ECW Weekender: Lynchburg, Virginia and The Marshall

TheMarshall02Although Lynchburg, Virginia, was off the beaten path for most of the war, it certainly saw its fair share of action June 17-18, 1864 as part of the spring/summer Shenandoah Campaign. Jubal Early came to the rescue of his hometown, using the Second Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia to beat back a raid by David Hunter’s Federals.

Today, the city hosts twelve Civil War Trails markers, including one of my favorite Stonewall Jackson-related artifacts, the remains of the packet boat The Marshall.

After Jackson laid in state in the Virginia State Capitol, his body was transported by train first to Lynchburg, then by barge up the James River and the Kanawha Canal through the mountains to Jackson’s final resting place in his hometown of Lexington. (Mort Kunstler captured the scene in his painting Going Home.)

The body arrived in Lynchburg on Wednesday, May 13, and a prayer service was held in the city. “The coffin was then placed aboard the Marshall, and mules connected to the vessel by towlines pulled it slowly upriver,” a Civil War Trails marker explains. The boat, which also bore Jackson’s widow, reached Lexington the following morning.

When David Hunter raided Lexington in June of 1864—on his way to Lynchburg—the Marshall sustained damage, although it was repaired the following year and continued in service until 1880 when the canal company went out of business and the old towpath became a railroad bed, the marker says.

In its retirement, “the Marshall was docked near Early Street and served as the home of Corbin Spencer and his sister,” the marker says. “In 1913, a flood buried the vessel in mud. The iron hull was excavated in 1936 and placed in Riverside Park. In 2006, the Lynchburg Historical Foundation restored the hull and placed it in the protective structure.”

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The Marhsall measured 90 feet long and 14 feet wide, with “a handmade 3/16-inch-thick iron hull,” says the marker:

The cabin interior, paneled with Dominican mahogany, had staterooms for male and female passengers, and a dining salon in which were hung canvas sleeping berths at night.

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Aside from The Marshall, visitors can stop by the Civil War Chaplains Museum at Liberty University, Jubal Early’s gravesite at Spring Hill Cemetery, and any of the other Civil War Trail stops. Lynchburg was also the birthplace of the legendary Southern historian Douglas Southall Freeman.

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