Julius P. Garesché
Lt. Col. Julius Peter Garesché, who served as Rosecrans's chief of staff, was the highest ranking Hispanic officer killed at the Battle of Stones River. Born near Havana, Cuba, in 1821, Garesché graduated from West Point in 1841 and fought in the Mexican War. Garesché later became a leading U.S.-based Catholic scholar, and in 1851 was decorated by Pope Pius IX.
In 1861 Garesché turned down a general's commission, preferring to earn that rank on the battlefield. In the fall of 1862, he was assigned to the Army of the Cumberland at Rosecrans’s request.
Late on the afternoon of December 31, Rosecrans, Garesché and the Army of the Cumberland’s senior commanders and staff watched Breckinridge’s final charge from a knoll in full view of both sides. Rosecrans spurred his horse toward the Round Forest, his staff following. Suddenly, a Confederate shell whistled past Rosecrans’s head and decapitated Garesché. The headless body continued on horseback for another 20 paces, before slumping to the ground, his blood spattering on Rosecrans. General Sheridan recalled this horrible public death “stunned us all, and a momentary expression of horror spread over Rosecrans’s face; but at such time the importance of self-control was vital, and he pursued his course with an appearance of indifference.”
That night a detail recovered Garesché’s body and shipped it to Washington, D.C., for burial. Rosecrans saved the buttons from his coat in an envelope marked “Buttons I wore the day Garesché was killed.” Garesché’s son later published a biography of his father, which has recently been re-issued online.
This article appeared in the Winter 2012 Hallowed Ground Magazine as an inset to the feature article I Will Die Right Here: The Army of the Cumberland at Stones River »