Thursday, March 19, 2015

Stephen Elliott, Jr: The Artillery Officer Turned General of Infantry

Brigadier General Stephen Elliott, Jr.

       Stephen Elliott, Jr. was born in Beaufort, South Carolina in 1830. He attended Harvard, but withdrew before completing his studies. Prior to the war, he was a planter, politician, and captain of an artillery militia battery. His battery helped in the taking of Fort Sumter at the beginning of the war. He then began his service protecting Charleston Harbor. He was wounded in the leg while in command of Fort Beauregard while defending Port Royal, South Carolina. The wound was a result of a rifled cannon exploding upon the thirty-second shot of the battle. A fragment from the barrel struck him in the leg. Luckily for Elliott it was a slight wound. Elliott also led his command to victory at the Battle of Pocataligo near Yemassee, South Carolina. 
       Elliott was soon recommended for promotion by both William S. Walker and Robert E. Lee. Lee described Elliott as "one of the best officers in the Department...he exhibited intelligence, boldness, and sagacity." As a result he was promoted to major of artillery. Elliott led his command in several raids and even captured Federal boats. 
       He returned to Charleston in 1863 and served under General Beauregard there. Beauregard was thoroughly impressed with Elliott and placed him in command of Fort Sumter. Elliott strengthened the fort and as a result, the structure withstood 19,000 Federal artillery rounds being hurled against it. Elliott would be forced to take a leave of seventeen days when a powder magazine exploded in the fort wounding him in both the head and ankle. His head wound healed rather quickly, but his ankle gave him trouble for some time. Elliott soon became a Confederate hero for his actions at Fort Sumter. Beauregard immediately recommended him for promotion. 

Fort Sumter under Confederate control

       Elliott was soon sent to guard the Weldon Railroad just below Petersburg, Virginia. The regiment he commanded was a part of William S. Walker's brigade. Walker had been Elliott's commander back in South Carolina early in the war when they fought around Port Royal. When Walker accidentally rode into Federal lines, was wounded, and captured, Elliott was promoted to brigadier general on the recommendation of General Beauregard again. He would see action at Bermuda Hundred and Petersburg. 
       The most difficult day of the war for Elliott would occur on June 30, 1864 having been a general officer just over a month. Burnside's IX Corps occupied the trenches across from Elliott's brigade and had some Pennsylvania coal miners in his command. They dug a tunnel beneath a position known as Elliott's Salient. Inside the small earthen fort was the 18th, 20th South Carolina Infantry, and a four gun battery commanded by Captain Richard Pegram. Most of these commands would be destroyed when the powder filled mine exploded. 

Me and my buddy Jerry standing at the entrance to the mine

Me standing across the crater for scale

       Stephen Elliott reacted quickly by leading a counterattack against the Federal troops who charged into the huge hole left in the ground. He was wounded by a bullet striking him in the chest and passing through his left lung. He was carried to the rear, the wound believed to be mortal. Elliott's father and wife came to see him in Petersburg before his death. Soon, doctors realized that Elliott was going to survive and although his left arm was partially paralyzed, he obtained a furlough. He was unable to return to command for several months. 
       Elliott would recover in time to participate in the last battle under Joseph E. Johnston at Bentonville, North Carolina. During this battle, he was wounded in the arm and his old Petersburg wound was reopened. Elliott was home on furlough when the army surrendered. With the finally over, Elliott planned to return to politics. Unfortunately, the doctors had been correct when they had called his Petersburg wound fatal. His health shattered, he died on February 21, 1866 in Aiken, South Carolina. He rests today in Saint Helena's Episcopal Churchyard in Beaufort, South Carolina. He was 35 years old. Most historians agree that Elliott would have made a name for himself to rival Wade Hampton and others had he spent the entire war in Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Lee himself appreciated Elliott's leadership. 

Stephen Elliott, Jr

Resting place of Stephen Elliott, Jr.

Another view of Stephen Elliott, Jr.

1 comment:

  1. Every time I read your stories about another young man and what they gave in this terrible time; I am so touched. He literally gave his all and I am sure his wounds were a constant reminder of the Confederacy that he served. I wonder what his civilian life was like.