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Bill Thayer

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[image ALT: An engraving of the head and shoulders of a middle-aged man out of slight build and distinguished appearance; he has a full head of hair and a discreet moustache. He wears a suit with short lapels and a wide collar, and has a pensive air. It is William Montgomery Gardner, a Confederate general, whose career is summarized on this webpage.]

General William M. Gardner

The preceding image, and the text that follows, are reproduced from (the report of the) Thirty-Second Annual Reunion of the Association of the Graduates of the United States Military Academy, June 8th, 1901.

 p212  William Montgomery Gardner
No. 1326. Class of 1846.
Died, June 16, 1901, at Memphis, Tenn., aged 77.

General William Montgomery Gardner was born on the Sand Hills, near Augusta, Georgia, June 8, 1824. His education was begun at Georgetown College, D. C., but a strong natural military bent led him to West Point. He graduated from the Military Academy in the class of '46, just in time to "seek the bubble reputation at the cannon's mouth" in the war between Mexico and the United States.

After the customary graduation vacation, Brevet Second Lieutenant Gardner set out to join his regiment, the First United States Infantry, at Monterey, arriving there the noon after the battle of Monterey. He remained there until the regulars of General Taylor's army were ordered to Tampico to form a part of General Scott's army. General Twiggs's division, to which  p213 Lieutenant Gardner belonged, marched through the country meeting with no opposition, and waited at Tampico some weeks for ship transportation to Vera Cruz.

Immediately upon arriving at that city, they invested the place, and upon its surrender the army moved into the interior. Lieutenant Gardner's regiment was left to garrison Vera Cruz, where he remained some weeks, when he was promoted full Second Lieutenant in the Second Infantry, then at Jalapa with the main army. He rode from Vera Cruz to Jalapa, and after two days of hard riding reported to his regiment there where there was a stay of some weeks.

The army then advanced on Puebla, which had been occupied by Worth's division, and remained there for some time preparing for the advance of the whole army upon the City of Mexico.

In the battle of Contreras, Lieutenant Gardner was severely wounded in the groin, but refused to report to the doctor. In the battle of Churubusco, some time afterward, he was very dangerously wounded in the breast. Fortunately he was able to stagger back into a corn field where he lay till the fight was over, escaping more bullets most singularly as many corn stalks were cut down by bullets round and about him. After the fight four of his company came for him, and placing him in a blanket, of which each held a corner, carried him to shelter. The surgeons feared to probe for the bullet, which had lodged somewhere in his lung, and he carried that Mexican bullet with him to his dying day. The extreme severity of this wound incapacitated him for duty for several months.

Shortly before evacuating the City of Mexico he was appointed by General Riley on his personal staff, and accompanied him in his march to Vera Cruz. There they embarked for New Orleans and went by steamboat to Jefferson Barracks, from whence they had orders to march across the continent to California. Before they could start, these orders were countermanded, and the regiment ordered to New York, where they took  p214 ship early in October, 1848, and rounding Cape Horn, arrived early in March in the Bay of San Francisco.

Lieutenant Gardner had been placed in command of a large body of recruits, and was the only military officer on board the ship. This was truly a responsible commission for so young an officer. He carried it through, however, with great success, and turned his recruits over to General Riley without the loss of a single man.

Lieutenant Gardner then joined his company at Benicia, and in 1849 was in command of a small detachment to escort Captain Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Warner, United States Engineer, to explore the country for a practicable railroad route through the mountains. On entering the mountains, they were attacked by the Indians, who killed Warner and several others, also wounded several. The engineer being killed, the expedition was abandoned and the survivors returned to Benicia, where Lieutenant Gardner served as a company officer.

After three years at an interior post he was ordered to Washington, but instead of going on that duty, he returned to California to accept a position on Major General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Hitchcock's staff, and returning with him to the East, was shortly afterwards promoted to Captain of the Second Infantry.

He then had some years of active duty on the frontier. His last service in the army was a pioneer march to the Red River of the North. After completing the maps and sending them to the War Department he returned to Georgia on a six months' leave of absence.

He resigned from the army January 19, 1861.

At the breaking out of the Civil War, he was appointed by the government of the Confederacy Lieutenant Colonel of the Eighth Georgia Infantry, June 1861. This regiment formed a part of Benton's Brigade of General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Joe Johnston's command, known as the Army of the Shenandoah.

 p215  At the first battle of Bull Run Colonel Gardner fell with his leg frightfully shad by a "minnie"º ball. After being moved from the field, he lay a long time desperately ill at Manassas Junction, and was at last sent home to Georgia in an ambulance car. For two years he was confined to his bed. He had been made Colonel at Manassas and was shortly afterward made Brigadier General. His fearfully maimed condition rendered him unfit for field service when he recovered, but he was assigned several duties chiefly of an administrative character. Among them was the command of the post at Richmond during the last years of the war.​a

With the fall of the Confederacy, General Gardner's military career was ended, and he returned to civil life to which he had been a stranger ever since boyhood. All active careers were closed to him on account of his crippled condition and the extreme suffering he endured from his wounds.

On June the 16th, 1901, he passed peacefully away in the seventy-eighth year of his age.


Thayer's Note:

a More specific information on this part of his career is given in the brief biographical sketch at Find-a‑Grave.

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Page updated: 12 Nov 15