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The Medals of Colonel Louis Anatole LaGarde

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I've been doing research on my 'first' group of medals. First of all, I'd like to offer 'thanks'! to Forum Support for the help with this!


Now, for the story. When I was a youngster back in the mid-1970's, I grew up about 500 yards from an auction house. My first job was sweeping the floors of the place for a dime, after the auction.


My first 'hook' for military stuff was hanging on a wall, a large piece of canvass that had some kind of military medals pinned to it. Outside, under a porch, was a trunk filled with, among other things (as I recall) several grenades and miscellenous field gear. Well, I wanted that military stuff something fierce, I tell ya...esp. those grenades! (No idea if they were 'live' or not....). My dad worked for the auctioneer as a 'ringman' (the guys who hold furniture and everything else up for the auctioneer) and I begged him to get me that stuff. As I was only 8 or 9 years old at the time, I couldn't stay for the auction for some reason. Home I went, and later Dad comes in. He didn't get the trunk as it 'went for too much money' (I believe it was 20 dollars or so... :blink: )....but as a consolation prize, he had gotten me the large canvass covered with medals and insignia. The first thing my mother did was take all the 'pins' off of the 'dirty canvass' and throw it in the trash.


After my dissappointment ended over not getting the grenades, I put the 'pins' into a car model box, and from time to time would take them out and play 'war' wearing them around the house on my uniform from Sears....... (Yeah, yeah, I know...)


As I got older, they remained in my collection, but I didn't quite know what they were for, or really what to do with them. But I had a sentimental attachment to the lot, since they were my 'first' pieces of militaria.


I recently re-discovered them, and thanks to this site, and weeks of research (which is still ongoing) I'm finally able to present to the forum, the medals of Colonel Louis A LaGarde, Medical Corps, US Army.




Louis Anatole LaGarde was born 15 April 1849 in Thibodaux, Lafourche Parish, La. His father died young and he spent his formative years with his paternal grandfather. His mother remarried a Union Surgeon, a Doctor Harris, and Louis returned to live with them when he was 15 years old, speaking only French. His stepfather taught him English and brought him a desire to study medicine.


Louis attended Louisiana Military Academy at Alexandria from 1866-1868 and matriculated at Bellevue Hospital Medical College in New York, from 1870-1872. He went directly to Blackwell's Island Hospital for the paralytic and epileptics for his internship, and won an appointment as "Junior Assistant Surgeon" in Roosevelt Hospital, New York, where he quickly rose to the rank of Assistant, then House Surgeon.


He was appointed Acting Assistant Surgeon in the United States Army on 30 March, 1874, and entered the service at Fort Wallace, Kansas. He served in various frontier postings, including Fort Elliot Texas and Camp Robinson, Nebraska.


During 1876-1877, he served with the 4th Cavalry, under General R. S. McKenzie, in the Powder River Expedition as part of the great Sioux War. This occurred in the Great Plains in the Wyoming Territory, between United States troops and the Northern Cheyenne. After the battles of the Rosebud and Little Big Horn, General George Crook received reinforcements and began to move up the Bozeman Trail against Crazy Horse. After learning of a Cheyenne war party, he sent Colonel Ranald S. McKenzie into the Wyoming Territory to find it. In October of 1876, Col McKenzie departed Camp Robinson with about 1000 troopers of the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th Cavalry regiments, and Indian Scouts. On 25 November 1876 they found the camp of Dull Knife and Little Wolf along Bates Creek near the North fork of the Powder River. The Cheyenne warriors were having a celebration of their own over a recent victory of the Shoshone. Col MacKenzie waited until dawn and attacked the camp, driving the warriors from the village and into the freezing temperatures. They were forced to leave behind their clothing, blankets, and buffalo robes. Despite this, they fought fiercely but finally had to give way to the onrushing Cavalrymen. The indian village of 173 lodges was entirely destroyed and about 500 ponies were captured.


Lieutenant J. A. McKinney, 4th Cavalry, was the only officer casualty of the "Dull Knife Fight" as it came to be known. Acting Assistant Surgeon (2nd Lt)Louis LaGarde stated that his dying words were "Dr. LaGarde.....Dr LaGarde....". Five enlisted men were also killed in the action.


This battle ended Cheyenne resistance for all practical purposes.


Acting Assistant Surgeon Louis LaGarde was cited for "Gallantry in Action" by Colonel McKenzie for his actions on 25 November.


On 6 June 1878 Louis LaGarde was appointed a 1st Lieutenant in the medical corps. He spent the next year at Fort Hamilton and Fort Columbus (in New York Harbor) studying diseases of the eye and microscopy.


1st Lt LaGarde reported back to 'Indian Territory' one year later, and spent the next five years in various army postings, including the North Fork of the Canadian River and then at Fort Reno, Oklahoma.


In 1881 he married Francis Neely, of Kentucky, who also came from a medical family.


On 2 May 1883, he performed the first successful 'Esophagatomy' (a throat operation) at Fort Reno, where he removed a vulcanized rubber bridge that a 23 year old civilian accidentally swallowed while chewing his breakfast. The partial bridge lodged in the patients throat, and Lt LaGarde operated on him successfully, leading to a full recovery. The operation was noted in the American Journal of Medical Sciences and described as 'rare'.


On 6 June 1883 he was promoted to Captain, and served at Fort Ellis Montana ('84-86), Yellowstone National Park ('86-87) and at Fort Assinaboine until (with a break of four months at the New York Postgraduate Medical school studying diseases of the eye) April of 1891. By this time he had completed fifteen years of continous frontier duty! He was one of the first medical officers in the United States Army to become an expert in diseases of the eye.


In May of 1891 he came east to Fort McHenry, Maryland and took up studies in bacteriology and pathology at Johns Hopkins University, and assembled the equipment for a clinicical labratory for a general hospital.


It was at this time he became one of the founding members of the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States. He likely received his association medal then. The medal is number 86, and named to "LaGarde" in cursive.








Captain LaGarde took his entire hospital, of which he was in command, to the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. He served with this hospital in Jackson Park from Feb to November, also acting as attending surgeon for all officers and men on duty with the exposition.


On 20 July 1892, he was ordered to conduct experiments, in cooperation with officers of the Ordnance Department, on the effects of small arms fire with the 'new' calibers, on the human body. These experiments were conducted at Frankford Arsenal, Pa. Results of the work were published in "The Report of the Surgeon General for 1893". Previous to this, he conducted experiments while at Fort McHenry, in an attempt to determine if bullets were septic, or had been rendered sterile as a result of firing.


His experiments revealed that bullets did NOT become sterile upon firing and would remain septic. He presented a paper on this topic at the first Pan-American Medical Congress in Washington DC in September 1893.


This was groundbreaking news at the time, as most surgeons and military men believed that bullets upon firing would become sterile. Dr LaGarde's experiments resoundingly proved this was not the case.


In November of 1893 he reported to the Department of Colorado at Denver as attending Surgeon. That winter he accompanied troops on strike duty in the area. In September of 1894 he went to Fort Logan, Colorado, where he spent a year, during that time he organized the first laboratory for the City of Denver, and ran in for several months before other duties forced him to hand over operations to another surgeon. The other duties included serving as Professor of Hygiene at the University of Denver.


In October 1895 he reported to Boston, Mass, where he served as examiner of recruits as well as Attending Surgeon. He also took postgraduate work and delivered lectures on military medicine.


He took his promotion examination on 22 September 1896 and was re-assigned to Headquarters, 9th Cavalry (The Buffalo Soldiers) Fort Robinson, Nebraska in October. and was promoted to Major in November. In 1897 he accompanied the 9th Cavalry to Pine Ridge Agency. (Although there is no record of Major LaGarde being involved, in 1897, 'high wheel Columbia bi-cycles' were tested at Fort Robinson for possible field use. They proved impractical.....one wonders how many injuries from this experiment that Major LaGarde might have treated!).


At the sixth annual meeting of the Military Surgeons of the United States May 12 1896, he presented a paper entitled 'Notes on an Emergency Ration', which was well received and published in that societies journal.


Major LaGarde accompanied the 9th Cavalry when it was mobilized, at the onset of the Spanish American War, and reported to Chickamauga Park, and thence to Tampa, Florida in May of 1898.


This photo was likely taken during that time period, of Major LaGarde:





Upon arriving at Tampa, he was directed to organize a field hospital, which was eventually known as the Reserve Division Hospital of the Fifth Corps. He transported this Hospital to Cuba on the transport Saratoga, and operated it at Siboney. All of the wounded from the battle of Santiago came to this hospital, including many of those from Kettle Hill (Rough Riders, 9th Cavalry, etc). Major LaGarde was also in charge of evacuation of all the wounded to the United States as well. Major LaGarde is mentioned in several accounts of the time (including the 'History of the War with Spain' book that pops up from time to time) as being distressed about not having enough supplies to take care of his wounded. Eventually, he works with Clara Barton and the Red Cross, and he authorizes the Red Cross to help out in Siboney not only with supplies, but surgery as well. All of them eventually ended up working several days, 24 hours straight. Major LaGarde is mentioned numerous times in the Army Historical Series, "The Army Medical Department 1865-1917", for his work at Siboney. Yellow fever was rampant, and he was stricket himself on 5 August, and later evacuated stateside on the transport Catania to Montauk Point, NY.


After his recovery, he was ordered to Washington DC and given 'board duty' for the remainder of the year.


On 12 December 1898, he was assigned the United States Soldiers Home as Surgeon. During the next five years he performed a multitude of duties, including being appointed to the board for examination of medical candidates, and promotions within the Medical Corps. He was a member of the board for the revision of the Medical supply table, and of the board for revision of the instructions on how to render first aid in emergencies.


In 1899 he was elected Professor of Military Surgery at New York University.


In the summer of 1900, he and his family travelled to Paris, France. He was a delegate to the Thirteenth International Congress of Medicine and Surgery and to the Congress of Hygiene and Demography, representing the United States Army.


When the Army Medical School re-opened in 1901 he lectured on results of Gunshot wounds and also gave instruction on Optometry.


Major LaGarde also drew the plans upon which the expansion of the hospital at the Surgeons Home were made. He also performed all surgeries while there.


In 1903 Major LaGarde was the Army delegate to the American Medical Association conference in New Orleans, La.


After having a double bypass this past year, it's time to downsize and pass along much of my 'stuff'. I've had my fun, now it is someone elses turn.

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Colonel Louis Anatole LaGarde, Part II




In 1902, Major LaGarde again made history, by performing the last operation....of the CIVIL WAR(!) As related in the book, "Gangrene and Glory", Major LaGarde performed an operation on a Union soldier who had been wounded in that conflict. (I am still in the process of getting that book to get the entire case history of the operation, but the snippets I can see on googlebooks indicate this, on page 229).


Also in 1902, he delivered the "Mutter lecture" on poisoned wounds by the implements of warfare at the Philadelphia College Physicians. He also contribued the articles on Gunshot Wounds and "Gangrene" to the Reference Handbook of Medical Science.


In 1903, Major LaGarde was appointed to a board that would change the face of small arms in America, and perhaps, the world. This was the famous Thompson-LaGarde board, which conducted a series of tests to determine which caliber should be used in the new military handguns. The US Army and Marines had encountered considerable difficulty in stopping the Moro warriors in the Phillippines with their 38 caliber revolvers. (The 38 long colt). The task was assigned to Colonel John Thompson of the Infantry, and Major LaGarde, of the Medical Corps. They were conducted at the Union Stock Yards in Chicago, using live cattle and human cadavers. Several different calibers were used during the testing, but in the end, Colonel Thompson and Major LaGarde reccommended the adoption of "a caliber not less than 45" for the new army handgun. And, as they say, the rest is history.


In 1904, Major LaGarde was sent to the Panama Canal Zone as superintendent of Ancon Hospital there. He reorganized and re-equipped the old French Hospital into a modern institution, and in addition to administration, was head of the surgical service. AFter a year there, he was ordered back to the United States, and then on to the Phillippine Islands. He sailed from San Francisco in September 1905. Arriving in Manila he was assigned to duty as Chief Surgeon, Department of Visayas, headquartered at Iloilo. While there, the Pulajan Insurrection broke out on the islands of Samar and Leyte. He served as surgeon, taking care of the wounded from those engagements. He also took command of the base hospital and headed the surgical service in the area. Additionally, he did much of the surgical work in the Railroad and Mission Hospitals at Iloilo. He was 'warmly praised' by the Department Commander for his service during that time.


He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on March 17th, 1906.


He returned to the United States in March of 1908.


In 1909, he attended the conference of Military Surgeons of the United States, and rec'vd this medal for his attendance. At one time, it had a red ribbon attaching the medal to the small bar, which reads (Washington DC 1909)




Also in 1909, he was a candidate for the position of Surgeon General, but lost out to Colonel George Torney.


From December of 1909 to June of 1910, he was in charge of the Army Medical Museum.


He was appointed Chief Surgeon of the Department of Colorado and was also given the position of lecturer on military surgery at the Denver and Gross Medical college. After a year there, he returned to Washington DC and ordered to command the Army Medical School.


On 1 Jan 1910, he was promoted to the grade of Colonel.


He retired from 'active' service on 15 April 1915. However, Col LaGarde was still VERY active.


In 1914, he published his book, Gunshot Injuries: How they are infected, their complications and treatment. He re-published the book again in 1916. It was highly reccommended by 'The Infantry Journal', among other publications, and became a standard issue to Army medical officers.


In 1916, he travelled to Atlanta, Georgia, after being reactivated by the Army, and recommended that the hospital at Fort McPherson be activated and made ready to receive wounded soldiers.


He lectured on treatment of gunshot wounds at various medical posts throughout the country. He also served on the board to standardize Army First Aid kits in 1916, as well as those of the railroads.


On June 27th, 1919, he boarded the SS Imperator in Hoboken, NJ, for transit to the American Expeditionary Forces in France, and arrived on 3 July of that year.


While there, he was awarded the Croix De Guerre, with Palm. The "US" is also likely his, from the WWI time period.



For his services during WWI, he also rec'vd the Washington DC WWI Victory Medal.




Colonel LaGarde died of a cerebral hemmorage on a train bound from Chicago to Washington, DC, in March of 1920. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetary.


After having a double bypass this past year, it's time to downsize and pass along much of my 'stuff'. I've had my fun, now it is someone elses turn.

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Thanks for looking!


Now, here is where I'm at. While I've managed to compile a pretty good record of Colonel LaGarde's career, I've still got some gaps...and some questions....


Would sending off to NARA prove to be useful, or not, in this case?


The first gap is his being cited during the Indian Wars. Thus far, I'm unable to locate his record, or the record, for that.


Next, his CDG. He doesn't go 'over there' until 1919, after the fighting. How does he get a CDG for that?


Finally, would it be proper to put together the remainder of his decorations? From what I can tell, he rates quite a few campaign medals, and the WWI Victory medal. I'm thinkin as long as I noted they didn't belong to him, it would be ok. What say you?


Oh...and tomorrow, I'll post his son's medals, LtCol Louis Anatole LaGarde Jr....


After having a double bypass this past year, it's time to downsize and pass along much of my 'stuff'. I've had my fun, now it is someone elses turn.

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In 1944, Ciba, a medical company, published a series of ads about "Heroes of the Army Medical Service". One of them featured Colonel LaGarde.





In 1962, Colonel LaGarde was honored with a plaque in the auditorium at Walter Reed Hospital.


After having a double bypass this past year, it's time to downsize and pass along much of my 'stuff'. I've had my fun, now it is someone elses turn.

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Great medls and great story.


I would indeed write to NARA in DC and ask for his file -- St Louis wil not have one this early.


You should be able to recreat his medals - repros are readily available and originals are too, but they are obvioulsy more expensive.


I suspect the CdeG was awarded for scientific contributions, and this might have been after the war. You might try writing the French Military Attache at the French Embassy in DC to see if they can locate a record/citation. You might also write the US military attache at the US Embassy in Paris -- they may have records too.


Is there any possibility the CdeG could have been awarded to the son?





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I'll be posting the other LaGarde medals and information today. Quite frankly, I'm just not sure. The records for LaGarde jr are extremely sparse. He was retired prior to WWII as a LtCol, and died in 1943.


I'll write to NARA and see what they have on the Colonel, I'd like to think they would have some good information on him. Will try the French as well, never thought of that!


I'm leaning toward the re-creation of the medals. Just haven't decided yet, may wait until I hear from NARA.






After having a double bypass this past year, it's time to downsize and pass along much of my 'stuff'. I've had my fun, now it is someone elses turn.

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The research into Col LaGarde's life and career continues, even as I write this. I had been running searches using his full name, first name only, initials, and whatever other combination I could come up with. One thing I had not considered was running a google search using "Louie A LaGarde". I discovered this in of all places, the Veterans Burial records. He is buried at Arlington, but they list him as "Louie" for some reason.


A search using that term has turned up several more articles and items of interest on Col. LaGarde. He published an article in the New York Times Feb 7, 1915, entitled " Fallacies about Dum Dum Bullets". The article has a nice picture as well! Sadly, I can't get the photo from the PDF file to transfer to something I can upload here.


Colonel LaGarde was also involved in the Mexican Border affairs as a Medical Examiner. A NYT article dated Feb 28 of 1914, entitled "Vengence for Vergara", notes that he is one of two Medical Examiners being sent, as part of the "Benton Commission" allowed to proceed into Mexico by none other than Pancho Villa (!) to examine the body of William S. Benton. Benton was apparently killed in the area of Juarez and then his body was transported to Chihauhua where it was buried. The article states "It is understood that the War Department officials desire Colonel LaGarde, who is one of the best known experts among military surgeons, in regard to gunshot wounds, to act as the principle medical observer for the United States. Colonel LaGarde lives in Washington, but is now visiting his son, Lt Richard D LaGarde, of the 9th Infantry, who is detailed as an Inspector-Instructor with the militia of Arizona and makes his home in Phoenix. Colonel LaGarde has a worldwide reputation as an expert in Gunshot wounds and his experience extends over many campaigns, including the Cuban expedition and the Phillippine Insurrection. Col LaGarde was in charge of the large hospital at Siboney during the Santiago campaign."


Benton was a British citizen who was Villa's neighbor, and confronted Villa inside his Hacienda on 17 Feb of 1914. He was hostile to 'bandits' and didn't think much of Villa. Accounts differ as to exactly what happened, but Benton ends up dead, either by Villa's hand or someone elses. It's likely that Villa did in fact shoot and kill Benton. Benton's death ignited a major 'international incident' with both the British and the American Gov'ts, which led to the commission that Col LaGarde served on. The commission attempted to make the argument that Benton, because of his longtime residence in Mexico, had become a Mexican citizen, but this was over ruled. Apparently Benton was something of a tyrant to his employees, and this came out during the investigation. Most of these facts didn't come out to the public at the time, and the British eventually dropped the entire thing. A few months later, however, the Americans landed at VeraCruz.


After having a double bypass this past year, it's time to downsize and pass along much of my 'stuff'. I've had my fun, now it is someone elses turn.

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The Medals and History of Louis Anatole LaGarde, Junior




Louis Anatole LaGarde Jr's records were difficult to locate, and I will have to send off to St Louis to discover more about his career. This is what I do know:


The Washington Post of May 13 1916 notes that Louis LaGarde Jr was present at a smoker held at GWU.


March 6th, of 1917, the Society Notes, advise that Lieutenant Louis Anatole LaGarde Jr., Medical Reserve Corps has married Miss Alice Eugenia Hale. Interestingly, it also mentions Captain Richard D LaGarde, US Army, Retired, brother of the groom.


Richard is listed as being born May of 1887, and dying in Feb of 1967 in Potomac Maryland. He also, as I related in the earlier post, served with the 9th Infantry on the Mexican Border.


Louis Jr was promoted in 1919 to 1st Lt of the Medical Corps.


While some of the insignia in the following photo *may* belong to his father, I'm reasonably certain that the Washington DC WWI Victory medal is his. There were two of them in the lot when I acquired it.


I'm unable to find any record of Colonel LaGarde attending the 1919 AMA convention in Atlantic City, NJ, but it's certainly possible.


The "Citizens Military Training Camps" emblem could likely belong to either man, since Colonel LaGarde is on record going to different places and lecturing; however, since Lt LaGarde is listed as belonging to the 'reserve corps' in 1917, it seemed to make more sense to attribute it to him.




The record from here literally drops off into 'thin air'. However, based on Colonel LaGarde's date of death, I believe that the last medal in the group most certainly belongs to Louis Jr.





It's basically an 'attendance' medal, for the Manila (Philippines) Carnival, in 1922. Louis Jr has made Captain by this time.


The last record I have of Louis Jr is the date of his death. He died 2 December 1943, in Stockton, California. He was a resident of San Francisco at the time, and he was at McClellan Field in Stockton, inspecting the airfield for his employer, United Air Lines, at the time of his death.


After having a double bypass this past year, it's time to downsize and pass along much of my 'stuff'. I've had my fun, now it is someone elses turn.

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Next, his CDG. He doesn't go 'over there' until 1919, after the fighting. How does he get a CDG for that?




you cant get a CDG with palm without performing an act of bravery at the front. This is equivalent of the Silver Star for US troops.

For his medical research and carreer achievement Col.LaGarde would have been awarded the Légion d'Honneur,

rank of the Croix de Chevalier by the French Gvt but definitely not the CDG with palm.

The CDG could belong to his son or could have been a gift/souvenir from a friend or a member of his french family.

My two cents.



"One law for them, another one for us !"









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  • 7 months later...

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