I wrote the first draft of this essay on the colonel of the 57th Virginia Infantry during a summer seminar that I took with Gary Gallagher in 2001. It was my first attempt at writing something substantial after moving to Charlottesville in 2000. Up until then I had written a bunch of book reviews and a couple of short articles for The Washington Times. Magruder was an ideal subject. He left a body of incredibly rich letters, which are currently housed at UVA’s Special Collections.
It’s an admittedly clunky essay in places. You can see where I attempted to connect the subject matter in his letters to the books that I was reading at that time, which were focused on Confederate nationalism and the lives of officers from the slaveholding class. Pete Carmichael’s biography of William Pegram and Gary Gallagher’s study of Stephen D. Ramseur were front and center in my mind. The essay was eventually published in the The Magazine of Albemarle County History and even won an award, which gave me a great deal of confidence moving forward.
Magruder saw action at Malvern Hill, Second Manassas, Fredericksburg, Suffolk, and Gettysburg, where he was mortally wounded. Over the years I’ve received a number of requests for the essay, primarily owing to Magruder’s connection to Gettysburg. With that in mind I decided to make it available for download on my Academia.edu page.