MAJOR PELHAM COURTING MISS SALLIE"The Bower" Near Leetown - Virginia
After the Battle of Antietam, General Stuart and his staff retired to “The Bower”, the home of the Dandridge family located near Leetown, Virginia. During the months of September, October, and into November the home was the site of many entertaining nights with General Stuart and staff, including John Pelham, Heros Von Borke and Wade Hampton. Both military and civilian participants enjoyed music, dancing, games of whist, chess, and cards. Even scenes from Shakespeare and Dickens were performed.
It was during this respite from war that Stuart’s brilliant 24 year old artillery commander Major John Pelham met and courted Miss Sarah “Sallie” Dandridge. The couple spent every minute of spare time together, riding through the beautiful countryside and taking long walks together. By some accounts, just before General Stuart’s raid on Chambersburg, the couple were engaged to be married. Like many young soldiers Major Pelham would have to say good-bye to Miss Sallie.
Major Pelham’s horse artillery battery was a key element in General Stuart’s success in the field. Pelham and his guns proved time and time again how devastating to the enemy his brave and skilled cannoneers were. General Stuart regarded his young artillery commander as a younger brother, praising, promoting, teasing, and looking after him.
Major Pelham’s exploits were often witnessed by the Confederate high command. General Lee talked about watching Pelham in action, ”It is glorious to see such courage in one so young. I have never seen a more skillful handling of guns.” Lee remarked. “It is really extraordinary to find such nerve and genius in a mere boy.”
General Stonewall Jackson begged Stuart to give him Pelham for his army, saying according to legend, “With a Pelham on each flank, I could whip the world.” And of course Stuart refused to give up his young artilleryman.
General Stuart’s Chambersburg Raid and second ride around the Army of the Potomac was about to start. Pelham and his cannoneers would face new challenges in enemy territory covering many fast paced miles crossing difficult terrain and keeping pursuing Federals at bay.
The Raid on Chambersburg would be a great success. But sadly Major John Pelham would be killed at the Battle of Kelly’s Ford, five months later. Pelham was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel posthumously on April 4, 1863. He had fought in over 60 engagements and had never lost a gun to the enemy.
General Stuart would later name his newborn daughter Virginia Pelham Stuart.
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