First Lieutenant Ernest Albert Garlington, A Troop, 7th Cavalry – Distinguished Gallantry

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

Lieutenant Ernest A. Garlington, 7th U.S. Cavalry, circa 1876.[1]

Lieutenant Ernest A. Garlington, 7th U.S. Cavalry, circa 1876.[1]

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 December 29, 1890. Lieutenant Nicholson, the acting adjutant for 1st Battalion, mentioned speaking with Garlington just prior to the first shots fired that morning.

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.[2]

Inset of Lieut. S. A. Cloman’s map of Wounded Knee depicting the scene of the fight with Big Foot’s Band, December 29, 1890.

Inset of Lieut. S. A. Cloman’s map of Wounded Knee depicting the scene of the fight with Big Foot’s Band, December 29, 1890.

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.[3]

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.[4]

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.[5]

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.[6]

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.[7]

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 March 11, 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.

Close up of Brig. Gen. E. A. Garlinton's Medal of Honor, and campaign medals from the Indian Wars, Spanish War and Philippine Insurrection.

Close up of Brig. Gen. E. A. Garlinton’s Medal of Honor, and campaign medals from the Indian Wars, Spanish-American War and Philippine Insurrection.[8]

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.”[9]

Born February 20, 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.[10]

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.[11]

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.”[12]

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.[13]

In June 1883, Garlington volunteered to lead a relief mission to Lady Franklin Bay to provide relief supplies to the Greely Arctic expedition.[14] 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:

The steamship Proteus was crushed by ice in an attempt to deliver supplies to Greely’s beleaguered expedition. Photograph from the National Archives.[15]

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.[16]

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.[17]

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.[18]

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.[19]

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.[20]

Major Garlington wrote a history of the Seventh Cavalry Regiment that was published in 1896 along with historical sketches of other regiments across the Army.  Following is an extract from Garlington’s regimental history describing the events surrounding the Battle of Wounded Knee.

E. A. Garlington’s personal copy of The Army of the United States: Historical Sketches of Staff and Line with Portraits of Generals-in-Chief, 1789-1896. Garlington wrote the chapter, “The Seventh Regiment of Cavalry.” According to the PBA Galleries, source of this photograph, Garlington’s copy of the book also contained a copy of a letter from the Adjutant General’s Office, dated May 16, 1932, awarding Garlington the Purple Heart “on account of wound received in action on December 29, 1890, while serving as a 1st Lt. 7th Cavalry.”[21]

The year 1890 is memorable for the Sioux outbreak after a peace of more than ten years. The history of this disturbance of the friendly relations which had existed for so long a period is full of interest, but only a passing reference can be made to it. Religious fervor, including the belief in the advent of a Messiah, the resurrection of the dead, the return of the buffalo and the departure of the white man from the Indian country, seized the savage mind; and its manifestations in the ghost dance and other ceremonies gave rise to the belief on the part of agents and others that the entire Indian nation meditated war.

Whether this belief was correct or not has never been definitely decided. In November the agent at Pine Ridge, South Dakota, not equal to the emergency which presented itself, deserted his post of duty, reported his Indians on the eve of war and called for military protection.

Immediately orders were issued for the concentration of a large force at Pine Ridge, under Brigadier General John R. Brooke. The headquarters and eight troops of the regiment formed a part of this force. At the same time troops were placed at strategical points north of this agency, in the Department of Dakota. One of these commands was located on the Cheyenne River in observation of Big Foot’s band, and of other Indians camped in that city.

Nothing of a hostile character occurred at Pine Ridge Agency for several weeks after the arrival of the troops. The time was spent in negotiating with a camp of Brulés and malcontents from Pine Ridge, which had been established upon the approach of troops in the Bad Lands north of White River. This was called the hostile camp. These negotiations, which looked to bringing these Indians into the agency, were progressing with a fair prospect of success until the news of the killing of Sitting Bull near Standing Rock was received, when they were to some extent interrupted. They were, however, resumed until broken off by an actual collision between the Indians and troops. Big Foot was a bad Indian, a disturbing element. In his camp the followers of Sitting Bull, who escaped when he was killed, found an asylum. There were also other renegades from the Missouri River agencies. On the night of the 22d December he escaped with his village from the troops that were supposed to hold him. The Major General commanding the Division, then at Rapid City, South Dakota, informed General Brooke of the escape, of the desperate character of the Indians, and impressed upon him the necessity of capturing, disarming and holding them under close guard.

On the 26th December, Forsyth, under orders from Brooke, sent Whitside‘s squadron, and two Hotchkiss guns under Lieutenant H. L. Hawthorne, 2d Artillery, to the Wounded Knee Post Office, the purpose being to capture Big Foot’s band if he should come that way. Brooke informed Whitside on the 27th that Big Foot must be in his front, and directed him to “find him, to move on him at once and with rapidity, to capture him, and if he fought to destroy him.”

Whitside did capture him on the 28th, without a fight, about six miles from Wounded Knee Post Office. The Indians were conducted to the camp which had been left standing on the Wounded Knee. They were assembled, counted, and rations issued to three hundred and fifty persons; one hundred and twenty bucks, the rest women and children.

Whitside reported his successful capture and requested reinforcements, that the disarmament, which was to be consummated on the morrow, be accomplished without bloodshed.

In response to his request Forsyth arrived during the night of the 28th with Regimental Headquarters and the second squadron; two Hotchkiss guns under Captain A. Capron, 1st Artillery; and Lieutenant Taylor, 9th Cavalry, with his troop of scouts, to which was attached Lieutenant Preston, 9th Cavalry. Forsyth’s instructions were to “disarm the Indians where they were camped, to, under no circumstances allow any of them to escape, and to destroy them if they resisted;” and as soon as the disarmament was completed to leave Whitside in charge and return at once to the agency.

Early the next morning Monday, the 29th of December, Forsyth made his dispositions to disarm the Indians, peaceably if possible, by force if necessary.

The bucks were invited into council between their own village and the camp; nearly all of them, one hundred and six, came wrapped in blankets. Big Foot remained in his tent.

General Forsyth, kindly and pleasantly, yet firmly, demanded the surrender of their arms. While the negotiations were progressing, a young buck fired into the soldiers. The others threw aside their blankets which concealed their weapons, and poured a murderous fire into the troops, which had been posted between them and their village, following it up as rapidly as their repeating rifles could belch forth the lead. The fight raged on the flat about one hour before it was cleared entirely of Indians. Here Captain George D. Wallace, commanding Troop K, and twenty-one enlisted men, including one hospital steward, were killed; Lieutenant Ernest A. Garlington was shot through the right elbow; Lieutenant John C. Gresham received an abrasion on the nose from a passing bullet; Captain Charles A. Varnum had his pipe knocked from his mouth by a bullet; Captain John Van R. Hoff, Assistant Surgeon, received several bullets through his clothing, and twenty-one enlisted men were wounded. Father Craft, Catholic priest, who was present using his good offices to persuade the Indians to submit to the demands made of them by General Forsyth, received a vicious stab in the back which penetrated his lung. Scout Wells had his nose nearly cut off. Lieutenant John Kinzie, 2d Infantry, who was present as a spectator, was shot through the foot.

Some of the Indians, many of them wounded, escaped to a ridge of hills lying just west of camp, and secreted themselves in stump holes and inaccessible ravines. It was while attempting to dislodge a party which was doing considerable execution that Lieutenant. H. L. Hawthorne, 2d Artillery, received a very severe wound. The fighting in the hills was done by Troops C, D, E and G, which were mounted at the beginning of the engagement. They lost four men killed and four wounded; Lieutenant Donaldson was struck by a bullet with sufficient force to penetrate his leather belt and his clothing. There were many acts of individual bravery and gallantry, but every man showed himself a soldier—with the nerve born of disciplined courage.

Although a very small percentage of the enlisted men had ever been under fire before—sixty recruits having joined at Pine Ridge—and the attack was sudden, there was no undue excitement. Each man obeyed orders, stood his ground, and shot to hit, and proved himself worthy of the number he wore upon his cap. One hundred and forty-six Indians were subsequently buried on the field; and there was undoubted evidence that many bodies had been removed; thirty-three Indians, nearly all wounded, were captured. The “hostiles” reported seven Indians as having escaped to their camp—all wounded except one.

The fight was over about three o’clock in the afternoon.

In view of the possible effect, of this fight upon the other Indians, and for the better care and protection of his wounded, Forsyth moved his command to the agency, arriving there about eleven o’clock at night.

At six o’clock on the morning of the 30th he was called to go to the assistance of Major Henry’s wagon train which had been attacked near the agency. One hour after his return to camp he was ordered to go the Drexel Mission, four miles from the agency which was reported attacked by the hostiles. It proved to be a false alarm.

When about to return, Little Bat, a scout, reported that he had heard the “firing of big guns” down the White Clay. Knowing that troops were located in that direction on the other side of the supposed position of the hostile camp, Forsyth determined to make a reconnaissance in force down the stream, to either confirm or demonstrate the error of the report. To guard against emergencies he sent couriers to General Brooke and Colonel Henry, asking that the latter join him at once.

The scouts, under Lieutenant Preston, 9th Cavalry, developed a small force which was pushed back by the advance guard. The number of Indians rapidly increased until the hills were full of them—at least three or four hundred opposed the advance of the troops. Forsyth’s instructions did not contemplate a general engagement which he knew would be precipitated if he pushed matters, and as soon as he became convinced that there was no heavy firing down the White Clay he decided to withdraw.

He was in the act of withdrawing his troops when Henry’s squadron of the 9th Cavalry arrived, having promptly responded to Forsyth’s request. These troops were placed in position, under Forsyth’s direction, and assisted in the completion of the movement.

The loss in this engagement was one enlisted man killed; Lieutenant James D. Mann, and six enlisted men wounded. Lieutenant Mann died of his wound, at Fort Riley, Kansas, on the 15th January, 1891. The loss among the Indians is unknown.

On the 30th December, 1890, the Major General commanding the army telegraphed to the Major General commanding the forces at Pine Ridge, asking him to thank the “Brave Seventh Cavalry for their splendid conduct.”

In the latter part of January the Indian problem at Pine Ridge was settled to the satisfaction of the Major General commanding. The prompt and drastic punishment awarded treachery at Wounded Knee contributed in no small measure towards bringing the hostile Indians to a realizing sense of their obligation to comply with the demands of the Government. The troops were relieved and sent to their stations.

The train carrying the second squadron of the Seventh Cavalry, and Capron’s battery of the 1st Artillery, collided with a passenger train, running at full speed, when within a short distance of Fort Riley. The wreck was complete; the escapes from death and injury miraculous. A sergeant of artillery and a private of cavalry were killed, and Captain E. S. Godfrey, 7th Cavalry, sustained a painful and permanent injury.[22]

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.[23]

Brigadier General Ernest Albert Garlington, Inspector General of the Army. Photograph by Harris & Ewing Photography.[25]

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.[24]

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.[26]

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.[27]

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.[28]

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.[29]

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.[30]

Brigadier General Ernest A. Garlington is buried with his wife, Anna Buford, and daughter, Sally Chamberlain, at Arlington National Cemetery.[31]

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.

Medal of Honor presented to Private George Hobday, A Troop, 7th Cavalry

This 1862 version of the Medal of Honor is the type originally presented to Lieut. Garlington. This particular medal was presented to Private George Hobday, in Garlington’s A Troop, 7th Cavalry.


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.[32]


[1] Wisconsin Historical Images, “Ernest Albert Garlington,” (, accessed 15 Oct 2013.
[2] National Archives, “Sioux Campaign, 1890-91,” 669 – 671 (Nicholson’s testimony dated 7 Jan 1891).
[3] Associated Press, “Gen. Garlington, 81, Dies,” The New York Times, 18 Oct 1934.
[4] 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.
[5] United States Congress, 66th Congress, 1st Session, May 19 – November 19, 1919, Senate Documents, Volume 14, (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1919), 455.
[6] 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.
[7] 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.
[8] Harris & Ewing, photo., “Garlington, E. A. General,” Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington DC, LC-DIG-hec-16305.
[9] 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.
[10], 1850 United States Federal Census [database on-line], Provo, UT, USA: 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;, 1860 U.S. Federal Census – Slave Schedules [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: 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.
[11] University of Georgia, “Garlington, Ernest Albert — Page 1,” Centennial Alumni Catalog from the Hargrett Rare Book & Manuscript Library, ( 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.
[12] Robbins, Last in Their Class, 326.
[13] 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.
[14] 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.
[15] Public Broadcasting Service, “The Greely Expedition,” American Experience, ( accessed 24 Oct 2013. The photograph has the caption,”The Proteus in ice.”
[16] Ernest A. Garlington, Report on Lady of Franklin Bay Expedition of 1883, (Washington City: Signal Office, 1883), 36.
[17] Associated Press, “Gen. Hazen’s Mistake, Findings of the Proteus Court of Inquiry,” The New York Times, 14 Feb 1884, ( accessed 24 Oct 2013.
[18] 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.
[19] Cullum, Biographical Register, Vol. IV, 269.
[20] Cullum, Biographical Register, Vol. V, 245-246.
[21] Photograph from PBA Galleries, Auctioneers and Appraisers, Lot 118 of 336 (, accessed 20 Jan 2019. According to the website, “Rare association copy, signed three times by Brig. Gen. Ernest Albert Garlington (1853-1934), of the U.S. Army; twice signed (along with some red penciled notes) on the front endpapers and signed on the title page: ‘E. A. Garlington, 7th Cavalry, 25 Jan. 76 – 3 Jan. 95.’ Also, with a copy letter from the U.S. War Department, Adjutant General’s Office, dated May 16, 1932, awarding Garlington the Purple Heart ‘on account of wound received in action on December 29, 1890, while serving as a 1st Lt. 7th Cavalry;’ and a typed letter from the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, addressed to Brig. Gen. Ernest A. Garlington, both laid in.”
[22] Major E. A. Garlington, “Seventh Regiment of Cavalry,” The Army of the United States: Historical Sketches of Staff and Line with Portraits of Generals-in-Chief, Theodore F. Rodenbough and William L. Haskin, eds., (New York: Maynard, Merrill & Co., 1896), 264-267.
[23] Cullum, Biographical Register, Vol. V, 245-246.
[24] Ibid.
[25] Harris & Ewing, photo., “Garlington, E. A. General,” Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington DC, LC-DIG-hec-16305.
[26] United States Congress, Affray at Brownsville, Tex., Vol. 1, (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1908), 531.
[27] Ibid., 220.
[28] Ibid., 2.
[29] John D. Weaver, The Brownsville Raid, (College Station: Texas A & M Press, 1992), 9.
[30] Cullum, Biographical Register, Vol. VI, 245;, 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.
[31] John Evans, photo., “Gen Ernest Albert Garlington,” FindAGrave, ( accessed 16 Oct 2013.
[32] South Carolina General Assembly, 115th Session 2003-2004, “Ernest A. Garlington,’ H. 5298, ( 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, (Sumter, SC, and Carlisle, PA: Russell Martial Research, 2013-2018,, last updated 20 Jan 2019, accessed date ____________.

About Sam Russell

I am a fifth-generation retired Army officer with twenty-nine years of commissioned service. I have been researching the frontier Army for over eighteen years and am interested in documenting the lives of the soldiers that participated in the battle of Wounded Knee using primarily official reports, diaries, letters, newspaper articles and other primary source documents. My interest in Wounded Knee stems from my kinship to one of the principal participants. I am the great-great-grandson of Samuel M. Whitside, who was a major and battalion commander at the battle. I welcome and encourage comments on posts and pages and am always interested in any new primary sources. If you have copies of letters, diaries, etc, from participants and are willing to share, please contact me. Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog are strictly my own, and should in no way be construed as official Army or U.S. Government positons.
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2 Responses to First Lieutenant Ernest Albert Garlington, A Troop, 7th Cavalry – Distinguished Gallantry

  1. Sam Russell says:

    This post was updated on January 8, 2017, to include a statement by Private Andrew Flynn detailing his treatment of Lieutenant Garlington at Wounded Knee. Also, Garlington’s testimony in Heyl’s investigation of acts of gallantry, heroism, and fortitude was added.


  2. Sam Russell says:

    This post was updated and reposted on January 20, 2018, to correct many of the photographs that no longer displayed properly, and to incorporate Garlington’s narrative of the 7th Cavalry at Pine Ridge and Wounded Knee that was extracted from his regimental history, “The Seventh Regiment of Cavalry,” The Army of the United States: Historical Sketches of Staff and Line with Portraits of Generals-in-Chief, published in 1896.


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