Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Violent Death Of Lt. Col. Julius Peter Garesche


Lt. Col. Julius Peter Garesche was born near Havana Cuba of French parents on April 26, 1821. He graduated from West Point in 1841 and served bravely in the Mexican War. He was a devout Catholic and scholar. In 1851 he was decorated by Pope Pius 1X. In 1861 he was offered a Brigadier Generals commission but refused it because he wanted to earn the rank on the battlefield. During his life he had several near death experiences. As a young man he nearly drowned and he barely missed being run over by a train. His brother was a priest and told Garesche that he would one day die a violent death. Garesche refused to accept this prophecy but on September 14, 1861 his brother told him that he would die in his first battle 18 months from that date.

  Garesche accepted the Chief of Staff position for General William S. Rosecrans in November 1862 when Rosecrans became Commander of the Army of the Cumberland. Garesche and Rosecrans had been close friends since West Point. On the 1st day of the Battle of Stones River, December 31, 1862 Garesche attended a Catholic Mass with General Rosecrans and other Catholic Officers. Garesche had helped convert Rosecrans to Catholicism. Union forces were surprised around 7:00 A.M. that morning while eating breakfast by a massive Confederate attack which started at present day Gresham Lane and Franklin Rd. They were routed and pushed back nearly three miles to the Nashville Pike and railroad. If the pike and railroad were captured it would mean defeat for the Union Army. The whole Union line had collapsed except for General William Hazen's position in the "Round Forest". Four brigades of General John C. Breckinridge Confederates attacked Hazen's position that morning without success and during the last attack of the morning Garesche was killed.

  Rosecrans and his staff were in clear sight of both armies and were riding from where Stones River National Cemetery is today along the railway toward the Round Forest. A Confederate cannonball, fired from near the railroad where the Greenway is today, decapitated Garasche. After killing him the shell hit a sergeant taking his legs off at the hips and finally passed through the neck of a horse. Garesche's headless body remained rigid in the saddle for about 20 paces before falling to the ground. Witnesses said that Rosecrans had a momentary look of sheer horror on his face. Garesche's brains and blood were splattered all over Rosecran's uniform. Being a good soldier he quickly regained his composure and continued riding toward his destination.

  That night, after the first days battle, General Sheridan found Garesche's body and removed his West Point ring and bible. General Hazen left this account of finding Garesche's body. "I saw but a headless trunk; an eddy of crimson foam had issued where the head should be. I at once recognized his figure, it lay so naturally, his right hand across his breast. As I approached, dismounted, and bent over him the contraction of a muscle extended his hand slowly and slightly towards me. Taking hold of it, I found it warm and lifelike". Garesche was buried that night just across the railroad track in what is today Evergreen Graveyard on the New Nashville Highway. He was disinterred a few days later and sent to Nashville where he was embalmed and sent to Washington D.C. for burial in Mt. Olivet Cemetery. Garesche died exactly 15 months and 17 days after his brothers prediction.
Lt. Col. Julius Peter Garasche

Last Mass Before The Battle Of Stones River

Rosecrans, Garesche and Staff  During The Battle Of Stones River

Garesche's Sword In The Smithsonian

Henri Lovie's Drawing Of  Garesche's  Death

Spot Where Garesche Fell From His Horse

Battlefield Burial Of Garesche

Area That Garesche Was Buried

Garesche's Grave In Washington D.C.

Garesche's Grave In Washington D.C.

Garesche's Grave In Washington D.C.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post that does justice to an American hero who was born in Cuba, my native country. A great soldier and a Christian man who served with honor to God and country. thanks