The Last Commission

The Military Order of The Stars and Bars exists because of the work, the honor, and the sacrifices made by those who came before us. This page exists as a memorial to members of the Order who have joined the souls of their Confederate ancestors.

Perhaps no other letter written to the family of a fallen soldier better describes the sense of loss felt by compatriots left behind than the letter written by J.E.B. Stuart upon the death of his friend and fellow officer, John Pelham:

Letter from General J.E.B. Stuart to Dr. Atkinson Pelham

Hd Qrs Cavr Division A. of N.Va.
March 29, 1863

My Dear Sir —
With the deepest grief, I approach a subject which has doubtless brought to your household sorrowful wailing. I refer to the death of your son — my comrade — friend all but brother, — John Pelham who was to me as a younger brother — whose place on my staff — at my fireside — in my Division — but most of all at the head of the corps to which his genius has imparted so much efficiency and fame — the Horse Artillery — is vacant, — and that vacancy sends pangs to my heart that knew him, and in the space elapsed, a nation’s wail is heard from out yon capitol, mourning her lost hero — so noble — so chivalrous — so pure — so beloved.

I know that man’s sympathy is emptiness, to one who has lost as you have, the promise and hope of a noble son — but when I tell you, I loved him as a brother, you will permit me to share with you a grief so sacred, so consoling.

He has won a name immortal on earth, and in heaven he will reap the rewards of a pure and guileless heart. I attended church with him the sabbath preceding his death, and marked his close attention to the Word: often have I seen him reading the Sacred volume, and I doubt not in its Sacred truths the young soldier founded hope of a bright immortality above.

If you would know his military exploits, (and I know he was too modest ever to have informed you) read my official reports since the commence-ment of the war, these are his biography, and had he lived he would have risen to the highest honors in the nation.

Major Pelham lost his life in the battle of Kellysville on the 17th inst in the strict and legitimate discharge of his duty — with no display of rashness and excessive zeal as some have insinuated — but displaying the same coolness and self¬possession for which he had always been distinguished.

I enclose his ring for his mother, it was taken from his finger at the time of his death, and as he has often made allusion to this ring, I am anxious to commit it to her charge.

A tribute to his memory, sent my staff, who loved him dearly, to the Richmond papers will I trust accompany this letter — together with some verse, and General Division orders announcing his death. His remains were sent to you in charge of his cousin and I hope have reached you.

His trunk with its contents just as he left it, his sabre, two servants, and two horses, awaiting your orders as to their disposition.

In conclusion let me beg of you the favor to send over any photograph, or daguerreotype you may have of our dear departed comrade and friend, in order that I may have it copied, to keep as a precious token, to recall in future years his noble face.

I shall be glad to hear from you, and will cheerfully render you any service in my power.

Most Respectfully
and truly yours
J.E.B. Stuart
Major Gen’l