Wednesday, June 13, 2012

John Bankhead Magruder

John Bankhead Magruder, CSA marker in Newport News, VAMajor General, CSA
City of Newport News

Marker Text: U.S. Military Academy graduate 1830, Virginia-born 'Prince John' Magruder served with distinction in the Mexican War. In 1861 he resigned as Colonel, USA and joined the Confederacy. In the Civil War's first planned battle his forces were victorious at Big Bethel June 10, 1861. During April 1862 he delayed the Union drive up the Peninsula here at the Battle of Dam No. 1 after the war he lived in Mexico. He died in Texas, 1871.

Location: On Campsite Drive in front of the Newport News Park Campground Headquarter, near the entrance to the campground just off Virginia Route 143 (Jefferson Avenue). Erected by the Bethel Chapter UOC, 1975

  John Bankhead Magruder was in command of the Confederacy's Army of the Peninsula during the Battle of Big Bethel on June 10, 1861, one of the first actions of the Civil War. He had been assigned to protect Richmond from the prying eyes on Chesapeake Bay at Fort Monroe. According to what I have read about Fort Monroe, it was the only territory in the Confederacy held by the Union during the entire Civil War.

  "Prince John" Magruder, as he was often called, had a flair for theatrics that greatly helped the Confederacy and the first time he was called to use them came early in George McClellan's Peninsula Campaign. With 13,000 men he held off more than 100,000 Yankees at the start of the siege of Yorktown. Magruder was a West Point graduate in the class of 1830 and ranked 15th in a class of 40 students. Today's marker is not a state historical marker, but a marker erected by many special organizations within the south who have erected markers to remember specific individuals in the Confederate States.

  John Bankhead Magruder was born in Port Royal, Virginia. Two years before attending West Point, he attended the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. While at student and UVA, he had the opportunity to dine with former President Thomas Jefferson and a fellow student at the same time was Edger Allan Poe.

John Bankhead Magruder, CSA marker in Newport News Park Campground Parking Area

Marker is in the parking area for the headquarters for the campground.  I had more photos of the marker, but due to an unfortunate hard drive failure a few years ago, I loss some of my original photos.

  After graduating from West Point, Magruder spent the rest of his life as a career military officer serving in the armies of three nations. He was a U.S. Army officer in the Mexican-American War, a Confederate general during the American Civil War, and a postbellum general in the Imperial Mexican Army.

  Magruder resigned his commission in the U.S. Army on April 20, 1861 after Virginia seceded from the Union and was appointed a Colonel in the Confederate Army. Colonel Magruder was assigned to the Peninsula. Magruder was promoted to Brigadier General June 1861 and Major General on October 7, 1861. Following the Battle of Big Bethel in June, 1861, Magruder moved his army in Yorktown and along of the Warwick River where he, he supervised the construction of three defensive lines. I will post a few markers in the next few days about these defensive lines, Magruder established to defend Richmond and delay the Union army's advance up the Peninsula.

  In April 1862, Magruder directed the defense of the Warwick-Yorktown Line from Lee Hall and halted the powerful Union advance against Richmond. During the Battle of Yorktown, Magruder completely deceived Union General McClellan. He mislead the Union troops as to his army's strength by marching small numbers of troops past the same position repeatedly, making it appear his forces were larger than they were. He moved his artillery around frequently and liberally used ammunition when Union troops were sighted, giving the impression of a larger, more aggressive defending force. Once General Joseph E. Johnston arrived with more reinforcements, Magruder was outranked and relegated to a division commander.

  After the Confederate retreat from Yorktown on May 3, 1862, Magruder fought in the Seven Days Campaign, and his dismal performance at Savage Station and Malvern Hill led to questions of incompetence. Thereafter, Magruder commanded the Department of Texas where he served for the remainder of the war. Refusing a Federal parole, Magruder moved to Mexico and fought for Emperor Maximilian. Afterwards, Magruder settled in Galveston, Texas and lectured about his wartime experiences until his death.

  Today, in the area several geographic features are named in Magruder's honor. Fort Magruder, a Confederate stronghold during the Battle of Williamsburg is named for him. The small town of Magruder in York County, Virginia, near Williamsburg, but during World War II, about 1943, the United States Navy relocated the residents of Magruder to establish a large military reservation known today as Camp Peary. Magruder Boulevard which is State Route 134, a major connector road running through the city of Hampton and into York County.


  1. There is quite a bit missing here. For example:

    On January 1, 1863, Magruder's forces won the Battle of Galveston, recapturing the city and port for the Confederacy. The First Confederate Congress published its official thanks:

    "... The bold, intrepid, and gallant conduct of Maj. Gen. J. Bankhead Magruder, Col. Thomas Green, Maj. Leon Smith, and other officers, and of the Texan Rangers and soldiers engaged in the attack on, and victory achieved over, the land and naval forces of the enemy at Galveston, on the 1st of January, 1863, eminently entitle them to the thanks of Congress and the country. ... This brilliant achievement, resulting, under the providence of God, in the capture of the war steamer Harriet Lane and the defeat and ignominious flight of the hostile fleet from the harbor, the recapture of the city and the raising of the blockade of the port of Galveston, signally evinces that superior force may be overcome by skillful conception and daring courage."

    From August 1864 to March 1865, Magruder commanded the Department of Arkansas, but then returned to command the District of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona during the last months of the war until the entire Trans-Mississippi region was surrendered by General Edmund Kirby Smith.

    1. Thanks for the additional information about Magruder. When I started this blog I wanted to expand on the history of the marker, but at the same time my posts needed to be a reasonalbe length. I don't include everything I have learned about someone, generally because I have other markers, which later will add more information. At the same time as a reader of my blog you have done exactly what I had hoped you would do by adding additional historical facts to my posts that are of interest to you. So thanks.