Saturday, May 31, 2014


When I was in Richmond, Virginia, a few weeks ago, I visited the Museum of the Confederacy (  Whether your ancestors were from the North or the South in the Civil War (or both like mine), this museum is well worth the trip.

Museum of the Confederacy
Richmond, Virginia

Inside you will find flags, maps, guns, rifles, swords, cannons, uniforms, hats, boots, drums, bugles, saddles, letters, photographs, dolls used to smuggle medicine, ribbons, bibles, pocket watches, cookware, pipes and so much more.  I am not very knowledgeable about military history, but this museum will entice even the novice.  I was really impressed with the number of letters, bibles and documents containing genealogical information.

Exhibit at
the Museum of the Confederacy
Richmond, Virginia

As I was making my way along the well-thought out exhibits, I came upon an exhibit about Major General John Bankhead Magruder. Magruder is one of my surnames, so I pulled out my cell phone and looked at my tree on the Ancestry app.  Virginia-born John Bankhead Maguder was my 1st cousin 4x removed.  He was known for his flamboyant lifestyle. (1) His military achievements were many. For an entertaining discussion of his life, see:

Shoulder cord and silk sash of
Gen. John B. Magruder at
the Museum of the Confederacy
Richmond, Virginia

I, of course, started researching John Bankhead Magruder. Ironically, despite his fame, there apparently is a disagreement about his date and location of birth.  Several sources, including many public trees on, list it as May 1, 1807 in Port Royal, Caroline County, Virginia. (2 and 3) One record on actually has him born in 1807 AND on August 15, 1810. (4)  I made a comment on about that problem. Other sources say he was born 15 Aug 1810 in Winchester, Virginia. (5) At least one source states that Magruder was born in 1807 in Winchester, Virginia. (6).

There is a discussion of this birth discrepancy in John Bankhead Magruder: A Military Reappraisal. According to Thomas Settles, the author, John was born May 1, 1807 in Port Royal, Virginia. (7)

Major Gen. Magruder is buried in Texas. However, according to a comment made on the FindAGrave entry for Magruder, there is some disagreement about his exact location. (8) Andy Hall of states that Major General John Bankhead Magruder is buried in Galveston’s Episcopal Cemetery near the author’s home, but that he was first buried in Houston. (9)  

If people have this much trouble pinning down the vitals on a famous person, how are we ever to track down the every-day, run of the mill ancestor?

There are numerous books and articles, favorable and unfavorable, on Magruder. Many libraries and universities have manuscripts, dissertations and letters concerning Magruder, including the Swem Library at the College of William and Mary. (10)  I could easily spend all my time researching his life. But there are many ancestors waiting for my attention. 

I have gone off on a bit of a tangent, but that is what family researchers sometimes do. I may not have ever researched John Bankhead Magruder had I not visited the Museum of the Confederacy.  Be sure to visit the museum or at least check out their website (  The museum also offers research sessions by appointment (


(1) Konstam, Angus. Seven Days Battles 1862: Lee's Defense of Richmond, p. 20. Botley, Oxford, United Kingdom: Osprey Publishing Ltd., 2004, Google Books ( accessed 31 May 2014).

(2) Find A Grave, Inc., Find A Grave, digital image ( accessed May 29, 2014), John Bankhead Magruder, Old City Cemetery, Galveston, Galveston County, Texas, Memorial No. 11021.

(3) Thomas W. Cutrer, "MAGRUDER, JOHN BANKHEAD," Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed May 31, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on January 18, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association

(4) Entry for John Bankhead Magruder, “American Civil War General Officers” database on ( accessed 31 May 2014), Operations Inc., Provo, UT, 1999; Original data compiled by Historical Data Systems of Kingston, MA, Copyright 1997-2000.

(5) Wilson, James Grant, and John Fiske. Appleton's Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. IV. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1888, p. 175 ( accessed 31 May 2014).

(6) Op cit., Seven Days Battles 1862: Lee's Defense of Richmond, p. 20.

(7) Settles, Thomas M., Preface," In John Bankhead Magruder: A Military Reappraisal, pp. 2 and 5.  Louisiana: Louisiana State University Press, 2009, Google Books ( accessed 31 May 2014).

(8) Op cit., Find A Grave.

(9) “Are Pardoned Confederates Still Confederates?” Posted in Leadership Memory by Andy Hall on November 5, 2010, Dead Confederatres, A Civil War Era Blog ( accessed 31 May 2014).

(10) Op. cit., John Bankhead Magruder: A Military Reappraisal, Bibliography.

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