Samuel Garland, Jr. was born on December 16, 1830 in Lynchburg, Virginia. He was the only son of Maurice and Caroline Garland, and the great-grandnephew of President James Madison. Samuel’s father was one of four brothers, and a partner in the law firm of Garland and Slaughter with his older brother, the senior partner of the firm and Samuel’s namesake.
After his father died when he was 10, Samuel was sent to a private classical school. When he was 14 he began classes at Randolph Macon College for a year. Intent on a military career, in 1846 Garland entered the Virginia Military Institute. He graduated second in his class on July 4, 1849. He then followed the wishes of his family and studied law for two years at the University of Virginia, receiving his bachelor of laws degree in 1851.
Garland returned to Lynchburg and began his law practice in the family firm of Garland and Slaughter. He also lectured in Natural Law at Lynchburg College. In 1856 he married Elizabeth Campbell Meem. They had a son, also named Samuel, in 1857. After John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry Garland helped organize a militia company and was elected its captain.
After Virginia seceded in 1861 Garland’s company became part of the 11th Virginia Infantry Regiment and Garland was appointed its colonel. In mid-May Garland took four companies to Manassas, where General Beuregard was gathering an army; the rest of the regiment would follow in the following days.
The movements of men from all over the south through Lynchburg and to the theater of war brought with them disease, and on June 12 Elizabeth died of the flu. Four year old Sammie was also stricken, and would die on July 31. They were buried in the Presbyterian cemetery in Lynchburg.
Garland led his regiment in the skirmish at Blackburn’s Ford and in the fighting at the Battle of Manassas (Bull Run), establishing a reputation of fearlessness under fire that some described as a death wish. He went on to lead the 11th Virginia at Dranesville and Williamsburg, where on May 5 he was wounded in the elbow.
Garland quickly returned to duty, and his bravery was recognized with promotion to brigadier general on May 23, 1862. He took command of the brigade that had belonged to Brigadier General Jubal Early, who had also been wounded at Williamsburg. The brigade, part of General D.H. Hill’s division, originally consisted of the 2nd Florida Infantry Regiment, 2nd Mississippi Battalion, 5th North Carolina and 23rd North Carolina Infantry Regiments, and 24th Virginia and 38th Virginia Infantry Regiments. Reorganizations prompted by President Jefferson Davis’ directive that brigades be made up of units from the same state led to the brigade consisting of the 5th, 12th, 13th, 20th and 23rd North Carolina Infantry Regiments.
Garland led the brigade through fierce and costly fighting at the Battles of Seven Pines, where it lost a third of its 2,200 men and Garland had his horse shot out from under him. At the Battle of Gaines’ Mill Garland discovered a weak Union flank and was given permission to attack it, taking the position and capturing a number of guns and prisoners. At Malvern Hill Garland’s brigade was committed to the failed attack on the Union position, losing another 844 men.
D.H. Hill’s division stayed behind in the Richmond area in August when Lee first led the Army of Northern Virginia north against Pope, so that Garland and his brigade missed the Second Battle of Manassas. But they rejoined Lee at the beginning of the Maryland Campaign in September. Lee’s daring plan split his forces into several parts in the face of McClellan’s much larger army in order to scoop up the Union garrisons at Harpers Ferry and Martinsville while advancing into Pennsylvania. It might have succeeded had McClellan not found a copy of Lee’s orders for the operation.
On September 14, 1862 Garland found his badly outnumbered 1,200 man brigade defending Fox’s Gap on South Mountain against a determined attack by Jacob Cox’s division from the Union Ninth Corps. Fox’s Gap was easier terrain and harder to defend than neighboring Turner’s Gap, and Garland soon found himself in danger of being outflanked. He rode up to encourage his 13th North Carolina as it began to waver under heavy Federal fire. He was there only a short time when he was hit by a bullet that passed through his body. He lived long enough to tell his aide, “I am killed. Send for the senior colonel.”
Samuel Garland’s body was taken home to Lynchburg and on September 19 was interred in the Presbyterian Cemetery next to his wife and son.