The visit of the hero to Richmond, Va., Dec. 16-17, 1899. on the occasion of the presentation of a portrait of ‘the gallant Pelham,’ to R. E. Lee Camp Confederate Veterans.With addresses by Mr. E. P. Cox, General Wheeler, Gov. J. Hoge Tyler, Judge D. A. Dearmond, and Hon. W. A. Jones.
Richmond, Virginia, had a visit from the virile veteran, General Joseph Wheeler, in January, 1899. The hero of two wars, at the close of the Civil War, by his skill and indomitable courage, had won the high rank of Lieutenant-General, and been assigned to the command of a corps. In our last war, it has been urged that he was the chief propeller to successful issue, and that his coolness and courage at Santiago (although he arose from prostrating illness in an ambulance and pressed to the front), saved our army, at least, from temporary disaster. Rev. J. William Jones, D. D., who has lately examined the official reports of the war, 1861-1865, states that General Wheeler had sixteen horses killed under him in that gigantic conflict. General Wheeler came to Richmond at the invitation of R. E. Lee Camp Confederate Veterans, to accept on its behalf, the portrait of Major John Pelham, presented to it by the Sons of Veterans. He was accompanied by Hon. David A. DeArmond, Member of  Congress from Mississippi, and Hon. W. A. Jones, Representative of the First Congressional District of Virginia. He was met at Milford Station by a Committee from Lee and Pickett Veteran Camps, and from that of the Sons of Veterans, and arrived on the evening of the 16th instant. At Ashland he was received with joyous acclaim by the students of the Randolph-Macon College and citizens en masse, and acknowledged the welcome with a brief address. At Elba Station, despite of the persistent and drenching down-pour of rain throughout the afternoon, there was a large crowd assembled to greet him. Lee Camp Hall was filled to its full capacity and upon the entrance of General Wheeler (accompanied by the Committee, the distinguished gentlemen named, Gov. J. Hoge Tyler, Hon. John Lamb, and others), the audience rose with one accord and cheered him to the echo. Commander E. Leslie Spence called the assemblage to order and Chaplain J. E. Cook, of the Camp of the Sons of Veterans, offered a beautiful prayer. “In silent Mead” was then sung by a quartette composed of Messrs. Frank W. Cunningham, Lohman, Cardozo and Triplett. The portrait in oil, which was executed by Mr. William E. Trahern, a veteran, was highly complimented for its fidelity, by those who had known the gallant Pelham in life. Commander Spence now gracefully extended the greeting of the camp, and in a few well-chosen words introduced Mr. Edwin P. Cox, who had been chosen on behalf of the Sons, to make the presentation address.
The presentation speech.Commander, Comrades, Ladies and Gentlemen. The days when Pelham and Stuart rode together and won immortal fame and deathless victory have passed into another age. The men who ‘though vanquished yet conquered disgrace and preserved unharmed the shrine of the public honor,’ are the foremost figures in the brilliant achievements of these modern times. When the word was telegraphed from the trenches before Santiago, that to the terror of death from the bullets of the enemy, there had been added the dread of fever, stalking like some death-dealing phantom among the men, in effect so terrible because so silent, the great heart of the nation throbbed with fear. Alarm gave place to reassurance when  the message was received that General Wheeler was in the trenches with his men. This son of the great State of Alabama has won the love of our entire country by his high honor and great daring. Amid all clamor and criticism, by friend and foe, his name is never uttered save with praise. Alabama, in former times, sent forth another son who, on the battle-fields of Virginia, gained the names of ‘gallant’ and ‘vigilant.’ This is, therefore, an auspicious and fitting occasion, chosen by R. E. Lee Camp Sons of Veterans, to present to the sponsor Veteran Camp, the picture of him who so worthily won, and wore his characteristic designations. Major John Pelham was a marvellous development of the age in which he lived. Great was he of whom the London Times could say, ‘no one of an equal age in either army has won an equal reputation.’ Lovable was his character, which drew from an enemy in arms the praise: ‘I rejoice, dear Pelham, in your success.’ Useful was the man, whose loss at the early age of twenty-four was mourned as an irretrievable disaster to the Cause for which he fought. Loved, honored and admired by friend and foe, at home and abroad, had he lived longer, his name would have been written higher and his fame would have shone brighter in that galaxy of heroes whose memories shed brilliant lustre on the annals of our stupendous struggle.
Review of Pelham's life.Mr. Cox gave a very interesting review of Major Pelham's brief but brilliant career. The speaker told of his birth in Calhoun county, Ala., September 7th, 1838; of his parentage; early life; of his entrance of the Military Academy at West Point at the age of eighteen; of his success there, of his leaving with his class-mate, General Thomas L. Rosser, as soon as Fort Sumter was fired on, although he was certain of graduation at the close of the session. After spending a few days at home young Pelham went to Montgomery, whence be was ordered to Lynchburg, as inspector of ordnance. Continuing, Mr. Cox briefly reviewed some of Pelham's greatest military achievements. Soon he was placed in command of the artillery on the left wing at Sharpsburg. General Stonewall Jackson, observing his action in that battle, said: ‘Every army ought to have a Pelham on each flank.’ A few days before the battle of Fredericksburg, at Port Royal he attacked the terror of those gunboats, with such success that they were driven down the Rappahannock River. His daring and dashing  courage in directing a detachment which checked the opposing army at Fredericksburg, impelled General Lee to exclaim: ‘Is it not glorious to see such courage in one so young!’ Mr. Cox added: In general orders that of Major John Pelham was the only name mentioned below that of a major-general, and that which was worth more than any rank in any army—more valuable than any title of nobility or badge of any order, General Lee bestowed on him the name by which he was afterwards known, ‘the gallant Pelham.’
Buried by his mother.Mr. Cox related the circumstances under which Pelham was mortally wounded at Kelly's Ford, March 17, 1863, quoted General Stuart's tribute to him, and concluded: His ashes sleep now in the village grave-yard of Jacksonville, Ala., by the side of his mother, who loved him, and whom he loved so well. The night his body reached home was beautifully clear. The moon, at its fullness, silvered over the whole landscape, and changed the sombre funeral procession from dark to white. The Spartan mother determined that come in whatever condition the boy should, she would meet him on the threshold of his home; and so she was at the door awaiting the arrival of his form, now cold in death. She looked upon the scene, so pure and bright, and whispered through her tears: ‘Washed white in the blood of the Lamb that was slain.’ When future ages shall read the story of Major John Pelham, the hero of the artillery of the Army of Northern Virginia, may they not also say, though war is terrible and its bloodshed tinges the pages of history, these red stains are washed white in the blood of this fallen hero? Rome had her Pantheon dedicated to all her gods. England erects monuments to her mighty dead in her ancient Westminster Abbey. The South shall, in this hall, find her Pantheon consecrated to the recollection of her heroes; her Westminster Abbey devoted to the memorials of her great men. The ‘gallant Pelham’ is in their illustrious ranks. Through more than a quarter of a century, which intervenes between his time and ours, his life affords the best example of purity in heart, nobleness of purpose, grandeur in aim, bravery in action and devotion to duty. The recent actions of sons of Confederate veterans under the burning tropical suns of Cuba sublimely show that the same warm blood of the South is coursing through their young veins, and that the story of his life is not forgotten or unremembered.  As Mr. Cox concluded, he was very loudly applauded. His address made an excellent impression, and its delivery was particularly facile.
The Governor's remarks.Another selection by the quartette followed, and then Captain Laughton, as Chairman of the Portrait Committee, introduced Governor Tyler, who, he announced, would, in time, introduce ‘the most distinguished exponent of patriotism of the State of Alabama.’ Governor Tyler, who was warmly greeted, said: Ladies and Gentlemen: In the short span of years allotted to man, it falls to the fortune of but few to serve through two wars and be a hero in both. Who that saw the gallant boys in gray, so bravely led under the Stars and Bars, could, even in fancy, in little more than a quarter of a century, see the same brave spirit leading the boys in blue on to victory beneath the Stars and Stripes? But such has been the fortune of the gallant hero whom we have with us to-night, and to whom we shall have the pleasure of listening, as he will receive the portrait that has just been presented to this camp of one of the bravest and knightliest of our Southern sons. With equal fortitude and courage General Wheeler has met the duty of the hour, and has been crowned with the laurel wreath of victory, leading Southern boys on Southern fields of glory, and at the head of the soldiers of a reunited country at Santiago and up the bloody heights of San Juan. He has come to attest by his presence his unchanging interest in the old Confederates. With him the gray and blue threads have been woven into the beautiful fabric of devotion to country. May we, in the rush of the onward destiny of our republic, never forget those who wore the gray, but keep their memories green and ever sacredly enshrined in our hearts. The presence among us here to-night of our old Confederate leader recalls to many of us scenes, incidents, and emotions of a past that has been immortalized in history by the achievements of the Confederate soldier. He needs no introduction. He is one of us. His battles have been our battles, his cause our cause, his achievements our admiration, his fame our joy, his services our nation's pride, and his whole life an offering to the welfare of his countrymen. I therefore simply present him to his people.
Loud cheers for Wheeler.As Governor Tyler uttered these words the audience rose and cheered to the echo. So great was enthusiasm that it was fully two minutes before General Wheeler could make himself heard. Enthusiasm at length gave way to curiosity, and then General Wheeler, in clear, penetrating tones, said: Mr. Commander, Governor Tyler, Members of General Lee Camp of Veterans. It affords me great pleasure that I am permitted to be with you on this interesting occasion. It is especially a pleasure to find here an interest in those days and scenes which cause the soil of Virginia to be held in such veneration, and to find that that interest is not diminished by time. It is also a pleasure to find the sons of Virginia taking such deep interest in those things which commanded the attention of their fathers. It might be expected that we would find that sentiment in Virginia, the birthplace of patriots, the home of heroes, the grave of liberty's martyrs! It is a privilege to stand upon her historic soil. How overwhelmingly rush upon us thoughts of her past! Here Washington first saw the light, and Jefferson, Madison and Monroe, as they grew to manhood's prime, learned to be great, and here is enshrined their hallowed dust. Virginia gave to the world Gaines, Harrison, Taylor, Scott, Johnston, Stonewall Jackson, Stuart and the long roll of the chivalric Lees, above all, the one colossal Lee, whose fame challenges the ages from the topmost heights of glorious renown; the gallant, superb, chivalrous Robert Edward Lee, a general whose victories have no parallel in history, a man whose unblemished character stands before the world as a model of the purest virtue and highest type of manhood. Blessed be this beautiful historic city, so closely identified with his chivalrous life. But Lee has a thousand graves
In a thousand hearts, I ween;
And teardrops fall from our eyes in waves
That will keep his memory green.
Ah, Muse! you dare not claim
A nobler man than he,
Nor nobler man has less of blame,
Nor blameless man hath purer name,
Nor purer name hath grander fame,
Nor Fame—another Lee.
 Forty-three years ago, a tall, erect, handsome young man reported for duty at the Military Academy at West Point. His blonde hair, fair complexion and blushing cheeks giving him a delicate, refined appearance, in spite of his athletic form and well-known superiority in manly sports, would have attracted attention in any assemblage. His general bearing gave proof of firmness and integrity of character, and in the retrospect, we can readily understand that he possessed characteristics which enabled him to rise to the superb heights he so rapidly attained. It is the portrait of this manly form upon which we gaze to-night.
The career of Pelham.John Pelham was born near Alexandria, Calhoun county, Ala., in September, 1838. He entered West Point in 1856, remaining there until the spring of 1861, when the thunders of war summoned him back to his native State, a week before the graduation of his class, when he would have received his commission in the United States Army. He was immediately put in charge of the Confederate Ordnance at Lynchburg, Va., with the rank of first lieutenant, and was shortly after assigned as drillmaster to Albertus's Battery, at Winchester. His handling of the guns at the first Battle of Manassas established his reputation as a fearless officer and a skilful artillerists, and he was entrusted by General Stuart with the organization of a battery of six pieces of horse artillery, which he recruited from Alabama, Virginia and Maryland. At Williamsburg and First Cold Harbor, at the second Battle of Manassas, at Sharpsburg and Shepherdstown he fought with the enthusiasm of youth and the coolness of a veteran. Stonewall Jackson loved and trusted ‘The Boy Artillerist,’ as he was often called, and frequently gave expression to his appreciation of Pelham's magnificent work. At the Battle of Fredericksburg he met the concentrated fire of several batteries with one Napoleon, and elicited the unstinted praise of his superior officers. He was promoted to the rank of lieutenantcolo-nel, and his commission was before the Senate for confirmation when his death occurred at Kelly's Ford, on the Rappahannock, March 17, 1863. He was cut down in the act of leading a charge while waiting the arrival of his artillery. His death was a crushing loss to the division, and was announced by General Stuart in words seldom surpassed in strength or beauty. He says of him: ‘The noble, the chivalric, the gallant Pelham is no more. How much he was loved, appreciated and admired let the tears of agony  we here shed and the gloom of mourning throughout my command bear witness. His loss is irreparable. The memory of “the gallant Pelham,” his many virtues, his noble nature, and purity of character, is enshrined as a sacred legacy in the hearts of all who knew him. His record has been bright and spotless, his career brilliant and successful. He fell—the noblest of sacrifices—on the altar of his country, to whose glorious service he had dedicated his life from the beginning of the war.’
Some interesting figures.I recall reading a description of one of Humboldt's works by Agassiz, in which he referred to it as ‘descriptive but not comparative,’ and he went on to show that, in describing anything, its magnitude or character, it was necessary to, in some way, institute a comparison with something with which we were familiar. In order to fully appreciate the magnitude of the great struggle, in which Pelham engaged, you must make some comparison between the civil war and others which were fought by the American people. The official reports give the following as the losses in killed and wounded of the Federal army in seven out of nearly a thousand severely contested struggles during the four years of war.
|Seven Days Fight,||9,291|
His a brilliant career.Alabama is the mother of many brave, heroic sons, but second to none is the young hero whose memory we honor to-night. I say young, because to us, over whose head since then the storms of many years have thundered, that earnest, boyish face comes back as the friend of yesterday. A brilliant career was his—few his days, but full of heroic deeds; short but glorious. Gentle and retiring as a maiden, he was brave as a paladin, and stood in the midst of fire and carnage as emotionless and unshaken as a rock. In the words of your own immortal Lee at the battle of Fredericksburg: ‘It was glorious to see such courage in one so young,’ and to us who cherish heroic deeds, it is a grand thought that the memory of this brave soldier, whose life ebbed out upon the blood-stained banks of the Rappahannock, is ever enshrined in the halo of immortal youth, ‘unchanged by sorrow and undimmed by tears.’ It is well-nigh six and thirty years since his sacrifice was consummated, and to-night we look upon the semblance of his features in the place of honor prepared for it, and to perpetuate his memory. The years roll on, men come and go and are forgotten, the popular idol of to-day may be fallen ere the morrow, but the memory and the sacrifice of Pelham will live for aye. The passing years but leave an ever deepening tinge of gold upon ‘red danger's amaranthine wreath’ that crowns the youthful patriot's brow. Alabama's crown holds no jewel purer or brighter than the memory of the gallant Pelham, and his name shall be cherished with pride and spoken with loving reverence so long as honor and purity and fearless chivalry are dear to the people for whom his life-blood was so gallantly shed. I cannot resist the temptation of quoting an exquisite sonnet written by the late Hon. William R. Smith, of Alabama, then a member of the Confederate Congress, when the sad news of Pelham's death was received in Richmond. These lines have never, to my knowledge been printed.
General Wheeler has never posed as an orator, but his polished address, delivered with much force and earnestness, held his audience still-bound, save by several irrepressible outbursts of cheering, until the close, when he was given another ovation as he turned to go to his seat.
Fine speech by De-Armond.This was not to be the end of the feast of good things, however, though in the ordinary course it would have concluded the prearranged programme. At the request of many of those present, Captain Lamb introduced the distinguished congressman from Mississippi. In doing so he paid a very warm tribute to that
gallant and heroic soldier, a true and tried friend, and a hero in peace as well as in war. Judge DeArmond said: If I could choose my place I would rather listen than speak. I would gather inspiration from these noble surroundings rather than mar this occasion by any feeble words that I might utter.Never, he said, had he felt more honored than he did at being asked to speak, and never had he gazed into the faces of an audience such as that. There was everything there present calculated to inspire. ‘From the walls,’ he said, ‘looks down the heroism of the past. What thoughts of history! What heroes! I feel it is a proud privilege to address the noble sons of sires so noble.’ A thousand things might determine a contest, without regard to the justice of the cause, the speaker said, but the thing that lives is the story of heroic deeds and heroic men. Perhaps nowhere on earth were there gathered together so many noble achievements as in this historic city of Richmond.