Franklin Gardner

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Franklin Gardner
Franklingardner.jpg
Born (1823-01-29)January 29, 1823
New York City
Died April 29, 1873(1873-04-29) (aged 50)
Lafayette, Louisiana
Allegiance  United States of America
 Confederate States of America
Service/branch  United States Army
 Confederate States Army
Years of service 1843–61
1861–65
Rank Union army cpt rank insignia.jpg Captain (US)
Confederate States of America General.png Major General (CSA)
Battles/wars Mexican-American War
- Battle of Monterrey
- Siege of Veracruz
- Battle of Churubusco
- Battle of Molino del Rey
American Civil War
- Battle of Shiloh
- Battle of Perryville
- Siege of Port Hudson

Franklin Kitchell Gardner[1] (January 29, 1823 – April 29, 1873) was a Confederate general in the American Civil War, noted for his service at Port Hudson on the Mississippi. Gardner built extensive fortifications at this important garrison, 16,000 strong at its peak. But he was at the mercy of conflicting orders, and found himself besieged and greatly outnumbered. His achievement at holding out for 47 days before surrendering has been praised by military historians.

Early life[edit]

Gardner was born in New York City to Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Kitchell Gardner (1787-1869) and Anne Eliza McLean Gardner (1801-1880).[2] Charles Kitchell Gardner was son of a Revolutionary War hero. His mother was from Louisiana, where she was a member of a wealthy plantation owning family. He attended the United States Military Academy graduating 17th in the Class of 1843, where he distinguished himself as a respected engineer. Ulysses Simpson Grant graduated 21st in the same class.

He married the daughter of Louisiana Governor Alexander Mouton shortly thereafter. His wife's brother, Alfred Mouton, also became a prominent Confederate general. Gardner's older sister became the second wife of his wife's father, cementing the ties between the two families.

Early military career[edit]

Upon graduation from West Point, he was assigned as a Second Lieutenant in the 7th Infantry. Serving first in Pensacola, Florida, he served in the Mexican War, first under Zachary Taylor, then under Winfield Scott. At the Battle of Monterrey in September 1846, he was brevetted to First Lieutenant for bravery. He later served at the siege of Vera Cruz, Churubusco, and Molino del Rey. For bravery in these latter battles he was brevetted once again to Captain.

He received a full promotion to Captain in March 1855, and briefly served in the Utah War. Following a two-year leave of absence, he was again stationed in Utah, but left for the south in 1861, and was dropped from the Army rolls. Siding with his wife's family, he returned to their home in Louisiana, where he joined the Confederate States Army as a Lieutenant Colonel.

Civil War[edit]

Shiloh and Perryville[edit]

Gardner commanded a brigade of cavalry in the Army of Mississippi, and in the Battle of Shiloh in April 1862 he served as a volunteer aide on the staff of Braxton Bragg. Promoted to Brigadier General of April 11, 1862 he was named Chief of Cavalry by General P.G.T. Beauregard, and fought in the Battle of Perryville. On December 13, 1862, he was promoted to Major General and assigned command of the fortifications at Port Hudson north of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he replaced General William N.R. Beall, who remained at Port Hudson under Gardner's command.[3]

Port Hudson[edit]

Port Hudson was strategically important, as it was situated at a bend in the Mississippi River, from which its guns could control passage north on the River. General Nathaniel P. Banks and his 30,000-man Army of the Gulf was deployed in New Orleans and surrounding areas, and it was generally expected that he would at some time attempt to capture Port Hudson. At the time, the entire Mississippi River from Port Hudson north 200 miles (as the river flowed) to Vicksburg, Mississippi was controlled by the Confederacy. General John C. Pemberton, who commanded Confederate troops at Vicksburg, was Gardner's immediate superior, and General Joseph E. Johnston, headquartered in Jackson, Mississippi, was Pemberton's superior. Johnston did not control an army, however, and Gardner would soon be subjected to contradictory commands from Johnston and Pemberton.

Gardner immediately undertook an improvement to the defenses of Port Hudson, replacing a partially constructed system of lunettes with a four mile long earthworks extending from the Mississippi River on the southwestern corner of the fort, to the easternmost portion of the knoll on which Port Hudson stood. Earthworks were not constructed completely around the northern side of the fortifications, as the steep embankments were considered sufficient defense. In addition to the earthworks, Gardner instructed his men to create a series of abatis defenses, consisting of cut timbers sharpened at the ends and pointed in the direction of attackers.

Gardner's forces at Port Hudson grew in size to approximately 16,000 in March 1863, when Admiral David Farragut succeeded in running two of his gunboats past Port Hudson. From this position, Farragut was able to disrupt supplies coming to Port Hudson from the Red River, whose mouth at the Mississippi lay between Port Hudson and Vicksburg.

In May 1863, Banks began operations to surround Port Hudson with forces coming both the south and the north. By this time, Gardners' troop strength had been reduced to 7,000, the majority of his forces having been ordered to Vicksburg, where Pemberton was under attack by Union forces under the command of Ulysses S. Grant.

On May 22, 1863, Gardner received a command from Johnston, who was odds with Pemberton and Confederate President Jefferson Davis, to evacuate Port Hudson and proceed to Jackson, Mississippi. He was in the process of doing so when word came that 12,000 of Banks's troops had landed north of Port Hudson, while another 20,000 were approaching from the south. Gardner was surrounded, and an escape was impossible.

Gardner hence settled in for a long siege. The first assault of the Siege of Port Hudson came on May 27, 1863. The siege lasted 47 days, and did not end until July 9, 1863, when Gardner was informed that Vicksburg had fallen on July 4, 1863.

Gardner's command of Port Hudson is considered by many military historians as an example of an outstanding defense of a fortification besieged by a much larger army. Richard Taylor, who commanded the Confederacy's Western District of Louisiana during the Siege of Port Hudson, considered Gardner a victim of the faulty Confederate military policy of immobilizing a large fighting force within a stationary fortification. This was the same defensive policy followed by John C. Pemberton at Vicksburg, and it created the same unfortunate results for the Confederacy at Port Hudson as it did at Vicksburg.

Confederate soldiers idolized Gardner, and newspapers called him a good fighter. However, he was criticized for the caretaking of his troops. Historian John D. Winters in The Civil War in Louisiana (1963), described Gardner's surrender at Port Hudson, accordingly:

"Gardner had defended Port Hudson to the utmost of his ability. After more than forty days of merciless pounding from the [Union] fleet and land batteries, his men were exhausted and dispirited. Improperly clothed, sheltered, and fed, they sickened, and there was no medicine for them. Hope that Johnston would send relief grew fainter as each day of the siege progressed. As Gardner's meager supply of ammunition was nearly exhausted, many of his guns were wrecked, and his food stock was dangerously low, the news of the surrender of Vicksburg decided the fate of Port Hudson [too]."[4]

Subsequent career[edit]

Gardner was taken to a Union prison camp, and released in 1864. He served under General Richard Taylor thereafter until 1865 at the end of the war.

Death[edit]

After the war, he retired to his family farm in Vermilionville (now known as Lafayette), Louisiana, where he died in 1873 at age fifty.

His grave is Cemetery of Saint John's Catholic Cathedral in Lafayette, Lafayette Parish, Louisiana, USA.[1][5]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Middle name Kitchell from his father, miswritten Franklin K. Gardner on his gravestone.
  2. ^ Father´s name from geni.com and mother's name from geni.com and ancestry.com.
  3. ^ John D. Winters, The Civil War in Louisiana, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1963, ISBN 0-8071-0834-0, pp. 166, 215. 243-283
  4. ^ Winters, p. 283
  5. ^ From Generals at Rest - the Grave Sites of the 425 Official Confederate Generals, by Richard Owen and James Owen 1997, ISBN 1-57249-255-4 by White Mane Publishing Company Incorporated from Shippensburg, Pennsylvania.

References[edit]

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