A Maryland Confederate.
[from the Richmond, Va., Dispatch, January 17, 1903.]
Matchless for hard fighting and bravery.
Recollections of Major James Breathed.
So little is generally known of the early life and ancestry of Major James Breathed
, the fearless, dashing artillery officer who commanded the celebrated battery which has always been known as Breathed
's Battery, since the death of the immortal Pelham
, on March 17th, 1863, at Kelly's Ford, Va.
, I thought the public would perhaps be gratified by a recital of his early life up to and after the Civil war.
Please pardon the length of this letter, as I find it impossible to do him justice in a shorter one.
Major James Breathed
, of the Stuart Horse Artillery, Cavalry Corps, Army of Northern Virginia, C. S. A., was the son of John Breathed and Ann MacGill Williams
, of Hagerstown, Md.
His ancestors came from England
and the north of Ireland
, and to Maryland
John Breathed moved into Virginia
, at Janesville
, sold his large landed estates in West Virginia
that he inherited from a bachelor uncle, and purchased Durrganess, originally the old Randolph
Major James Breathed
was born February 13th, 1838, in Virginia
, at Fruit Hall, Morgan county
, near Berkeley Springs
At an early age his father and mother moved over near Hagerstown, Md.
Young ‘Jim’ Breathed was sent to St. James College, near that place.
After being there some time he concluded to study medicine, which he did in the office of Dr. Mac
for two years; then he went to Baltimore
and took a course of surgery under the celebrated Dr. Nathan R. Smith
He received his diploma and graduated as an M. D. at the age of twenty-one years. He went to St. Joseph, Mo.
, shortly afterward, and began the practice of medicine, remaining there until Virginia
seceded, on April 17th, 1861.
All his relations were strong Southerners.
The late Governor Jackson
were making war speeches, advocating secession.
Breathed was with them, being a relative, and in the fire of youth, he determined to go into the service of the South
and link his fortunes with them.
, and Generals Marmaduke
were compelled to leave their homes and firesides by the orders of the United States Government, Breathed went with them, determining to stand by them and the views they advocated to the end. Breathed's parents begged him not to be too precipitate, and had him to return to Maryland
En route to Maryland
, and while he was on the cars, he satin the same seat with the then Lieutenant J. E. B. Stuart
, U. S. regular cavalry, who was returning to Virginia
, to offer his services to the Governor
of the State
of his birth.
Breathed, two days after reaching home, crossed the Potomac river
at Williamsport, Md.
, went to Martinsburg, Va.
, and joined a company of cavalry that was being organized at that place under the command of Captain John Blair Hoge
, afterward Company B, First Virginia Cavalry, Army of the Shenandoah, under General Joseph E. Johnston
While in this command he again came in contact with Colonel J. E. B. Stuart
, who at that time was Colonel
of the First Virginia Cavalry.
When they met Stuart
recognized Breathed as his travelling companion of a few weeks previous, when they were both en route
for the South
with the same purpose in view—to join the Southern
Army of Virginia.
was struck with Breathed
's manly and bold bearing, and when Pelham
organized the celebrated battery of Stuart
Horse Artillery at Centreville, Va.
, in the fall of 1861, he was transferred from Company B, First Virginia Cavalry, as a private, to that battery.
Later, at the election of officers and at General Stuart
's suggestion, Breathed was elected first lieutenant of the battery, and started on his unparalleled record as the hardest artillery fighter the war produced.
(So said General R. E. Lee
, his commander.) The organization to which he attached himself was not only known throughout the breadth of this fair land, but also in Continental Europe
The names of the incomparable Pelham
and the intrepid, reckless, dashing Breathed will be handed down to generations yet to come, hand in hand, as true types of Southern valor and manhood.
Breathed, at the time of which I am writing, was only 22 years of age, being Major Pelham
's senior by one year.
After the war he returned to Hancock, Md.
, where his sister, Mrs. Robert Bridges
, resided, and again began the practice of
Being near Mason
's and Dixon
's line, his profession naturally took him over in Pennsylvania
Some of the stay at homes living in Pennsylvania
at that time notified him that if he came over into Pennsylvania
they would kill him. They did not know the temperament of the man, or they certainly would not have indulged in such idle talk.
Those threats made against him virtually forced him into forbidden territory, and go he did, spurning with contempt the low bred hirelings that had tried to intimidate him, and for years—up to the time of his death—went in and out across the line, penetrating the State of Pennsylvania
for miles, fearful of no one except himself.
He found friends that stood by him when adversity overtook him.
Our dearly loved, idolized hero—loved by his old battery to a man—passed away at Hancock, Md.
, February 14th, 1870, and was buried in the beautiful cemetery of St. James
His age was 32 years. On Memorial Day Federal soldiers who have felt the power of his sword and the thunder of his battery, strew flowers over his grave and silently shed a tear over the mound that contains the remains of as true a type of manhood as the world can produce.
As in life he was always found upon the uttermost edge of his country's fortune, so in death he sleeps on the extreme limit of the State
he loved so well—old Maryland
We laid him to rest in his cold, narrow bed,
And 'graved on the marble we placed o'er his head,
As the proudest tributes our hearts could pay,
“He never disgraced the dear jacket of gray.”