CONFEDERATE MARTYR HENRY C. MAGRUDER (1843 – 1865)

One of several addresses given at the VA-marker dedication ceremony, Magruder Cemetery, Highway 61 south of Lebanon Junction, Kentucky, on August 12, 2000.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Henry C. Magruder, was born 1843 in Lebanon Junction, Bullitt Co., Kentucky, by Amy Magruder.

Magruder’s great-grandfather was the Revolutionary War veteran Archibald Magruder. A Brass Placque over his gravestone indicates: Pvt, 4th Co., 29th Battalion of the State Militia of Maryland, 1778. He is buried in a Magruder cemetery at Bernheim Forest.

Magruder’s grandfather was Ezekiel Magruder (1790 – 1863).

Joining the Confederate States Army when 17 and serving in General Simon B. Buckner’s command. Magruder took part in the battle of Fort Donelson in February, 1862. Fort Donelson on Cumberland River was targeted by the Union in an effort to cut the Confederacy in two by moving via the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers down the Mississippi River to the Gulf.

Magruder belonged to those 13,000 Confederates captured at Fort Donelson by the Union forces of General Ulysses S. Grant.

Escaping from Fort Donelson he became a member of Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston’s bodyguard. Gen. Johnston, born in Kentucky but a Republic of Texas war veteran and Secretary of War of the Republic, had been assigned command of the Western Department by President Jefferson Davis. After the Confederate defeats at Fort Henry and Fort Donelson he moved his line of defense to the vicinity of Nashville, Tennessee, and later to Corinth, Mississippi. He was killed in the Battle of Shiloh on 6 April, 1862, leading his forces. Once more Henry C. Magruder had to seek a new Confederate command. He joined as a soldier in General John Morgan’s command.

Taking part in General Morgan’s Great Ohio raid he escaped capture. The raid began when General Morgan with 2,500 men in the beginning of July 1863 crossed the Ohio River. The forces struck to the northeast across Indiana into Ohio but had to surrender at Salineville, Ohio, in face of large Union forces.

Returning to Kentucky Magruder formed a partisan ranger command that was active during 1864 in the area south of Louisville.

In February, 1865, Magruder and other Confederate partisans including Jerome Clarke (Sue Mundy), a famous Kentucky irregular, were southeast of Hawesville, Hancock County, when ambushed by Unionist Home Guardsmen. They fired at
Confederates with .44-caliber Ballard repeaters. Magruder charged them on horseback but was hit in the right arm and the bullet lodged in his lower chest or abdomen.

Retreating and riding off toward Cloverport, the command was ambushed a second time. Now Magruder was wounded by a bullet in the right lung. The wounded Magruder with Clarke and Henry Metcalfe, a Ohio County guerrilla, managed to avoid Union troops for two weeks. Magruder was treated by a doctor in Breckinridge County. Acting on a tip of an informer Union soldiers found the partisans in a barn near the doctor’s residence. Surrounded they were captured on March 12, 1865.

Clarke was tried, sentenced to death and hanged on March 15, while Magruder was kept alive by the Federals in a Louisville prison to be tried, sentenced to death and executed by hanging on the 20th of October, 1865, over six months after the surrender at Appomatox. He reached the age of 22 years.

By coincidence Missouri Confederate guerrilla Colonel William C. Quantrill for a few weeks came to languish in the same Federal prison in Louisville as Magruder. Quantrill, on his final Kentucky raid, was captured and mortally wounded on 10th May, 1865, at Wakefield, Kentucky, and brought to the military prison hospital at Tenth Street and Broadway in Louisville. There Quantrill lay dying until just before he expired he was transported to a Catholic Hospital. He passed away on June 6th and his last words has been said to be: ”Boys, get ready, steady”. Quantrill was 27 years old.

The reason the Missourian Quantrill and Marcellus Jerome Clarke (alias Sue Mundy) are so well known is that they both had newspapermen, who wrote about them, but Magruder had no sponsor in the media. As you all know Quantrill was made famous by John Edwards, who fought in Jo Shelby’s Iron Brigade and then followed Shelby to Mexico after the war. Edwards was the historian of this unique expedition and chronicler of the actvities of Shelby’s Iron Brigade. In the last twenty years of Edward’s life he wrote about Quantrill and his men in daily newspapers in Missouri and in 1877 the book Noted Guerrillas was published.

In the case of Clarke it was, as you all know, George Prentice, editor of the Louisville Daily Journal, that made the Kentucky guerrilla captain famous, but for the wrong reasons. He claimed Clarke was a female guerrilla named Sue Mundy, and the readers were fascinated.

After this ceremony and VA-marker dedication I am sure that Henry C. Magruder has started on his road to fame.

Honor to Henry C. Magruder, Confederate Hero-Martyr.

Honor to all Confederate partisan rangers and guerrillas of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

EXCERPTS FROM MILITARY COMMISSION PROCEEDINGS AGAINST CAPTAIN HENRY C. MAGRUDER, C.S.A., KENTUCKY, AS REPORTED IN DAILY NEWSPAPER LOUISVILLE JOURNAL IN SEPTEMBER 1865. CAPTAIN MAGRUDER WAS SENTENCED TO DEATH AND HANGED IN LOUISVILLE ON OCTOBER 20, 1865

Defense Counsel:

If Magruder was connected with the Confederate Army, and could prove this connection with any command which had received terms under which they were to surrender, he should be permitted to show that fact and would have important bearing on the opinion of this Commission.

Counsel for Defense:

I have secured subpoenas for Basil Duke (note: Confederate colonel) and Lt. Hines (note: Confederate intelligence agent). Neither of them are here, and the Commission must see the need for two days for preparation. What was expected to be proved by them – that the prisoner was a Confederate soldier.

I will here state that I expect to prove by Col. Basil Duke and Lt. Hines that the prisoner was regularly mustered into the service of the Confederate government, and was in that service at the time of the commission of the offenses charged against him. He expects to prove that he was ordered to act as a scout or partisan at the time that these offenses were claimed to have been committed.

President of the Commission:

The proposed evidence of Basil Duke and one Hines, of the so-called Confederate service, to the effect that the accused held a commission in said service as a partisan ranger or otherwise…is not deemed by the Court to be material to the defense or persistent to the issue.

Henry C. Magruder:

A copy of the charges were furnished to me only a few days before I was called to trial. No list of witnesses was furnished to me, to give me opportunity to contradict false statements that might be made.

1. There is no proof that I am or ever was a citizen of the United States.
2. There is no proof that Kentucky and Tennessee were within the lines occupied by the lawfully authorized and organized forces of the United States.
3. The judge has admitted that I was a Confederate soldier of a recognized belligerent nation that has the right to take the public property of the opposing nation. “the principle extends so far that when military necessity requires it, such property may be destroyed to prevent its being of benefit to the enemy” (Halleck, pp. 446, 457).
This court has no jurisdiction. Murder is not a military offense. This ought to be tried by the civil courts.

Military commissions were created during the war. Can they legally try any case when the war is ended?

The Southern Confederate States were at war with the United States. They were recognized as a belligerent power. The laws and rights were regarded between them. The rights of persons and property…It has been conceded and proven that I was a Confederate soldier, mustered into the service of the Confederate States and serving with her soldiers, and I admit that I have served my country with all the devotion and tenacity of purpose of which I was capable. I was honest to my country. As a soldier of that country I was governed by the laws and have all the rights to which any belligerent is entitled…I have committed no murder.

After the disastrous fight (Shiloh) we were transferred to General Morgan’s command, and to that command I belonged when I received the deadly wound from which I now suffer so intensely. Surely this government has recovered me from a soldier’s death and grave to consign me to that of a felon’s. That would be the refinement of cruelty. A frail, feeble object, my death would add little to its power – and vengeance does not call for my life.

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