2nd Manassas - Aug. 1862
Battle of 1st Fredericksburg - Saturday, December 13, 1862
The Gallant Pelham

Twenty-four year old Confederate Major John PelhamCSA Major General JEB Stuart positioned some of his cavalry to the right of Stonewall Jackson's Corps, guarding his flank against the Union attack they all knew would come. The threat would not emerge from a swing around the Confederate flank however but directly from the blue coats massing in Jackson's front. Near 10am in the morning, as the fog lifted from the field, Union Major General Franklin would order one of his divisions forward. As Major General George Gordon Meade moved his men towards Jackson's Corps on Prospect Hill and the accompanying ridges, Major John Pelham of General Stuart's horse artillery moved out to meet him. With a great deal of brash courage but only two cannon, the 24 year old Major Pelham held thousands of Meade's men at bay.

In his official report, General Meade would briefly mention Pelham's subsequent duel with the Union artillery. "This disposition had scarcely been made when the enemy opened a brisk fire from a battery posted on the Bowling Green road, the shot from which took the command from the left and rear...batteries immediately opened on the enemy's battery, and, in conjunction with some of General Doubleday's batteries in our rear, on the other side of the Bowling Green road, after twenty minutes' firing, silenced and compelled the withdrawal of the guns." [5]

In his book "Stonewall Jackson & the American Civil War", Lt. Colonel G. F. R. Henderson would describe Pelham's actions somewhat differently, adding to the accomplishment of the young major. "Captain Pelham, commanding Stuart's horse-artillery, had galloped forward by Jackson's orders with his two rifled guns, and, escorted by a dismounted squadron, had come into action beyond a marshy stream which ran through a tangled ravine on the Federal flank. So telling was his fire that the leading brigade wavered and gave ground; and though Meade quickly brought up his guns and placed his third brigade en potence in support, he was unable to continue his forward movement until he had brushed away his audacious antagonist. The four Pennsylvania batteries were reinforced by two others; but rapidly changing his position as often as the Federal gunners found his range, for more than half an hour Pelham defied their efforts, and for that space of time arrested the advance of Meade's 4,500 infantry. One of his pieces was soon disabled; but with the remaining gun, captured from the enemy six months before, he maintained the unequal fight until his limbers were empty, and he received peremptory orders from Stuart to withdraw." [47]

The Stuart - Pelham Marker at Fredericksburg BattlefieldGeneral Lee also mentioned Major Pelham in his report. "General Stuart, with two brigades of cavalry, was posted in the extensive plain on our extreme right. As soon as the advance of the enemy was discovered through the fog, General Stuart, with his accustomed promptness, moved up a section of his horse artillery, which opened with effect upon his flank and drew upon the gallant Pelham a heavy fire, which he sustained unflinchingly for about two hours." [5]

Even Stonewall Jackson saw fit to mention Major Pelham's accomplishment. "Pelham, with part of the Stuart Horse Artillery, was soon engaged with the artillery of the enemy, and a brisk and animated contest was kept up for about an hour. Soon after Pelham, in obedience to orders, had withdrawn from his position on the Port Royal road, the enemy directed his artillery on the heights." [5]