1 Every Inch a Soldier
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1 EVERY INCH A SOLDIER The New York Herald, on February 20, 1871, portrayed John Bankhead Magruder as the "aristocrat of aristocrats in the old army."1 His modest military salary invariably lagged behind the cost of his spectacular social escapades , yet somehow he was always sufficiently ingenious to overcome his want of financial liquidity. In the end, a lack of funds would prove to be no more of a handicap on the social circuit than a lack of manpower on the Virginia Peninsula or a lack of firepower on the coast of Texas during the Civil War. Whether fighting or entertaining, Magruder had a magical ability to deceive others about the extent of his resources. It was a talent that would serve him well throughout his life. John Magruder spent nearly all of his adult years in military service. Educated and trained to arms, he read voraciously and studied military science religiously long after graduating from West Point in 1830. Twice prior to the Civil War he traveled to Europe to observe Continental armies in battle. Magruder knew all of the maxims of warfare but was flexible enough to know when to deviate from them. He was a perfectionist. He planned his battles as meticulously as he planned his parties, and he was usually in the center of the action in both. Yetalthough he played important roles in two major American wars, disagreement remains regarding his effectiveness in them. Author David H. Strother judged that Magruder's genius in executing grand maneuvers was "Napoleonic,"2 and Union general Edward R. S. Canby 1. New York Herald, February 20,1871. 2. D. H. Strother, "Personal Recollections of the War," Harper's Magazine 33(October 1866): 549. 4 JOHN BANKHEAD MAGRUDER John Bankhead Magruder's family history begins with Alexander Magruder,10 who had been a supporter of Charles I in his losing effort against the forces of Oliver Cromwell in the English Civil War. After the decisive Battle of Worcester in 1651,the Roundheads deported many Royalists to the British American colonies. Alexander Magruder, John's great-great-greatgrandfather , was one of the deportees. He settled in what is now Prince George's County, Maryland. Bythe time he died, in 1676/77, he had amassed 2,400 acres of real property, including the plantations Alexander's Hope, Anchovie Hills, Craig Night, and Good Luck. In his will he divided the property among his six children, James, Samuel, John,Alexander, Nathaniel, and Elizabeth." Samuel Magruder, John B.Magruder's great-great-grandfather,inherited the plantation Good Luck. Samuel married Sarah, believed to be the daughter of Ninean Beall of Calvert County, Maryland, although no documentary evidence has yet been found.12 They had eleven children, Ninean, John, James, William, Alexander, Nathaniel, Elizabeth, Sarah, Verlinda, Mary, and Elinor. Samuel Magruder died in 1711 and his wife, Sarah, in 1734,both leaving wills.13 John Bankhead Magruder's direct ancestor was William. He married Mary Frazer, and they had children Thomas, George Frazer, Basil,Ann, Susanna , Barbara, Elizabeth, and Verlinda. The family lived on Turkey Cocke Branch Plantation, a 193-acre tract in Prince George's County, which William had inherited from his father. William Magruder died testate in 1765, as had his wife, Mary (Frazer) Magruder, in 1774. They left Turkey Cocke Branch Plantation to "their unmarried daughters." George Frazer Magruder, John's grandfather, was left with a paltry twenty shillings and a mourning ring.14 10. The American family surname Magruder was originallyMacGregor in Scotland. By an act of the Privy Council of Scotland dated April 3, 1603, however, all MacGregors were forced to take new surnames "on pain of death." Many of the Magruders and MacGregors today are members of the American Clan Gregor Society. Egbert Watson Magruder, ed., Yearbook of the American Clan Gregor Society, 1913 (Richmond, Va.: Ware and Duke Printers, 1914) has excellent information on the family history. u. Effie Gwynn Bowie, Across the Years in Prince George's County (Richmond, Va.: Garrett and Massie, 1947), 534-36; Will for Alexander Magruder, Prince George's County, Md., Wills. All Maryland records can be found in the Maryland State Archives, Annapolis. 12. This is probably due to the loss by fire of the Calvert County, Md., records. 13. Wills for Samuel Magruder and Sarah Magruder, Prince Georges County, Md., Wills, in the Maryland State Archives. 14. Bowie, Across the Years in Prince George's County, 538; Wills for William Magruder and Mary Magruder, Prince George's County, Md...