LT. COLONEL JOHN PELHAM
U. S. CIVIL WAR
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Lt. Colonel John Pelham
1838 - 1863
Source (with permission): Alabama Department of Archives and History,
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
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)
FREDERICKSBURG - HAMILTON'S CROSSING
Battle Fought December 13, 1862
Hamilton's Crossing Area.
Marker and Sign marking the location of Pelham's action at Hamilton's
Click on the Sign to read its text.
When 120,000 Federal troops began advancing across the plain in Jackson's front
they began receiving artillery
fire into the left of their line. It
was from Major John Pelham, commander of J.E.B. Stuart's horse artillery.
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
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.)
(See also our Kelly's Ford page.)
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
Alabama Hall of Fame, 1968)
John Pelham was promoted to Lt. Colonel after his death.
MAJ JOHN PELHAM C.S.A.
THE STUART HORSE ARTILLERY
WAS MORTALLY WOUNDED
AT THIS SITE IN
THE BATTLE OF KELLY'S FORD
MARCH 17, 1863
BY ADMIRERS OF
THE GALLANT PELHAM
In Jacksonville, Alabama, Pelham is buried at the City Cemetery.
(Our comments about Pelham's Grave Site)
Monument at Pelham Grave Site
The text on the monument reads:
HOW SHALL WE RANK THEE
UPON GLORY'S PAGE
THAN MORE THAN SOLDIER.
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