Gilman Marston was born to Jeremiah and Theda (Sawyer) Marston on August 20, 1811, on a farm in Orford, NH. He studied at Bradford Academy, across the river in Vermont, before he entered KUA in the fall of 1831. Because he had to support himself by teaching, his entrance into the Academy was delayed until his 20th year, a common situation for poor, young men seeking an education. From here, he went to Dartmouth where it was said, by his textbooks, “ … he must have been a capable and serious student … ” but that as a “ … young man, not especially pious.”
After graduation in 1837, Marston left for Indianapolis, IN, to teach at an Academy, but came back to New Hampshire two years later. In 1840, he went to Harvard to study law where, “Professor Simon Greenleaf gave him a written certificate of diligence in his studies and of exemplary conduct.” Marston opened his law office in Exeter, NH, in June 1841 and one of his first cases was representing a Mr. Swasey in a claim against the Boston and Maine Railroad who had taken a strip of land in front of the Swasey Homestead. Marston obtained a compromise and Mr. Swasey received $500 dollars in cash and some shares of B & M stock. Marston was opposed to the B & M Railroad for many years and rivalry of a “legal, political and social” kind developed between him and Amos Tuck, Dartmouth 1835. [His son Edward Tuck financed and founded the Amos Tuck Business School at Dartmouth.]
Marston was elected to the state legislature from Exeter in 1845 and was a Representative for 16 terms. In 1850 and 1876 he was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention and from 1859-1863 he was a representative in Congress, elected again in 1865. Marston had always wanted to be a United States senator and was finally appointed, years later, to fill a vacancy for a short period in 1889. He was considered a shrewd and vigorous politician but “ … his tongue was terribly sharp.” In his early years Marston was a Whig and a great admirer of Daniel Webster, but was not all that interested in the anti-slavery movement as he thought it unwise for Northerners to interfere in what was legal In the South. But by 1856, he had become “… one of the foremost Republicans in New Hampshire” and a staunch supporter of the Union cause.
When he was 49 “ … and the guns roared at Sumter…” being without any military experience, he trained himself from books and while a member of Congress, accepted the commission of Colonel and left Washington to organize the Second New Hampshire Regiment. On July 21, 1861, Marston, who had never seen a battle along with many of his raw recruits of the “Fighting Second,” reached Virginia and engaged in the Battle of Bull Run. While at the front, a bullet hit Marston’s right arm near his shoulder, but he refused to have it amputated though the surgeons told him his life depended on it. “He insisted upon being placed upon his horse and was led to the front amid cheers from the ‘boys’ of his regiment.” Later, after his ambulance driver abandoned the vehicle, he was driven away in a “spring-less” car. Marston told his dresser, 19-year-old John Sullivan, grandson of Attorney General George Sullivan, as he handed him his revolver, “ … the Sullivans always obeyed orders. Sullivan, if these doctors try to ‘cut off’ my arm, shoot them. I want to sleep.’” Marston kept his arm and went home to Exeter to recuperate.
For his many acts of bravery, he was commissioned Brigadier General of Volunteers in 1862. “His soldiers fairly worshipped him for his personal bravery and care over them ….” He returned to the war and found himself in command of a prison camp of 10,000 or more at Point Lookout, Maryland. This he found “irksome” and in 1864 was back at the front in command of a brigade in Grant’s great efforts to take Richmond.
After four years of war he went home to Exeter to rebuild his legal practice. Marston also tried various business ventures but was not very successful. In June 1870, President Grant appointed him Governor of the Territory of Idaho, but for some reason, he did not accept the offer. Although he never married, he liked children and once gave a home and education to an orphan girl. One of the many playful things he liked to do for children happened in summer when he would dump bags of white flour in a pile in the town square and watch the hot, sticky kids scramble through it looking for nickels. In his later years, when he became somewhat messy in his dress, some of the young boys thought he was crazy as “ … he used to go up and down the streets, swinging his cane, singing to himself.” But Marston was not crazy; he was, however, near-sighted and that fact may have made him seem odd on the street. It was said, “He was more of a rough diamond, a child of nature, a hater of shams.”
Marston died at home at age 80. In his obituary, it is written that, “General Marston was a born leader, his rugged, aggressive and thoroughly self-sustained nature carrying conviction of might and right with it, while his moral and physical courage and sterling uprightness were like the granite hills of his own native State. Had he been more politic, more suave, more compromising he might have had more show of honors awarded him, but his own honor stood against anything that to him seemed wrong, and he often forfeited more advancement for the consciousness of being right and being independent.”
This original letter, written on July 8, 1882, to Marston was from President Bartlett of Dartmouth College informing him that the trustees had conferred on him an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Law. It is one of two documents given in 2001 to KUA Archives from Nicholas Picerno, father of Nick Picerno, KUA class of 1998, in appreciation of the quality of education his son received at KUA.
Next time: Augusta Cooper Bristol, class of 1854