(From the Confederate Military History)
Brigadier-General James Johnston Pettigrew was born on the shores of Lake Scuppernong, in Tyrrell county, N. C., July 4, 1828, at "Bonarva," the home of his father, Ebenezer Pettigrew, representative in Congress. The family was founded in America by James, youngest son of James Pettigrew, an officer of King William's army, rewarded by a grant of land for gallantry at the battle of the Boyne. Charles, son of the founder, was chosen the first bishop of North Carolina. Young Pettigrew was graduated at the State university in 1847, with such distinction that President Polk, who attended the commencement, accompanied by Commodore Maury, offered the young student one of the assistant professor ships in the observatory at Washington. He held this position until 1848, when he began study for the profession of law, which he completed under his distinguished relative, James L. Pettigrew, of South Carolina. After traveling in Europe two years he entered upon the practice of his profession at Charleston, and in 1856 was elected to the South Carolina legislature. In 1859 he again visited Europe and sought to enter the Sardinian service during the Italian war, but was prevented by the early close of that struggle. Returning, he took an active part in the military organization of Charleston, and became colonel of the First regiment of rifles of that city. During the early operations in Charleston harbor, he was in command at Castle Pinckney, and later on Morris island. On account of some disagreement about the admission of his regiment to the Confederate service, he went to Richmond and enlisted in the Hampton legion, but in May, 1861, received a commission as colonel of the Twenty-second North Carolina infantry. With this regiment he was engaged in constructing and guarding batteries at Evansport, on the Potomac, until the spring of 1862. He was then, without solicitation and over his objections, promoted brigadier-general, and assigned to a brigade which he led to the peninsula. At the battle of Seven Pines, July 1st, in which his brigade lost heavily, he was severely wounded in the shoulder, and while lying unconscious on the field was captured. He was confined as a prisoner two months, during which he asked that his rank might be reduced so that he could be more easily exchanged. But without this sacrifice he returned to the service,and while yet an invalid was assigned to command at Petersburg, and a new brigade of North Carolinians was formed for him. He operated with much skill and gallantry in North Carolina in the fall of 1862 and spring of 1863, defended Richmond against Stoneman's raid, and then accompanied Lee to Pennsylvania, his brigade forming a part of Heth's division, A. P. Hill's corps. The conduct of his men on the first day of the battle of Gettysburg was magnificent, and their loss was terrible. General Heth being wounded, Pettigrew took command of the shattered division, and on the third day led it in the immortal charge against the Federal position on Cemetery hill. A remnant of his brave men gained the Federal lines, but were crushed back by sheer weight of lead and iron. At Gettysburg his brigade suffered the greatest loss in killed and wounded of any brigade in the army, over 1,100 out of a total of 3,000. Though painfully wounded in the hand, Pettigrew kept the field, and was on duty during the painful retreat which followed. On the morning of July 14th, Heth's division reached the Potomac at Falling Waters, and while Pettigrew was receiving orders from Heth to remain there in command of the rear guard, a body of about forty Federal cavalrymen, who had been allowed to approach under the error that they were Confederates, dashed recklessly into the Confederate troops, demanding surrender. General Pettigrew's horse took fright and threw him to the ground. Rising he drew his pistol, and was about to take part in the skirmish, when he was shot and mortally wounded. He was borne tenderly across the river and to a hospitable home at Bunker Hill, Va., where he yielded his life with Christian resignation, July 17, 1863.
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