Robert Forsyth (U.S. Marshal)
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First U.S. Marshal killed in the line of duty.
|Died||11 January 1794|
|Occupation||United States Marshal|
Robert Forsyth (1754–11 January 1794) was an American patriot who served as a Captain in Lee's Legion under Henry "Light Horse Harry" Lee. He was selected by President George Washington to be the first United States Marshal for the state of Georgia and became the first U.S. Marshal and third law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty.
Robert Forsyth was born in Scotland in 1754. As a teenager, he moved to America with his family, where they first 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 American Revolutionary War. Three years later, on 10 January 1779, he received a commission as Captain in the Corps of Partisan Light Dragoons under Major Henry "Light Horse Harry" Lee.
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 21 March 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 (24 km²) (2400 hectares) of land. In addition, Forsyth was a member of the Society of the Cincinnati and the Freemasons. He became Master of the Lodge Columbia and Deputy Grand Master for the state of Georgia. Washington appointed him Marshal on 26 September 1789; Forsyth was 35 years old.
On 11 January 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. Forsyth's Deputies arrested the killer, Allen later managed to escape. He was never recaptured.
Forsyth was the first of over 200 U.S. Marshals and Deputies killed in the line of duty. 40 years old at the time of his murder, he left behind a widow and two sons. One of the sons, John, became governor of Georgia and, later, United States Minister to Spain. While at the latter post, he negotiated the treaty ceding Florida to the United States. John Forsyth also served as Secretary of State under Presidents Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren. His grandson, John, Jr., was a newspaper editor.
- The First Generation of United States Marshals. "The First Marshal of Georgia: Robert Forsyth". United States Marshals Service. Accessed on 15 October 2008.