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John C. Pelham


(September 7, 1838 – March 17, 1863)

John C. Pelham was a 24 year old artillery officer who served with the Confederate cavalry under J.E.B. Stuart during the American Civil War. Dubbed "The Gallant Pelham" by General Robert E. Lee for his military prowess and personal courage, Pelham revolutionized the usage of light artillery as a mobile arm of the cavalry He was praised by General Robert E. Lee for being brave and courageous in several battles. He was also called the boy artilleryman, because of his age and his skills.. He dropped out of West Point to join the Confederate Army, only weeks before he was to have graduated. He was mortally wounded at Kelly's Ford, Virginia in 1863. Pelham held the rank of Major at the time of his death.

Posthumous Promotion

JohnCPelham The Confederate Senate approved Lee's recommendation that Pelham receive a posthumous promotion to Lieutenant Colonel. Pelham's body was returned home and buried at City Cemetery in JacksonJCPville, Alabama where a statue was erected downtown in 1905 commemorates the fallen officer.

In 1863, Stuart named his third child Virginia Pelham, in honor of the cannoneer he had admired.

In 1894, poet Larry Maffit Jr. wrote the poem John Pelham.

In 1901, a portrait of Pelham was hung with other Confederate officers in Alexandria, Virginia, and General Joseph Wheeler gave the speech on the ascension of his portrait, referring to him as the "Gallant Pelham".

In 1907, one of his spurs was among the artifacts melted down to create the Pocahontas Bell for the Jamestown Exposition.

The John Pelham Historical Association seeks to maintain his memory and preserve his archive of papers and memorabilia. In 1955, he was named to the Alabama Hall of Fame. The cities of Pelham, Alabama, and Pelham, Georgia, are named in his honor. In 2004, the state of Georgia designated the section of State Highway 300 that passes through Pelham as the John Pelham Memorial Parkway.

The United States Army has honored Pelham with artillery camps named for him, such as the former Camp Pelham which housed artillery battalions of first the 1st Cavalry Division and then later the 2nd Battalion, 17th Field Artillery assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division in South Korea.

The County of Culpeper, Virginia, built Lake Pelham in the 1970s in honor of the Boy Artillerist.

The states of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama all have towns and communities named in honor of Pelham.

During and after the Civil War Pelham's 1858 photograph, taken in the Mathew Brady studio, was well known in the South. While many copies were made, the original was long thought lost. It was held by Pelham's sister, Betty, and kept by her descendants at home in a fireproof safe. In 2010 Pelham's great-great grand-nephew consigned the piece for auction. It sold for $41,825