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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Commerce Township writes Civil War book

The Perfect Lion by Jerry H. Maxwell

The South has made much of J. E. B. Stuart and Stonewall Jackson, but no individual has had a greater elevation to divine status than John Pelham, remembered as the "Gallant Pelham." An Alabama native, Pelham left West Point for service in the Confederacy and distinguished himself as an artillery commander in robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Lee is reported to have said of him, "It is glorious to see such courage in one so young!" Blond, blue-eyed, and handsome, Pelham's modest demeanor charmed his contemporaries, and he was famously attractive to women. He was killed in action at the battle of Kelly's Ford in March of 1863, at twenty-four years of age, and reportedly three young women of his acquaintance donned mourning at the loss of the South's "beau ideal."

Maxwell's work provides the first complete, deeply researched biography of Pelham, perhaps Alabama's most notable Civil War figure, and explains his enduring attraction.

Jerry H. Maxwell, who lives in Commerce, near Detroit, Michigan, is a noted speaker on Civil War topics and the author of many articles on the conflict.

"At the battle of Williamsburg, May 5, 1862: 'In an open field, a young captain of twenty-three, with gunners who had been drilling only three weeks, had commanded a bat- tery with a gallant daring that made men ask his name. It was John Pelham.' At Gaines' Mill, June 27, 1862: "'Ensued one of the most gallant and heroic feats of the war' [wrote Stuart.] Captain Pelham, with his single Napoleon, direct- ing fire against two Federal batteries 'with a coolness and intre- pidity only equaled by his previous brilliant career.' Pelham it was who cleared the way for Stuart's advance to the White House, Pelham who chased the Marblehead down the Pamunkey, Pel- ham who challenged the Federals across the Chickahominy, and Pelham who, at Stuart's order, opened from Evelington Heights. 'I feel bound to ask for his promotion,' said Stuart, 'with the remark that in either cavalry or artillery no field grade is too high for his merit and capacity.'" —Douglas Southall Freeman, Lee's Lieutenants: A Study in Command.


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