Army of the Peninsula

The Department of the Peninsula was established on May 26, 1861, and Colonel John B. Magruder was put in command. The troops therein were organized into divisions in November, and denominated the Army of the Peninsula. In December, the aggregate present was about sixteen thousand. On April 12, 1862, it was merged in the Army of Northern Virginia-constituting, under Major-General Magruder, the right wing of that army.

In May 1861, Colonel John B. Magruder was assigned to command operations on the lower Virginia Peninsula with Yorktown as headquarters. The Confederate Secretary of War LeRoy Pope Walker ordered the Department of the Peninsula into existence on May 26, and the military force was named for the department. Magruder fought a portion of his command to good effect at Big Bethel, an early Confederate victory.

By year's end, the force had swollen to 13,000 men, still commanded by Magruder, now major general. In April 1862 Magruder's army was incorporated into the right wing of the larger army of Joseph E. Johnston, preparing defenses against an expected attack by George B. McClellan in what would become the Peninsula Campaign. While the army designation ceased to exist, Magruder's army's independence and initiative was instrumental in preventing McClellan from rapidly advancing on Richmond.

        Major-General John Bankhead Magruder (U. S. M. A. 1830) was born at Winchester, Virginia, August 15, 1810, and served in the Seminole and Mexican wars. He was stationed in Washington in 1861, and resigned in April to enter the Confederate service as colonel. He had charge of the artillery in and around Richmond, and after May 21st, a division in the Department of the Peninsula, the troops of which were later designated the Army of the Peninsula. On June 10th, his division repelled the attack of Major-General B. F. Butler at Big Bethel, for which feat he was made brigadier-general. In October, he was promoted to major-general. Having fortified the Peninsula, he kept McClellan's army in check in April, 1862. On April 18th, his forces became the Right Wing of the Army of Northern Virginia, and he commanded it during the Peninsula campaign. Magruder was then appointed to the Trans-Mississippi Department, in order to prosecute the war more vigorously in the West, but the assignment was changed, and in October, 1862, he was given the District of Texas, which was afterward enlarged to include New Mexico and Arizona. Magruder recaptured Galveston, January 1, 1863, and kept the port open. After the war he served in the army of Maximilian, and after the fall of the Mexican empire settled in Houston, Texas, where he died, February 19, 1871.

Previous Page