BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON
GENERAL JOHN BANKHEAD MAGRUDER
By Judy C. Ware 2016
The following information appears on the Old City Cemetery Historical Plaque in Galveston, Texas.
John Magruder was born to a traditionally Southern family who provided him every advantage they could. He studied at the University of Virginia, then began his military schooling in 1826, attending the United States Military Academy at West Point, and upon his graduation in 1830 was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Seventh Infantry. He married Esther von Kapff in May 1831, but they were rarely together - towards the end of his life, many people were surprised to find out he was married after years of knowing him. His life was the Army, and he excelled at it, no matter where he was assigned; he served in the First Artillery in 1831, participated in the Second Seminole War, then saw battle again during the Mexican War where he was promoted from first lieutenant to lieutenant colonel rapidly under General Winfield Scott's brigade, fighting valiantly at both Cerro Gordo and Chapultepec. When the Civil War broke out, Magruder's loyalty lay with his home state, so he resigned from the Army in April 1861 and enlisted with the Confederacy. Commissioned a brigadier general at first, his skill in the field led to a speedy promotion to major general while commanding his army in Virginia. His specialty was in tricking the opposing forces into making desperate moves; at Yorktown he caused Union general George McClellan weeks of delay by making him believe Magruder's forces had an overwhelming advantage when it actually was much smaller than McClellan's. However, both his hesitancy to attack quickly during the Seven Days Battles and acting on outdated orders during the Battle of Malvern Hill caused him to lose his Virginia command and he was reassigned to oversee the Texas, New Mexico and Arizona district. Arriving in Texas in October 1862, he set up headquarters in Houston and administered his commands from there. The highlight of his career was his brilliant strategic retaking of Galveston from Union forces on January 1, 1863; however, his preference for planning strategy over direct combat caused him to be replaced and transferred to Arkansas in late summer 1864. He was returned to his Texas, New Mexico and Arizona command by Jefferson Davis in the spring of 1865, but by the time he arrived, Texas was already in the process of surrendering to the Union. With the Civil War over, Magruder traveled to Mexico and enlisted as a major general in the Imperial Mexican Army; however, the Mexican empire was already in decline and Emperor Maximilian was executed shortly afterwards. He returned to his former headquarters of Houston, Texas in 1867 and there spent his remaining years as a much-admired socialite gentleman until his death. Old City Cemetery, Galveston
Captain James A. Ware served under General Magruder during his time in the Confederate army. In 1863, their actions resulted in a letter of commendation for Magruder, Capt. Ware, Major Watkins, and Capt. Ireland which General Magruder signed – indicating that the official resolution “be read at the head of every regiment, battalion, and unattached company in the district.”
R. J. TOWNES,
Secretary of State.
These resolutions will on the day of their reception be read at the head of every regiment, battalion, and unattached company in the district.
By order of Major-General Magruder: STEPHEN D. YANCEY, Acting Assistant Adjutant-General. March 6, 1863.
The entire commendation reads as follows:
(Highlighted words done by Judy Ware for purposes of family history)
EDMUND P. TURNER,
Captain and Assistant Adjutant-General.
GENERAL ORDERS, HDQRS. DIST. OF TEX., N. MEX., AND ARIZ., No. 56. San Antonio, March 30, 1863.
The following resolution of thanks to the major-general commanding and those under his command, passed by both Houses of the Texas Legislature, is published for the information of the Army of Texas:
JOINT RESOLUTION of thanks to General J. B. Magruder and others.
RESOLUTION 1. Be it resolved by the Legislature of the State of Texas. That the thanks of the Legislature are hereby tendered to General J. B. Magruder and the officers and men under his command for the brilliant victory which they gained over the Federalists at Galveston on the 1st of January last. To Major O. M. Watkins and the officers and men under his command for their gallant conduct at Sabine Pass and the recapture of that fort and capturing the blockading vessels of the enemy; and to Major Daniel Shea and the officers and men under his command for their brave defense of the town of Lavaca; and to Major Hobby and the officers and soldiers under his command for the repulse of the enemy's attack on Corpus Christi, the commencement of our success on the Texas coast; and to Captains Ireland and Ware and the officers and soldiers under their command for their exploit in the capture of Captain Kittredge and his men near Corpus Christi; and to Captains Ireland and Willke and the officers and soldiers under their command for their good conduct in defeating the enemy's attempt to capture one of our vessels and in capturing his barges in the Bay of Corpus Christi; and to Capts. Santos Benavides and Refugio Benavides and the officers and men under their command for their vigilance, energy, and gallantry in pursuing and chastising the banditti infesting the Rio Grande frontier.
RESOLUTION 2. That the Governor be requested to transmit a copy of these resolutions to General J. B. Magruder and the other officers mentioned, with the request that they make them known to the officers and men under their command.
Approved March 6, 1863.
THE STATE OF TEXAS,
Department of State:
I, R. J. Townes, Secretary of State of the State of Texas, do hereby certify the above to be a true and correct copy of the original joint resolution as approved by the Governor, now on file in this department.
In testimony whereof I have hereunto signed my name and caused the seal of the State Department to be affixed, at Austin, this 12th March, 1863.
In 1864, Capt. James Ware received a letter from his superior, Col. Rip Ford, with directions for his new assignment as ordered by General Magruder.
January 11, 1864
The receipt of your communication of January 6th is acknowledged. You will take command of all the forces at or near San Patricio which have been ordered to report to serve or which may be raised for my command, and remain in charge of them until you are relieved by a ranking officer or by my order.
You will, as heretofore directed, muster companies into the service in pursuance Major General Magruder’s orders or for the war should any such present themselves. You will designate suitable officers to act temporarily upon your staff.
You will make a report of the kind of arms and the number of each in your command and make a requisition for the orders and ammunition necessary for them. You will also make a requisition for stake rope for your command - allowing thirty six feet to the command. You will endeavor the necessary transportation and should you be unable to obtain it otherwise you will impress it in pursuance of Maj. General Magruder’s instructions. You will explain to the people the great public necessity requiring them to aid their country in the arduous struggle for liberty, that should they withhold assistance and cause the expedition to fail they will but reserve their wagons and teams and other property for the countless invading who have come to rob and enslave us - that the man who refuses to lend his services or the use of his property to the South in this perilous crisis cannot be a friend to our cause. You will appeal to the patriotism, the generosity, and the gallantry of the people. I shall ask Maj. General Magruder for your company and that of Lieutenant Bass.
You will order Captain Rabb and Captain Dotey and other officers with their commands to report to you for duty. In short, I expect and authorize you to do all I could or would do if I were on the ground.
Captain Cater’s company will make a forward movement during the present week - Captain Littleton’s also. Captain Giddings will follow within a few days. I shall leave for Fort Merrill at the earliest possible day. Lieutenant Colonel Dickinson will accompany me. He desires to be presented in the kindliest manner to yourself, Captain Richardson, and Captain King. Keep me advised of everything by couriers.
Tell Richardson, King, Rabb, O’Callaghan, and all my old friends to put their shoulders to the wheel - to work with body, mind, and soul for their homes, their protection of their families against insult and outrage, and for the consecrated rights of free men, and for a cause that is holy.
I am very truly
your obedient servant,
John S. Ford
Captain J. A. Ware
Commanding Forces on the Nueces
San Patricio, Texas
Fearing they might be hung for treason by Union occupation forces after the war ended, James was among a group of officers (like General Magruder) who fled to Mexico and worked for Emperor Maximilian until such time as they could learn the terms of the amnesty. News traveled so slowly to Texas that the soldiers who were serving there were not even aware that Lee had surrendered until several weeks after the historic event occurred at Appomatox. Texans fought at the Battle of Palmito Ranch on May 12, 1865, even though Lee officially surrendered on April 9, 1865. These soldiers had no idea under what terms the surrender had been signed and would not know what the future held for them for quite a while. Both James Ware and John Magruder later returned to Texas.
General John Bankhead Magruder died at the age of 63 on February 18, 1871.
This site maintained by John Reagan and last updated