Schooled at West Point Alabamian John Pelham resigned from the academy to side with the South in 1861. During the battle of Fredericksburg on December 13th 1862, the young Major, under the cover of an early morning fog, positioned two cannon far in advance of the Confederate lines on the flank of three Union divisions which were preparing to attack the Confederate position across Slaughter Pen farm. One of Pelham’s guns was destroyed by counter-battery fire after its first shot, but with one lone Napoleon cannon Pelham held up the Union assault for nearly two hours. Robert E. Lee while observing the fight from nearby Prospect Hill remarked “It is glorious to see such courage in one so young”. For the remainder of his short but eventful life he was known by the sobriquet, “the Gallant Pelham”.
Pelham’s Corner today is occupies a busy commercial intersection at modern day Routes 2/17 (Tidewater Trail) and Benchmark Road. It has long been memorialized as the spot where Pelham made his stand that December morning. The Central Virginia Battlefields Trust (CVBT) sought to preserve this site early on but the property owner had intentions of developing the historic crossroads. In 1999 the CVBT purchased two small nearby parcels equating to 0.63 acres that were of negligible importance. The intent was to use them for some future advantage.
Several years passed until one of the area’s largest developers, the Silver Companies, purchased the corner property and initiated the discussion of a land swap with CVBT. In 2007 the Silver Companies transferred title of this historical corner site to the CVBT in exchange for our two tiny lots, and thus by indirect means preserving the Pelham’s Corner site we were most interested in.
More time passed, and by the end of 2015 the CVBT and the Silver Companies had negotiated another preservation success, adding further protection for this historic crossroads. A generous donation from the Silver Companies increased the CVBT’s holdings at Pelham’s Corner from one acre to a total of four and a half acres. The donated property consists of over three and a half acres of valuable, commercially zoned property. Adjacent to our current Pelham’s Corner site this additional area protects over two hundred feet of road frontage on Benchmark Road. The original plan for this parcel prior to our acquisition called for a twenty one hundred square foot multi-tenant commercial building. This property is now protected from any future development, expanding our opportunities for public access and interpretation, and preserving lines of sight towards Prospect Hill and Hamilton’s Crossing. It will be maintained as a key component to the understanding of the Fredericksburg battlefield.
The CVBT is very grateful to the Silver Companies for their willingness to work with us to protect this land so future generations may walk the ground and better understand what occurred on this historic site.