After two and a half months of relatively quiet service in Florida, the First Georgia was ordered to Richmond. The regiment’s stay there was brief, for after only a few days Ramsey and his men were ordered to the western reaches of Virginia, there to augment the newly formed Army of the Northwest, commanded by Brigadier General Robert Selden Garnett. Born in Virginia on December 16, 1819, Garnett graduated 27th in his West Point class of 1841. His military career included service in the Fourth U.S. Artillery during the Mexican War, as well as stints in the Seventh and Ninth U.S. Infantries and First U.S. Cavalry. He was appointed Assistant Instructor of Infantry Tactics at West Point in 1843, and served as the Academy’s Commandant from November 1852 to July 1854. While carrying dispatches to San Francisco in 1849, Garnett sketched a design that was later adopted as the California State Seal.
Devastated when his wife and only child died of disease in 1858, Garnett took an extended leave of absence and traveled to Europe. He returned home one month before Virginia’s secession, at which time he resigned his commission in the U.S. Army. Shortly thereafter he was commissioned as Colonel and appointed adjutant general of Virginia. After the humiliating Confederate defeat at Phillippi on June 3, 1861, Garnett was promoted to brigadier general and given command of the forces in Western Virginia, from which the Army of the Northwest was created. Garnett’s forces entrenched at Laurel Hill and Rich Mountain to guard vital roadways passing through the Allegheny Mountains. Following the defeat of his troops at Rich Mountain on July 11, Garnett retreated from Laurel Hill, first south toward his depot at Beverly, then north toward Maryland. Skirmishes between his troops and pursuing Union forces occurred at Kalers Ford and the two river crossings of Corricks Ford. At the second Corricks Ford crossing, Garnett was killed by Union fire, earning the dubious honor of being the first general officer on either side to be killed in the Civil War. His body was recovered by Federal troops, and was taken by family members to Baltimore. Following the end of the war, Garnett’s remains were reinterred next to his wife and child in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York. His monument makes no mention of his military service, but a veteran’s stone placed later says “Brig Gen Robert S. Garnett CSA 1819 1861.”