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 of State.

    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 monstrous.

[Remainder of narrative pertains to unrelated matters and was not transcribed.]

Go to top