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.
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.