Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Rededication of Jefferson Davis Memorial in Memphis

Saturday October 18th saw the 50-year anniversary re-dedication of the Jeff Davis Statue at Confederate Park in Memphis.  It was a fine ceremony, with speeches, music, and a rifle salute. Over 35 people attended.  The Prattville Dragoons own Tyrone Crowley had a part in the program, to talk about Jeff Davis's time in Memphis, 1869-1877.  Weather was perfect and the spirit was good. The Memphis Citizens to Save Our Parks is selling Forrest coins for $10 and Tyrone got a couple to use as door prizes at the Dragoon Christmas Social.  
Tyrone Crowley Portraying Jefferson Davis


Monday, October 27, 2014

Prattville Dragoons October Camp Meeting - Part 3, The Gallant John Pelham

Dr. William Dean provided an outstanding presentation on "The Gallant John Pelham (1838-1863)" as guest speaker at the October 9th camp meeting of the Prattville Dragoons.  The following conclude his notes on Pelham but his delivery, expounding on this outline made it a most enjoyable speech.

At the beginning of Lee's invasion in September of 1862, the Confederates were searching for the Federals. While Stuart & Pelham were waiting for the Yankees, they'attended a dance in UrbanaMaryland. When they heard Union troops were nearby, they left the party and engaged in combat. When the small battle was over, they went back to the dance . Soon the dance hall was turned into a hospital and the ladies became nurses a day later. Pelham soon thereafter was fighting at South Mountain, covering Longstreet's retreat. Pelham gave Lee time to concentrate his forces at Sharpsburg.

The night before the Battle of Sharpsburg, Pelham placed his guns on Lee's left at Nicodemus Hall. His guns would dominate the battlefield and provide enfilading fire.  Pelham's three batteries raked Hooker's infantry with canister and then he engaged in counter-battery fire.  At the height of the battle, Pelham ceased battery fire and helped the women and children of Nicademy Farm escape. Union infantry attacked Pelham's battery; and he could not tell who was friend or foe because of the smoke . His fire enabled D.H. Hill to re-enforce Jackson.  Pelham moved his batteries south and helped save the Confederate center.  Union counter-battery fire killed Pelham's horses and destroyed some of his cannon. Pelham showed pure genius at Antietam.  Pelham's superb training kept the Yankees' off guard.  Stuart and Pelham were effective partners. Pelham covered Lee's retreat into Virginia and at one home he let a little girl fire his cannon.
In the fall of 1862, Pelham was in command of five batteries and 600 men. Before battles he often petted his guns as if they were animals. Part of the Fall was spent at Bower plantation, where he courted Sallie Dandridge. Pelham fought a Yankee cavalry raid and the came back to dinner with Sallie.  Pelham was a part of Stuarts's raid into Pennsylvania and Maryland in October. To keep his Artillery rapidly moving, he had to constantly change horses. John made it possible to escape Union cavalry . In this raid, Stuart captured 1,200 horses and 30 artillery pieces. Because of Pelham's consistent courage and competence, Stuart petitioned for his promotion.
He helped repel the Union invasion in Northern Virginia in the late fall.  Pelham was feared by Union cavalry . During a series of small battles Pelham man-handled the guns and loaded and armed the pieces.  Pelham and Tom Rosser now fought together side by side.  He repelled a Yankee infantry attack against his battery with his saber . His troops were surrounded but he cooly exhorte d his men to fight on. The Napoleon detachment sang the Marseilles . He lifted his hat to salute his men. He slept outdoors with his men.  Pelham had a great coup d'oeil, eye for the battlefield.
                      By December the Confederate Army moved south to Fredericksburg to defend against Burnside's invasion. As usual Pelham went to a dance and courted the ladies on the eve of battle. The Battle of Fredericksburg was the first time in the Civil War that Confederate artillery was systematically massed. Pelham commanded 18 guns at this battle.


             From well protected position Pelham fired one gun into Meade's advancing troops. He used enfilading fire against advancing union artillery and infantry. The Union batteries massed against Pelham's one gun. No Confederate guns but Pelham's, was firing at this point. Nonetheless, Pelham's battery held up Union advance for more than an hour. Stuart sent a message to Pelham that said, "Get back from destruction you infernal, gallant fool, John Pelham."  Pelham only left when he ran out of ammunition. He had great positive impact on southern morale. Lee called him, "the gallant Pelham". This was the largest number of guns under the command of Pelham . After an intense day of fighting, Pelham and  his men built field fortifications.  The only result of the battle was a flood of women's tears from the St. Lawrence to the Rio Grande . Pelham's courage was reported in the Layden Journal.
Pelham always blushed at praise made about himself. He joined another Stuart raid in Janua ry 1863 and came within 12 miles of Washington D.C. Pelham excelled in 3 categories: leadership , courage, and ability . He exuded a quiet confidence and demonstrated great charisma with his men..
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            Pelham showed cool judgment and had a passion for combat. He was an innovator. Pelham was not a good organizer or disciplinarian but other commanders wanted Pelham to work for them but he wanted to stay with Stuart .
              From Christmas 1862 to march of 1863, he found more women to court . Pelham was charmed by the independent Bessie Shacklefords. Women were strongly attracted to this slim,blushing blonde. A lady from Alabama gave him a 12  pound cannon ball as a gift. Ladies made him dandy. 
In mid-March he took advantage of Stuart to visit the Shackleford ladies.  He became involved in a Battle at Kelly's ford at St. Patrick's in 1863.  He rode to battle with Stuart and Gilmore .  During the height of battle reconnaissance  he led a cavalry charge with Sword in hand.  Ironically, he was wounded by shrapnel from artillery fire.  Pelham was wounded  in the skull and was found on the ground smiling. Stuart said, our loss was irreparable and began to weep.  John was taken by ambulance to the Shackleford house.  The ladies, he had just met were very distressed . Three surgeons could,not save  him; his skull was shattered . Gilmore took a piece of his skull for a memento .  Bessie stood vigil over
him until his death at 1:00 A .M. Stuart kissed his brow with tears in his eyes and took a lock of his hair.  Pelham's gunners wept .


Pelham's body was displayed in the capital in Richmond.  He went by train to Montgomery , where he laid in state at the Alabama Supreme Court building. At the end of March he was buried near his home in Jacksonville, Alabama. John Pelham was perhaps the most gallant son of Alabama in the War Between the States.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Prattville Dragoons October Camp Meeting - Part 2, The Gallant John Pelham

Dr. William Dean provided an outstanding presentation on "The Gallant John Pelham (1838-1863)" as guest speaker at the October 9th camp meeting of the Prattville Dragoons.  The following are his notes but his delivery, expounding on this outline made it a most enjoyable speech.

John Pelham was born on September 7, 1838 in Calhoun County, Alabama.  He would become one of Alabama's most gallant sons in the War Between the States.  His father was a doctor and prosperous farmer and the family was deeply Presbyterian in their faith.  He grew to nearly six feet tall but weighed a reedy 150 pounds  and grew strong working on the family farm.  He was accepted to West Point in 1856 at the age of 17. He was one of 71 plebes.
John was a very good athlete and was popular at West Point. He struggled mightily with math and did incur several disciplinary tours.  He was often sick.
At the end of 1860 and beginning of 1861 southern cadets began resigning their positions and going south to their home states. Pelham was an ardent secessionist, but was torn by his love of West Point.  In late March 1861, he was given a commission as a First Lieutenant in the C.S.A.  He fought to stay on to graduation in May but left the USMA two weeks before graduation . Pelham was one of the last two Southerners to leave the academy.
John had a tough time traveling through the North enroute to his home as tensions were. Upon arriving, he stayed home for a brief time and then joined his unit in May. Pelham took two family slaves with him as servants to Virginia. John joined a green unit, the Alberta Battery consisting of men from all over the South. Pelham's first combat was the Battle of First Manassas in July 1861,. He commanded outdated artillery and untrained men.
From the beginning, Pelham showed great courage and competence in battle at Manassas as his battery repelled Sherman's counter-attack. In this battle, the CSA captured 28 cannons and 37 caissons, which helped them to modernize their artillery. Manassas established Pelham as a fearless officer and a skilled artillerist. He was horrified by the casualties though and learned war was not glo rious. Battle was a combination of exhilaration and repugnance.

General J.E.B. Stuart wanted Pelham for horse artillery. Pelham briefly went back to Alabama to recruit for the horse artillery. John emerged as a taskmaster and perfectionist . He taught his men to rapidly fire their artillery pieces.  
                                Pelham's artillery became an integral cog in Stuart's cavalry . He had 8 cannons of varying types. In March 1862, Pelham was made a captain. By April 1862, he commanded 158 men and 130 horses.  Pelham became a close friend with Jeb Stuart. Both Pelham and Stuart were excessive risk takers .
At the beginning of McClellan's Peninsula campaign, Pelham covered the Confederate retreat from Williamsburg. He showed great calm and courage on the battlefield. He depended on captured Yankee artillery and was able to slow McClellan down.
At the Battle of Gainesville, Pelham with one cannon engaged two Union batteries. Often he was outnumbered in artillery duels . Pelham was a key part of the Confederate victory at Gaines Mill. This ended the Union advance towards Richmond . During this campaign he drove back a Union gunboat and prevented Yankee troops from landing on the River Bank . Pelham was quite adept at counter-battery fire.
By August, Pope was in command of the Union Army and Robert E. Lee was in charge of the CSA Army. Soon Pelham was part of Stuart's raids and destroyed Yankee locomotives . He was given a second battery and promoted to Major. In combat he would sometimes personally man the guns. Pelham always aggressively brought his guns to the front lines.
At the Battle of Second Manassas, his battery was reduced to one gun. He fought Yankee infantry at 60 yards away with canister . His unit was almost over-run . Stonewall Jackson had great confidence in him and allowed him to place his guns where he elected to do so. He reserved re-enforcements of men and guns but ran out of ammunition.  Pelham fired enfilading canister into retreating Yankee troops . At Second Manassas, he fought 48 hours without sleep.  He had great stamina and his men loved him.
Dr. Dean with Dragoons Commander Waldo