History - The First Generation of United States Marshals
Marshal of Georgia: Robert Forsyth
The First Marshal of Georgia Robert Forsyth was born in Scotland in
1754. As a teenager, he moved to this country with his family, where
they fist settled in New England before moving to Fredericksburg,
Virginia, in 1774. At the age of 22, Forsyth enlisted in the Continental
Army after the start of the Revolutionary War. Three years later,
on January 10, 1779, he received a commission as Captain in the Corps of
Partisan Light Dragoons (Lee's Legion) under Major "Lighthorse Harry"
Within the year, Forsyth resigned from Lee's Legion to accept another
post. His transfer prompted a letter from General Washington expressing
regret that he was leaving Lee's command, but relief that Forsyth would
be "in another line of the Army." Working as aide-de-camp to General
Avery, Forsyth's new responsibility was to provision the Southern Army.
For this work, which he performed quite well despite almost
insurmountable hardships, Forsyth earned a promotion to Major of the
First Virginia Legion on March 21, 1781.
After the war, Forsyth returned to Fredericksburg, but moved to Augusta,
Georgia, in 1785. He soon established himself in the new community,
becoming a member of the Board of Commissions, where he worked
successfully to acquire a new jail for the county. He also worked as a
tax assessor, justice of the peace, and trustee of the Richmond Academy.
By 1792, he also owned 6,000 acres of land. In addition, Forsyth was a
member of the Society of the Cincinnati and the Masons. He became Master
of the Lodge Columbia and Deputy Grand Master for the state of Georgia.
Washington appointed him Marshal on
September 26, 1789. Forsyth was 35 years old.
On January 1 1, 1794, Marshal Forsyth, accompanied by two of his
deputies, went to the house of a Mrs. Dixon to serve a civil court
process on two brothers, Beverly and William Allen. Beverly Allen, a
former Methodist minister from South Carolina, saw the Marshal
approaching, so he hid in a room on the second floor of the house. When
Forsyth knocked on the door of the room, Allen fired his pistol at the
direction of the knocking. The ball hit Forsyth in the head, killing
him instantly. He was the first of over 200 Marshals arid Deputies
killed in the line of duty. Although Forsyth's Deputies arrested the
killer, Allen later managed to escape. He was never recaptured.
Forsyth, 40 years old at the time of his murder, left a widow and two
sons. One of the boys, John, became governor of Georgia and, later, US.
Minister to Spain. While at the latter post, he negotiated the treaty
acceding Florida to the United States. John Forsyth also served as
Secretary of State under Presidents Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren.