Monday, January 19, 2015

Humphrey Marshall: Obese and Verbose

Brigadier General Humphrey Marshall

       Humphrey Marshall was born in Frankfort, Kentucky in 1812. His father John was a politician and lawyer. Humphrey graduated from West Point ranked 42 out of 45 cadets. He saw action in the cavalry during the Black Hawk War. He would serve in the military for less than a year before resigning to a law practice in Louisville. Marshall was active in the Kentucky Militia and helped raise a cavalry company to fight during the Mexican War. He became somewhat a hero for his command charged a larger Mexican force at the Battle of Buena Vista.        Following the Mexican War, his reputation secured him a seat in the U.S. Congress. He would remain a politician in some capacity until the beginning of the Civil War. When the war began, he left Kentucky for fear of being arrested because of his Southern sympathies. At this point in his life, he stood just under six feet in height and weighed over three hundred pounds.  

Humphrey Marshall

       Marshall went to visit President Davis, who made him a brigadier general in the fall of 1861 and gave him a small command. He truly wasn't suited for campaigning because of his weight. He would spend the war without seeing any major fighting. Like most political generals of the time, Marshall thought himself a military genius and practically demanded independent command. Each time he was ordered to report to a senior officer, he would submit his resignation. He did participate in the invasion of Kentucky in 1862, but saw no serious fighting. 
       In the summer of 1863, Marshall again turned in his resignation and this time it was accepted cheerfully. He continuously sent letters to both President Davis and Robert E. Lee. Lee was polite with Marshall, but Davis had little patience for the man. He would spend the rest of the war serving as a Confederate congressman representing his home state. Following the war, Marshall lived in Texas and later moved to New Orleans, Louisiana where he practiced law. He eventually made his way back to Louisville, Kentucky where he practiced law until his death in 1872. 

Humphrey Marshall

The grave of Humphrey Marshall

       Brigadier General Humphrey Marshall rests today in Frankfurt Cemetery, Frankfurt, Kentucky. He was 60 years old. There are a couple of anecdotes surrounding his service in the field I'd like to share. Once, when he was warned about Federal snipers easily targeting him because of his size, he remarked that he would be forced to surround himself with fat staff officers. He so hated the thought of being commanded by any superior officer that once he was asked why he was camped in such a remote location. Was he afraid of the Yankee's. No, he replied, he was attempting to avoid Confederate major generals. 

1 comment:

  1. In my youth, many years ago, I thought all wars were run by officers who were giants among men; militarily (is this a real word), morally, intellectually. Apparently not. I guess we should give thanks that Brigadier General Marshall was out of harms way and did less harm to the men who were assigned to his command. We live and we learn.