A Civil War Biography

Robert Murphy Mayo

Mayo was born 28 April 1836 in Hague, Westmoreland County, Virginia. After attending private schools and William and Mary College in Williamsburg, Virginia, he graduated from the Virginia Military Institute at Lexington in 1858. He taught mathematics at the Mount Pleasant Military Academy in Sing Sing, New York then at VMI. He also studied the law at Lexington Law School (now Washington and Lee University).

When the war began Mayo joined the 47th Virginia and was appointed major on 8 May 1861. He was at the siege of Yorktown then was promoted to colonel on 1 May 1862. He commanded the 47th at Seven Pines, during the Seven Days battles, and at 2nd Manassas where he was wounded. He returned to duty in time to see action at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. At Gettysburg Mayo's 47th was part of Henry Heth's division. During the confusion of Pickett's Charge Mayo found himself leading a brigade. He was again in command of the 47th as the Army of Northern Virginia tried to counter Ulysses Grant's Overland campaign and saw action at Bristoe, Mine Run, and the Wilderness. After Henry H. Walker was wounded at Spotsylvania, Mayo took over the brigade. He commanded the brigade at Cold Harbor and Petersburg. When the brigade was transferred to the Department of Richmond, Mayo, whose earlier conviction for being drunk on duty seemed to haunt him, was replaced ending his military career.

Following the war Mayo was admitted to the bar and established a practice in Hague. He was elected to the state house of delegates in 1881serving until 1882. He was elected to the US House of Representatives from Virginia's 1st district in 1882 and served from 4 March 1883 until 20 March 1884 when he was replaced by George T. Garrison who had contested the election. Mayo failed in a bid for reelection in 1884. He returned to the house of delegates in 1885 and served until 1888. He then returned to the practice of law. He died 29 March 1896 in Hague.

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