U. S. CIVIL WAR
John Pelham fought with such valor and dedication for the Confederacy,
finally giving his life in that cause, that he has become symbolic of
Alabama fighting men in all wars who have offered themselves to defend
the state, the nation and the principles in which they believed.
Pelham resigned from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1861, just a few weeks before he was to graduate, in order to return to Alabama and enter the Confederate Army . After a brief period of drilling an artillery battery, Pelham took part in the First Battle of Manassas, so distinguishing himself that General J. E. B. Stuart recommended he form and lead a six-gun battery of horse artillery to move with the cavalry. In more than 60 battles Pelham displayed genius for sizing up the situation at a glance, dashing to a spot that commanded the battlefield but that was not vulnerable to enemy fire, and bravely raining shot and canister on forces that greatly outnumbered his own.
Pelham's greatest battle was at Fredericksburg where he confused a federal army of 120,000 men with his brilliant one-gun barrage from their flank. His contribution to the Confederate victory that day was a major one and General Robert E. Lee cited the part played by "the gallant Pelham" in his official report...."(Pelham Biography Source: Alabama Hall of Fame, 1968)
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Pelham had taken a single twelve-pounder Napoleon cannon to a crossroads near Hamilton's Crossing, about a half-mile in front of Jackson's position, at an angle to the Federal line. From there, he opened fire and repeatidly sent shots into the enemy ranks. Shortly thereafter a Confederate Blakely rifled cannon joined Pelham in the assault wreaking havoc on the Union's left flank . Union General Franklin's 120,000 man assault halted.
Return fire from Federal artillery took out the Blakely but that did not phase Pelham. He kept relocating and firing his Napoleon so fast that five Union batteries began responding to what they thought was a full Confederate battery on the left end of their line.
Stuart ordered Pelham, three times, to withdraw, but he did not comply until he was out of ammunition. He then casually limbered his gun and returned to Hamilton's Crossing. Lee, watching Pelham stop the Union assault single-handedly, said "It is glorious to see courage in one so young".
(Primary Source: "Stonewall Jackson, The Man, The Soldier, The Legend" by James I. Robertson, Jr.)
Although Pelham was with Stuart's horse artillery and normally would not have
"...Pelham, then a major, was killed at the age of 24 in the Battle of Kelly's Ford. He died in the explosion of an enemy shell, and as Stuart said, 'with the battle-cry upon his lips and the light of victory beaming from his eye.'" (Pelham Biography Source: Alabama Hall of Fame, 1968)
John Pelham was promoted to Lt. Colonel after his death.