Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Monarchist Profile: John B. Magruder

John Bankhead Magruder, most remembered as a major general in the Confederate army during the American War Between the States, was known in his own time as “Prince John” though there was nothing royal about it. However, the last nation at war he served was a monarchy, the Mexican Empire of Emperor Maximilian. He was born in Port Royal, Virginia on May 1, 1807 and as a young man attended the University of Virginia where he met former President Thomas Jefferson. He gained an appointment to West Point and graduated in 1830 as a second lieutenant and served with the infantry and later the artillery. He served in the Second Seminole War in Florida and with great distinction in the Mexican-American War. He was promoted to brevet major for his “gallant and meritorious conduct” at the battle of Cerro Gordo and later to brevet lieutenant colonel for his heroism at the storming of Chapultapec castle. He later served on the frontier and was known for his love of theatrics and his talent as a singer. He spoke with a lisp and was known as something of a dandy and was nicknamed “Prince John” because of his flamboyant dress uniforms.

When the Commonwealth of Virginia seceded from the Union he resigned his commission and was quickly appointed brigadier general in the army of the new Confederate States of America. He led Confederate troops to victory in the first land battle of the war at Big Bethel, Virginia and later served with great distinction on the peninsula. Putting his love for theatrics to work he managed to stop the entire massive Union Army of the Potomac under the cautious General George B. McClellan with only one small division of Confederate troops. He constructed dummy cannons, marched men in circles in front of clearings to exaggerate their numbers, had officers shout orders to troops that didn’t exist, had bands play at odd hours as if welcoming more soldiers, fired artillery in scattered directions and stuck hats on ram-rods in trenches to give the illusion of being filled with men. His ruse was so successful that the Union commander thought he had the whole Confederate army in front of him and even then grossly over-estimated its size. However, Magruder later fell out of favor somewhat during the Seven Days battle, though his tardiness was not really his fault, and he was transferred to the Trans-Mississippi department.

Once out west Major General Magruder was put in command of the Confederate forces in Texas where he soon showed his worth yet again. On January 1, 1863 he led his small Confederate army to victory in a combined land and naval counter-attack against the Union forces on Galveston island. This victory at Galveston was recorded as the most humiliating defeat in the history of the U.S. Navy and “Prince John” Magruder was the man responsible. No Union effort to invade Texas was ever successful and Magruder was forced to spend most of his time in administrative duties though he was the deputy to the department commander General Edmund Kirby-Smith. For a time he was transferred to command Confederate forces in Arkansas but was soon back in Texas where he saw out the end of the war and signed the official surrender of the Trans-Mississippi department in New Orleans (the last region of the Confederacy to call it quits).

However, Magruder found the idea of living under Yankee rule rather distasteful and, refusing a parole, like many Confederates, journeyed south to Mexico. As a matter of fact, many Confederates went abroad after the war, some to Britain or France, some to Canada and many more to Mexico or the Empire of Brazil. Magruder made quite a splash in Mexico City and was warmly welcomed to the court of Emperor Maximilian at Chapultepec -the same castle he once invaded. Quite at home in the grand style and courtly ceremony of the place he offered his services to Emperor Maximilian who gladly accepted. In fact, Magruder became something of a trend-setter as many men in Mexican society began to imitate his style of dress. Maximilian made him a general in his army and Magruder encouraged other southerners to follow his example and come to Mexico where they would find the monarchy of Maximilian very much to their taste. The Emperor hoped to benefit from the cream of southern society moving south of the border and Empress Carlota hoped that the Confederates might become a sizeable force to compensate for the loss of the French who were clearly on the way out.

Magruder brought his family over (they had spent the war in Florence, Italy) and was so enthusiastic about urging his fellow Confederates to come to Mexico that Emperor Maximilian appointed him to head the Land Office of Colonization to oversee the immigration of Confederates to Mexico and the establishment of colonies for them to continue their plantation lifestyle along the road from Veracruz. This was land which Juarez had originally taken from the Church and, to the extreme annoyance of the local hierarchy, neither the French nor Maximilian thought it prudent to return it. Religious Mexicans refused to use the land and so giving it to the Confederates seemed a perfect fit. However, as we know, before the Carlota Colony (named in honor of the Empress whom the Confederates adored) really became firmly established the French army pulled out of Mexico (under pressure from the U.S.) and most Confederates could see that Maximilian was doomed and made their way home. Magruder returned to Texas and settled in Houston where he died on February 19, 1871.


  1. Okay I have to ask something. Is the Confederacy really that popular in the southern parts of the US (as it comes down from this blog)? With 'The South Will Rise Again' posters and Confederacy flags everywhere & stuff like we see in Hollywood movies? Can we talk about some sort of 'Southern Pride'? Is there a conflict between northern and southern historians/patriots?

    Or did the South just merge with the North and forget its heritage after the War of 1861-65? As a Texan I'm sure you can answer these questions. I only visited the East and the West Coast but never the southern parts.

    I also like that this General Magruder served the brother of the King of Hungary. :-)

  2. That's a little complicated. For the most part I would say no. The old south is "gone with the wind" pretty much. There are those who still celebrate the memory of the Confederacy, defend it and so on but no one seriously thinks the south will "rise again". The northern side prevailed and so their side is taught in schools and the teachers that come out of that carry on in the same way. There are some people that are still very strong southern-partisans but they are very much a minority these days.

    The population has also changed dramatically and that has alot to do with it. Huge numbers of northerners have moved south to escape the cold, crime and high taxes and just yesterday a friend from Alabama said half her students are now Hispanic. The Black population also, obviously, takes a very dim view of the Confederacy (though you will find the odd one or two who do support it) but the image of the south as racist is really the most incorrect of all. Pretty much everyone rejects that aside from a few nuts here and there.

    Texas has its Confederate partisans but Texas is a very unique case in any event and has never been anything as much as just "Texan". On the subject of Maximilian, there were a number of Hungarian troops that fought in Mexico as part of the Austrian Volunteer Corps, some of whom later moved to the United States. Lajos Kossuth was also very popular in the northern states during the Civil War period. Not so much in the aristocratic south.

  3. One I recall was Nikloaus Czéke de Szent György who rose to be a major in the hussars serving in Mexico, highly decorated and all that. I don't know too many details about him but if I remember right he was also famous for his service in the Bosnian War. Anyway, one of the Hungarians serving in Mexico for Emperor Maximilian.

  4. Thanks for the info. These are things I wouldn't have found out otherwise.

    After he lost the civil war of 1848/49 Lajos Kossuth did travel a lot and yes, he was popular in the US where he turned a Freemason. True counter-revolutionaries don't like him. Unfortunately right now, he's probably the most popular historical figure in Hungary. Unfortunate, because on the political palette of the late XIX. century he was considered to be ultra-leftist. A Conservative knows that and has no respect of him.

  5. You might also be interested to know I did finally get my video of the Kings of Hungary on-line. It will be quite a while before its turn comes to be posted here so if you want to see it check my YouTube Channel or just search Kings of Hungary and Mad Monarchist

  6. I saw it, it's great! Thanks for the effort! It is already out since Sunday on the Facebook site of our Monarchist group, Regnum!

    Thanks again!

  7. Thanks -that will have to hold you a while. I do have, as I mentioned, a profile planned on a Hungarian monarchist but that will be a few days off. He will not be the next monarchist I post on but he will be the next after that.

  8. I think that the states of the conferacy had full right to separate because it was an article of the USA's constitution and because of that it was legal and the union was atacking and anexing an independent nation.

    This south general was be an valuable politician to the service of HIM of mexico if the Empire would succed agaisn't juarez it would be an prosperous nation full of europeans (like it was my beloved country in the XIX century).

    I in a few days it is the aniversary of the falkland's war (guerra de malvinas) the only war that my country had in the XX century and a war agaisn't a monarchy, i said it just in memory of the argetinian and british soldiers that died in the islands.

    Hi from Argentina.

  9. I agree, it seems simple enough: if you join voluntarily you should be able to leave voluntarily. But, regardless of what the law said, President Lincoln and 500,000 troops said otherwise. Likewise, I agree that had the Imperio Mexicano survived the Americas would be a much better place today.

    As for the Falklands, not too cool on that one. However, I will say that General Galtieri was at least not a communist and provided valuable aid in fighting the commies in Central America. That at least is something considering the current regime.

  10. General Galtieri in my opinion (and of many other argentinian's opinion) was just an old, and drunk general that along with other members of the military junta was just trying to keep himself in the power the falkland war was just an movement to raise the popular support of the regime, just as the dispute to some islands with chile that was finished with the mediation of His Holiness.

    Hi from argentina.

  11. I'm not surprised that would be the prevailing opinion since the American National Security Advisor referred to him (before the war of course) as "majestic". He got what was coming to him for his farce of a war, I only maintain that I prefer an anti-communist republican dictator to a communist republican dictator.


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