Marshall, Henry Grimes, 1839-1918
Rank : Sgt., 1st Lieut., Captain
Regiment : 15th Connecticut Infantry Regiment. Co. E (1862-1865)
29th Connecticut Infantry Regiment (Colored). Co. E (1864-1865)
Service : 1862 August 4-1865 November 27
Born in Milford, Conn., on January 2, 1839, Henry Grimes Marshall was the son of Samuel Andrew Marshall and Jerusha Grimes. After graduating from Milford High School in 1856, Marshall entered Yale with the class of 1860, and appears to have spent the two years after graduation working as a teacher in Newark, N.J. During the summer of 1862, however, he succumbed to a rising sense of duty, and returned home to Cromwell, Conn., to enlist in the army. Despite his youth, he was awarded an appointment as sergeant of Co. E, 15th Connecticut Infantry.
In August, the 15th Connecticut left the state to the rousing cheers of the citizens of New Haven and Milford, bound for Maryland, but after this early flush of glory, Marshall was soon brought down to earth by the daily tedium of drill. While willing, and occasionally anxious to enter into action, he admitted to having trepidations over killing or being killed, and assured his sisters that he had not been in any great peril, and that his position as sergeant kept him out of some of the worst.
After spending the fall at Fairfax Seminary, the 15th was ordered into its first true tests at Fredericksburg, and with winter mud of Falmouth. Though disheartened by the turn of these events, Marshall kept an upbeat, "patriotic" attitude and remained optimistic, even as he and his comrades became so strapped for money that they unloaded their pay vouchers to speculators. His confidence and positive nature gave him the wherewithal to feel that he could master any situation, and even when taunted by Confederate troops during the fiasco of the mud march, he asserted to his family that if it hadn't rained, they would have emerged victorious.
With Ninth Corps, the 15th Connecticut was sent to Suffolk, Va., in February, and was immediately trapped by Longstreet's forces. In Suffolk, besieged, Marshall began to entertain the possibility of taking a commission in a colored regiment. After deciding to accept the position, Marshall lost it, but remained in the pool for a new slot when it opened. After the siege lifted at Suffolk, the 15th Connecticut took part in a series of minor forays on the peninsula (including the "blackberry raid") designed to keep pressure on the Confederacy while the main scene of action had shifted northward to Pennsylvania, and then shifted to Portsmouth, where they remained in garrison for several months, taking part in a minor expedition to South Mills, N.C.
In December, 1863, Marshall renewed his application for a commission in a "colored" regiment, and was granted leave to take the officers' examination in Washington. Upon returning to camp, he found his comfortable shanty burned to the ground and his regiment departed for Plymouth, N.C. When he finally caught up with them on January 28, he was immediately sent on a raid to Windsor, N.C., where they took a few prisoners and pillaged the town. Late in February, Marshall was informed that he had been awarded a lieutenant's commission based on his examination, and he immediately accepted. Returning to a conscript camp at New Haven, he was mustered into the service as 1st Lieutenant of Co. E of the 29th Connecticut Infantry.
Reminiscent of his experience only a few months previously, Marshall basked in the admiration of the citizens of New Haven as his regiment paraded the streets, but as before, the moments of adrenaline-charged pomp dissipated rapidly into reality. Arriving at Annapolis on March 25, Marshall was met head-on by the realities of a "colored" regiment in a racist society. Although he felt no less certain of his superiority over African Americans than the average white American, he was galled by the nagging details that highlighted subordinate status -- such as the rumor that the members of his regiment, including officers, would be issued only shelter tents -- and he met such slights with an aggressive posture. More threatening were the shouts of "Nagur Nagur" that greeted them as they passed Irish and "Dutch" regiments from Pennsylvania and New York.
In April, 1864, the 29th Connecticut was ordered to the islands off the coast of South Carolina and brigaded with the 26th and 33rd U.S.C.T., formerly the 1st South Carolina, and they were finally armed. Posted on Port Royal Island, the regiment performed picket duty at the Baynard Plantation, a particularly peaceful spot that gave Marshall abundant opportunity to botanize and take in the local sights.
In August Marshall's regiment was ordered to join the 1st Brigade, 3rd Division of the 10th A.C. in Virginia. Fearing battle, he coincidentally fell ill with "remittent fever" and was sent to Chesapeake Hospital at Fortress Monroe to recuperate. This experience may have served to prick Marshall's conscience about duty and loyalty to his men. Upon hearing Sherman's scurrilous comments on colored regiments, for instance, Marshall bristled, and barked that such statements did not apply to the 29th Connecticut: "What can be said of most colored regiments will not apply to ours. They are a different class of Negros. There are but few ignorant plantation darkies in our Reg." (1864 September 6).
Rejoining his regiment in the trenches before Petersburg in mid-September, Marshall took part in the Battle of New Market Heights on September 29 (a feint on Richmond) during which Marshall served for five days as acting aide de camp on the staff of General Birney. On October 10, Marshall was appointed aide de camp on the staff of Lt. Col. Samuel Chapman Armstrong (2nd Brigade, 3rd Div., 10th A.C.). However, Armstrong soon returned to his regiment and was replaced by Ulysses Doubleday, who was in turn replaced by Elias Wright early in November, making four Brigade commanders in little over a month. Through all these changes, Marshall retained his staff position, and had little contact with his regiment.
In December, as the 3rd Division was engaged in the construction of the Dutch Gap Canal, plans to create an all-"colored" Corps were brought to fruition, and the 29th was reassigned to the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, 25th Corps. Marshall was ambivalent about segregating "colored" troops, feeling that it would "set us off & mak[e] us too exclusive," and arguing that he had reason to believe that his command "certainly will be marked & will have our reputation to make and have it all our own, not divided with white troops" (1864 November 19).
After a brief furlough in January, ostensibly to get married (he did not), Marshall accepted a return to his regiment coupled with a promotion to Captain, yet shortly thereafter he stepped back into his role as aide de camp, this time on the staff of Brig. Gen. Charles S. Russell (2.2.XXV).
After the fall of Richmond, Marshall rode in alone on the morning of April 3rd, uncontested, and witnessed the symbolic end of the war. Two days later, Lincoln arrived in the Confederate capitol, greeted by "near 10,000 people mostly darkies, full of their expressions and gesticulations of praise & joy at seeing the day" (1865 April 5). The euphoria, as Marshall predicted, evaporated quickly, and within a few days of these climactic events, the 29th Connecticut was sent to the drudgery of guard duty at Point Lookout Military Prison and in mid-June, they were ordered to Brownsville, Tex.
The 29th Connecticut was mustered out of the service in October, 1865. Reflecting back on his experiences. Marshall lived up to his wartime vow to enter the ministry, studying at Yale Seminary in 1865-66 before graduating from Andover in 1868. He was ordained in the Congregational ministry that year, accepting a pastorate at Avon, Conn., where he remained until 1872. In later years, he held pastorates at Charlemont, Mass. (1872-77), Middlebury, Conn. (1877-85), Cromwell, Conn. (1885-1904), and Hampton, Conn. (1904-1910), and he served as Chaplain of the Connecticut House of Representatives in 1911-12. He married twice: first, on August 25, 1869, to Marietta Crosby of Danbury, Conn., who died in March, 1871, and second on December 29, 1874, to Mrs. Annette L. Barton. He died at home on October 11, 1918.