Elon John Farnsworth

Elon John Farnsworth was born in the hamlet of Green Oak, Livingston County, Michigan, on July 30, 1837. At the age of seventeen he was taken by his parents to the village of Rockton, Illinois. The next year he entered the University of Michigan but left in 1858 "with three or four of his associates after becoming involved in some unfortunate affair." Farnsworth then joined Albert Sidney Johnston's Mormon expedition as a civilian forage master and in 1861 enlisted in his uncle John F. Farnsworth's regiment, the 8th Illinois Cavalry of which he became first lieutenant and adjutant in September, 1861, and captain in December. Young Farnsworth seems to have served commendably in the 8th Illinois and on the staff of General Alfred Pleasonton; however, the annals of the war fail to account for his sudden promotion from captain to brigadier general, on the very eve of the battle of Gettysburg, to rank from June 29, 1863. (It is said that Pleasonton loaned him a blouse carrying the shoulder straps of a brigadier general upon receipt of the advice of Farnsworth's promotion at cavalry headquarters; in after years Pleasonton wrote that "nature made him a general.") The newly appointed general led a night march in search of Confederate Jeb Stuart's forces and conducted a skirmish in the streets of Hanover, Pennsylvania, on July 1 and another near Hunters-town the following day, commanding a brigade of Judson Kilpatrick's division. Soon after the failure of George E. Pickett's charge on July 3, Kilpatrick thought he saw an opportunity to disrupt Robert E. Lee's lines as the broken fragments of the attack fell back toward Seminary Ridge. He accordingly ordered a charge of Farnsworth's regiments against the right flank of James Longstreet's position. The hopeless charge no doubt contributed to Kilpatrick's reputation as a "hell of a damned fool" and resulted in the death of Farnsworth, who was shot to death near the Confederate battle line. His remains were buried in Rockton.

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Reference:  Generals in Blue.  Lives of the Union Commanders by Ezra J. Warner.  Louisiana State University Press.  Baton Rouge.