JOHN BANKHEAD MAGRUDER, II CORPS
Magruder was born in 1810 at Winchester, Virginia, and graduated from West Point in 1830, where his imperious flamboyance earned him the sobriquet “Prince John.” He entered the army as a second lieutenant of infantry but soon transferred to the artillery. He saw service in the West, as well as on the East Coast, including in Florida during the Second Seminole War (1835–42). Magruder was promoted to first lieutenant in 1836 and made captain a decade later, shortly before the outbreak of the US-Mexican War (1846–48). He fought at the Battle of Palo Alto (May 8, 1846) and commanded an artillery battery at the Battle of Cerro Gordo (April 18, 1847), receiving a brevet to major. Another brevet, to lieutenant colonel, was forthcoming after the assault on Chapultepec (September 13, 1847).
After the war with Mexico, Magruder was assigned to garrison duty in Maryland, Rhode Island, and California. He resigned his USA commission on the eve of the Civil War and joined the Confederate forces as an infantry colonel on March 16, 1861. In June he saw his first action, at Big Bethel (June 10, 1861, Virginia; Confederate victory), successfully repulsing Major General Benjamin Butler’s attempt to advance from Fortress Monroe. Magruder was rewarded with a promotion to brigadier general in July, which was followed by a step up to major general in October.
Magruder had charge of Confederate forces on Virginia’s Yorktown Peninsula, where he went head to head with Union general George B. McClellan during the Peninsula Campaign (March–July 1862). He maneuvered his 12,000 troops so skillfully that he succeeded in deceiving McClellan into vastly overestimating his strength. This tied down the Union general in what was an unnecessary siege of Yorktown during April 5–May 4, 1862.
Magruder fought gallantly in the Seven Days Battles (June 25–July 1), but his tardiness in executing Robert E. Lee’s orders at Malvern Hill (July 1, 1862; Confederate defeat) drew Lee’s ire. Lee exiled Magruder to service in Texas in October, where he assumed command of II Corps, Army of the Trans-Mississippi. His responsibilities were extended to include Arizona and New Mexico.
Magruder excelled as the head of II Corps, taking Galveston, Texas, seizing the Union gunboat Harriet Lane, and driving off the Galveston blockading squadron on January 1, 1863. He also participated in General Richard Taylor’s operations against General Nathaniel Banks’s Red River Campaign (March 10–May 22, 1864; Confederate victory). At the conclusion of the Civil War, Magruder fled to Mexico, where he accepted a commission as major general in the service of the doomed Mexican emperor Maximilian I. He did not return to the United States until 1869, two years before his death in 1871.
JOHN GEORGE WALKER, III CORPS
Walker was born in Jefferson City, Missouri, in 1821 and was educated at Washington Institute (today Washington University) in St. Louis. Two years after graduating in 1844, he joined the USA as a first lieutenant in the Regiment of Mounted Rifles. He served with this unit in the US-Mexican War (1846–48), receiving a brevet to captain after the Battle of San Juan de los Llanos, and was wounded at the Battle of Molino del Rey (September 8, 1847).
After the war, in June 1851, Walker was promoted to the regular rank of captain and, seven years later, married Sophie Baylor, of the family for whom Baylor University is named. Walker remained in the USA until July 1861, when he resigned his commission to join the CSA as a major in the cavalry. Rapidly promoted to lieutenant colonel of the 8th Texas Cavalry Regiment in August 1861, he was sent to North Carolina and promoted to colonel in September 1861, and, in January 1862, to brigadier general. He fought in the Peninsula Campaign (March–July 1862) under Brigadier General Theophilus H. Holmes and was wounded at the Battle of Malvern Hill (July 1, 1862; Confederate defeat). He fought under Major General James Longstreet at the Battles of South Mountain (September 14, 1862, Maryland; Confederate defeat) and Antietam (September 17, 1862, Maryland; Confederate strategic defeat).
Promoted to major general two months after Antietam, Walker was assigned to command a dozen Texas regiments—a total of 12,000 men—in the Trans-Mississippi Army. He organized his regiments into what was initially termed a division and subsequently designated as III Corps. His command was given the sobriquet of “Walker’s Greyhounds” because of the great speed and marching endurance of its personnel. The Greyhounds fought with the Army of the Trans-Mississippi from November 1862 until war’s end.
In March 1863 Lieutenant General Edmund Kirby Smith assigned Walker’s Greyhounds to the Western Louisiana Command under Major General Richard Taylor. Walker was tasked with disrupting General Grant’s supply line, which initially ran along the west bank of the Mississippi River to the shore opposite Vicksburg, the fortress town to which Grant was laying siege. Unobserved by the Confederates, Grant had quietly moved his supply lines to the east bank of the river. Walker’s attack therefore proved fruitless. One of his units, Hawes’s Brigade, was engaged in combat against the Federals at the Battle of Young’s Point (June 7, 1863, Louisiana; Confederate defeat). Another, McCullough’s Brigade, engaged US Colored Troops at the Battle of Milliken’s Bend (June 7, 1863, Louisiana; Confederate defeat). The raw Union African Brigade, poorly trained, was badly mauled, but Union gunboats fired on McCullough’s men, driving his brigade back and snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.
Following the defeat at Milliken’s Bend, Taylor requested General Smith to assign Walker’s Greyhounds to support his attack on New Orleans. Smith refused, however, and III Corps did nothing for the rest of the summer except to patrol northeastern Louisiana without engaging the enemy. In the meantime, Grant took Vicksburg on July 4, 1863.
Late in 1863, Walker led III Corps back to Arkansas, where it was headquartered. In March 1864 his corps was dispatched to assist Taylor in opposing Union general Nathaniel P. Banks’s Red River Campaign. The corps was instrumental in winning the Battle of Mansfield (April 8, 1864, Louisiana; Confederate victory), which brought Banks’s miserably failed Red River Campaign to an end.
From Mansfield, Smith ordered Walker’s corps north to engage Major General Frederick Steele at the Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry (April 30, 1864, Arkansas; narrow Confederate defeat). Although forced into retreat, Steele preserved his command intact and frustrated what had seemed a certain victory for Walker.
In August 1864 Walker was assigned command of the Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and Eastern Louisiana. Before war’s end he was transferred yet again, to command of the District of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. Like Magruder, Walker crossed into Mexico at the end of the Civil War and did not return to the United States until several years later. Fluent in Spanish, he served the US government as consul in Bogotá, Colombia, and as special commissioner to the Pan-American Conference held in Washington, DC, during 1889–90.
STERLING PRICE, CAVALRY CORPS (AMONG OTHER COMMANDS)
Born in Prince Edward County, Virginia, in 1809, Price spent a year at Hampton-Sydney College (Virginia) and then studied law. In 1831 he followed his parents in a move to Missouri, where Price set up as a tobacco farmer in Chariton County. He became active in politics and served for six years in the Missouri legislature, four of them as speaker. He was elected to the US House of Representatives in 1844, resigning in August 1846 to command a Missouri regiment in the US-Mexican War (1846–48). Headquartered in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Price was ultimately assigned to command all US forces in the area. He suppressed the Taos Revolt (an uprising by local Pueblo Indians, January 19–July 9, 1847) and then led an invasion into Mexico itself, capturing Chihuahua, of which he was appointed military governor in July 1847 and promoted to brigadier general of US Volunteers.
Price returned to Missouri a military hero, which helped him to win the governorship in 1853. After leaving office in 1857, he resumed tobacco farming and served as the Missouri state bank commissioner until 1861.
Opposed to the secession of Missouri, Price was elected to preside over the state’s 1861 Secession Convention, which voted on February 28, 1861, against seceding. But when US Army forces seized Camp Jackson, the Missouri state militia headquarters in St. Louis, Price took the action as a declaration of war against his home state, threw in his lot with the secessionists, and accepted appointment as commanding officer of the Missouri State Guard in May.
He led the state guard at the Battle of Wilson’s Creek (August 10, 1861, Missouri; Confederate victory) and pushed Union forces back into southwestern Missouri. With the onset of winter, many of Price’s guardsmen joined the CSA, to which Missouri contributed two brigades. In the meantime, Price and CSA Brigadier General Benjamin McCulloch fell to disputing over strategy, whereupon Confederate president Jefferson Davis appointed Major General Earl Van Dorn to command of the Trans-Mississippi District. Van Dorn resolved the Price-McCulloch dispute by ordering Price’s units to unite with those under McCulloch as the Army of the West, and Price was commissioned a major general in the CSA on March 6, 1862.
Van Dorn engaged Union forces at the Battle of Pea Ridge (March 6–8, 1862, Arkansas; Confederate defeat), in which Price participated. Following defeat in this battle, Price crossed the Mississippi River to reinforce P. G. T. Beauregard at Corinth, Mississippi. En route he engaged Union Major General William S. Rosecrans in the Battle of Iuka (September 19, 1862, Mississippi; Confederate defeat). Defeated, Price could not advance and was forced to withdraw. Fortunately for him, Rosecrans declined to give chase, but it was not until October 3–4 that Price finally fought at Corinth, at the Second Battle of Corinth, under the command of Van Dorn. The result of that engagement was a heavy Confederate defeat, which sent Price to Richmond, Virginia, early in 1863, where he demanded and received an audience with President Jefferson Davis. He asked that both he and the Missouri troops he led be transferred west of the Mississippi. Davis regarded Price as supremely arrogant and responded to his request by sending him back to Missouri—without his command.
Price returned to fighting in Arkansas during the summer of 1863. Early in 1864, General Edmund Kirby Smith, as commanding officer of the Army of the Trans-Mississippi, sent Price to Arkansas, where he engaged Union forces under Major General Frederick Steele at the Battle of Prairie D’Ane (Camden, April 9–13, 1864, Arkansas; Confederate defeat).
Despite his failures in Arkansas, Price was assigned command of the Confederate District of Arkansas on March 16, 1864, and invaded Missouri in a raid that commenced with a loss at the Battle of Fort Davidson (September 27, 1864, Missouri). Price scored victories at the Battle of Glasgow (October 15), Little Blue River (October 21), and the Second Battle of Independence (October 21–22). These were succeeded by the Battle of Westport (October 23; Confederate defeat), in which Price was outnumbered more than two to one. It was the largest battle in the Trans-Mississippi Theater and was followed two days later by the Battle of Mine Creek (October 25, Kansas), another loss.
Numerous small engagements came after Mine Creek, steadily wearing away Price’s force, including the Cavalry Corps. Price returned to Arkansas, where he established a headquarters at Laynesport, but he never returned to the field. At war’s end Sterling Price refused to surrender, instead leading some of his men into Mexico. When Emperor Maximilian declined his offer of military service, Price founded a Confederate exile colony in Carlota, Veracruz. The colony soon faltered, Price fell ill, and he returned to Missouri, where he died in 1867 in St. Louis.