John F. Marshall, editor and politician, was born and reared in Virginia. As a young man he lived in Mississippi. On September 16, 1850, at Shelbyville, Kentucky, he married Ann P. Newman, daughter of a wealthy Jefferson County cotton planter. The couple had three children, only two of whom lived to adulthood. Marshall entered the newspaper business and became editor of the Jackson Mississippian, a staunch states'-rights Democratic journal. In 1852 he and his family moved to Austin, Texas, where he purchased a half interest in the Texas State Gazette (see AUSTIN STATE GAZETTE). His editorial direction soon made the Gazette a leading forum for his extreme Southern states'-rights views. He advocated such causes as the annexation of Cuba and reopening the African slave trade. Such controversial positions were bound to prove divisive, and during the late 1850s Marshall was among the catalysts that caused a realignment of party politics in Texas. He became chairman of the state Democratic party in 1856 and held that position during the critical years leading to the Civil War. His paper became the mouthpiece of the state Democratic party, and he used it to help elect Hardin R. Runnels governor over Sam Houston in 1857, thus earning the undying ire of the latter. In 1858 Marshall precipitated a schism within the party by his insistence that the Democrats nominate candidates for all elective offices. A number of leading Democrats opposed this proposed departure from the traditional view that some offices, notably judgeships, should be nonpartisan. Marshall got his way, but the resulting bitterness within the Democratic ranks helped fuel a surge by the opposition which, the next year, swept Houston into office as governor.
When the war began, Marshall abandoned journalism to take up arms against the North. He impetuously joined the army as a private, but was shortly appointed lieutenant colonel in the Fourth Texas Regiment (see HOOD'S TEXAS BRIGADE) by his friend President Jefferson Davis. When John B. Hood, the regimental commander, was promoted to brigadier general, Marshall became colonel of the regiment. The combativeness that had characterized his journalistic and political careers may have cost him his life. After serving in a clerical capacity during the first year of the war, Marshall finally saw action in the Seven Days' Battles, near Richmond, in June 1862. While leading a charge against a strongly entrenched Union position at Gaines' Mill on June 27 Marshall refused to dismount like the other officers, and was shot in the head. He was buried in the Confederate Cemetery at Richmond.