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Prince without a Kingdom: The Recall of John Bankhead Magruder Kenneth H. Williams "Prince John" was furious. Dashing, excitable Confederate major general John Bankhead Magruder had endured whispers and rumors for almost two weeks since his poor performance at Malvern Hill on July i, 1862, during the last of the Seven Days' battles. Finally he had escaped the malicious environment of Richmond, no doubt finding great repose in the rhythmic consistency of the train that was carrying him on the first leg of his journey to Little Rock. The Arkansas capital was far removed from the bitterness that had been directed his way after the Confederates failed to crush George B. McClellan's retreating Army of the Potomac. There, too, he would be free from the sort of confusing orders from superiors that had plagued him in his most recent battle. In Little Rock he would be in charge—the commander of the Trans-Mississippi Department. This mid-July ride through the Virginia and Carolina countryside had been his most relaxing time in months, but the peace was shattered in Columbia. An ominous message had been forwarded to South Carolina. "Say to General Magruder," President Jefferson Davis directed, "that circumstances render it necessary for him to return directly to this place."1 The author wishes to thank Lynda L. Crist, Mary S. Dix, John B. Boles, Evelyn T. Nolen, Julia C. Shivers, and Joseph T. Glatthaar for their helpful comments on this article. ' U.S. War Department, The War ofthe Rebellion: A Compilation ofthe OfficialRecords ofthe Union and Confederate Armies, 128 vols. (Washington: 1880-1901), ser. I, vol. 11, 3:641 (hereafter cited as OR). Magruder must have left Richmond on July 12. Davis's telegram ofJuly 13 was sent to Wilmington, N.C., but arrived too late to intercept Magruder's train, which apparently reached Columbia on July 14. The lieutenant who received Davis's telegram in Wilmington forwarded the message to Branchville, S.C, and Augusta, Ga., the next two stops past Columbia, but it is unclear when the message finally caught up with Magruder, who was to remain in Columbia and attend a dinner party being given by John Smith Preston. It would have taken Magruder two days to return to Richmond, and he was back in the Rebel capital and had met with Davis by July 19. See Microcopy Publication 437, reel 61, frames 660-63, 706-8, 709-10, National Archives; James A. Shingleur to Davis, July 14, 1 862 (telegram), Jefferson Davis Papers, Louisiana Historical Association Collection, Tulane University, New Orleans; New York Herald, July 23, 1862; C. Vann Woodward, ed., Mary Chesnufs Civil War (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 198 1), Civil War History, Vol. XLI, No. 1 © 1995 by The Kent State University Press 6 CIVIL WAR HISTORY What had happened? Magruder had left Richmond only a few days before. Why had any questions not been settled prior to his departure? Of course there had been rumors, but he would not be recalled just because of rumors, would he? Reports that Magruder had been drunk at Malvern Hill were widespread. He had "broken down under intemperance" and was thought to have been relieved of his command, according to the July 1 1 New York Tribune. That Magruder was "drunk during the action," wrote a soldier from a Georgia regiment, "was common talk among troops." A North Carolina diarist noted on July 9 that the general "is said to have been drunk" when he ordered the final attack, "but I am loathe to beleive [sic] it." That bloody and ineffective assault, made after Magruder 's troops had been out of position for much of the day, led Robert E. Lee to confront Magruder after the battle and openly question why he had initiated the advance. Col. Thomas R. R. Cobb had told his wife only a few weeks before that Magruder was "a good officer" and that "it is all stuff" about his intemperance , but after Malvern Hill, Cobb had changed his opinion. "Old Magruder made no reputation in this battle," the colonel wrote on July 5. "He lost rather than gained. He was depressed, and I fear was drinking."2 All ofthese...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 5-21
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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