By Kimberley Glascoe – Culpeper Star-Exponent
Published: June 20, 2011.
Although John Pelham’s Civil War legacy ended in Culpeper County, his genealogical presence has not.
A Fauquier county resident recently discovered he has another connection to the area. James Flanagan, a retired Fauquier County science teacher, says that Pelham is linked by marriage to the Germanna families and Fauquier County.
Flanagan taught science for 42 years, but he has a unique interest in history.
For about 35 years, he has studied the genealogical background of Pelham and the Battle of Kelly’s Ford.
Flanagan will be speaking about the Battle of Kelly’s Ford at the Germanna Foundation’s 54th annual Conference and Reunion July 16 at Germanna Community College’s Daniel Technology Center.
‘The Gallant Pelham’
John Pelham was born to Atkinson and Martha Pelham in Alabama in 1838. As a student at the United States Military Academy at West Point, Pelham never graduated with his class because of the secession brewing in the South.
He withdrew from the academy two weeks before his graduation to join the war. Robert E. Lee named him “The Gallant Pelham” after seeing how calm he was on the military field with cannons and guns firing around him.
“He was in every battle in Virginia from Manassas in 1861 to March 17,1863,” said Flanagan.
On March 17, 1863, during the Battle of Kelly’s Ford, the 24-year-old artillery officer was struck in the head by a fragment of artillery shrapnel.
He was brought six miles from the battlefield to the Shackelford House in Culpeper on horseback and died early the next morning from that wound. After his demise in Culpeper, Pelham’s remains were taken to Richmond, but he was laid to rest in Jacksonville, Ala.
‘The Germanna Connection’
According to research done by William Rector Erwin Jr. and Dr. Pelham Wilder Jr., a former professor of chemistry and grand marshal of Duke University, the Rector, Conway and Sevier families are connected to John Pelham by marriage.
Erwin is a writer and a descendent of the Rectors from the Germanna colony.
Wilder’s grandfather, Andrew Jackson Wilder, was with John Pelham when he was killed at Kelly’s Ford. Flanagan and Erwin are good friends and have been researching the subject.
“Pelham’s ancestors went from Virginia to Kentucky from which his father migrated to Person County, NC, and on to Alabama where he was born,” said Erwin.
Pelham’s uncle, William, married Mary Ann Conway, who was the daughter of Thomas Conway and Nancy Ann Rector, whose ancestor was John Jacob Rector from the first Germanna colony. Mary Ann Conway’s mother was a descendent of Fauquier County.
“A connection to this Northern Neck most distinguished family, makes this a very significant pedigree of the Pelham Family across this great nation very much a part of our Culpeper, Va., and national heritage,” said Flanagan.
Although he is not related, Flanagan said what interested him in the life of John Pelham and the Battle of Kelly’s Ford was that he lives four miles from the battlefield where Pelham was wounded.
“As a young teacher, 35 years ago, I think Pelham was my inspiration, mentor and icon for giving what you do 100 percent and not complaining about your duty,” he said.
In the 1980s, Flanagan camped on the battlefield land when it belonged to the Rappahannock Campground.
“I located the grist mill foundation, woolen factory and sawmill. I literally used one of the foundation mill stones as a pillow the night I put the puzzle of the village together,” he said.
Flanagan is in the process of writing a book about the Battle of Kelly’s Ford, with a focus on the cast, location and an emphasis on John Pelham.
“I know enough about Virginia, I am a native son, born and raised and will die here, I love Virginia,” said Flanagan.
The Germanna Foundation’s 54th Annual Conference and Reunion will take place July 15-17. The cost of attendance is $50 for this particular lecture. For more information on how to purchase a ticket, visit germanna.org.
Want to go?
What: The Germanna Foundation’s 54th annual Conference and Reunion at Germanna Community College’s Daniel Technology Center featuring speaker James Flanagan
When: July 16, 2011
Where: Germanna Community College’s Daniel Technology Center
Cost: various prices
Tickets: Visit germanna.org