Elon John Farnsworth
1837 - 1863
Elon John Farnsworth, Union Civil War general killed soon after his last promotion, died July 3, 1863. He was 25.
Farnsworth was born July 30, 1837 in Green Oak, Michigan. A master forager during the Mormon expedition, he entered federal service in September 1861 as a first lieutenant and adjutant of his uncle’s unit, the 8th Illinois Cavalry.
Promoted to captain in December 1861, Farnsworth is reported to have attended church services in February 1862 at Saint Paul’s Church in Alexandria, Virginia where the preacher failed to read a required prayer for President Lincoln. Farnsworth had him arrested, but the preacher was subsequently released.
Farnsworth was not shy in battle. He participated in all of the unit’s engagements, including Stoneman’s Raid where he saved the artillery supplies by floating them down a river.
In June 1863, he went from captain to brigadier in one jump, a promotion some say was a political appointment due to Farnsworth’s ties with high-ranking officers. Five days later he would be dead.
Farnsworth’s waterloo would come at Gettysburg, where on the third day of the battle, July 3, 1863, he was ordered to charge a group of Confederate infantry entrenched behind stone walls. Farnsworth believed this action as foolhardy.
But his division commander, General Kilpatrick, allegedly goaded Farnsworth into the assault, supposedly questioning his bravery. Farnsworth attacked, and was hit by five rebel bullets as he died on that July day.