I have to say thank you to those of you that have sent me emails suggesting individuals to cover in this column. Many of the suggestions are off the beaten path and have required an enormous amount of research. Some of these lawmen just don't have that much written about them, even if they are fascinating. This leads me to October's Legendary Lawman: United States Marshal Richard Griffith.
Born January 11, 1818 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Griffith attended Ohio University (Athens). Following college he moved to Vicksburg, Mississippi and enlisted as an infantryman in the 1st Mississippi Rifles during the Mexican War. At the close of the war Griffith entered civilian life and began working as a banker and eventually a U.S. Marshal. Because of his exemplary record he excelled in politics and was the Mississippi State Treasurer from 1847 until 1851. As a member of the state militia he held the rank of Brigadier General.
At the onset of the civil war (April 12, 1861) Griffith was assigned the rank of colonel and given command of the 12th Mississippi Infantry but by November he was promoted to Brigadier General and put in command of four full Mississippi regiments. During the Seven Days Battles outside of Richmond, Virginia (June 25 to July 1, 1862), General Griffith was wounded in the thigh from shrapnel as a result of heavy artillery fire from covering fire while the Union Forces retreated. This would result in the Griffith’s death on June 29, 1862. When he was informed that his wound was indeed fatal, General Griffith is reported to have said, "If only I could have led my brigade through this battle, I would have died satisfied." Griffith was taken to Richmond, but succumbed to his wounds the same day.
Of those soldiers morning the loss of this great man was long-time friend Jefferson Davis. In his notes from the battle at Savage Station Davis wrote, "Our loss was small in numbers, but great in value. Among others who could ill be spared, here fell the gallant soldier, the useful citizen, the true friend and Christian gentleman, Brigadier General Richard Griffith. He had served with distinction in foreign war, and, when the South was invaded, was among the first to take up arms in defense of our rights."
While his tenure as a U.S. Marshal may not have been the most notable occurrence in Richard Griffith's life, it does show a slice of the lengthy and storied past that the United States Marshal Service has celebrated throughout our countries history.