Camp Herndon, Va.
August 25, 2000
All Civil War Buffs:
Sometimes, when researching questions that come in from my website, I run across something that, even though it has nothing to do with the subject I am researching, I feel like I would just like to share it with someone. The following is one such article.
The Gallant Pelham!
(From the Southern Historical Society Papers)
".......But it was at Fredericksburg that the zenith of John Pelham's renown was reached. The martial king of the proudest nation in all the tides of time might well envy--if the shades in Valhalla are given that privilege--the story that crowned the "boy artillerist" in that stupendous fight and dreadful revelry of death. All was quiet in the Confederate army at Fredericksburg on the morning of the thirteenth of December, 1862. The flower of the South's young manhood was there on the heights in double lines behind bristling bayonets and grimmer guns. Every soldier knew there was to be a fearful fight before the sun sank behind the western wood. The Federal army had crossed the Rappahannock and was forming line of battle under cover of the river bank. Jackson, Stuart and Lee rode down the Confederate lines to the extreme right, followed by waves of cheers, where the Stuart horse artillery was parked. Stuart called to Pelham and said something. Then Pelham turned and galloped to his guns. Immediately he dashed down the heights followed by one gun. It was the "Napoleon detachment," of Mobile Frenchmen. Onward they rushed far down the foot of the heights where the road forks. There they halted, unlimbered and prepared for action. The mist that overspread the field cleared away and the men from the South saw moving toward them steadily, swiftly, with measured tread, a long, compact blue line. On swept the fierce men in blue, their bayonets glistening in the streams of sunshine that stole through the fog. There was a flash, a boom, the earth shook--Pelham's Napoleon had bellowed. Then there was a shrill, hideous, indescribable shriek of a shell as it swirled in the air and went crashing through the charging lines of blue. The surging mass recoiled, halted, hesitated, then with a demoniacal yell, pressed forward toward the single gun. The yell ceased and for a moment there was a ghastly hush, and then, there came thundering through the chilly, December air from across the Rappahannock boom on boom. From southeast to east, from east to northeast. Then from the north came huge shells whirling death in their arms. Pelham had drawn upon himself the concentrated fire of half a dozen batteries--twenty four guns. Yet his gun continued to roar, and roaring never failed to slaughter. No other gun on the Confederate side had yet opened, but the lone war-dog howled on. And in the half lull between the boom of the cannon there floated above the noise a sound that seemed strange on that day of multitudinous terrors--the Napoleon detachment singing the Marseillaise as they fought their gun. Like infernal imps of Tophet they flitted about in the smoke of battle. Two armies looked on while the Mobile Frenchmen wrote history with blood. Arms, legs, heads were whirled off and the ground around torn as by Titan plows. No other Confederate gun had opened, but the fierce Federals could not pass the bellowing Napoleon. Time wore on. Still the gun roared and the sound of its roaring thundered through the air in breaths of battle to the ears of General Robert E. Lee, as he viewed the red revel from the heights. "It is glorious," he exclaimed, "to see such courage in one so young." And in his report of the battle he spoke of no one but Pelham below the rank of major-general, terming him "the gallant Pelham."
Once, twice, three times, Pelham drove back the Federal columns and delayed the battle an hour. When his ammunition was spent he retired, in obedience to a peremptory order, and was assigned to the command of all the artillery on the Confederate right.
Amid shot and shell he had opened the great battle of Fredericksburg and had become immortal. The part played by Pelham at that fight is history that will survive with General Lee's report. He was a major of artillery then. His commission as lieutenant-colonel was issued soon after, and only awaited confirmation when he was killed.
Now if that beauty don't get an emotional rise out of you, nothing will. Anyway, as always, I'll see ya in the room!
I am, very respectfully, your obedient Servant,
Dick (a.k.a. Shotgun)