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The following text is reproduced from (the report of the) Eleventh Annual Reunion of the Association of the Graduates of the United States Military Academy, June 17, 1880.
Brevet Lieut. Colonel John William Tudor Gardiner was born June 5, 1817, at Gardiner, Maine; and died at the home of his nativity, September 27, 1879, at the age of 62. His grandfather was the Collector of Customs at Portsmouth and Boston before the Revolution; his father was Robert Hollowell, who took the name of Gardiner in 1803, two years after graduating at Harvard College, to inherit his maternal grandfather's estates; and his mother was the daughter of William Tudor, Judge Advocate of Washington's army.
Young Gardiner, after being prepared at Putnam's School, in North Andover, and the more famous one at Round Hill, entered Harvard College in 1832, with a distinguished class, among whose members was the present able Mayor of Boston.
Gardiner, preferring a military life, left College in his third year and entered the Military Academy, July 1st, 1836, from which he was graduated four years later, in the same class with Generals Sherman, Thomas, Getty, Hays, and others well known to fame. He was commissioned, July 1, 1840, a Brevet Second Lieutenant in the 1st Dragoons, rising in that regiment through the grades of Second and First Lieutenants, to be Captain, October 9, 1851. Up to this period, he had been on the frontier, among Western pioneers and Indian savages, except when his regiment was ordered to the city of Mexico, which it did not reach till after its capitulation to General Scott. In 1853, Gardiner accompanied Governor Stevens on the exploration for the Northern Pacific Railroad. By this last tour of duty, superadded to the hardships and privations incident to cavalry service, his health was completely broken down, and to recover it, he resolved to try a sea‑voyage, and the genial climate of California. Fortunately, as he thought, but most unfortunately as the sequel proved, he found he could go as a passenger on board the steamer San Francisco, which had been chartered to take the Third Artillery to the Pacific coast, via Cape Horn. Accordingly, he embarked upon her, December 20, 1853, but had to be carried to the ship on a litter, so acute were his sufferings from rheumatism.
p62 It is unnecessary here to describe the course of events in the brief career of the ill‑fated San Francisco, which will be found fully chronicled in our obituary notice of General Merchant, in this year's Necrology of the Graduates of the Military Academy. It is sufficient to say that, at the height of the storm in which she was wrecked, Gardiner was sleeping in one of the state-rooms, on the main-deck of the vessel. His servant‑man, who had been an old soldier, entered his state-room to warn the Captain of his great danger, and had hardly spoken to him when that tremendous wave which hurried so many cabin-passengers, officers and soldiers into eternity, swept the servant overboard, leaving Gardiner, as by a special Providence, the only person there saved; but the hurricane deck had fallen upon him, completely burying him with its debris, from which he was rescued in his helpless and wounded condition, by his brother officers from below, who had been spared. Being an invalid, he was one of those transferred on board the first vessel — the brig Kilby — which came to the rescue. Here, though so great a sufferer, himself, he, by his kindness, courage, self-sacrifice and good judgment, greatly alleviated the sufferings of others, half-clad, almost freezing, and subsisting for many days on parched corn and a very scanty supply of water.
Upon his reaching New York, Gardiner was so completely broken down in health that he was obliged to remain on sick leave of absence till 1855, when he was ordered to Fort Tejon in southern California, and thence to Benicia.º In 1856, he was sent upon a march of •six hundred miles, in the rainy season, to the borders of Oregon, where he built Fort Crook on the right bank of Fall River. Here, in this severe climate, for a year, his sufferings became so intense from rheumatism, that he was ordered to his home. After his promotion to be Major of the Second Cavalry, Oct. 26th, 1861, being totally unfit for further active service, he was retired, Nov. 14, 1861, "for disability resulting from long and faithful service, and from disease and exposure in the line of duty." During the Rebellion, Gardiner would gladly have taken the field in defence of the Union, and have shown the same zeal, activity, endurance and military talents as in his former days. Though racked with pain and disease, in this hour of his country's danger, he cheerfully undertook the performance of such duties as were possible in his condition, which were necessarily limited to mustering, disbursing, recruiting, and Provost-Marshal services. While employed in the latter capacity, at Augusta, Me., with his accustomed efficiency, fidelity and p63 scrupulous integrity, he was suddenly removed to make room for another from the volunteer service. The honest men of the community knew that designing knaves had, through misrepresentations, brought about this gross injustice to Gardiner, for no other reason than that he would not tarnish his honor by approving rolls filled with "paper credit men" to fight his country's battles, in order that certain political rogues should put money into their pockets as the reward of their rascality. Subsequently, the whole infamy of the transaction was exposed in the report of the Committee on Equalization of Town Bounties, in which is the following statement:
"The office of Acting Assistant Provost-Marshal General, for Maine, was then filled by an honorable gentleman of Maine and an officer of the regular army. To him this remarkable roll was shown and his approval to it solicited. That approval was denied, and probably with expressions of indignation. Not very long afterwards this officer was ordered to another field of duty, and his place supplied by an officer from a Western State. Then again appeared at the State Capital the man with the once rejected list of names. And, henceforward, it seems there was no official veto upon the filling of quotas of cities and towns with their names."
Bribery and corruption could find no lodgement with such a true son of West Point as Gardiner. Far rather would he have had both of his crippled legs amputated, and have hobbled, under orders, to any distant post than have done such a damnable act, which, in that hour of the nation's peril was practical treason.
Though the government had been misled for a season, it finally appreciated Gardiner's merits, for he was breveted a Lieut. Colonel, March 13th, 1865, "for meritorious services during the rebellion," and was continued on recruiting service till January 1st, 1868, soon after which date retired officers were prohibited from the performance of military duties. Subsequently, he lived in retirement, going to Canada and elsewhere hoping by change of climate to benefit his health; and, finally, in 1875, he slighted in Longwood, near Boston, where he could educate his children. His summers, he usually passed at his old homestead in Gardiner, Me., where he died.
Colonel Gardiner was well educated; had fine talents; was exceedingly fond of books; had read much and thoroughly; and was gifted with a fluent tongue which pleased as well as instructed all listeners. His p64 manners were gentle and polished; his heart kind and generous; his mind a storehouse of thought; and his soul the seat of honor where sat enthroned many virtues, the chiefest of which were love of family, love of country, and love to God in whom he had a firm and abiding trust. As a soldier, he was prompt, zealous and efficient; obedient to superiors and forbearing to subordinates; and ever loyal to that flag under which he was educated, and to which he had devoted all his powers and faithful services.
(Brevet Major General George W. Cullum.)
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