Americans have always been a people on-the-move. Every year numbers of Americans relocate for reasons of access to jobs, education or simply for a change of lifestyle to explore a different region and climate.
From the earliest years of the USA there was westward migration to find farmland and resources such as timber. In this blog post we will trace the migration of a Civil War veteran who gradually moved across the USA until he came to the Pacific Northwest. Augustus Marshall came to live in Fall City, Washington Territory in about 1887. Washington finally became a state in 1889.
As of the Revolutionary War in 1775, Americans were already western expansionists. In that year frontiersman Daniel Boone blazed a trail through the Cumberland Gap, between the Cumberland and Kentucky Rivers. This Wilderness Road made it possible to travel from Virginia through Tennessee and into Kentucky, with an estimated 300,000 white settlers travelling along the road between the years 1775 to 1810.
So, too, western-expansion was still an issue during the American Civil War of 1861 to 1865. Southerners wanted the right to expand the plantation system which included slaves, and Northerners wanted western territories to be free. Border states like Tennessee and Kentucky were divided over these issues in the 1860s. The Confederate and Union armies each drew volunteers from these states.
A Tennessean joins the Union Army
At the start of the Civil War in 1861 Augustus Marshall was a young husband and father who lived in the northwest region of Tennessee, Henry County, approximately 100 miles west of Nashville. Although he had a wife and baby son to take care of, Marshall decided to enlist in the Union Army on his 27th birthday, November 15, 1863.
Possible motivations for a person to enlist in the Union Army were wholehearted belief in the stated war aims, showing duty, honor and patriotism, and even the desire for steady pay.
Another motivating factor which could have led to increased enlistments in the Union Army was the Homestead Act signed by President Lincoln on May 20, 1862. The act allowed all citizens to become landowners by meeting the requirements of “homestead” on Federal lands. Union soldiers could get credit for time served to reduce the five-year residency requirement on a homestead claim.
Augustus Marshall served fourteen months with the 2nd Regiment, Tennessee Mounted Infantry, mustering out in January 1865. His unit was mostly deployed around the Nashville area, guarding rivers and railroad routes. The Union Army had been in control of that area for about two years but there were constant attacks from Confederate saboteurs and guerrilla bands seeking to disrupt the supply lines. Marshall was there for the last great battles in the area including the Battle of Nashville on December 15 & 16, 1864, when Union forces under General George H. Thomas decisively routed the Confederate troops under their commander John Bell Hood.
The Marshall family makes a move
When Augustus Marshall mustered out of the Union Army in January 1865, the Civil War was not yet over. Instead of returning to his home area of Henry, Tennessee, Marshall went across the border into Kentucky and made arrangements for his family to move there. In this way he hoped to escape the dangers of the Tennessee town where there were mixed viewpoints, some siding with the Union and some Confederate. In town there were Confederates who might exact retribution because Marshall had served in the Union Army.
Perhaps motivated by the western movement which included a lot of Civil War veterans, over the next twenty-five years the Marshall family kept moving. They lived in Texas for a few years and then came to the Pacific Northwest in about 1887.
The census of 1900 showed the Marshall family living in Fall City in eastern King County near Snoqualmie Falls. The Marshall household included three adult sons, and two married daughters also lived in the greater-Seattle area. It shows family closeness that the Marshalls and their adult children had stayed together as they journeyed across the USA. The family was pooling their resources, as one son worked for a railroad line, and another son worked with his father at running a store on a main street in Fall City.
Fall City: town growth and road work
Fall City started out as a small community on a big river, but as the town grew, more roads were put through. In 1901 Augustus Marshall, who was now 65 years old, became involved in a dispute with King County about a road which the County wanted to put through across Marshall’s property. Marshall was not satisfied with the offer of compensation from the County and he proposed that impartial observers be appointed to choose the route and set the payment amount.
In a letter to the King County Board of Commissioners, Marshall wrote, “Now if you don’t want to do that way you can go on with your confiscating business,” meaning that the County had threatened to take the land by eminent domain and Marshall would have to accept whatever payment was set.
Honoring Civil War service
In his letter of April 1901 Marshall wrote of his grievance that he had faithfully served the nation during the Civil War and he now felt that the government was defrauding him in the road dispute. He said, “I once took my musket and went to protect our government and what little I have now has to be confiscated to please a few fellows that never heard a blue whistler sing.”
A “blue whistler” is Civil War slang for either a bullet or cannon fire, described as blue because of the tint given to it by the lead content. Augustus Marshall expressed that, in sacrificial service to the Union, he’d gone through battles with bullets whistling past his head. He felt that in recognition of that service, the government ought to show him more consideration in land issues.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper used to print columns of land transactions and we can see one listed for Augustus Marshall in March, 1902. He sold several lots to a town merchant, Charles W. Bonell, a site which today is in the heart of Fall City’s main commercial area. Bonell expanded the commercial buildings and for many years was known as postmaster and grocery store operator in Fall City.
Part of Marshall’s sense of aggravation may have had to do with his failed applications for a Civil War veterans pension. He had applied several times and been turned down because of lack of supporting documentation of his claim. He had moved from state to state over thirty years’ time and did not know how to find people who would attest to his military service record.
The Marshalls final move
After spending about fifteen years in Fall City, in 1902 Augustus Marshall moved to Monroe, located about thirty miles northeast of Seattle and in a different county — it appears that Marshall wanted to get out of King County as he disagreed with their roadwork plans.
In Monroe, Augustus Marshall became more active with the Union veterans group called Grand Army of the Republic, which he had not done before. Finally in 1906 Marshal’s application for a Union Army veterans pension was approved. Later that year, his wife Charity died. He purchased burial sites for her and for himself. Augustus Marshall died in Monroe in 1922 (age 85).
The life of Augustus Marshall is an example of the constant western migration of Americans over the past 250 years, with the American drive to acquire land and have access to opportunities. In some cases such as Civil War veteran Augustus Marshall, he never found real prosperity. Access to better jobs was actually left to the next generation, as his sons were able to support their parents.
Augustus Marshall is one of thousands of Civil War veterans who eventually migrated as far west as the Seattle area. The legacy of Civil War veterans is all around us in their influence on the community.
Many thanks to blog reader JD who found the letter of Augustus Marshall in files of King County road projects. (See Marshall’s letter below) The King County Map Vault.
Blue Whistler: A possible interpretation of the “blue whistler” reference is a cannon which made a distinctive whistle when fired.
Civil War regimental records: nps.gov/civilwar/
Civil War Seattle — website of history articles and walking tour info.
“Fall City – Thumbnail History,” HistoryLink Essay #10345 by Alan Stein, 2013.
Fall City Historical Society. Here’s another article about Augustus Marshall and his problems with roads — it seems that roads kept being laid out across his property: https://www.fallcityhistorical.org/feature-articles-march-2014.html
Fall City plat map — accessed on the King County Parcel Viewer.
Find A Grave: Augustus Marshall, Odd Fellows Cemetery, Monroe, WA.
“Land transactions,” Seattle Post Intelligencer newspaper, March 31, 1902, page 8. Land sale from Augustus Marshall to Charles W. Bonell, Lots 2,3,4, Block 3, Fall City, $500.