160 Years Ago Today: The Battle of Big Bethel

Fought on June 10, 1861, Big Bethel was among the American Civil War's first pitched battles. Since the Virginia Secession Convention passed an ordinance of secession in May, Union forces had steadily reinforced Fort Monroe, a federal fort at the tip of the Virginia Peninsula between the James and York rivers. It was the only…

Illustration of John B. Magruder

With his upturned mustache, large mutton chops, and plumed hat, “Prince John” Bankhead Magruder (1807-1871) cut a dashing figure. He was a veteran of the Mexican War and amateur actor with unconventional views on warfare for the time period. On April 21, 1861, four days after the Virginia Secession Convention formally adopted articles of secession,…