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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces an item in
Year Book of the American Clan Gregor Society

containing the Proceedings of
Twenty-Ninth Annual Gathering

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
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This site is not affiliated with the US Naval Academy.

 p39  The Clan Gregor Admiral

Rear Admiral Thomas Pickett Magruder,
United States Navy

By Captain Edwin Taylor Pollock,
United States Navy, Retired

There have been Magruders and others of the Clan Gregor bearing military titles from the beginning of the Clan; there have also been quite a few who bore naval titles, but I believe that I am correct in stating that in the entire Clan Gregor, either in this country or Great Britain, there has been but one man to answer to "Admiral" and he was Rear Admiral Thomas Pickett Magruder, United States Navy, our late lamented kinsman and friend. I can say "kinsman" as my grandchildren have Magruder blood in their veins; I say "friend" as I knew him for over fifty years, from the time I entered the Naval Academy in 1887, and found him two classes ahead, and in later years we were associated many times and in many places, and our families were very intimate. We even had rooms opposite each other at the hospital when we were there temporarily during his last lingering illness.

The doctors had given him up but his strong constitution together with the tender care of his wife and of the corpsman who attended him for years brought a marvellous "come back" more than once.

He came of "fighting stock" as perhaps his red hair indicated, as well as his fearlessness under all conditions.

Of his six brothers, Samuel Sprague Magruder, a Lieutenant (S. C.) U. S. Navy, was killed on board the S. S. Ticonderoga by a schrapnel from a German sub-marine in 1917. Edmund Henry Magruder was a Sergeant in the Spanish-American War and a Major; later Lieutenant Colonel in the Mississippi National Guard. He died in June, 1917, before seeing active service. Cary Walthall Magruder, another brother, entered the U. S. Naval Academy in 1904 and is now a Captain. Jesse Maxwell Magruder was a Sergeant in the Aviation Force of the A. E. F. in France during the War.

The father of the Admiral, Lawson Williams Magruder, was a Major in the Confederate Army and served throughout the War between the States, and his only brother, Thomas Samuel Magruder  p40 a Confederate soldier, died of wounds received at Chickamauga, November 15, 1863.

Thomas Pickett Magruder was born in Yazoo County, Miss., November 29, 1867, and died at Jamestown,​a Rhode Island, May 26, 1938. He was buried on May 28, 1938, with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery; his two-starred Admiral's flag and the national colors covering the casket as it was borne from the chapel to the grave.

He entered the U. S. Naval Academy on September 3, 1885, and was graduated in June, 1889. He also was graduated from the Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island, in 1916.

He married in Washington, D. C., May 29, 1893, Rosa Eliza Boush, daughter of Naval Constructor George Richard Boush and his wife, Adele Bilisoly Boush. He is survived by one daughter, Adele Boush Magruder, now the wife of Stuart O. Greig, Commander, U. S. Navy.

The Admiral was commissioned Ensign July 1, 1891; Lieutenant (Junior Grade), October 9, 1898; Lieutenant, March 3, 1899; Lieutenant Commander, July 1, 1905; Commander, July 1, 1910; Captain, August 6, 1915; Rear Admiral (temporary grade), April 25, 1920; Rear Admiral (permanent grade), June 5, 1921. He was retired on reaching the age limit of 64.

After graduation from the Naval Academy he served on the U. S. S. Charleston. On May 11, 1890, while on that ship in San Francisco harbor, he was commended for courage and presented with a gold watch and chain for saving the life of a woman from drowning.

He served on the U. S. S. Monongahela from 1891 to 1893; on the U. S. S. Kearsarge in 1894 which ship was wrecked on Roncador Reef in the Gulf of Mexico February 3rd of that year. He took the first boat with a hawser to the reef and for his manner of doing so was commended by Rear Admiral Stanton.

In 1894 he served on the U. S. S. Miantonomah; then ordered to duty in the Navy Department. In 1896 he went back to sea on the U. S. S. Fern. His next service was on the U. S. S. Nashville during 1897‑1898. By Act of Congress he was advanced five numbers in grade for "Eminent and conspicuous conduct in battle" for cutting  p41 cables under fire at Cienfuegos, Cuba. For his experiences during the Spanish-American War and during the World War you are referred to his own article "Some Reminiscences of Two Wars," published in the Year Book of the American Clan Gregor Society, 1921.

From 1899 to 1901 he was on duty at the United States Naval Academy as instructor in seaman­ship and navigation. From 1901 to 1903 he was on the U. S. S. Buffalo; 1903‑1905 on the U. S. S. Texas as Flag Lieutenant for Rear Admiral Sands.

He was again ordered for duty at the Naval Academy from 1906 to 1907; then to sea duty on the U. S. S. Iowa. In 1908 he served on the U. S. S. Alabama as Executive Officer on the Cruise Around the World; in 1909 he served as Commanding Officer of this expedition.

In 1910‑1911 he was Inspector of Machinery at Cramp's Ship Yards; took the course at the Naval War College, June to October, 1911. In 1912‑1913 he was in command of the U. S. Naval Station Cavite, P. I. In 1913 he was in command of the U. S. S. Albany; 1914‑1915, in command of the U. S. S. Raleigh on the west coast of Mexico. In 1915‑1916 he was at the Naval War College for long course and in 1916 was in charge of the Division of Naval Military Affairs, Navy Department.

In August, 1917, he was ordered to command Squadron 4, Patrol Force and took six sub-chasers, 12 mine sweepers, a tender and the U. S. S. Wakiva (his flagship) to the west coast of France. For the successful accomplishment of this duty he received a cable "Well done" from the Chief of Naval Operations.

From 1917 to 1919 on the French Coast his "District" included Bay of Quiberon, Loire River, Nantes, and St. Nazaire. For the story of his experiences in these places, including his being shipwrecked on the French Coast on his flag-ship "Guinevere", I call your attention to the Year Book of 1921 mentioned above.

In 1919 he had command of the U. S. S. Nevada; 1920‑1921 he was Naval Attache at Paris to settle private claims against the United States and also on other special duty there. In 1921‑1923 he was Commandant of the Eighth Naval District and the Naval Station at New Orleans, La.

 p42  In 1924‑26 he commanded the new Light Cruiser Division for two and one-half years. During this period he safe-guarded the Army Fliers on their trip around the world from Scotland to Boston, via Iceland, Greenland, Labrador, New Foundland and Nova Scotia. He rescued the Italian aviator, Locatelli and three companions in the Arctic Ocean in August, 1924, for which feat the Italian Government awarded the Order of Commander of the Order of Saint Maurice and St. Lazarus. In 1925 he took his division of light cruisers as a part of the U. S. Fleet on their visit to Australia.​b In this connection I might say that a personal letter to me from a friend in Hobart, Tasmania, praised his handling of his ships in their harbor most highly. I might also say that I was present at the Italian Embassy in Washington when the Italian Ambassador presented to Lyman Cotton, son of Captain Cotton, deceased, who was Admiral Magruder's Flag Captain on the U. S. S. Richmond, when Locatelli was picked up, a decoration similar to that awarded the Admiral. From young Cotton I heard more of the determination which the Admiral showed in finding Locatelli in spite of extreme difficulties of wind and sea. The determination of the MacGregors won again.

In June, 1926, he was ordered to command the Fourth Naval District and the Navy Yard at Philadelphia, Pa. He was detached from that duty on November 6, 1927, and placed on "waiting orders" until August 1, 1929, for a series of articles published in the Saturday Evening Post that year. He charged the Navy with waste, departmental inefficiency and mismanagement. He thereby incurred the disfavor of the "powers that be" and "waiting orders" for twenty months — a kind of punishment without redress — as well as a reprimand resulted for stating facts as he saw them.

During his long illness which finally resulted in his death, he "came back" more than once, never losing his interest in affairs in general and in contract bridge in particular, as I personally well know. The recuperative power of the MacGregors is proverbial.

Jamestown will never be the same without him.

Besides the honors mentioned, i.e. the gold watch and chain, the Commenda Mauriziana (Italy) he was also awarded the Distinguished Service Medal (U. S. A.) Commander of Legion of Honor (France) and he also had the Spanish War Medal, Cuban Campaign  p43 Medal, Mexican Campaign Medal, and Victory Medal of the World War.

After the Spanish-American War he was presented with a gold mounted sword by his fellow citizens of Vicksburg, Mississippi. He was a member of the U. S. Naval Institute, the Society of Naval Engineers, and the Army and Navy Club of Washington, D. C.

In Religion he was Presbyterian, in Politics a Jeffersonian Democrat.

May he rest in peace.

Rear Admiral Magruder's Medals and Honors included: Spanish War Medal, Cuban Campaign Medal, Mexican Campaign Medal, Navy Distinguished Service Medal for Service in World War, Commander, Legion of Honor, France, for Services during and after the War, and Commander, Order of Saint Maurice and Saint Lazarus.

Thayer's Notes:

a His place of death is usually stated to have been Newport, just across the water from Jamestown. In view of the writer's intimacy with his subject, Jamestown is surely correct.

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b R. E. Coontz, From Mississippi to the Sea, p456 (an autobiographical memoir; Admiral Coontz was Adm. Magruder's commanding officer on the fleet's visit to Australia).

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Page updated: 17 Dec 16