This letter was written by Lt. John “Marshall” Guion, Jr. (1833-1891) of Co. K. 1st New York Veteran Cavalry. Marshall was promoted to its captain in July 1864, and later major of the troop. The 1st New York Veteran Cavalry was formed in November 1863 primarily from veterans of other units whose enlistments had expired.
Marshall was the son of Rev. John Marshall Guion, Sr. (1801-1878) and Elizabeth Ives Wheaton (1901-1880) of Seneca Falls, Seneca County, New York. He was a law student before the Civil War and his first tour of duty was as a private in Co. A, 33rd New York Infantry (May 1861 to December 1862).
Marshall’s letter was written just after the Battle of New Market where the 1st New York Veteran Cavalry lost 65 killed, wounded and missing. As noted in the letter, Major-General John C. Breckinridge’s arrival with two infantry brigades under Echols and Wharton, a cavalry brigade under Imboden, and other independent commands — including the cadet corps from VMI, proved to be enough manpower to turn away Franz Sigel’s army from the Shenandoah Valley.
Headquarters 1st New York Vet. Cavalry
In the Field, May 17, 186
My Dear Mother,
We have had a severe battle and have been defeated with great loss. The battle took place at New Market on Sunday. We fought all day but were driven from the field by overwhelming numbers.
Gen. [John C.] Breckinridge arrived with fifteen or twenty thousand fresh troops just as the battle opened & although our men fought desperately, we were driven off. Our regiment was the last to leave the field & then in good order. I am safe. Archy Randolph ¹ was struck in the shoulder by a piece of shell and knocked off his horse but he is all right and strange to say, the only man wounded in Co. K. The regiment lost severely. But I will write particulars when we go into camp.
We have fallen back about twenty miles but whether we leave this Valley or try again, I don’t know.
Goodbye. Ever your affectionate son, — Marshall
¹ Archibald B. Randolph —Age, 23 years. Enlisted, September 18, 1863, at Seneca Falls; mustered in as private, Co. K, (September 18,1863, to serve three years; appointed first sergeant, to date September 18, 1863; mustered in as second lieutenant, January 1, 1865; mustered out, June 8, 1865, at Camp Piatt, W. Va.; veteran; commissioned second lieutenant, December 9,1864,with rank from October 21,1864, vice Bacon,promoted; first lieutenant, December 7, 1864, with rank from May 5, 1864, vice Coulton, discharged; not mustered.