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Preservation Group Buys 'Gallant Pelham' Site
By Deborah Fitts
FREDERICKSBURG, Va

The place where Confederate ar-tillerist John Pelham earned ever-lasting renown as "the gallant Pelham" is the focus of a modest preservation effort by the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust (CVBT).
The nonprofit has purchased a quarter-acre sliver of land near the intersection of Route 2/17 and 608 about four miles south of Fredericksburg.
It was here at 10 o'clock on the morning of Dec. 13, 1862, that Pelham with a single gun began firing on the Union line, opening the battle of Fredericksburg.
CVBT spokesman Jim Pates said that former CVBT president Enos Richardson had single-hand-edly pursued the purchase when the opportunity arose. The $8000 sale was recorded in August.
The residential lot, only 50 feet wide, is 600 feet west of the inter-section on Route 608. Much the lot is unbuildable due to a drainage easement.
Pates said CVBT is "looking at" one other residential lot for sale. "We can't do much with one-quar-ter acre, but we may be able to preserve enough of a parcel to do something there," he said. There is no federally owned land at the site.
The intersection, ringed with commercially zoned land, appears on the verge of development, in-cluding a convenience store and townhouses.

Peggy Vogtsberger, president of the John Pelham Historical Association, hailed CVBT's effort.
"This is the place where Pelham got his fame," Vogtsberger said. Robert E. Lee, in a report following the battle, departed from his usual reference to officers by rank alone and cited "the gallant Pelham."
A small stone marker was placed at the intersection in 1903 by James Power Smith of Stonewall Jackson's staff. The Pelham Association erected a Virginia highway marker in 1992.
Frank O'Reilly, historian at Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park, said as the Union army was preparing to launch an attack, its right flank fell short of the opposing Confederate line.
Pelham moved swiftly to take advantage of the weakness. He moved a single 12-pdr. Napoleon almost a mile in front of the Confederate line and aimed it to fire up the Union flank.
Pelham and 20 men lobbed shells at the Federals from a dis-tance of eight-tenths of a mile, according to O'Reilly. When re-turn fire disabled some of the crew, Pelham dismounted his horse and sighted the gun himself.
Until Pelham ran out of ammunition, "he was making life very difficult for 13,000 men," said O'Reilly. "It paralyzed the entire left flank of the Union army and preempted a Union attack for almost an hour. This was unique in that, basically, an individual took on an entire army."

To avoid Union return shelling, Pelham constantly shifted the single gun from spot to spot within a small area at the southwestern corner of the intersection, making it likely that the gun crossed the CVBT parcel, according to O'Reilly.
He called the intersection "the quintessential Pelham site. This is where he breaks into national consciousness."

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