped in that direction without having to leave the ravine and thereby expose himself to a galling fire from other troops. As a consequence only a very few did escape. There was gathered with him there one officer, four noncommissioned officers, and five privates, but the shelter behind the banks of the road was of such a character that only about four men at a time could avail themselves of it and fire, whilst every time they fired they were partially exposed. However, Capt. Garlington promptly took his place among the fighting men and kneeling in plain view of Indians who, not 30 yards away, were pouring a galling fire into his little party, he continued the fight against overwhelming odds and held the ravine. Of the 11 men composing his party, 3 were killed and 3 wounded, but he held his position, emptied a Winchester rifle (private property with which he had armed himself before the fight) and then, taking the carbine of a private, he continued shooting (while the private supplied him with cartridges from behind) until he himself was knocked over by a bullet. He was finally led away, very weak from loss of blood. Sergt. Adam Neder, Troop A, Seventh Cavalry, who, in this same list with Lieut. Hawthorne, is granted a medal of honor, was a member of this party and was kneeling shoulder to shoulder with Capt. Garlington at the time he (Neder) was wounded.”
Born February20, 1853, at Newberry, South Carolina, Ernest Albert Garlington was the second of five children of Albert Creswell and Sarah (Moon) Garlington. A. C. Garlington was a wealthy lawyer and graduate of the University of Georgia who owned over fifty slaves by 1860, twenty-two of adult age. He served as a South Carolina state senator, and during the war was a brigadier general of state troops. The Garlingtons’ five children were Mrs. Octavia Fair born 1849 and died 1928, Earnest Albert, the subject of this posting, Meredith William, born 1855 and died 1896, Harry, born 1865 and died 1936, and Albert Creswell, born 1869 and died 1882. A. C. Garlington died in 1885 and his wife, Sarah, in 1910.
In 1867, the Garlington’s moved to Atlanta, Georgia, and at the age of seventeen Ernest Garlington attended the University of Georgia for three years. Garlington gained an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, and matriculated in 1872.
Garlington graduated number thirty of forty-eight cadets in the class of 1876 and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the 7th Cavalry. His low standing prevented him from selecting the branch and regiment of his choice, but within days he would be thankful that fate had drawn him to the Seventh regiment of cavalry. While just beginning his post-graduation leave, Garlington’s new regiment rode into battle at the Little Big Horn. Due to the large number of losses across the regiment, Garlington was immediately promoted and reported to his regiment in early August a new First Lieutenant. Years later he wrote that had he not been assigned to the 7th Cavalry he, “would not have received my promotion as First Lieutenant within ten days after graduation; would not have had the fortunate opportunity for service with that gallant regiment and make the record I did make.”
Garlington served as the adjutant of the regiment for over four years, and it was in that capacity that he rode with Colonel Samuel D. Sturgis into the battle of Cañon Creek against the Nez Percé Indians in September 1877. In that battle, the young lieutenant was able to make an impression on his regimental commander, for Colonel Sturgis mentioned him by name in one of his official reports:
In the accompanying reports will be found the names of several officers and enlisted men whose good conduct has been deemed worthy of special mention, and I take pleasure in commending them to favorable consideration. To Lieutenants Garlington and Hare of my staff, and Mr. S. Slocum (a young gentleman who accompanied the exhibition as an amateur and who volunteered his services) I am under obligations for the gallant and indefatigable manner in which my orders were conveyed—often under a galling fire—to all parts of the field.
In June 1883, Garlington volunteered to lead a relief mission to Lady Franklin Bay to provide relief supplies to the Greely Arctic expedition. Ultimately Garlington’s steamship was crushed in the ice. Writing in a log from Littleton Island, in 1883 Garlington described the harsh conditions his crew faced:
This party was in the steamer “Proteus,” of Saint John’s, Newfoundland, chartered by the United States Government, going to the relief of Lieut. A. W. Greely, U. S. Army, at Lady Franklin bay, Grinnell Land. The steamer was crushed in the ice between Cape Sabine and Cape Albert, Bache island, on the afternoon of the 23d instant. All saved. Much provisions gotten over side of ship, but a great quantity went under before it could be removed a sufficient distance from the ship for safety.
Initially Garlington was brought up on charges for the failed mission and faced a court of inquiry. The court settled with a mild chastisement of Garlington’s judgment while at the same time commending his energy, and zeal. The court placed most of the blame on Garlington’s superior, Major General William B. Hazen, but stopped short of pursing charges against either officer.
Lieut. Garlington’s error in this respect is regarded as one of judgment, committed in the exercise of a difficult and unusual discretion, for which, in the opinion of the court, he should not be held to further accountability. It is also due to him to say that, in the general conduct of the expedition prior to the loss of the ship, he displayed zeal, energy, and efficiency, as well as afterward successfully conducting his command through a long, perilous, and laborious retreat in boats to a place of safety.
In 1886, Garlington married Miss Anna Bowers Buford, daughter of Thomas Jefferson and Grace (Bowers) Buford. Two years earlier Miss Buford’s sister, Sarah, married another 7th Cavalry lieutenant, James Franklin Bell, West Point class of 1878 and a future Chief of Staff of the Army. The Garlington and Buford marriage produced three children: Creswell born in 1887, Buford born in 1889 and died the same year, and Mrs. Sally Chamberlin born in 1890.
After more than fifteen years as a First Lieutenant, promotion to Captain came to Garlington little more than a year after Wounded Knee. In the Army’s efforts at enhancing professional development, it created the Cavalry and Light Artillery School at Fort Riley with Colonel James Forsyth, commander of the 7th Cavalry, serving as the first commandant. Naturally the other officers of the regiment served in various capacities within the new school. Captain Garlington served as an instructor of hippology from 1891 to 1895.
Seeing little chance for advancement to Major under the painfully slow pace of the seniority based promotion system of the 1890s, Garlington sought a transfer to the Staff Army as an Inspector General. His request was approved, and in January 1895 he was promoted to Major, little more than three years after his promotion to Captain. In his capacity as an Inspector General, Garlington served under General Joseph Wheeler in Cuba during the battles surrounding Santiago in the summer of 1898, and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel that June. Two years later Garlington served as the Inspector General of the Division of the Philippines in Manila and was promoted to Colonel in March 1901.Finally in October 1906, Garlington rose to the pinnacle of his profession when he was promoted to Brigadier General and appointed as the Inspector General of the Army. His promotion and appointment came just six months after his brother-in-law, Major General J. Franklin Bell, became the third Chief of Staff of the Army.
Garlington’s promotion to the flag rank came at the height of a third controversy in his career known as the Affray at Brownsville, Texas. Racial tensions between Texas townspeople of Brownsville and the Buffalo Soldiers of the Twenty-fifth Infantry Regiment at Fort Brown sparked into a night of retribution on the part of a few African American soldiers on August 13 and 14, 1906, at the end of which a sheriff was wounded and a barkeeper murdered. Garlington was assigned as one of the inspectors, and spending little more than a few days with the regiment was unable to get any of the soldiers to admit to guilt or provide statements against the perpetrators. He concluded his investigation by recommending:
…that orders be issued as soon as practicable discharging, without honor, every man in Companies B, C and D of the Twenty-fifth Infantry, serving at Fort Brown, Tex., on the night of August 13, 1906, and forever debarring them from reenlisting in the Army or Navy of the United States, as well as from employment in any civil capacity under the Government. In making this recommendation I recognize the fact that a number of men who have no direct knowledge as to the identity of the men of the Twenty-fifth Infantry who actually fired the shots on the night of the 13th of August, 1906, will incur this extreme penalty.
Being a southerner from South Carolina and the son of a former slave owner, Garlington came under scrutiny for his harsh recommendation and was widely criticized for prejudice. The Constitution League of the United States filed a motion in which Garlington was named.
The investigation by Inspector-General Garlington, in which he examined only a small number of men out of the entire battalion shows that evidently he, too, had already made up his mind that the soldiers were guilty. He restricted them entirely to answering questions relative to what soldiers, if any, were engaged in shooting in the riot, and to matters bearing on the identity of those persons; and he refused to listen to any answers explaining where the soldiers were and the conditions which made it impossible for them to have knowledge of the identity of the rioters or any details or incidents of the alleged riot.
Even soldiers in those three companies who were sick in the post hospital, under watch in the guard house, or in the company of some of the officers, were not immune from the blanket discharge without honor. President Theodore Roosevelt came to the backing of the newly promoted Inspector General when he wrote to the Senate.
An effort has been made to discredit the fairness of the investigation into the conduct of these colored troops by pointing out that General Garlington is a Southerner. Precisely the same action would have been taken had the troops been white–indeed, the discharge would probably have been made in summary fashion…. The standard of professional honor and of loyalty to the flag and the service is the same for all officers and all enlisted men of the United States Army, and I resent with the keenest indignation any effort to draw any line among them based upon birthplace, creed, or any other consideration of the kind.
President Roosevelt followed through with General Garlington’s recommendation and discharged 167 colored soldiers without honor and without a single trial. Just as with the earlier controversies of the failed relief of the Greely expedition and the battle of Wounded Knee, Garlington emerged from the Affray at Brownsville with his career and his name intact. The disgraced soldiers were not so fortunate, as their honor was not restored until 1972 when all were granted honorable discharges, all but one being posthumous.
General Garlington continued to serve for another eleven years as the Inspector General of the Army retiring in February 1917 at the age of sixty-four. He died Tuesday, October 16, 1934, at San Diego, and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery one week later on the 23rd. His wife joined him in death in 1954.
On 19 May 2004, almost seventy years after his death and one hundred and fifty after his birth, the South Carolina General Assembly adopted a concurrent resolution commending Ernest A. Garlington’s extraordinary heroism at Wounded Knee. Following is that resolution.
TO COMMEND THE EXTRAORDINARY HEROISM OF FIRST LIEUTENANT ERNEST A. GARLINGTON WHO WAS AWARDED THE MEDAL OF HONOR FOR HIS VALOR, WHICH IS THE HIGHEST AWARD THAT CAN BE BESTOWED UPON A MEMBER OF THE ARMED FORCES OF THE UNITED STATES.
Whereas, throughout our nation’s history, men and women in all eras from Concord and Lexington to Falleujah have gone in harm’s way to protect and secure our country’s freedom and way of life; and
Whereas, to recognize extraordinary heroism the Congress of the United States established the Medal of Honor which represents the highest award for valor in combat that can be bestowed upon a member of the armed forces of the United States; and
Whereas, there have been more than three thousand four hundred recipients but fewer than one hundred forty remain with us today; and
Whereas, most recipients of the medal are ordinary Americans from ordinary backgrounds who, under extraordinary circumstances and at great risk to their own lives, performed an incredible act or a series of acts of conspicuous valor that clearly sets them apart from their comrades; and
Whereas, thirty-seven citizens of South Carolina have received the Medal of Honor since its inception; and
Whereas, First Lieutenant Ernest A. Garlington, a native of Newberry, is one of these South Carolinians; and
Whereas, First Lieutenant Ernest A. Garlington, serving in the 7th United States Cavalry, displayed conspicuous courage and distinguished gallantry in action at Wounded Knee Creek, South Dakota, on 29 December, 1890; and
Whereas, the members of the General Assembly, by this resolution, would like to publicly recognize and honor this brave and courageous son of South Carolina for his extraordinary heroism in the defense of our country and her ideals which epitomizes the very best of what America stands for. Now, therefore,
Be it resolved by the House of Representatives, the Senate concurring:
That the members of the General Assembly commend the extraordinary heroism of First Lieutenant Ernest A. Garlington who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his valor, which is the highest award that can be bestowed upon a member of the armed forces of the United States.
 Wisconsin Historical Images, “Ernest Albert Garlington,” (http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/whi/fullRecord.asp?id=41231&qstring=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wisconsinhistory.org%2Fwhi%2Fresults.asp%3Fpageno%3D14%26keyword1%3DDie%26search_type%3Dbasic%26sort_by%3D), accessed 15 Oct 2013.
 National Archives, “Sioux Campaign, 1890-91,” 669 – 671 (Nicholson’s testimony dated 7 Jan 1891).
 Associated Press, “Gen. Garlington, 81, Dies,” The New York Times, 18 Oct 1934.
 Andrew M. Flynn, “An Army Medic at Wounded Knee,” in Indian War Veterans: Memories of Army Life and Campaigns in the West, 1864-1898, comp. Jerome A. Greene (New York: Savas Beatie, 2007), 186-192.
 United States Congress, 66th Congress, 1st Session, May 19 – November 19, 1919, Senate Documents, Volume 14, (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1919), 455.
 George B. Shattuck, ed., “The Wounded of The Wounded Knee Battlefield, with Remarks on Wounds Produced by Large and Small Calibre Bullets by Charles B. Ewing,” The Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, Volume CXXVI, January – June 1892, (Boston: Damrell and Upham, 1892), 466.
 Adjutant General’s Office, Medal of Honor, Principal Record Division, file 3466, Record Group: 94, Stack area: 8W3, Row: 7, Compartment 30, Shelf: 2. I am greatly appreciative of the research conducted by Vonnie S. Zullo of The Horse Soldier Research Service.
 Harris & Ewing, photo., “Garlington, E. A. General,” Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington DC, LC-DIG-hec-16305.
 Secretary of War, “General Staff Corps and Medals of Honor,” United States Congress, 66th Congress, 1st Session, May 19 – November 19, 1919, Senate Documents, Volume 14, (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1919), 455-456.
 Ancestry.com, 1850 United States Federal Census [database on-line], Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009, Year: 1850, Census Place: Newberry, Newberry, South Carolina, Roll: M432_856; Page: 187A, Image: 381; Year: 1860; Census Place: Newberry, Newberry, South Carolina; Roll: M653_1224; Page: 301; Image: 184; Family History Library Film: 805224; Ancestry.com, 1860 U.S. Federal Census – Slave Schedules [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2010, Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Eighth Census of the United States, 1860, Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1860. M653, 1,438 rolls; Year: 1870; Census Place: Atlanta Ward 1, Fulton, Georgia, Roll: M593_151; Page: 103B, Image: 10, Family History Library Film: 545650; Year: 1880, Census Place: Greenville, Greenville, South Carolina; Roll: 1230, Family History Film: 1255230, Page: 82C, Enumeration District: 082.
 University of Georgia, “Garlington, Ernest Albert — Page 1,” Centennial Alumni Catalog from the Hargrett Rare Book & Manuscript Library, (http://dlg.galileo.usg.edu/centennialcatalog/html/GARLINGTON_Ernest_Albert_page1.html) accessed 24 Oct 2013; James S. Robbins, Last in Their Class: Custer, Picket and the Goats of West Point, (New York: Encounter Books, 2006), 326.
 Robbins, Last in Their Class, 326.
 United States Congress, Index to the Executive Documents of the House of Representatives for the Second Session of the Forty-fifth Congress, 1877-’78, (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1878), 512.
 George W. Cullum, “Ernest A. Garlington,” Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, Vols. 3 -6.
 Public Broadcasting Service, “The Greely Expedition,” American Experience, (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/timeline/greely/) accessed 24 Oct 2013. The photograph has the caption,”The Proteus in ice.”
 Ernest A. Garlington, Report on Lady of Franklin Bay Expedition of 1883, (Washington City: Signal Office, 1883), 36.
 Associated Press, “Gen. Hazen’s Mistake, Findings of the Proteus Court of Inquiry,” The New York Times, 14 Feb 1884, (http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=F50D12FC395C15738DDDAD0994DA405B8484F0D3) accessed 24 Oct 2013.
 Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line], Year: 1910, Census Place: Precinct 3, Washington, District of Columbia, Roll: T624_150, Page: 5A, Enumeration District: 0052, FHL microfilm: 1374163; National Archives and Records Administration, Burial Registers of Military Posts and National Cemeteries, compiled ca. 1862-ca. 1960, Archive Number: 44778151, Series: A1 627, Record Group Title: Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, 1774-1985, Record Group Number: 92.
 Cullum, Biographical Register, Vol. IV, 269.
 Cullum, Biographical Register, Vol. V, 245-246.
 Harris & Ewing, photo., “Garlington, E. A. General,” Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington DC, LC-DIG-hec-16305.
 United States Congress, Affray at Brownsville, Tex., Vol. 1, (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1908), 531.
 Ibid., 220.
 Ibid., 2.
 John D. Weaver, The Brownsville Raid, (College Station: Texas A & M Press, 1992), 9.
 Cullum, Biographical Register, Vol. VI, 245; Ancestry.com, U.S. National Cemetery Interment Control Forms, 1928-1962[database on-line], Interment Control Forms, 1928–1962, Interment Control Forms, A1 2110-B, Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, 1774–1985, Record Group 92, The National Archives at College Park, College Park, Maryland.
 John Evans, photo., “Gen Ernest Albert Garlington,” FindAGrave, (http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=6157320) accessed 16 Oct 2013.
 South Carolina General Assembly, 115th Session 2003-2004, “Ernest A. Garlington,’ H. 5298, (http://www.scstatehouse.gov/sess115_2003-2004/bills/5298.htm) accessed 24 Oct 2013.
Citation for this article: Samuel L. Russell, “First Lieutenant Ernest Albert Garlington, A Troop, 7th Cavalry – Distinguished Gallantry,” Army at Wounded Knee, last updated 8 Jan 2017, accessed date ____________, http://wp.me/p3NoJy-aY.