Thursday, March 26, 2015

James Conner: The General and His Unlucky Leg

Brigadier General James Conner

       James Conner was born in Charleston, South Carolina in 1829. He became a lawyer and began his practice in 1852. He soon became a United States Attorney and tried a case involving the illegal slave trade. Like most in South Carolina, James was a secessionist. When the war began, he became a captain under Wade Hampton in the Hampton Legion. Sent to Virginia, he soon had a minor dispute with fellow officer and future Confederate general Matthew Butler. The two seemed to be advancing together against Union forces, when Butler attempted to get all the credit for a victory and moved too quickly allowing the Federals to escape. 
       At the Battle of Manassas, when Hampton and other commanders were wounded, Conner took over the Legion and following the battle was promoted to major. In the spring of 1862, he was made colonel of the 22nd North Carolina Infantry that needed an experienced commander. At the Battle of Mechanicsville, a bullet struck him in the leg and broke a bone. He was out of action for two years because of the ugliness of the wound. During that time he served on various military courts. 
       On June 1, 1864, Conner was promoted to brigadier general and given command of Samuel McGowan's South Carolina brigade. He was still not fit for extreme field service, so Lee assigned him to Chaffin's Bluff. He then proceeded as part of Kershaw's Division to participate in Jubal Early's Shenandoah Valley Campaign. Just a few days before the Battle of Cedar Creek, a shell fragment struck him in his "unlucky leg." The shrapnel passed through Conner's knee and shattered the bone. This time the limb would be amputated close to his hip. Thus ended the war for Brigadier General James Conner. 

The only other known wartime photograph of James Conner

       Conner would return to his law practice following the war. Had injury not kept him from so much of the war, he may have become one of the great generals we read of today. James Conner was a friend of both Robert E. Lee and Pierre Beauregard. He would die in Richmond, Virginia in 1883 at the age of 53. He died of bronchitis. His wife Sallie would outlive him by 44 years, dying in 1928. James Conner rests today in Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston, South Carolina, the city of his birth.

Sallie <i>Enders</i> Conner

Sallie Enders the wife of James Conner

A photograph of Sallie sometime before her death

James Conner

Graves of both James and Sallie Conner


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