The Confederate Army of Northern Virginia had no braver officer than Major John Pelham. Although just 24 years old, the blonde-haired, blue-eyed Alabamian had already proven himself on more than half a dozen battlefields in Maryland and Virginia. Pelham commanded General J.E.B. Stuart's horse artillery. On December 13, 1862, as Union troops deployed on the plain south of Fredericksburg, Pelham received permission from Stuart to bring a single cannon to this intersection. From here, he fired down the length of the Union battle line, just 400 yards away.
Pelham's actions provoked an immediate and savage response. Within minutes, more than two dozen Union cannon had Pelham and his artillery crew under fire. Undeterred, the Confederate officer continued the unequal fight, occasionally shifting his gun to throw Union artillerists off balance. Three times Stuart bid Pelham to retire; three times Pelham refused. "Tell the General I can hold my ground!" he replied. With his ammunition running low, Pelham brought his gun off the field. His actions delayed the Union assault by nearly an hour and propelled Pelham's fame to new heights.
(Sidebar): Major John PelhamUpon witnessing Pelham's action at Fredericksburg, General Robert E. Lee remarked: "It is glorious to see such courage on one so young!" Pelham died just three months after this battle, impulsively leading a cavalry charge at Kelly's Ford.