INSCRIBED CS MANUAL OF JOHN N. MURPHY, CAPTAIN 9th VA CAVALRY AND LIEUTENANT CO. G 43rd VA BATTALION: MOSBY’S RANGERS! HE SAVED A UNION DRUMMER BOY

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This is a nicely inscribed copy of the MANUAL OF INSTRUCTION FOR VOUNTEERS AND MILITIA OF THE CONFEDERATES STATES, By William Gilham. Published by West & Johnson, Richmond VA, 1861. Owner inscription, in ink, front eps:  “John Murphy/ Lee’s Legion.” 502 pp., fldg. plates. In brown glazed cloth, 7.5 x 5.25,” w/gilt embossed cover and spine lettering.  Exhibits wear at the extremities, and yellowing and foxing within, while remaining entirely legible. Small cover nick. Cover and spine gilt faded and partially worn off spine. Else VG.

John Newton Murphy (1837-1897) was a lawyer in Westmoreland County, VA, when the war broke out. He enlisted in Captain Beale’s company of cavalry at (The) Hague, Westmoreland County in Virginia’s Lower Neck on 5/25/61 and was elected lieutenant 7/5/61. In November the company was combined with seven others to form the 1st Virginia Battalion, Local Defense, and Murphy was elected captain on 11/26/61. Harking back to Light Horse Harry Lee’s Revolutionary War partisan legion, the battalion adopted the title of “Lee’s Legion,” which Murphy used in his inscription.

In January 1862 Lee’s Legion was expanded into the 9th Virginia Cavalry Regiment by the addition of two more companies, Murphy’s being designated Company C.  Murphy served well in the Peninsular Campaign, later receiving letters of recommendation from his commander, but was sick from July to October and resigned in November: “Owing to poor health, he was kept away from his company, and being unwilling to deprive his officers of the promotion they merited by continual service, he resigned,” in the words of the 43rd Battalion history.

By May 1863, however, Murphy had recovered enough to seek the position of Judge Advocate on Stuart’s staff, from whom he also received a recommendation. That appointment did not come to pass, but by October 12 instead had raised a company of cavalry in Westmoreland County, which was associated with the Conscription Bureau to act for local defense (and keep the area under Confederate control in efforts to raise men for Confederate service.) In June 1864 this company was to become part of a battalion attached to the Bureau and Murphy applied for a field grade appointment. This, too, did not happen, but Murphy tried to raise yet another company and had the good fortune to connect with Mosby, who accepted him into his 43rd Virginia Battalion, one of just two partisan units the state was willing to sanction.

Murphy joined just as Mosby was eliminating his artillery detachment and forming  a seventh company of cavalry that would be designated Co. G. This began formally on November 2 and the first officers were appointed on November 28. Murphy had been present with the battalion, however, since October 29, getting his first taste of ranger-style fighting the same day at Upperville in an incident chronicled as, “Murphy takes his first lesson from Harry Hatcher” in Williamson’s unit history:

Lieut. John N. Murphy of Company G was, with a few others, at the house of Captain Richards near Upperville. He had just reached there from the Northern Neck — had not taken off his saddle — when the word came : " There are the Yankees ! " He and his companions mounted and quickly rode out to the turnpike just as the fight commenced. Murphy had been a captain in the regular service before joining our command, but this was his first experience in our mode of fighting. Seeing the men scattered over the field in every direction, he was confused. He recognized Lieut. Harry Hatcher dashing across the field at full speed, and being well mounted, on a daughter of the famous old race horse Bailey Peyton, Murphy spurred on and overtook him. " Which are our men and which are the Yankees ? " asked Murphy. Harry's reply was : " Damn the difference ! Go right in ! " Then, turning with his head toward Murphy, he said : " There's a Yankee, right by you now ! " As Murphy turned toward's him, the man wheeled his horse, threw back his hand and fired, the ball from his revolver striking the ground a few feet from Murphy's horse. He then dashed off and rejoined the men of his squadron near Dulaney's house.”

During this period Murphy was also involved in one of the most troubling events in the history of Mosby’s command, the decision to execute 7 Union prisoners in retaliation for the hanging or shooting of 7 of Mosby’s men. Lots were drawn by a group of recently taken prisoners. One of the unlucky men in the drawing was a drummer boy. “The drummer boy was well grown, and but for a circumstance apparently trivial in itself, might have passed for a full grown soldier. He was mounted on a very sorry horse, which lagged behid in coming off the field, and Lieutenant Murphy, who was in the rear in charge of the prisoners, rode beside him. The boy told him and artless story- that he was a drummer boy; and showed hims a little silver badge with his drum and sticks upon it, which he said his mother had given him. He asked Murphy if he would not be allowed to keep this token- that we might take everything else. Murphy told him to hide it in his boot and no one would see it.

Seeing this boy among the condemned, Murphy immediately went to Richards and told him the story, saying he did not think Mosby wanted to hang a drummer boy, and asked Richards to intercede for him. He did so, and the boy was saved. It may be said that he owed his life really to his poor, old, tired horse…” Mosby, however, also determined that someone else would have to take the place of the drummer boy, and another lottery selected a substitute victim.

Mosby remained a thorn in the side of Union forces right to the end of the war and is well known for having disbanded his command rather than formally surrender it. Murphy returned to his law practice in Westmoreland, becoming a state’s attorney there by the time of his death at his home in Hague, in 1897. This is a scarce Confederate imprint and rare manual in itself, which was carried by an officer with an interesting record and membership in the most famous Confederate cavalry unit of the war.  [sr]

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