Thursday, January 26, 2017

James Green Martin: Old One Wing

Brigadier General James Green Martin

       James G. Martin was born in North Carolina in 1819. He entered West Point in 1836, graduating 14th in the Class of 1840. He stood eight places behind William "Cump" Sherman, two places behind George H. Thomas, and one behind future Confederate Lieutenant General Richard S. Ewell. Like Ewell, James Martin would soon become bald. Upon graduation, he was assigned to the artillery. He spent his first few years in Maine and Rhode Island. 
       When the Mexican War began, he saw action under both Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott. He fought at Monterrey, Vera Cruz, Cerro Gordo, Contreras, and Churubusco. At Churubusco, he was wounded when canister fire struck him in the right arm. The wound was so severe, that it required amputation. He earned the nickname "Old One Wing" because of the loss of his arm. 
       Despite losing his arm, he remained in the U.S. Army until the Civil War began. He resigned in 1861 and returned to North Carolina, where Governor John Ellis made him a captain of cavalry and assigned him to an administrative role. 

A Photograph of Martin while in the U.S. Army

       It didn't take long for James Martin to grow tired of sitting behind a desk. In May of 1862, he requested a field command. President Davis commissioned Martin a brigadier general to date from May 15, 1862. He was given command of the District of North Carolina. He saw little action until given a brigade of his own in October of 1863. He was given four regiments of North Carolina troops and within weeks had them combat ready. He saw action in several minor engagements in southern Virginia and North Carolina. 
       He saw action at Bermuda Hundred, Virginia in May of 1864 and his brigade charged, overran a line of breastworks and sent the enemy troops flying in retreat. Martin was hoisted on the shoulder's of his men and carried through camp to loud cheers. 
       Sent to Cold Harbor to face Grant with Lee's army, Lee asked if Martin's troops would stand and fight the veterans of Grant's army. "Old One Wing" replied to Lee that his troops would fight as well as any veterans in Lee's army. He also was the first to predict that Grant would soon cross the James River and attempt to take Petersburg. 
       In June of 1864, James Martin's health began to fail him. He was taken from the front lines and given small jobs of guarding bridges and trestles. Martin's brigade remained with Lee under the command of William W. Kirkland. When Lee praised the behavior of Kirkland's brigade, Kirkland was quick to remind Lee that all such praise should go to "Old One Wing" because he had trained them. At that, General Lee stated, "General Martin is one to whom North Carolina owes a debt she can never repay."

James Green Martin

General Martin's resting place

       With the war having ended, General Martin was without a profession. He studied the law and soon began practicing his new profession. He also became very active in the Episcopal Church. "Old One Wing" died in 1878 at the age of 59 and rests today in Riverside Cemetery, Asheville, North Carolina. Ironically, as of this writing, the photograph on findagrave of General Martin is of Alabama Confederate Brigadier General Edward Dorr Tracy who has a head full of hair. 

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Edward Dorr Tracy (left) and James Green Martin

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