BORN: 1837 in Green Oak, MI.
DIED: 1863 in Near Gettysburg.
CAMPAIGNS: 40 Battles/ Skirmishes through mid 1863-- Gettysburg.
Elon John Farnsworth was born on July 30, 1837, on Green Oak, Michigan. He was expelled from the University of Michigan in 1857 for taking part in carousing that led to the death of a student. In 1858 and 1859, he accompanied Colonel Johnston's Utah Expedition as a civilian, serving as forage master. After the Civil War began, Farnsworth joined the 8th Illinois Volunteer Cavalry, which had been organized and initially commanded by Farnsworth's uncle, John F. Farnsworth. Elon John Farnsworth rose quickly through the ranks. He was present at over 40 battles and skirmishes by the middle of 1863. Developing a reputation for patriotism and occasionally reckless behavior, he was reported to have pulled an Episcopal rector from his pulpit for having failed to offer a prayer, as was customary, for the health of the President. In the spring of 1863, he joined Brig. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton's staff, and commanded a cavalry division in the Army of the Potomac. Farnsworth asked his uncle to speak to the President on Pleasonton's behalf. In return for this favor, which resulted in Pleasonton's promotion to major general and command of the army's cavalry corps, Pleasonton made Farnsworth a brigadier general of volunteers. His first brigade command was in the Gettysburg Campaign. Farnsworth's troops were nearly routed by Confederate troops on June 30, 1863. A few days later, Confederate Maj. Gen. George E. Pickett led "Pickett's Charge." After the charge, Brig. Gen. H. Judson Kilpatrick, commander of the 3d Cavalry Division, ordered Farnsworth to divert the Confederates from a Union counterattack. When Farnsworth protested that the mission was suicidal, Kilpatrick accused him of cowardice and offered to divert the Confederates himself. Farnsworth agreed to lead the Union troops, and the mission led to the death of a quarter of his troops. Farnsworth himself was uninjured in the mission, but was attacked when he was retracing his way past the Confederate position. According to Confederate observers. Farnsworth was wounded many times, and finally killed himself.