Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Pettigrew Family: Brigadier General James Johnston Pettigrew, my 2nd cousin 5x removed

Brigadier General James Johnston Pettigrew

James Johnston Pettigrew was born on July 4, 1828 at Bonarva Plantation in Tyrell County, North Carolina.  He is my 2nd cousin 5x removed.  In his lifetime, he preferred to go by his middle name, Johnston.  Johnston was the eighth child born to Ebenezer Pettigrew, my 1st cousin 6x removed, and his first wife Ann Blount Shepard.

Ebenezer Pettigrew (1783 – 1848)

Ebenezer  Pettigrew served as a Representative in the Twenty Fourth United States Congress, which was in session from March 4, 1835 – March 3, 1837.   He was born near Plymouth, North Carolina on March 10, 1783.  Ebenezer attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was a charter member of the Debate Society.  He died at Magnolia Plantation on Lake Scuppernong, on July 8, 1848 and was interred in the family cemetery.

Charles Pettigrew (1744 – 1805)

Ebenezer's father, Charles Pettigrew, was my 5th Great Grand Uncle.  Charles was born on the Pennsylvania frontier on March 20, 1744.  The defeat of General Edward Braddock's troops in Pennsylvania during the French and Indian War led the Pettigrews to uproot and relocate to Lunenburg County, Virginia.  There Charles was educated by Presbyterian clergymen.  From Virginia the family migrated further south to Granville County, North Carolina, and eventually to South Carolina.  Charles and his brother James, my 5th Great Grandfather, remained in Granville County long enough to establish roots.  James Pettigrew and his wife, Elizabeth Long were the parents of my 4th Great Grandmother, Elizabeth Pettigrew.

While in Granville County, Charles taught at a small school for the children of several local families.   He remained in that position until being appointed by Governor Josiah Martin as the Head Master of a school in Edenton, North Carolina.  While in Edenton, Charles became an Anglican.  He served as an assistant to the Reverend Daniel Earl at St. Paul's Church and in 1774 went to England, where he was ordained Deacon and Priest by the Bishops of London and Rochester.  He returned to Edenton on May 20, 1775.  He remained loosely affiliated with St. Paul's Church until his death. 

Although Charles was a religious man, he had far more success as Planter.  In 1781 he purchased land in Tyrrell County, to which he gradually added more tracts over the years.  Eventually he owned two plantations on which he grew rice, wheat, and corn, and whose timber he made into shingles and barrels for sale.  Charles begain with only nine slaves who were the property of his first wife, Mary Blount.   He more than tripled their number by the time of his death.  From a poor frontier boy, he became the owner of two plantations in North Carolina, eight hundred acres of land in Tennessee, thirty-four slaves, a chapel, and a good house that he built, and he possessed what he described to a cousin as "more than a Competency."  Charles Pettigrew died in Tyrell County, North Carolina on April 8, 1805.  He was originally buried beside his first wife, Mary Blount, on the grounds of her family's plantation, Mulberry Hill.  His son, Ebenezer moved his remains to the Pettigrew Family Cemetery at Bonarva Plantation, near Lake Phelps. 

James Johston Pettigrew circa 1855

Being that Johnston came from such an affluent family, it was no surprise that he decided to further his education.  In 1843, like his father before him, James Johnston Pettigrew enrolled at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  He was 15 years old at the time of his enrollment.  Previously Pettigrew attended a boarding school in Hillsboro, North Carolina.  He excelled in classical languages and mathematics and led his class in fencing and boxing.  He graduated with such distinction in 1847 that President James K. Polk, accompanied by Commodore Matthew Fontaine Maury, attended his commencement ceremony where Pettigrew gave the valedictory address.   Polk offered Pettigrew one of the assistant professorships in the United States Naval Observatory in Washington, a position he held until 1848.  He then studied law in Baltimore and joined the firm of his father's first cousin, James Louis Petigru in Charleston, South Carolina.  Johnston also travelled to Germany where he studied Civil Law.   Johnston travelled around Europe for seven years where he learned to speak and write French, German, Italian, and Spanish, and to read Greek, Hebrew, and Arabic.  Upon the completion of his European travels, Johnston returned to South Carolina, where he was elected to the South Carolina Legislature in 1856. 

Although possessing the qualities of a fine ambassador, Johnston chose to serve his country in the Military, rather than choosing a Diplomatic position.  Convinced that the cause of secession would eventually triumph and a war would be necessary to achieve freedom from the North, Pettigrew began to ready himself for military service.  He was active in the South Carolina Militia and became knowledgeable about Military tactics, Engineering and Artillery.  In 1856 he became Adjutant General of the South Carolina Militia.

Civil War Era Photograph of James Johnston Pettigrew

In December of 1860 as the bells of secession began to ring loudly around South Carolina, Pettigrew was appointed Chief Military Aid to Governor, Francis M. Pickens.  The following April, he participated in the negotiations between the Governor's office, South Carolina military authorities, and the Union commander of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.  On December 27, 1860, Pettigrew hand delivered the Governor’s demand to the Garrison Commander of Fort Sumter that he withdraw his forces.  He and his regiment then marched to Castle Pinckney, which they garrisoned until the siege of Fort Sumter ended in April.

After the outbreak of the Civil War, Pettigrew enlisted as a Private in Hampton's Legion, a force raised in South Carolina by one of the wealthiest planters in the South, Colonel Wade Hampton.   Pettigrew's leadership skills were identified rather quickly.  Not long after joining Hampton's Legion, Pettigrew accepted a commission as Colonel of the 1st South Carolina Rifles.  When North Carolina seceded from the Union, Pettigrew followed Robert E. Lee's example and offered his services to his native state. 

Flag of the North Carolina 22nd Infantry Regiment

He was soon appointed Colonel of the 22nd North Carolina Infantry Regiment and was promptly sent with his men to Virginia.  His appointment was dated July 11, 1861.

Pettigrew pictured in the center, while Colonel of the NC 22nd

With this regiment he was engaged in constructing and guarding batteries at Evansport, on the Potomac, until the spring of 1862.

Register showing Pettigrew's appointment as Colonel

Pettigrew soon adopted the policy of eating the same food as the Privates and denying himself anything he could not offer his men.  While in Virginia, Pettigrew was urged by both Jefferson Davis and General Joseph E. Johnston to accept a higher commission.  Pettigrew believed that in order to become a General, one needed to have previously led men into battle.  Despite his personal belief, he was promoted to Brigadier General on February 26, 1862. 

When a young relative requested a "safe place" on Pettigrew's staff, he replied, "I assure you that the most unsafe place in the Brigade is about me. By all means let him get rid of this idea of a safe place, which he will regret after time. The post of danger is certainly the post of honor." He was true to his word.

Storming of Casey's Redoubt Battle of Seven Pines

Pettigrew's first action came at the Battle of Seven Pines, which took place from May 31 - June 1, during McClellan's 1862 Peninsula Campaign.  He was placed in command of a Brigade in Major General Daniel Harvey Hill's Division that contained troops from North Carolina, Arkansas, Georgia and Virginia.  Just as his brigade began to advance against the enemy, Pettigrew was struck in the neck by a miniĆ© ball.  The projectile passed through his throat, slicing arteries, damaging nerves, muscles and his windpipe.  The wound was thought to be mortal.  Pettigrew didn't permit any of his men to leave their ranks to carry him to the rear "because from the amount of bleeding I thought the wound to be fatal, [and] it was useless to take men from the field for that purpose".   While he was lying on the ground, he received another bullet wound in the arm and was bayoneted in the right leg.  He regained consciousness as a Union prisoner of war.  He fully recovered from his wounds and was exchanged for a Union General in Confederate hands in August of 1862. 

For his courage, Pettigrew received a promotion to Brigadier General and was given command of a Brigade consisting of the 11th, 26th, 47th, and 52nd North Carolina Infantry Regiments.  Pettigrew's Brigade was assigned to Major General Henry Heth's Division in Lieutenant General A. P. Hill's Third Corps.  The Brigade fought in several small Battles and Skirmishes in eastern North Carolina between September 1862 and the spring of 1863, including a successful independent action at Blount's Creek on May 9th where they repulsed a Union raiding column of superior force.

Gettysburg Battle Flag for the North Carolina 26th Infantry Regiment

Description of NC 26th Gettysburg Flag Exhibit

In May of 1863, Pettigrew’s Brigade joined the Army of Northern Virginia under General Robert E. Lee on the march North toward Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  The Brigade was the largest Confederate Regiment at the Battle of Gettysburg, it's men numbering over 2,500 Officers and Enlisted men.  On the first day of fighting, his Brigade saw some of the fiercest action when they engaged the famed Iron Brigade.  Pettigrew's men drove the Federals from their position on McPherson's Ridge, located on the outskirts of Gettysburg.  Although they were successful in driving the Iron Brigade from their position, all four units in Pettigrew's Brigade suffered significant casualties.   In total, the unit lost about 40 percent it's men on the first day of fighting.

Major General Henry Heth

Pettigrew's immediate superior officer, General Henry Heth was wounded in the action on July 1st when a bullet struck him in the head. To Heth's fortunate, he was wearing a hat that was too large and stuffed with papers to make it fit. The papers deflected the bullet, avoiding a fatal wound.  Heth was knocked unconscious and effectively out for the remainder of the battle.  Heth's command passed to Pettigrew who was now in charge of his own Brigade along with three others.  Nine of my family members served in the North Carolina 55th Infantry Regiment, which was placed under the command of General Pettigrew for the final two days of the Gettysburg Campaign. On July 2nd, the men in Pettigrew's command rested as they lay in wait behind Seminary Ridge.

Pettigrew's Brigade at Gettysburg

On July 3rd, Robert E. Lee selected Pettigrew's Brigade to take part the dramatic and unsuccessful assault on the Federal center that would later be referred to as Pickett's/Pettigrew's Charge.

Exhibit Marker at the North Carolina History Musuem

Pettigrew's Brigade marched to the left of Pickett's men.  While Pickett directed his men from the rear, Pettigrew rode along side his men.  As the Division advanced, it received murderous fire from the entrenched Federals.  Pettigrew's horse was shot from under him.  As he continued the march on foot, he was severely wounded in the left hand by canister shot.  Pettigrew made it within a hundred yards of the Stone Wall commanded by Union General John Gibbon, Pettigrew's 2nd cousin on his mother's side, no relation to me.

Union General John Gibbon

Despite his wound, Pettigrew remained at the front with his soldiers until it was obvious that the charge had failed. Holding his bloody hand, the despondent officer walked toward Seminary Ridge where he encountered General Lee.  Pettigrew attempted to speak, but Lee, seeing the horrible wound, spoke first saying "General, I am sorry to see you are wounded, go to the rear." With a painful salute, Pettigrew said nothing and continued to the rear.  During the Battle of Gettysburg, Pettigrew's Brigade had the highest number of casualties in the entire Confederate Army.

Pettigrew continued to command the men in Heth's division during their retreat to the Potomac until the General recovered.  Eleven days after the Battle of Gettysburg, Pettigrew's men were delayed by the flooded Potomac at Falling Waters, West Virginia, near the Maryland border.  Pettigrew's Brigade was deployed along the Maryland side in a dense skirmish line that protected the local road to the river crossing.

The pursuit of Gen. Lee's rebel army by Edwin Forbes

On the morning of July 14, Pettigrew's Brigade was one of the last Confederate units north of the Potomac River.  A group of 40 Union Cavalrymen under the command of General George Armstrong Custer, charged the Confederate line.  Again, his horse was shot from under him.   Pettigrew immediately rose with his pistol drawn and began to pursue one of the Federals through a garden when he was struck in the stomach by a Federal miniĆ© ball.  All forty of the Federal Cavalrymen were killed in the fight.  The only chance of survival for Pettigrew was to be immobilized and receive medical attention where he lay.

Marker near the location of Pettigrew's mortal wound

Close up on the Pettigrew Marker

Sash worn by General Pettigrew when he was mortally wounded

He refused, saying that he would rather die then be sent to another yankee prison.  Remaining with the Confederate Army, he was transported 18 miles to Edgewood Manor, near Bunker Hill, West Virginia.

Edgewood Manor

Brigadier General James Johnston Pettigrew died on July 17, 1863, just 2 weeks after his 35th birthday.  In North Carolina, there was an official day of mourning for his death.  The Confederacy had lost one of it's most promising sons. General Lee remarked "The army has lost a brave soldier and the Confederacy an accomplished officer." 

1st Page of Pettigrew's Roll of Honor

2nd Page of Pettigrew's Roll of Honor

His body was returned to Raleigh, North Carolina on July 24, 1863 where it lay in state at the Capital.  The funeral service for James Johnston Pettigrew was held that afternoon.  Following the service, his body was carried to the Raleigh City Cemetery, where it was originally interred in the burial plot belonging to his cousin, James Biddle Shepard.  Shepard died in 1872 and now occupies the plot. 

Original Grave location for James Johnston Pettigrew

Pettigrew remained interred in the Raleigh City Cemetery until November 1865 when, according to his wishes in his will, he was disinterred and relocated to his family's estate, Bonarva in Tyrell County, North Carolina.  Unfortunately all that remains of the house at Bonarva is a small pile of rubble, however the family cemetery is still intact and maintained.

Pettigrew Family Cemetery

Grave of General James Johnston Pettigrew

General James Johnston Pettigrew was one of the Confederacy's most prominent citizens and military leaders.  His loss devastated both the Army and his family.  Pettigrew, along with Brigadier General Thomas Reade Rootes Cobb, my 4th cousin 7x removed, and Brigadier General Philip St. George Cocke, my 6th cousin 6x removed, are the highest ranking Confederate casualties of the Civil War in my family.  Pettigrew State Park is now located on the former grounds of the Pettigrew Homeplace.

Colonel Collett Leventhorpe, who commanded the North Carolina 11th Infantry Regiment in Pettigrew’s Brigade, remarked that he never met a man “who fitted more my ‘beau ideal’ of the patriot, the soldier, the man of genius, and the accomplished gentleman.” 

Several items that were owned by General Pettigrew are currently on display at the North Carolina History Museum in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Close-up of General Pettigrew's Frock Coat

General Pettigrew's Sword and Spur, to the right of his Frock Coat

Here's my relation to James Johnston Pettigrew:

Gen. James Johnston Pettigrew (1828 - 1863)
is your 2nd cousin 5x removed
Ebenezer Pettigrew (1783 - 1848)
Father of Gen. James Johnston
Charles Pettigrew (1743 - 1805)
Father of Ebenezer
Mary Cochran (1713 - 1786)
Mother of Charles
James Pettigrew (1738 - 1789)
Son of Mary
Elizabeth Pettigrew (1777 - 1831)
Daughter of James
Ellis Walker Jr. (1805 - 1888)
Son of Elizabeth
Mildred Walker (1854 - 1922)
Daughter of Ellis
Benjamin Elliott Wheeler (1883 - 1951)
Son of Mildred
Phebe Teresa Wheeler Lewis (1918 - 1977)
Daughter of Benjamin Elliott
Joyce Elaine Lewis (1948 - )
Daughter of Phebe Teresa
Chip Stokes
You are the son of Joyce


  1. Like your blog . . . do you have a picture of Ebenezer Pettigrew's plantation house, called "The Oddity?"

    1. I haven't run across any pictures of "the oddity". Do you by chance have any?