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 John Pelham

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John Pelham

  • Birth 7 Sep 1838 Alexandria, Calhoun County, Alabama, USA
  • Death 17 Mar 1863 Culpeper, Culpeper County, Virginia, USA
  • Burial Jacksonville, Calhoun County, Alabama, USA
  • Plot Section A-1
  • Memorial ID 7407

Civil War Confederate Army Officer. The son of a prominent doctor, "the Gallant Pelham" was born into a comfortable setting in present day Calhoun County, Alabama. Before his tragic death, his name became legendary and would be synonymous with the Confederate artillery. His course to this celebrated persona began on July 1, 1856 when he entered the United States Military Academy from Alabama. During his years at West Point, he became fast friends to many other plebes who themselves would become idols in the coming conflict. From all accounts, he proved a better hands-on cadet on the school's training grounds than in its classrooms. The impending war made his nearly 5 years at the academy all for naught, however. Filled with anxiety, he left West Point with graduation ceremonies waiting mere weeks away (he being one of the last -if not the last- southern-enrolled student to make the fateful decision). Returning to Alabama, he used his father's influence to personally petition President Jefferson Davis for an appointment in the Confederate Army. Receiving a commission as a 1st lieutenant, he was ordered to Virginia with the responsibilities of drill instructor in artillery strategy. He entered action for the first time on July 21, 1861 at 1st Manassas, where at the outcome of the battle, commendation of his contributions to the Confederate's first victory was received in the form of an honorable mention in the battle report of then Colonel Thomas Jackson. Arguably the greatest contribution Pelham offered to the Confederacy was his personal involvement in the forging of the "Stuart Horse Artillery", a component of General JEB Stuart's cavalry. Promoted to Captain on March 23, 1862, his vision for the unit was to be swift into action, hurried in the actions of limbering and unlimbering, and most of all, for the artillerymen to be deadly accurate in their fire. The advance of Union General George McClellan's forces against the Confederacy's capital at Richmond during that officer's 1862 Peninsula Campaign offered Pelham the opportunity to bring the horse artillery into action for the first time. His actions in protecting the rearguard of the retreating forces of Confederate Joseph E. Johnston won himself and his artillerymen the praise and admiration of their unit's namesake. He was thereafter promoted to Major on August 9, 1862. Exhibiting maturity beyond his age, his reputation of a professional artillery commander continued with the Seven Days battles, 2nd Manassas and Antietam. During the 1862 winter battle of Fredericksburg; his legend became immortal. In the attempt to thwart the advance of Union General Ambrose Burnside's force, he executed a flanking movement and for two hours, arrested the progress of the Federals. Initially, at the command of two cannons, he was reduced to a lone Napoleon and with his ammunition exhausted, was forced to withdraw from his forward position. This abiding stand against superior forces produced him acclaim from his supreme commander, General Robert E. Lee, who had witnessed it personally. At Kelly's Ford, Virginia in the spring of 1863, Pelham, astride a horse, was struck in the rear of his head from a bursting artillery shell which emptied him from his saddle. Appearing dead, his body was draped across a horse and borne from the battlefield. Incredibly, he was rushed to a nearby home after an onlooker noticed that he was breathing. The effort to save his life proved futile; however as he died on March 17, 1863 without ever regaining consciousness. As a mark of respect, his body lay in state in Richmond, Virginia before its transfer to Jacksonville, Alabama. The Confederate Congress posthumously awarded him a promotion to Lieutenant Colonel to date from March 2, 1863.

Bio by: Stonewall

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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 30 Nov 1999
  • Find A Grave Memorial 7407
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for John Pelham (7 Sep 1838–17 Mar 1863), Find A Grave Memorial no. 7407, citing Jacksonville City Cemetery, Jacksonville, Calhoun County, Alabama, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .