MARTIN, ROBERT M.
Saturday, July 8, 2006, 06:52 PM - Muhlenberg County
XXIV, Robert M. Martin
The Civil War produced no higher type of the fearless and dangerloving soldier--no more perfect exemplar of the romantic and picturesque partisan ranger--than Robert Maxwell Martin of Muhlenberg, who came to be known, in war and in peace, as Colonel "Bob" Martin. His daring exploits, his narrow escapes, his coolness and good humor in the very face of death, his keen search ever for the post of danger, won the admiration of friend and foe alike, and have been noted generously in several books of Civil War history. These were written and published after his death, and were not the products of friends seeking to celebrate a living man. He was most modest, and always reticent of his own adventures. To the day of his death he possessed that natural quality of the buoyantly active man of living wholly in the present, and paying little regard to the glories of the past or to the prospects of the future. 1
Robert Maxwell Martin was born in Muhlenberg a few miles northwest of Greenville, January 10, 1840, on what is now the County Poor Asylum farm. His father, Hugh Martin, reared four sons and three daughters, all of whom were born in the county, but who are no longer represented here. All of the family were followers of the Union cause except Robert, Two of the sons were in the Union army--Lieutenant Templeton B. Martin, of Company B, Eleventh Kentucky Infantry, and Lieutenant James H. Martin, of Company F, Thirty-fifth Kentucky Mounted Infantry. William, the eldest son, did not take up arms. The father was a strong Unionist, as were the McDonalds and Roarks, to whom the Martins were related. Robert was the only one who threw his fortunes in with the South, and he fought from the beginning of hostilities in Western Kentucky until the final surrender at Appomattox. He was twenty-one when the war began. He was an ideal free cavalry leader, unsurpassed as a scout, and the idol of his soldiers as the leader of a forlorn hope.
Martin was one of the first to enlist in Colonel N. B. Forrest's regiment of Confederate cavalry, where his qualities as a scout were quickly recognized and made use of. When Adam R. Johnson came up from Texas and enlisted with Forrest in 1861 it was on condition that he be made a scout, for which service long experience on the frontier well fitted him. "Very well," said Forrest. "If you can equal Bob Martin, I will have a fine team for scouting." Thus began a close association between the two daring and fast-moving riders.
When Colonel Forrest and his men were on their skirmish movement from Hopkinsville toward Rumsey, Martin and Johnson acted as chief scouts. On December 28, 1861, Forrest's cavalry arrived near Sacramento, McLean County, and Martin there fought his first battle. 2
There were no limits to the audacity of Martin and Johnson. which they indulged at the outset with the delight of boys--as they were. On one occasion, getting information that Colonel James S. Jackson had collected a large number of cavalry horses for the Union army on the farm of Willis Field, near Owensboro, these two scouts, needing horses for their recruits, prepared an order for twelve horses in due form, to which they signed the name of General Thomas L. Crittenden, Jackson's superior officer. They then presented the order, got the horses--together with their breakfasts--and departed in triumph. It was not until two days later that Field, Jackson, and Crittenden compared notes and discovered that they had been outwitted of a dozen fine mounts. The horses were delivered to Forrest.Robert M. Martin in 1866
On another occasion they, with one other companion, attacked under cover of night a garrison of Union troops at Henderson. From close range across the street on a summer night they fired into the garrison, causing excitement and confusion, alarming the town, and giving to the attack the appearance of an onset in force by a strong body. They made their escape, and Martin had the daring to return from the country three days later under a flag of truce, demanding the retraction of statements made in a town meeting and threatening an immediate attack on the town. The retractions were made, but the whole Confederate "force" amounted to three men, who greatly enjoyed the wild alarm they had created.
The thrilling experience of these daring scouts and spies of Forrest's at Donelson, and likewise during the Shiloh campaign, are told in detail by General Johnson. After the battle of Shiloh, Forrest loaned Johnson and Martin to General John C. Breckinridge, who sent them to Kentucky, where they began recruiting in Webster and Henderson counties and inaugurated hostilities hundreds of miles in the rear of Grant's army, and here fought and dodged from county to county until November, 1862, by which time they had enlisted a regiment of cavalry.
During this expedition, with about twenty-five men, they crossed the Ohio from opposite Newburg, Indiana, and took the guns that had been stored there in the Union arsenal. Johnson says that, before crossing the river, "I ordered our horses to be placed where they would make as big a show as possible to the people on the other side, and from two pairs of old wagon wheels, with their axles, a stovepipe, and a charred log, I soon had manufactured two of the most formidable-looking pieces of artillery into whose gaping mouths a scared people ever looked." With these preparations Martin and Johnson alone crossed the river in a skiff, bearing a flag of truce. The Union garrison was a small one, guarding a hospital and supplies. The two scouts demanded possession of all the guns, and pointed to the frowning "cannon" on the opposite shore, discreetly masked behind bushes and just as discreetly revealed in part. Fearing a bombardment of the town, the guns were surrendered, with the ammunition, and Martin and Johnson transported them across the river.Robert M. Martin was born on What is now the County Poor Asylum
The regiment they had raised was added to General John H. Morgan's command as the Tenth Kentucky Cavalry; C. S. A. Johnson, as the elder, was made Colonel, and Martin Lieutenant-Colonel. They went on Morgan's December, 1862, raid into Kentucky. Later Johnson was detailed by the Secretary of War as the bearer of dispatches to General Magruder, in Texas. During his absence Martin commanded the regiment, and many daring feats are recorded of his adventures and of his conduct in battle by Johnson and also by General Duke in his history of Morgan's cavalry. Duke describes Martin as a man of extraordinary dash and resolution, very shrewd in partisan warfare. He was a very whirlwind to harry the enemy's supplies and interrupt their communication. He would charge his adversary on any good fighting chance, and would come out with a seemingly charmed life. At Snow's Hill, Tennessee, General Morgan sent him with his regiment to threaten the Union right, and he charged upon a battery with dauntless courage.
One incident at Milton, Tennessee, in March, 1863, was described to General Duke by an eyewitness. Martin's regiment had been ordered to charge a Union battery and capture it or keep it busy. They were repulsed at the first onset, but Martin rallied them from the rear and then, some distance in advance, again led them against the hill. "Just here," says the eyewitness quoted by Duke, "Martin performed one of those acts of heroic but useless courage, too common among our officers. When his regiment wavered and commenced to fall back, he halted until he was left alone; then at a slow walk rode to the pike, and with his hat off rode slowly out of fire. He was splendidly mounted, wore in his hat a long black plume, was himself a large and striking figure, and I have often thought that it was the handsomest picture of true and desperate courage I saw in the war." 3
At McMinnville, Tennessee, in 1863, Martin received a bullet-wound in the lung, and was laid up for several months. He was at the head of his regiment on Morgan's disastrous raid into Ohio; he escaped into West Virginia with four hundred troops, and was soon clearing the country in East Tennessee of bushwhackers while Morgan's scattered troops were reassembling at Morristown.
This remnant of Morgan's command under Martin fought in Forrest's division at the battle of Chickamauga. Johnson says: "Colonel Martin, with one of the battalions, was chosen to open in advance of our infantry the great battle of Chickamauga, on the right. By their gallantry in charging and running out of their fortified position the Federal infantry, the Kentuckians attracted the attention of General Hill, who sought out General Forrest during the thickest of the fight and complimented him on their action. Subsequent to the battle it was again Martin who, with his battalion, drove the defeated Federals out of their advanced works at Chattanooga... It was a memorable morning the next day after this brilliant feat of arms; Martin had formed our boys in the outskirts of Chattanooga, when General Forrest came riding down the line of the Kentucky battalion, and taking off his hat in honor of the prowess they had shown, exclaimed, 'Any man who says that Morgan's men are not good soldiers and fine fighters tells a damn lie!'"
Duke says that this regiment of Morgan's men at Chickamauga, under Colonel Martin, "fired the first and last shots in that terrible struggle."
After Chickamauga, Colonel Martin chose a small detail and started for Western Kentucky to recruit a new regiment, most of his men being in Northern prisons or dead. He had many adventures in Christian, Trigg, and Hopkins counties. In December, 1863, at the head of his recruits, he entered Muhlenberg, and at eight o'clock at night charged unprotected Greenville, his men yelling like Indians. Captain Headley thus records the incident:
"There was a general stampede and great excitement among the population. This was a hotbed of Unionism, and the offensive Union men dreaded Martin. Others greeted us cordially. A detail went to the post-office and got the postage stamps and envelopes. We now had twenty dollars' worth of United States spoils. After Colonel Martin had spent an hour with his friends we rode out toward Hartford, soon turned, made a circuit around Greenville toward Hopkinsville, and camped with good fires until sunrise the next morning. After breakfast we went toward the Greenville and Madisonville Road to learn if we had been pursued. It was the purpose now to go back to Madisonville if any of its garrison had followed us to Greenville. We entered a long lane through a farm, and Colonel Martin inquired at the house, about midway. He heard of three different companies that were in pursuit, but got no information as to where they belonged. Just before we reached the end of the lane it was observed that dense woods were in front and extended around to the right over a hilly region...
"The fence on the left extended about fifty yards farther than on the right side of the lane we were in. Cyrus Crabtree, wearing a Federal overcoat, was the advance guard, and at the end of the lane he observed a company of Federals about two hundred yards to the left across a little old unfenced field. There was a small ravine that ran through it, about midway between our ridge and the one where the Federals had halted. Crabtree stopped and motioned back to us. Martin halted the column and galloped up to Crabtree, then called out to the Federals and asked who was in command. 'Captain Jeff Roark,' was the response. 'Where from?' inquired Martin. 'Hopkinsville,' was the answer, followed with the inquiry, 'Who are you?' 'Captain Wilkes from Henderson. Send a man down half way,' answered Martin. 'All right,' said Roark. Martin directed Crabtree to go and get all that Roark knew about us. Crabtree and Roark met down in the little ravine, while both sides sat quietly and looked on. Colonel Martin called out to Crabtree, 'Is it all right?' 'Yes,' responded Crabtree, 'he wants to see you, Captain.' Martin trotted his horse down to meet his old friend. They had been boys together in the same neighborhood. Captain Roark was astonished when he recognized Colonel Bob Martin. I heard Martin laughing as he said, 'Well, Jeff, we ought to shake hands over a joke like this.' 'I think so too, Bob,' said Roark, and they greeted each other cordially. They then talked for a few minutes, and separated, each galloping back to his command, and Martin announced that he was going to fight."
The small fight that ensued near the Coal Bank resulted in no serious casualties, although it continued as a running skirmish all next day. One incident illustrates Colonel Martin's marvelous resourcefulness and activity. In retreating across a "branch" with high banks, the overhanging boughs of a tree swept him over the rump of his horse. As he slid down he grasped the tail of the animal with both hands and held on until a soldier caught the bridle and he remounted coolly and pursued his way, laughing at the accident. 4
Martin and his men found no welcome in Muhlenberg and he went South, where he joined General Morgan who had by that time made his escape from prison. In Tennessee, Kentucky, and West Virginia he was ever busy and always in danger. At Mt. Sterling, June, 1864, he was badly wounded in the foot, and had his horse killed under him; but he was in the field next day in a buggy, keeping up with his column. Two days later he was in the saddle, his wounded foot on a pillow, his knee over the pommel of the saddle, woman-fashion, the other foot in the stirrup, leading a charge.
This wound disabled him for a time, and he was sent to Canada with letters from Judah P. Benjamin, Secretary of State for the Confederacy, where he was to aid in harrying the North from the frontier. At New York the plan of burning the city by setting fire to nineteen hotels at the same time was attempted; the fires were started, but were extinguished before much damage was done. He was at the head of a party of ten, including Captains J. Y. Beall, John W. Headley, and R. C. Kennedy, who were to attempt the rescue of seven Confederate generals while they were being transferred by rail from Johnson's Island to New York. They missed the prisoners, however, and the daring undertaking failed of accomplishment. Beall was arrested and hanged in February, 1865, as was also Kennedy soon afterward, but Martin and Headley managed to reach Cincinnati in safety and from there they went to Louisville.
Headley says there were about twenty thousand troops in camp in and around Louisville at this time, under Major-General John M. Palmer. Major Fossee, of his staff, kept three fine horses at headquarters. About ten o'clock one morning Martin and Headley cornered the orderly and hostler in the stable, who being unarmed readily surrendered. Martin and Headley led two of the horses out, handing the orderly a slip of paper on which Headley had written:
Compliments of Col. Robert M. Martin Lieut. John W. Headley 10th Kentucky Cavalry, C. S. A.
Feby. 28, 1864.horses they made their way to Virginia, only to hear of Lee's a few days after their arrival. Martin, after spending a few Cuba and Tennessee, proceeded to Bowling Green, then down to Paradise. He had been recognized at Bowling Green, and ?? He was arrested in Greenville and taken in irons to Louis??ce??to New York, where he was thrown into Fort Lafayette on a reason. He was one of those men who by their daring and especially in the North, were relied upon to incense the Northern ??ring about the trial and conviction of Jefferson Davis and the ?? of the Confederacy on this same charge of treason. Colonel examined and held for trial under indictment. An attempt was to induce him to give testimony against Davis, as the price of ??t the prosecutors were dealing with a fearless man. "I not nothing to tell about Mr. Davis," he told his jailers, "but if I ??ng I would not tell it!" It is said that he was tried and con??hat upon appeal his case was remanded for trial in another ??this be true, he was the only man convicted of treason growing Civil War. At any rate, he was not put on trial a second time.??ner of 1866 he was pardoned unconditionally by President ??
?? Colonel Martin returned to the paths of peace cheerfully, and ?? business with all the energy he had displayed in war. He ?? tobacco and made several fortunes, each of which he lost in traveled much abroad, and on one trip returning met on the ??ss Wardlaw, of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. This chance meeting ??n early marriage. They had one daughter, named Oceania, ??amship on which they had met. It was the death of this ??cey" Martin Snead, that brought her mother and maternal ?? such trying and pitiful prominence in New York in 1910, years after Colonel Martin's death. There was no son.
few years before his death Colonel Martin occasionally visited ??Muhlenberg. On one of his trips to Greenville, some fifteen ??the old and dilapidated courthouse was replaced by the present jokingly remarked, "I have often regretted that I did not try ??old courthouse when I passed through here during the war, Muhlenberg would now have a better courthouse." Probably who remember the old brick courthouse during the last few existence can fully appreciate the humor of this remark.
as tall and slender, yet strongly built, walking with the erect, ??of an Indian until after he had received two severe wounds in which ultimately caused his death. He had a somewhat swarthy piercing blue eyes, a full nose with a hawk bridge, sandy hair ??ined to curl, a winning smile, and a bearing in which courtesy ??ation united to render him attractive to all with whom he ??act. He was devoid of all pretense, yet decisive, resourceful, ??the execution of his projects.
??of Martin after the war is thus summarized by Captain Colonel Robert M. Martin, after his release from prison, in 1866, settled at Evansville, Indiana, and engaged in the tobacco warehouse business. In 1874 he removed to New York City. For fourteen years he was manager of tobacco inspections for David Dowes & Co. in their Brooklyn warehouses. He located at Louisville in 1887, engaging in the tobacco brokerage business. In the fall of 1900, his old wound in the lung having produced frequent hemorrhages, his health gave way. He bade me good-by in October, 1900, upon his departure for New York, where he hoped some specialist might prolong his life, but he died on the 9th day of January, 1901. He was sixty-one years of age... He is buried in Greenwood Cemetery, New York City."



1. Colonel Martin's military career is treated of at length in "The Partisan Rangers," by General Adam R. Johnson (1904); "Morgan's Cavalry," by General Basil W. Duke (1909); and "Confederate Operations in Canada and New York," by Captain John W. Headley (1906). Authority for many of the statements made in this sketch may be found in these books. General A. R. Johnson is now (1913) living at Burnet, Texas; General Duke and Captain Headley reside in Louisville.

2. A description of the fight at Sacramento, written by Adam R. Johnson, and another account by Richard T. Martin, are quoted elsewhere in this volume

3. A Union soldier in the battery Martin charged, describing the circumstance after the Civil War, said: "He sat his walking horse with his hat in his hand, scratching his head as if to say, 'Well, I don't understand this running away.' It was so fine a display of supreme courage that our commander ordered the firing to cease, saying, 'It will be a d-d shame for so brave a man to be shot in the back.'"

4. The story of "Bob" Martin's military career as it appeared to Muhlenbergers is also told in Richard T. Martin's "Recollections of the Civil War," the preceding chapter.

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