A Godly Confederate Hero…A Yankee Officer and a Sword

Lt. Colonel Thomas Marshal, 7th Virginia Cavalryl

Lt. Colonel Thomas Marshall, 7th Virginia Cavalry, Aide to Stonewall Jackson

Colonel Thomas A. Marshall, Jr., was a Confederate soldier in the American Civil War.

He was also a believer in the one true God and demonstrated his devotion to his Lord and Savior on and off the battlefield.

He served mightily and valiantly  in the 7th Cavalry along side General Turner Ashby and he also served as an aid to the venerable, Stonewall Jackson (more on Marshall’s contributions below).

I have a collection of hundreds of letters from the Marshall-Duer families and while there are brief mentions and vignettes of Col. Thomas Marshall on the web and in historical reference books on prominent Virginia families, I thought I would try to flesh out a little bit more about the man himself, his family, and what he stood for.

Oh how we need brave, Godly men like Col. Marshall at this hour in our country.

Christians everywhere are under persecution and increasingly in the U.S. And perhaps because of this, many professing Christians today shrink away from talking publicly about Jesus. They fear being ridiculed and embarrassed–Bibi hearts all!

It’s dangerous for one to deny the Lord or to be ashamed or embarrassed of Him before mere, puny little men. For when Jesus returns, he will winnow out the chaff and it will be burned–and it won’t matter one wit who you are, how much money you have, or don’t have, or what title you have, or how philanthropic you may be. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven. — Matthew 10:33.

I am not politically correct. I know it and I don’t apologize for it. I stand for Jesus Christ and for the good news He brings to all those that would just accept His free gift of pardon.

This is the time for Christians to be bold, just as Col. Marshall was bold in serving His God during the Civil War.

I believe that if Col. Thomas Marshall were permitted to step out of his sleep today to tell us his story in person, it would shame many, especially those who call themselves Christians. I am certain he would be shocked and heartbroken over the spiritual state of affairs in the world today.

Just think how many millions of believers will be resurrected at the rapture. Col. Thomas Marshall will be one of them as will many others from both the Union and the Confederacy. And despite bitter differences during the Civil War, one day all will stand as brothers in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Now for Col. Marshall’s story.

The Story of A Godly Leader, Colonel Thomas Marshall, Jr.

Oakhill, Fauquier County, Virginia

Oakhill, Fauquier County, Virginia

To say that the Marshall family and its generations were prominent in the development of the United States would be an understatement. Much has been written and could still be written of this family’s contribution. I will not attempt a lengthy discussion here, except to say that in researching the Marshall family it is clearly evident that they were devout Christians.

Colonel Thomas Marshall, Jr. was the grandson of Chief Justice John Marshall (1755-1835, a close friend of George Washington). He [Thomas] was born on January 17, 1826, at the “Oakhill” estate in Marshall, Fauquier County, Virginia.

At the age of seventeen, his father, Capt. Thomas Marshall, Sr., volunteered in the Revolutionary War as a Private in his father’s [John Marshall’s] regiment.  He saw hard service, and participated in many of the bloody battles of the war of Independence. At the end of the war he married Susanna Adams, born on April 1, 1769, and the daughter of John Adams (yes, the John Adams) and Sarah Stacy Gibbons. She died childless after one year.

In 1845, Thomas Marshall studied at the University of Virginia and finished the full course, then went on to study law in Winchester under David W. Barton and eventually married his daughter, Anna Maria Barton on August 24, 1848. Together, they settled at “Shady Oak”, six miles from Winchester and took up farming. (Poor Anna died on February 11, 1861, at Oakhill. She was only 31. Her obituary described her as timid by nature, but not terrified of death–“her Savior was near and right dearly did He answer her prayer.”)

Thomas bought Oakhill from his brother, John (who was rumored to have accumulated insurmountable debt), and lived there with his family until the outbreak of the war and the death of his wife. The children were then moved to “Springdale”, their maternal grandmother’s home, near Winchester.

Col. Marshall’s Extraordinary Civil War Record

Lt. Colonel Thomas Marshal, 7th Virginia Cavalryl

Lt. Colonel Thomas Marshall, 7th Virginia Cavalry, Aide to Stonewall Jackson

At the outbreak of the war, Col. Marshall went to Harpers Ferry and became the volunteer aid of Colonel “Stonewall” Jackson, with the rank of Captain. He was 34 years-old at the time. He was a mature soldier which presumably gave him a distinct advantage.

Because Col. Marshall was raised by Godly parents, he joined the army out of religious convictions. He was a Whig and was against Secession from the Union. However, when Virginia finally seceded, Marshall decided he would give it his all and “risked fortune, honor and life” to defend the Confederate cause, and that’s exactly what he did. His allegiance was to Virginia as generations of family before him called it home. What else could he be expected to do? He served God in serving his country.

Col. Marshall was a man of fervent prayer and was bold and unashamed to show it publicly. His strong faith and humble behavior gave him a powerful influence among his men. On the battlefield or in camp he often sought opportunities for private devotion to the Lord. His conversation and his writings showed an ever-present trust in God and under the worse of circumstances as it was a brutal war.

It was said of Col. Marshall:

He was seen kneeling on the roadside for his morning prayer in the presence of the whole brigade. A few days later going into a fight he led the charge and stayed among the enemy until they were forced to retreat. From that time on when he knelt down to pray no one made a noise. Godless men removed their hats. He had a premonition of his death in battle. He had never made his will, but on that sad morning he did, telling his servant to take his horses home. 

General Turner Ashby

General Turner Ashby

At the battle of First Manassas in 1861 Col. Marshall’s horse was killed under him. Soon afterward he raised a cavalry company in Frederick County and was assigned to Colonel Ashby’s command. He was then made Major of the 7th Virginia Cavalry. Badly wounded with a fractured skull from a saber hit to the head at Orange Court House in August 1862, he was taken Prisoner and sent to Old Capitol Prison in Washington; and exchanged in September. He was promoted to Lt. Colonel of the 7th Cavalry, and participated in a number of campaigns through to the fierce Battle of Gettysburg, when he had another horse killed under him.

Old Capitol Prison, Washington, D.C.

Old Capitol Prison, Washington, D.C., courtesy Lib. of Congress

In the fall and winter of 1863-1864, he was with his regiment in the Valley of Virginia. At Trevillians he lost another horse–the fifth since the beginning of the war. When Grant advanced, the 7th Regiment, under Col. Marshall, was sent south of the James River and placed in front of Petersburg.

In August 1864, he was severely wounded and sent home to Winchester. After only a month there, duty compelled him to rejoin his regiment.

On the 12th of November, 1864, in an engagement near Winchester, he became separated from his troops along with several other young officers. The enemy came on them and as they dashed off on their horses, Col. Marshall was fatally shot–a ball lodged in the heart. As his life began to ebb, he started to sink in his saddle and his companions who were supporting him, put him down at his request. He spoke what would be his last words:

Put me down, boys. I’m dying. Save yourselves.

Col. Marshall’s Civil War record is more fully detailed below:

  • He was on Court Martial Duty in the winter of 1862-1863 (Proceedings June 8, 1863–Court of Inquiry Regarding Col. A. W. Harmon vs. William H. H. Lynn of the 12th Va. Cavalry–theft of silverware)*
  • Horse killed 7/21/1861 Manassas, VA
  • POW 8/2/1862 Orange Court House, VA (Saber hit to head, fractured skull)
  • Wounded 8/2/1862 Orange Court House, VA
  • Confined 8/9/1862 Old Capitol Prison, Washington, DC
  • Paroled 9/1/1862 (place not stated) (On board the Steamer Juniata)
  • Exchanged 9/21/1862 Aiken’s Landing, VA (Exchanged for Ambrose S Cassidy 93rd NY)
  • Horse killed 7/3/1863 Fairfield, PA (Paid 500 dollars)
  • Horse killed 9/13/1863 Culpeper Court House, VA (Paid 575 dollars)
  • On rolls 1/31/1864 (place not stated) (On rolls through 03/31/64)
  • Horse killed 6/11/1864 Trevillian Station, VA
  • Wounded 8/25/1864 Reams’ Station, VA (Disabled by wound to shoulder)
  • Hospitalized 8/26/1864 Petersburg, VA
  • Furloughed 9/13/1864 (place not stated) (30 days)
  • Commanding Regiment 10/25/1864 (place not stated)
  • He was reported as ‘shot in the back’ during his service in the 12th Virginia Cavalry
  • KIA near Winchester VA 11/12/1864

*If you would like a copy of the relevant portion of the period newspaper reporting the story of the Court Martial/Inquiry proceedings that Col. Marshall presided over, please contact me.

Col. Marshall’s Body Reinterred in “Stonewall Confederate Cemetery”

In 1866, two years after Col. Marshall was killed, his body was reinterred at the “Stonewall Confederate Cemetery” in Winchester City, Virginia. He was buried beside General Turner Ashby.

On October 25, 1866, the Stonewall Confederate Cemetery was dedicated. A period newspaper, The Bradford Reporter, of Towanda, Pennsylvania, reported the following on November 1, 1866:

Stonewall Confederate Cemetery Dedication

Stonewall Confederate Cemetery Dedication. Nov. 1, 1866

It was interesting to learn that the Ashby’s (General Turner Ashby and presumably his brother, Richard Ashby) were buried together in one coffin and that Henry A. Wise’s (ex-Governor of Virginia) oration was considered “exceedingly treasonable.” The drunken brawl that reportedly ensued after the dedication of the cemetery made big news which was considered disgraceful, especially considering that they were all gathered there to honor and respect their fallen heroes Ashby and Marshall, among others. This was so soon after the end of the war, during the reconstruction period, that tensions and bitterness were still at fever pitch. Frankly, these tensions still run strong today.

The Mystery of Col. Marshall’s Sword

What most don’t know and what has not been widely reported regarding Col. Marshall, save for family documents, is the story behind Col. Marshall’s sword at the time of his death on the battlefield.

I quote from a Marshall family member, the following:

At the time he [Thomas] was killed, a young  Yankee officer asked one of his men to bring him the sword of the Confederate officer who had just fallen, and fortunately, he took care of it until the end of the war. This man was a Pennsylvanian whose name I never learned, but after the war he [the Union officer] determined to find out who the officer was to whom the sword belonged. Upon careful inquiry in Winchester through his friends, he learned it belonged to a Colonel Thomas Marshall. He knew one of the Marshall family in Norfolk, Va., a cousin of Colonel Marshall, and sent him the sword.

Many years later when my aunt, Mrs. Charles J. Holt, my mother’s very handsome and perfectly delightful younger sister, was living at Markham, Va., she kept in touch with many of our kinfolk scattered over the state, and while visiting in Norfolk she got wind of the fact that the family she was staying with had had her father’s sword. She and my mother pursued the matter from that time on until the sword was finally found in their garret, boxed up and forwarded to me.* I took it out at once to my mother, who had seen it last 62 years before, as her father left his little family at ‘Springdale’ to join his regiment–and only a few days later he was killed.

I have the sword now–79 years after the owner’s death. What a tale it could tell of those four years of constant fighting all over Virginia, Maryland and up to Gettysburg, Pa., and back–if it could talk!

*There are some entertaining by-play in connection with this result. At the time efforts were being made to locate the sword and little progress was being made, a member of the Norfolk family had moved to Texas with his family and was practicing law there. He had heard that my mother had a portrait of a mutual ancestor, and wrote her asking for a photograph of the portrait. Where upon, mother wrote him that she would be only too glad to do this for him, provided his Norfolk family returned her father’s sword to her! This gave the needed spur to their efforts and the sword soon arrived. A good photo was  made of the portrait and forwarded to Texas. The thought of my gentle and shy mother driving a bargain this way was very delightful to all of us.

The identity of the Yankee Officer who captured the sword of Col Marshall is a mystery and I expect will remain so until the day all the secrets of men are revealed.

And as far as we know, the sword is still with a family member somewhere. If by chance that family member reads this blog post, it would be a blessing to hear from them.

So it is with great honor and sincere respect that I dedicate this blog post to Col. Thomas Marshall, a genuine Christian soldier.

As with other personalities I have written about on this blog, I look forward to meeting Col. Marshall one day soon and perhaps even that Yankee Officer that was so kind to track down the sword’s rightful owner at war’s end. God Bless him.

4 thoughts on “A Godly Confederate Hero…A Yankee Officer and a Sword

  1. I am the Superintendent at Mount Hebron Cemetery. I was wondering if you knew where they had Buried LT. Col. Marshalls wife Anna Barton Marshall. Very interesting read. Thanks Jim Coots


    • Hello, Jim…
      I am glad you enjoyed my blog post on Lt. Col. Marshall. Unfortunately, I was not able to immediately identify where Mrs. Barton-Marshall was buried. However, I expect if I were to dig in a bit and go down a few rabbit holes, I might be able to locate where she was laid to rest. In any event, how interesting to be the Superintendent of Mount Hebron Cemetery. So many historical figures there.
      Kind regards,
      Rachel Knight


  2. I believe we previously corresponded a few years ago, shortly after the LTC Marshall blog was written. Do you know the name/contact information of the Marshall Family member who has his sword?

    Thank you,

    Michael F. Marshall


    • Hello, Michael… I apologize for the long delay in responding to your question regarding LTC Marshall’s sword. I have not discovered the name/contact information for the Marshall family member that may have the sword. I had hoped to continue research and writing about this family, but have not found the time yet. If I dig up any further information, I will be sure to reach out.



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