Jones, Terry L. Campbell Brown’s Civil War: With Ewell and the Army of
Northern Virginia. Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 2001. pp. 141-143
August 4th 1868.
Cobb’s Island, Va. About two ago Dr. A. Y. P. Garnett, formerly a Surgeon in
Richmond, came here. I had met him often at Gen’l Lee’s house and elsewhere, &
we renewed our acquaintance. He spoke of his having been Mr. [Jefferson] Davis’s
family physician & of the intimate relations between them. Some of his remarks I
put down here, from the force with which they struck me & the additional light
they throw on past events. We spoke first of Gen’l J. E. Johnston & I mentioned
as remarkable his having laid down in a conversation at Centreville about Xtmas
1861, in Gen’l Ewell’s tent, present Gen’l E., Gen’l Gustavus W. Smith & I, that
the true policy of the Confederacy was to save men & only fight at an
advantage – that we have plenty of territory, but no troops to spare. It never
entered my head that Dr. Garnett would dispute the military correctness of this
dictum, but he did vehemently - & added that he never had believed in Johnston
as a leader – had somehow always wanted confidence in him – and thought he & his
policy had been of the greatest injury to us.
Next day in speaking of Mr. Davis
he said – “You know he was difficult of access when one wanted to give advice or
make any suggestions. I used to talk very often & freely with him on military
matters – and it was quite a common thing for officers of high rank (his
expression – C. B.) to say to me ‘Now, Dr. Garnett, you know you have the
President’s ear. Why don’t you suggest to him to do so & so? If I were to go to
him about it, he would not listen to me.’” He added that contrary to the
received opinion, Davis’s mind worked very slowly towards a decision – that
opportunities were more than once lost by this peculiarity – that he had gone to
him with suggestions, prompted by others, requiring immediate action – but Mr.
Davis had taken two or three days, then decided rightly, but too late. He said
this slowness would sometimes worry Gen’l Cooper almost to a fever.
In the same or a subsequent
conversation, he said he thought one of the best things Mr. Davis ever did was
to remove Johnston from command at Atlanta – that probably Hood was the wrong
one to replace him – but certainly Johnston ought to have been relieved. He said
from his confidential position he saw many of the papers in the matter & knew
what a pressure there was for Johnston’s removal & how strong things were
against him – that he had heartily approved it at the time & had opposed his
ever being put in command.
Dr. Garnett’s policy for gaining
our independence was to concentrate all our troops & fight a great battle with
everything at stake – or if possible to have made it a war of invasion &
aggression. His manner & speech showed a decided hostility to Johnston – of old
standing as he boasted. I had often met with him at Gen’l Lee’s house, visiting
the ladies, who always attacked him for news, which he invariably had – but
until now I had never known how good & how direct his sources of knowledge were.
I do not know that Dr. Garnett intended me to suspect Gen’l Lee of being one of
those “of high rank,” who used him as a mouthpiece – but I do suspect it. Lee’s
wary disposition, Garnett’s natural reverence for title and power (= nearly
toadyism) peculiarly fitting him for a cat’s paw for very hot chestnuts & my
recollection of facts, conversations &c, all coincide to make it highly
probable. And I know of no reason why it should not have been.
Garnett’s Hospital (Miss Sally
Tompkins’) got little of his attention, I used to hear. Once they talked of
getting another Surgeon in his place – but it was not done – he was said to be
“too strong to be moved.” Now this was mere rumor – maybe spiteful. But it was
fact & no rumor that he did not attend as he ought to his Hospital patients –
seldom over 30 in number – being I supposed occupied in more important affairs
I try to avoid comment & bias –
but Pres’t. Davis’s most confidential adviser was said to be Revd Dr.
Minnegerade [Minnegerode] – a good preacher – possibly an inferior strategist or
statesman! And now I must add Dr. Garnett – a good-natured, gentlemanly,
garrulous man, barely above mediocrity, if not below it! This does seem
[Remainder of narrative
pertains to unrelated matters and was not transcribed.]
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