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Volume 34, No. 1 – February 2021


The President’s Message:

The COVID-19 virus is still center stage and our speakers are not.  I hope that everyone is well, taking safety precautions, and trying to get an appointment for the vaccine.  The Lake Clarke Shores Town Hall is not allowing large groups to meet inside the building or at the picnic pavilion.

The Round Table continues to exist but is in a temporary holding pattern.  I know that it is frustrating to keep circling but we will meet as soon as possible.  When the Town Hall allows us to safely hold a meeting, you will be promptly notified.  Good news!  Last year’s dues will be honored for this coming year.

I have kept in touch with our favorite actor and historian, Patrick Falci.  He is ready and willing to fly down from New York when conditions permit.  We look forward to having him as our speaker.

In the mean time enjoy the newsletter and another installment of “Meet the Generals.”  Two of the generals, Howard and Magruder, were polar opposites not only on the sides they fought but in their personalities.  You might find some interesting facts that may be surprising.

Gerridine LaRovere

Meet the Generals


Oliver Otis Howard

HowardOliver Otis Howard was born in Leeds, Maine on November 8, 1830.  His father, a farmer, died when Howard was nine years old.  He moved in with relatives, attended several schools in Maine, and graduated from Bowdoin College in 1850.  His education continued with an appointment to West Point and graduated in 1854, fourth in his class of forty-six cadets.  Well done by any standards.  The first assignment was in Augusta, Maine as temporary commander of the Kennebec Arsenal.

Howard married Elizabeth Anne Waite (1832-1911) in 1855 and they would have seven children.  In 1857, he was transferred to Florida for the Seminole Wars.  He was posted to Tampa where he battled mosquitoes, heat, and humidity and described it as a “field for self-denial.”  However, at a Methodist meeting “the choking sensation” of Tampa suddenly lifted from him and was replaced with, “a new well spring within me, a joy, a peace, a trusting spirit.”  He wrote that God “plucked my feet from the mire & placed them on a rock.”  After that tour of duty, he became a math instructor at West Point.  Later in his career he would be called “the Christian General.”

Thoughts of entering the ministry fled when the Civil War started.  The Union was his calling.  “I gave up every other plan except as to the best way for me to contribute to the saving of her life.”  Howard was appointed colonel of the 3rd Maine Infantry and was at the First Battle of Bull Run.  He was promoted to brigadier general on September 3, 1861.


While commanding a brigade at the Battle of Seven Pines on June 1, 1862 Howard was wounded twice in the right arm.  It was subsequently amputated. Brigadier General Philip Kearny lost his left arm in the Mexican War.  When Kearny visited Howard, he joked that they would be able to shop for gloves together.

Howard fought in the Battle of Antietam and was promoted to major general in November, 1862.  Commanding the XI Corps at Chancellorsville he suffered a humiliating rout at the hands of “Stonewall” Jackson.  His failure to protect Joseph Hooker’s flank was cited as a major reason for the defeat.  At Gettysburg, he became the senior commander for a brief period after John Reynolds was killed.  Howard redeemed himself by the selection of Cemetery Hill and Cemetery Ridge as sites to anchor the Union position.  This earned him a “thanks of Congress” citation.

In the Atlanta Campaign, he commanded the IV Corps under William T. Sherman.  Howard was a devout churchgoer who opposed drinking, gambling, and prostitution.  In a play on his first initials, his men called him “Uh Oh” and “Oh Oh” Howard.  Sherman declared he “ought to have been born in petticoats and ought to wear them.”

After the success of the Battle of Atlanta, Sherman, who favored granting command to West Point graduates, appointed Howard to permanent command of the Army of Tennessee.  He led the right wing on the March to the Sea.  Sherman commented that Howard as corps commander had the “utmost skill, nicety, and precision.”

Howard had the reputation of fairness and skillfulness.  Abraham Lincoln and Edwin M. Stanton chose Howard to head the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands.  This was created by Congress to provide humanitarian relief and take four million people from slavery to citizenship with all its rights.  He attempted to protect freed Blacks from hostile conditions.  For example, Howard’s labor policy set up a system that required freed people to work on former plantation land under pay scales fixed by the Bureau.

Howard had enormous power as Bureau head and wrote “Almost unlimited authority gave me scope and liberty of action... Legislative, judicial and executive powers were combined in my commission.”  President Andrew Johnson and Howard clashed over most issues.  Johnson did everything that he could to return political power to southern whites and called Howard a fanatic.  Given the politics of the time and complexity of the problems creating a new South was difficult even with authority that Howard had been given.

One option General Howard had was directing the resources to education which he called “the true relief” from “beggary and dependence.”  He stated, “The opposition to Negro education made itself felt everywhere in a combination not to allow the freed man any room or building in which a school might be taught.  In 1865, 1866, and 1867, mobs of baser classes at intervals and in all parts of the South occasionally burned school buildings and churches used as schools, flogged teachers or drove them away, and in a number of instances murdered them.”

As a result of a meeting with socially concerned groups, a new institution of higher learning was incorporated by Congress in the spring of 1867. The school would be nonsectarian and open to men and women without regard to race. The Howard Normal and Theological Institute for the Education of Preachers and Teachers became Howard University in Washington, D.C. and was named in honor of Oliver Otis Howard. He served as president from 1869 to 1874.

Although Howard’s behavior was beyond reproach at the Bureau, his refusal to acknowledge inappropriate activities by his subordinates resulted in accusations against him.  He was nearly bankrupt from the legal fees and described himself as “crippled and broken.”  General Howard was cleared of all charges by a court of inquiry.

Tired of Washington and the political climate Howard rejoined the military on active duty.  He took command of army forces in the Pacific Northwest and fought in the Indian Wars.  A large part of his job was convincing Native Americans to move to isolated reservations and establish themselves as farmers.  Given the work he did at the Freedmen’s Bureau this seemed to go against his principles.  He believed that he was saving them and living on a reservation would lead them on a path to citizenship.

From 1880-82 he was superintendent of West Point.  Then, he served as commander of the Platte from 1882 to 1886 and the Military Division of the Pacific from 1886-1888.  His final command was the Department of the East at Fort Columbus on Governors Island in New York Harbor from 1888-1894 and retired with the rank of major general.  The French government made him a chevalier of the Legion of Honor in 1884.  He received the Medal of Honor in 1893 for his heroism at Fair Oaks.

In 1895, Howard founded Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate Tennessee for the education of “mountain whites.”

He was the author of these books:

Donald’s School Days 1878

Nez Perce Joseph 1881

General Taylor1892

Isabella of Castile 1894

Fighting for Humanity or Camp and Quarterdeck 1898

Henry in the War: or the Model Volunteer 1899

Autobiography 1907

My Life and Experiences among Our Hostile Indians 1907

General Howard has been portrayed in movies. In the 1950 film, Broken Arrow, Howard was played by Basil Ruysdael opposite James Stewart.  James Whitmore portrayed General Howard in a 1975 television film called I Will Fight No More Forever.  The plot followed the Army campaign against the Nez Perce Indians and the surrender of Chief Joseph.

General Howard passed away in Burlington, Vermont on October 26, 1909. 

An Army Reserve Center was named for him in Auburn, Maine and is still in use.  Also named in his honor is Howard County, Nebraska and Howard, Kansas.  Two schools were named after him: Howard High School in Wilmington, Delaware and Howard School of Academics and Technology in Chattanooga, Tennessee.


John Bankhead Magruder

MagruderJohn B. Magruder was born in Port Royal, Virginia on May 1, 1807 to Thomas Magruder and his wife, Elizabeth Bankhead.  He was the fifth of ten children.  Thomas was practicing law and had property but he was constantly in debt and his homestead was sold at auction in 1820.  They were reduced to living on Elizabeth’s property in Aberfoyle.

John Magruder never liked the idea of the law for a career but was drawn to soldiering.  His grandfather, Colonel James Bankhead, told glorious stories about fighting in the American Revolution War.  In 1825, Magruder received an appointment to West Point.  He graduated in 1830 and was fifteenth in a class of 42 cadets and commissioned as a brevet second lieutenant.

On May 18, 1831, he married Henrietta von Kapff, (1810-1896) daughter of a wealthy businessman.  They would have three children, Isabella (1833-1869), Katherine (1836-1896), and Henry (1841-1907).  The family occasionally traveled with Magruder to his various assignments in the military.  Due to the many remote locales, Henrietta lived in Baltimore where she raised the children and looked after her business interests.  Despite the long separations a friend noted that Henrietta stayed “in love with her husband to an uncommon degree.”

From 1831 to 1845, Magruder had garrison duty in North Carolina, Maryland, and Florida.  These postings gave him the opportunity to study law and pass the bar examination.  He was not pleased with his tour of duty in 1844 at Hancock Barracks in Maine.  The weather was extremely cold, he developed bronchitis, and saw no military action.  A disappointment that stayed with him for several years was absolutely no recognition for the organization of the crucial supplies that were needed during the Second Seminole War.

He volunteered in 1845, for his next assignment which was in Corpus Christi, Texas. Magruder commanded a light artillery unit in the Mexican War and was recognized for his “gallant and meritorious conduct.”  Although, he had a reputation for being restless and short tempered, “Stonewall” Jackson sought service with Magruder.  Jackson said that he would be the officer most likely to take his guns to wherever the action was the hottest.  Magruder was “lightly wounded” in the Battle of Mexico City.

Magruder believed that the War demonstrated “the science of artillery is continuously advancing.”  He learned the value of deceiving and flanking forces that outnumbered his own.  Detailed plans were submitted by Magruder for separating the light artillery from “ordinance, field, and seacoast artillery.”  He believed these divisions of labor were more efficient.  The War Department rejected his suggestions because they would be too expensive.

Lieutenant Magruder was a favorite among his men who remarked that he was “always charming, frivolous at times, but intelligent and obviously well read.”  He earned the sobriquet “Prince John” while stationed in Newport, Rhode Island where he lavishly entertained, was attentive to the ladies, and wore fashionable military dress.  Others described him as pompous, egotistical, theatrical, and a man who thrived on this type of recognition.  Even with marginal visiting dignitaries he ordered dress parades and reviews followed by elaborate dinner parties.  At the height of his popularity The Richmond Dispatch described him as, “the picture of the Virginia gentleman, the frank and manly representative of the chivalry of the dear Old Dominion.”

In 1850, Magruder was assigned to command the post in San Diego, California.  While he was in California, he was a land speculator, lawyer, saloon owner, railroad president, and a celebrated duelist.  By May, 1857, he was at Fort Adams in Rhode Island and, finally, he was recognized as one of the lead artillerists.  His experience aided him in convincing the War Department in 1860 to accept his logistic plans.  The government funded an expedition to observe European artillery tactics.

At the onset of the Civil War, Magruder was serving in Washington, D.C.  However, his loyalties were with his home state of Virginia and he resigned four days after the state seceded.  Governor John Letcher appointed him a colonel in the Confederate Army.  His victory at Big Bethel on June 10th was reported as the first significant land engagement of the War.  Though a small engagement that only involved three hundred men, it made him the South’s first military celebrity.  On June 17, 1861 he advanced to brigadier general and to major general on October 7th.  “He’s the hero for the times,” boasted one Civil War ballad, “the furious fighting Johnny B. MaGruder.”  This was the spelling of his name on the sheet music.

Commanding a force of 12,000 infantry in the spring of 1862, Union soldiers were advancing up the Virginia Peninsula.  Magruder’s improvisations deceived George McClellan giving success to the South.  He ordered the infantry unit to march in a wide circle for several hours. This convinced the North that they were seeing a continuous line of troops passing and reinforcements were arriving.

Magruder’s reputation suffered a fatal blow during the subsequent Seven Days’ Battles around Richmond.  His bumbling and inefficiency helped deny Robert E. Lee a potential victory. Magruder and Lee quarreled.  Lee decided he could not work with him and transferred him to Texas.

The general worked to strengthen the Texas coastal defenses and could boast of one success. On January 1, 1863, with two cotton-clad gunboats, he took Galveston, captured the cutter Harriet Lane and drove off the Union blockading squadron.  With Galveston in Confederate hands, he left for his headquarters in Houston to attend to administrative duties.  He strenuously enforced the draft, commanders had dictatorial powers, and occasionally suspended habeas corpus.  General Edmund Kirby Smith said that Magruder had an “utter disregard for the law.”

After the War he joined the Confederate exodus to Mexico and lived there from July, 1865 to November, 1866.  Magruder became a naturalized Mexican citizen and was appointed chief of the Land Office of Colonization.  Napoleon III’s troop withdrawal from Mexico crippled the monarchy, and Magruder fled to Havana.  Returning to the United States he was totally broke.  He established a law practice in New York City but was still constantly on the move.  In 1869, he lectured in New Orleans on Mexican politics.  A natural at the podium his lectures were always well-attended.  A group of wealthy admirers pledged to purchase a plantation for him but this never materialized.  In failing health.  he moved to a luxurious hotel in Houston and died on February 18, 1871.


Last changed: 02/07/21