Edward McGarry (soldier-politician)

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Edward McGarry, Brevet Brigadier General in the Union Army during the American Civil War.

Edward McGarry (1820 – December 31, 1867) was an officer in the Mexican American War, a Californian politician, and officer of California Volunteers in the American Civil War. He led cavalry at the Battle of Bear River, was later Colonel of the 2nd California Cavalry, and later Commander of the District of California. He received a brevet promotion to Brigadier General of Volunteers. After the Civil War he rejoined the U. S. Army as a Lt. Colonel.

Edward McGarry was a native of New York, who served as a Second Lieutenant in the Mexican American War with the U. S. 10th Infantry Regiment. He saw no action except as part of the garrison Army before the Peace took effect.[1] McGarry left the Army and traveled to California after the end of the war and became involved in California politics serving as an Assemblyman from Napa County's 20th District from 1853 to 1854. Subsequently, from 1854 to 1855, he was a State Senator from Napa, Solano and Yolo Counties.[2] When the American Civil War broke out, he assisted in raising the 2nd Regiment California Volunteer Cavalry, serving first as a Major under Col. Columbus Sims. After marching to Fort Ruby, in Nevada Territory, Sims was relieved of his command by the Department of the Pacific on August 19, 1862. He was replaced in command of the 2nd California Cavalry detachment by Major McGarry by Col. Patrick Edward Connor. Under Connor's command the 2nd Cavalry served in Nevada and Utah during the rest of the Civil War, fighting various native tribes.

In the early 1860s, the Bannock and Shoshone Indians in southern Idaho were becoming increasingly aggressive toward passing wagon trains. Travelers reported instances of thievery and attacks. Major Edward McGarry was sent to investigate, and reportedly executed some Shoshone for their actions. McGarry's executions angered the Shoshone even more, prompting them to threaten to kill any white person they found above the Bear River. American forces, led by Colonel Patrick Edward Connor, were sent to confront the Shoshone, but the Battle of Bear River turned into a massacre that left 250 Shoshone dead.[3]

On February 26, 1864, Edward McGarry was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and took command of Camp Union, from Lt. Colonel O. M. Brown, who went to Los Angeles.[4] He was afterwards appointed Colonel and was given command of the 2nd California Cavalry from November 29, 1864 to March 31, 1866. In this capacity Col. McGarry presided over the military commission that tried the Salvador Pirates and found them guilty in May 1865.

As popular officer and famed for his role in the Cache Valley victory, McGarry was appointed one of the judges that declared the first of three famous California races between the thourouhgbreds Norfolk and Lodi a dead heat.[5] In June 1865 he was ordered to succeed Brigadier General George Wright, in command of the District of California.[6]

After the war ended McGarry rejoined the regular Army and was appointed Lieutenant Colonel of the U. S. 32nd Regiment of Infantry, one of its newly organized regiments. In 1867, he was commanding a garrison at Tubac, Arizona when he showed up for a dress parade in the plaza in a sad state of intoxication.[7] Consequently, McGarry was reassigned to San Francisco, California, but no disciplinary action was taken against him. However, he had been drinking very heavily and on the night of his death, he manifested symptoms of mania a potu, and the staff in the Occidental Hotel confined him to his room. About 11 o'clock he told the servant to clear out, locked the door and was found early the next morning, December 31, 1867, lying on the floor of his room in his own blood, his throat cut and an open pen knife by his side.[8] No cause was found for his action, nothing was left in writing. It was supposed it was done in a temporary fit of insanity.[9]

McGarry was 45 years of age when he died. His funeral was held at the Unitarian Church. General H. W. Halleck, commander of the Military Division of the Pacific and a large number of other officers of the Regular Army, ex-Governor Low and several Judges of the State Courts attended. A military escort and many friends accompanied his body to the Cemetery.[10]


  1. ^ Mexican War veterans: a complete roster of the regular and volunteer troops in the war between the United States and Mexico, from 1846 to 1848; the volunteers are arranged by states, alphabetically (1887), p.26
  2. ^ Edward McGarry
  3. ^ Frances H. Kennedy, The Civil War battlefield guide, Conservation Fund (Arlington, Va., pp. 217-278 Battle of Bear River
  4. ^ SACRAMENTO CITY AND COUNTY Record of Local Events 1864
  5. ^ Thoroughbred Heritage, Portraits, Lodi, from www.tbheritage.com accessed 1/24/2011
  6. ^ The United States army and navy journal and gazette of the regular and volunteer forces, Volume 3 1865-66, Publication Office, No. 39 Park Row, New York, September 2, 1865, p. 18
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ "Lieutenant Colonel Edward McGARRY was found dead at an early hour this morning lying on the floor of his room in the Occidental Hotel weltering in his blood, his throat cut and an open pen knife by his side. Deceased had been drinking very hard of late. Last night he manifested symptoms of mania-a-potu, and the hotel folks endeavored to confine him to his room. About 11 o'clock he told the servant to clear out, locked the door and was found this morning in the condition stated." - Stockton Daily Independent, 3 Jan 1868.
  9. ^ "No cause is known for the act, and he has left no writing giving a clue. It is supposed it was done in a temporary fit of insanity."- Stockton Daily Independent, 1 Jan 1868
  10. ^ San Francisco, Jan. 3 - The funeral of Colonel McGARRY took place today from the Unitarian Church. General HALLECK and a large number of other officers of the Regular Army, ex-Governor Low, General MILLER, and several Judges of the State Courts were present at the Church. Company D, Battalion Engineers, Batteries B, D and G and the 2nd United States Artillery composed the military escort; and a large number of friends of the deceased accompanied them to the Cemetery." - Stockton Daily Independent, 4 Jan. 1868.