October 5th, 2009


A short bit on J J Pettigrew

During break time at work today, I looked up a familiar face - J Johnston Pettigrew of North Carolina.

He was a scholarly fellow who spent a good while overseas and later wrote a book. When the war started, he was 32 years old. He joined as a private, was shortly thereafter promoted to colonel, and less than a year later was promoted to brigadier general. During one battle, he was wounded several times and left for dead, but he recovered and later returned to command.

On July 1, 1863, he lead his brigade into the first day of battle at Gettysburg, west of town along the road that goes out to my grandmother's house. His brigade belonged to Heth's division, of Hill's Corps. After running into Buford's cavalry near the seminary, Heth's division went into battle, even though he had received orders to avoid this sort of thing. Pettigrew's brigade was heavily engaged on McPherson's Ridge and suffered serious casualties. General Heth was wounded, having taken a shot to the head. With General Heth out to recover, Pettigrew was made the the temporary commander of Heth's division.

The second day of battle passed.

On the third day, Pettigrew led men from Heth's division alongside two other divisions in Pickett's Charge. Pettigrew actually began the charge on horseback (like Jimmy Kemper and Dick Garnett, two of Pickett's brigade commanders), but Pettigrew lost his horse along the way. Approaching the wall, Pettigrew was wounded in the hand by canister shot, but he remained on the battlefield until the Confederate forces retreated.

Pettigrew died about 2 weeks later from a wound suffered near the Potomac River where his men fought to hold back Union forces from the retreating Confederate army.


There are some people in history who I would really like to meet and chat with for an while. Pettigrew is one who ranks near the top of my list. I am definitely a supporter of the Union, but this fellow seems like a particularly interesting individual. I bet he had a lot of stories to share from those 35 years.
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