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    Description

    An important and historic offering in the annals of Civil War collecting

    "The Gallant Pelham": Half Plate Ambrotype of John Pelham from Life by Mathew Brady, Doubtless Executed in His New York Studio, Circa 1858, when Pelham was on Leave from West Point. Without question, the most important and visually moving Civil War photographic image we have ever had the opportunity to catalog. Consigned to Heritage directly from the great great grandson of John Pelham's sister Betty, (see the next lot) and not previously viewed in the modern era. This is the image from which all images available over the last 100 years were drawn, but the location of the original image, from which they were taken, had remained unknown.

    Classic "chocolate brown" emulsion, unique to Brady's ambrotypes, in the original leather "see through" case, the image viewable from both sides. The mat bears Brady's embossed logo at the lower right corner, along with "Cutting's Patent/ July 4 & 11 1854". The image is crystal clear and in absolutely pristine condition, again typical of Brady's ambrotype work. Pelham is depicted in his single breasted, nine button front, West Point furlough frock coat, with USMA buttons. He holds his Hardee hat at his side with the bullion embroidered insignia on the side incorporating U S C C (US Corps of Cadets) around an engineer castle, superposed on a background of rays, the first example of this insignia we've ever seen. Pelham's confident demeanor, verging on arrogance, foreshadows the tactical genius, and unrivaled bravado that he would eventually show on the early battlefields of the American Civil War. The original plain, double hinged leather case very good. The hinges were clearly split long ago, and, interestingly, the brass clasps bent over to allow the image to be viewed by opening it at the hinges rather than from the clasp side. Retains only 2/3 of the one preserver with some verdigris on the mat; the image, however, is absolutely pristine, the whole being completely untouched.

    In 1861, just weeks short of graduation, John Pelham, a native Alabamian withdrew from West Point to offer his services to the Confederacy. Assigned as a Lieut. of artillery in Joseph E. Johnston's Army, Pelham's well drilled battery caught the eye of J. E. B. Stewart, who transformed it into "horse artillery." Pelham was engaged in every major action of Stuart's cavalry from First Bull Run to Kelly's Ford. In response to Pelham's actions at Antietam, Stonewall Jackson commented, "It is really extraordinary to find such nerve and genius in a mere boy. With a Pelham on each flank I could whip the world." At Fredericksburg, where Pelham's guns were critical in stemming the Federal advance, Lee commended Pelham for his "unflinching courage," and Pelham is generally recognized today as the most capable commander of "horse artillery" in American military history. At Kelly's Ford, on March 17, 1863, Pelham volunteered to lead a cavalry charge, his artillery not being engaged. Rising in his stirrups, Pelham urged his men to "Press forward to glory and victory." During the assault Pelham was struck in the head, and mortally wounded, by a Federal shell fragment, dying the next morning. Stuart eulogized Pelham in a general order issued to the Cavalry Division, stating Pelham fell "with the battle cry on his lips, and the light of victory beaming from his eye," immortalizing him with the sobriquet "The Gallant Pelham."

    Pelham's body was returned home and buried in City Cemetery in Jacksonville, Alabama, where a statue was erected in his honor in 1905. The states of North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, all have towns named in his honor. Characterized by his tentmate, Major Harry Gene Beck, as the "bravest human being I ever saw in my life," Pelham is one of the most highly romanticized figures of the American Civil War.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2010
    26th Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 4
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 13,649

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