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John Bankhead Magruder (American National Biography)

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Gary W. Gallagher, "Magruder, John Bankhead," American National Biography Online, February 2000, http://www.anb.org/articles/04/04-00655.html.

Although not a secessionist, Magruder resigned from the U.S. Army on 20 April 1861. Commissioned a Confederate colonel on 21 May (to date from 16 Mar.), he took charge of troops defending the Virginia Peninsula. On 10 June a portion of his command won a skirmish at Big Bethel. Magruder played scarcely any role in the triumph but trumpeted it as a decisive engagement. Newspapers praised him lavishly, and he soon ranked behind only P. G. T. Beauregard as a Confederate military idol. He was promoted to brigadier general on 17 June and to major general on 7 October 1861.

Magruder oversaw an excellent defense of the lower Peninsula against George B. McClellan's army in April 1862. He constructed earthworks, dammed streams to flood lowlands, and conducted an effective game of bluff that prompted McClellan to waste a month at Yorktown while Joseph E. Johnston shifted his Confederate army from northern Virginia to the Peninsula. Johnston, who unfairly criticized Magruder's defensive line as too long and claimed the flooded areas prohibited offensive action, assigned him the right wing of the army. Magruder reported directly to Major General Gustavus W. Smith, with whom he immediately began a pattern of bickering that culminated in his requesting reassignment. He received word on 23 May of his appointment to command the Trans-Mississippi Department. Pleased with this news, Magruder asked Secretary of War George Wythe Randolph to postpone the transfer until after the current campaign had ended, a request Randolph granted over Johnston's objection.

How to Cite This Page: "John Bankhead Magruder (American National Biography)," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/19559.