Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 30.djvu/348
Southern Historical Society Papers.
even in that State but for being commingled with fiction the daring deeds and brilliant bravery of "Jeb" Stuart's "boy artillerist" would be almost mere tradition when the last Confederate shall have passed away. Indeed, while writers almost innumerable both historical and penny-a-liners have, in song and story, traced the career of lesser light of higher rank, they have scarcely mentioned much less eulogized the beardless boy whom General Robert E. Lee, in his report of Fredericksburg, termed "the gallant Pelham," thus knighting him upon the field. Of this same youth the London Times, in chronicling his death in,1863, said: " For his age no soldier on either side in this war (Confederate) has won such fame as has young Pelham."
John Pelham came from old Kentucky stock, his father, Dr. Atkinson Pelham, having removed from this State to Calhoun county, Ala., in 1837. Young Pelham was appointed a cadet at West Point in 1856 by the representative in Congress from the Talladega (Ala.) district, Hon. S. W. Harris. The only five-year class in the history of the academy was organized that year, which accounts for his being there at the opening of the war. Like many other West Pointers who have made gallant soldiers, his standing in his classes was low, but his commission was passed on, and he would have received it had he not resigned a week before commencement to go South. As a cadet he had a dash and a soldierly bearing, and it is related that when he started to walk across the parade grounds, or from one quarter to another, he went straight as a "bee line" and never looked back, no matter how much noise the other cadets made in his rear. He was considered the best athlete at West Point, and was there noted for fencing and boxing.
Then, as now, at the academy, a cat with its reputed plurality of lives would be dead a dozen times in taking half the chances those laughing cadets would eagerly seek in the cavalry drill, but Pelham excelled them all. The Prince of Wales was struck with his horsemanship when he visited the academy in 1860. His horseback riding was marvellous, and went down from class to class as a sort of tradition, and long years after he had met a soldier's death the cadets would relate to gaping plebes how Pelham rode.In 1861, when the laughing blue of the Southland sky was overcast by the dark cloud of civil strife and Alabama called to her sons in every clime to come to her defence, Pelham resigned his cadetship at the academy and started South. At New Albany, Ind., he was intercepted by the Federal authorities, for it was known there