The Most Promising Man of the South

James Johnston Pettigrew and His Men at Gettysburg

978-1-886661-18-9 Paperback
6 x 9 x 0.02 in
96 pp. 10 B&W Photos; 6 Maps; 1 Appen
Pub Date: 11/01/1998


  • Paperback $12.95
James Johnston Pettigrew was the quintessential southern cavalier. Born into fortunate circumstances, this North Carolinian pursued activities that developed his mind as well as his character. Finishing first in his class at the University of North Carolina, Pettigrew taught, wrote poems, and traveled in Europe, carefully noting in his diary the similarity of the Old South to romantic Spain and Italy. Upon returning home, he became a successful Charleston lawyer, militiaman, and when the time came, an ardent secessionist. The men who worked with Pettigrew, and later knew him as a soldier, admired his boldness and courage, understanding full well that, like a good cavalier, he was ready to die at any moment.

A man of honor, Pettigrew deserved the praise he received during the Gettysburg Campaign of June 1–July 17, 1863, where his talent and character received their greatest test. In vicious combat, he enhanced his reputation. Four times his Tarheels faced Union guns, including the swirling attack at McPherson's Ridge on July 1, and the titanic assault on Cemetery Ridge on July 3, before defending the retreating Confederate army at Falling Waters on July 14. This is the story of one noble Confederate and his men as they participated in the most famous campaign of the struggle for Southern independence.

Clyde Wilson, the editor of the papers of John C. Calhoun and biographer of James Johnson Pettigrew, focuses his attention on the activities of this leader, his command, and their campaign as part of the killing machine that was the Army of Northern Virginia. In fact, Wilson argues that "Pickett's Charge" should be called "Pettigrew's Charge," since the North Carolinian had more to do with the attack than his more famous Virginia counterpart. By following the fortunes of these men, readers will find themselves part of the Confederate invasion of Pennsylvania, its climactic battles, its dashed hopes, and its heartbreaking retreat.

Civil War Campaigns and Commanders Series

Published by State House Press