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John H. Marsh.

 

        John Henry Marsh was born in Chatham, N.C. in 1836 His father, Daniel Marsh, moved to Hardeman County in Tennessee when John was just an infant. The family lived on a plantation about nine miles from Bolivar. John grew up with his brothers and sisters on the plantation with what has been described as a happy and contented slaves. His father was very generous with many influential friends. On his mother's side Marsh is related to the Perkins family of Middle Tennessee and to the Harstons and Daltons of North Carolina.

        As a boy, John Marsh attended New Castle Village School where he was described as high-spirited, manly and handsome. The teacher at the school was Otto French Strahl. Marsh and Strahl will form a lifetime friendship of respect and they will die together at the Battle of Franklin in 1864. Marsh had exceptional qualities that were seen by all who knew him. When Congressman F.P. Stanton visited the Daniel Marsh plantation he was struck with these qualities in John and gave him an appointment as a cadet at the West Point Academy in 1860.

        Marsh never completed his education because of the outbreak of the Civil War he left the academy and returned home. In Bolivar, Marshall T. Polk was forming an artillery battery and John Marsh joined him as a second lieutenant on April 25, 1861. Marsh served with the battery with distinction through the Battle of Shiloh where he received a promotion to first lieutenant and was transferred to Phillip's Battery. At the Battle of Perryville, Marsh commanded Phillip's Battery and received favorable mention for his gallantry.

        In February 1863 Lt. Phillips of Scott's Battery requested a transfer to be with Col. Bankhead in Texas. John Marsh was transferred to the Battery on Feb. 23 to replace Phillips. Marsh became senior in command of the battery when Captain William L. Scott was gone. Scott, a friend of General Bragg, was frequently absent from the camp near Shelbyville that spring and it was Marsh who continued to drill and train the battery. It was during this time that General Bragg ordered an artillery contest between the battery's in the Army of Tennessee. Scott's Battery was well known for their drill and was considered the favorite for the contest. Unfortunately the battery came in second and did not win the prize of a new banner.

        In September, 1863 Scott's Battery became engaged in the Battle of Chickamauga. Captain Scott was absent due to illness and Lt. Marsh commanded the battery. On the first day of action the battery was engaged at the Brock field. Lt. Marsh was severely wounded in the left arm and carried from the field. He was taken to a field hospital where he remained for six weeks and then moved to Gilmer Hospital, Georga where he remained for six months. His arm was shattered and it never healed. During this period of suffering he became interested in religion and became a close friend to Bishop C.T. Quintard. He was furloughed and went home to visit his mother, his father having passed away since he joined the army. There his mother and friends begged him to stay and be discharged from the army. His left arm was useless and shrunken and he could have easily have gotten an exemption from service. He replied, "NO; my country needs me now more than ever, and I must go."

        Just before the fall of Atlanta Lt. Marsh reported for duty. General Johnston, upon seeing Marsh's condition, offered him a discharge from service, but he refused it. He then took a position as chief of artillery on General Strahl's staff of Cheatham's Division. By November, General Hood commanded the Army of Tennessee and re-entered the state pushing back the Federals towards Nashville. On November 30, 1864 Marsh would be killed at the Battle of Franklin.

        William L. Scott had this to say about Lt. Marsh: "No braver soldier than John Marsh ever went upon a battlefield;; Tennessee soil was never wet by the blood of a nobler son than when John Marsh poured out his life-blood in defense of the Lost Cause at the carnival of death, the bloody field of Franklin. His gallantry on the battle-field was of the noblest type. He embodied the very spirit of chivalry. It was with feeling of exaltation that he rushed into the very thickest of the battle. His face then beamed with joy, and his carriage was proud and peerless as that of Henry of Navarre. Upon seeing him as he rode amongst the smoke, in the din and the roar of battle, one was instinctively reminded of Nev. `the bravest of the brave.` In him was exhibited not merely courage, but a lofty disdain of danger. He went in to the thickest fight not only with that high resolve which is born of an exalted since of duty, but with an enthusiasm which invested the battle-field with the charm of a festive occasion. To him it was the field of glory. No nobler spirit ever went up to God of battles than that of this brave soldier, born on Tennessee soil, and offering up his life-blood for his native land in what he believed to be the defense of her most sacred rights."

        Lt. Marsh was riding a white horse and wore an artillery jacket, as he always did, on that fateful day. First his horse was shot from under him and he continued forward on foot to within 300 yards of the breastworks when he took a bullet in the brain. Dying with him that day was his friend and mentor General Strahl as well as Generals Celburne and Jackson. Bishop Quintard recovered his body and removed it to Ashwood Cemetery west of Columbia, Tennessee. There he was buried only yards away from the grave of General Leonidas Polk. After the war, Bishop Quintard sold his horse and with the funds erected a memorial window in St. James Church, Bolivar, to the memory of John Marsh.

Most of the information comes from The Confederate Veteran of Dec. 1897 and from William L. Scott's short description of the unit in Lindsey's Annals of Tennessee written in 1876.

  "Last Updated... 6-15-2000"

Copyright 1999 by Scott's Battery

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