December 1861 Letter by Private Thomas A. Marshall, 7th Virginia Cavalry - Stonewall Jackson's Raid on C&O Canal's Dam No. 5 - "I suspect Genl. Jackson will be a good deal put out by this result"

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sold out

December 1861 Letter by Private Thomas A. Marshall, 7th Virginia Cavalry - Stonewall Jackson's Raid on C&O Canal's Dam No. 5 - "I suspect Genl. Jackson will be a good deal put out by this result"

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Item No. 7826936

A really interesting December 1861 letter written by Thomas A. Marshall of the 7th Virginia Cavalry, then serving as a volunteer aide on the staff of Virginia Militia General James H. Carson. In the letter Marshall, who had previously served on Stonewall Jackson’s staff at First Manassas, described the unsuccessful December 7-8 raid on Dam No. 5, part of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, which the Union Army was using to transport large amounts of coal reserves to Washington. Marshall wrote that the militia under Carson was marching north to Martinsville, Virginia, when Major Elisha F. Paxton arrived with new orders from General Jackson “to support him in an expedition to Dam No. 5 on the Potomac River with a view to break it down, so as to let the water out of the canal below.” Jackson added Carson’s militia to his combined force of artillery and cavalry (the latter under Turner Ashby) and, upon arriving at the dam, scattered the few sentries from the 13th Massachusetts on the opposite side of the river. This allowed the raiders to begin the work of demolition. During the night, however, a better armed company of the 13th Massachusetts arrived:

the Yankees turned the water out of the canal, which is on the opposite side of the river & got in it using it as a rifle pit & opened fire in the night upon the men at work & succeeded in driving them away. The enemy were provided with some far shooting guns & worried us a good deal, though only about three men of ours altogether were wounded. Several of the enemy, we think were killed & wounded. The canal afforded them an almost perfect protection & it became very evident the next morning that the expedition had proved a failure. It was determined consequently to return to Martinsburg, where we are now. I suspect Genl. Jackson will be a good deal put out by this result of his first expedition & as he is an eyetooth man, “He’ll never give it up so Mr. Brown.”

The column then returned to Martinsburg. Marshall spent the rest of the letter wishing family well and quoting scripture. While the December 7-8 attack proved unsuccessful, as stronger raid on December 16 succeeded in breaking part of the dam…temporarily. Marshall served with the 7th Virginia Cavalry, rising from private to lieutenant colonel, was wounded and captured at Orange Court House, was exchanged after two months at Old Capitol Prison, and was wounded again at Reams’ Station in August 1864. His record also states that he had several horses shot from underneath him.

The letter was written on four pages of a blue bifolium stationery sheet measuring about 7 3/4” x 9 3/4”. Very good condition with light foxing and toning. Creased where folded. There is some minor weakness in a couple of folds that have been stabilized with archival tape.

The full transcript of the letter follows:

Hd Qrs Detached Forces
Martinsburg Dec 9th 1861

My darling son
I received your letter some time since, but have failed to answer it from the fact that I have been moving about a good deal lately. I wrote to Aunt Mary on the eve of my leaving Winchester, which letter I hope she received. I am now acting in the capacity of Assistant Adjutant General to General Carson during the absence of Mr. George Ward, who is in the legislature. I left Winchester on Friday night between seven & eight o’clock & rode with Mr. [Richard Evelyn] Byrd, a lawyer in Winchester, & rode to the town of Martinsburg (22 miles distant). Rested about an hour & a half, taking a lunch & went thence to Hedgesville a distance of about seven miles, arriving there about an hour before day. The Militia under Genl. Carson took up the line of march the next morning in the direction of Martinsburg, but were met on the way by a courier from Major [Elisha F.] Paxton ordering the command to support him in an expedition to Dam No. 5 on the Potomac River with a view to break it down, so as to let the water out of the canal below. You know dams are made on rivers to supply canals with water, acting as great reservoirs, or feeders. We were joined at Dr. Hammond’s farm by a considerable force of artillery, cavalry & two volunteer companies. Uncle David was with the artillery. Col. [Turner] Ashby was in command of the cavalry. We then moved on towards the river, reaching its neighborhood about three o’clock in the afternoon. The militia was then halted, & the artillery & cavalry moved on to the river. Tell Aunt Mary that Dam No. 5 is just as the old “Honeywood house.” I saw its bare walls. She will recollect that it was burned down a few years ago. The enemy were on the opposite side of the river, though not in very strong force. Our cannon opened on them & succeeded in driving them temporarily away. The hands went to work under cover of the night & made some progress in the work of demolition, but in the course of the night the Yankees turned the water out of the canal, which is on the opposite side of the river & got in it using it as a rifle pit & opened fire in the night upon the men at work & succeeded in driving them away. The enemy were provided with some far shooting guns & worried us a good deal, though only about three men of ours altogether were wounded. Several of the enemy, we think were killed & wounded. The canal afforded them an almost perfect protection & it became very evident the next morning that the expedition had proved a failure. It was determined consequently to return to Martinsburg, where we are now. I suspect Genl. Jackson will be a good deal put out by this result of his first expedition & as he is an eyetooth man, “He’ll never give it up so Mr. Brown.” I have written quite fully upon this exploit as it is not of sufficient importance to make it injurious to our cause to speak about, & as I have thought it would be of some interest to you all.

I was glad to hear, my dear son, from your letter that you all were pleased with Mr. Baker. Tell Aunt Mary she must make any arrangement, which will suit her about his Board. I am willing to do anything in my power to provide the neighborhood with the services of a minister of Christ.

Try to remember always my dear Barton & Tom, what our Savior said to “Martha.” “But one thing is needful” & again “Seek first the kingdom of God this righteousness.” & again the sweet & precious promise, “They that seek me early, shall find me.” May the Blessed Savior by his Holy Spirit work in your young, & bring you to a knowledge of your own sinfulness & helplessness & His all-sufficiency of the preciousness of his blood & its power to wash out all your guilt. & of the saving power of his Spirit to overcome sin in you, & to make you “conquerors & more than conquerors through Him, who loved you & gave Himself for you.” You must give oceans of love to Tom & Fee. Hug & squeeze & kiss the little fellow & tell cousin Lizzie to kiss you & Tom for me, if your faces are clean. Give much love to her & Aunt Mary & Mammy. Tell the latter to take good care of my precious treasure. Kind remembrances to Mr. Lawrence & all the servants. Tell Mr. L I hope he will push all his work ahead vigorously. May God even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ bless, preserve & keep you all.
Your devoted Father
Thomas Marshall

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