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Colonel John F. Marsh, U.S.V.

Colonel John F. Marsh was born February 1, 1828, at Hudson, New Hampshire, and is of the seventh generation from George Marsh, who came from England with his family in 1635, and settled at Hingham, Massachusetts. The son of a farmer, his educational advantages were the public schools and village academy. Failing to receive an expected appointment as a cadet at West Point, young Marsh shouldered a musket in the spring of 1847, and, in the Ninth United States Infantry, joined the army under Scott, to serve during the war with Mexico. The regiment landed at Vera Cruz in June, and a month later, in the command of General Pierce, afterwards President, marched into the interior, crossing the burning sands of the Tierra Caliente under a tropical sun in midsummer. Pierce's command was constantly menaced on the march by the enemy in the mountain passes; the soldiers, sleeping by their muskets at night, pushed forward by day to the music of whizzing bullets and rattling musketry. August 7 the command joined Scott at Pueblo, and four days later, with the army, moved forward towards the Valley of Mexico.

The battles of Contreras and Churubusco, August 19 and 20, followed by Molino del Rey September 8, Chapultepec, the Garitas, and City of Mexico, the 12th, 13th, and 14th, afforded the young soldier his practical military training. He was mustered out of the service August 23, 1848, after the close of the war, at Newport, Rhode Island.

The discovery of gold in California called his attention in that direction, and he sailed from New York in January, 1849, on the ship "William F. Travis," for Galveston, Texas, where he organized a company, of which he was captain, and crossing Northern Mexico, her mountains and desert waste, enlivened by an occasional skirmish with hostile Indians, he camped in the New El Dorado in June, 1849, a modern Argonaut.

In 1855-56 he was a special agent of the Post-Office Department, New York to San Francisco, in the last year settling at Hastings, Minnesota, where he was postmaster for five years, and also mayor of the city.

Colonel Marsh entered the military service a second time June 17, 1861, as first lieutenant Sixth Wisconsin Volunteers, afterwards a part of the " Iron Brigade," Army of the Potomac, and was promoted to a captaincy in October. He was wounded in the knee at the battle of Gainesville, August 28, 1862, and September i i following was appointed lieutenant-colonel of the Twelfth New Hampshire Infantry. An incident at the battle of Fredericksburg, in 1862, is worth mentioning. At two o'clock on the morning of December 16, Colonel Marsh was ordered to place two companies of his regiment on the picket-line. Returning an hour later to report to General Whipple, he saw the streets filled with moving troops. " We are to recross the river," said the general. " Not the army?" queried the colonel. "Yes; and nearly over now," was the reply. "But my two companies?" "They may be withdrawn, they may be sacrificed; you must cross with your regiment," said the general.

Colonel Marsh crossed the river, as ordered; but returned and succeeded in saving his men, bringing them to the river just as the pontoons were being withdrawn. For this service, although he disobeyed orders, he was personally thanked by General Whipple, who said, " You have greatly relieved me, colonel. I expected the men would be sacrificed. I couldn't help it; you saw my orders."

A severe wound, received May 3, 1863, at the battle of Chancellorsville, compelled him to retire from field-service, and January 22, 1864, he was transferred to the Veteran Reserve Corps, serving during the last year of the war on General Casey's board, convened for the examination of candidates for commissions in the military service, and on special duty in the Inspector-General's Department, visiting and reporting upon the condition of the several prisons and their military guards west of New York, where Confederate prisoners-of-war were confined.

April 20, 1865, Colonel Marsh was commissioned colonel of the Twenty-fourth United States Colored Infantry, but declined the appointment, doubting the expediency of employing the freed slaves as soldiers. March 13, 1865, he was brevetted colonel "for gallant and meritorious conduct at the battle of Chancellorsville, Virginia." He resigned August 16, 1865. In November, 1866, he was appointed United States pension agent at Concord, New Hampshire.

For the last eighteen years he has been engaged in the manufacture of surface-coated papers at Springfield, Massachusetts, and is a successful business man.

Source: Officers of the Volunteer Army and Navy who served in the Civil War, published by L.R. Hamersly & Co., 1893, 419 pgs.

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