Stephen Elliott

Beez Neez
Skipper and First Mate Millard (Big Bear and Pepe)
Thu 12 Jan 2012 23:57
The Rise and Fall of Stephen Elliott

 

 

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We went for a stroll in the afternoon sun along the river bank. Across the road from Lady Island Bridge I saw something to delight Big Bear and his trigger finger. The marker is a dedication to Brigadier General Stephen Elliott, a job later to look him up.

 

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Bear with the two finger approach, the Chapter house behind him. In silhouette with Lady Island Bridge behind.

 

 

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The Chapter house, 607 Bay Street,  is on the market for $1,395,000 – one would say in need of some TLC 

 

Stephen Elliott Junior was born on the 26th of October 1830 here in Beaufort SC. He was the eldest son of Reverend Stephen Elliott and Ann Hutson Habersham. His father owned a large a large plantation and preached to the black people of the area.

After studying at Harvard College for a time, he graduated from South Carolina College in 1850 and became a planter on Parris Island SC. He also served in the South Carolina legislature, was the militia captain of the Beaufort Volunteer Artillery, he was also known as a skilled yachtsman and an able fisherman. In 1854, he married Charlotte Stuart.

 

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American Civil War: Elliott served in the Confederate States Army (or in my eyes the baddies) within South Carolina from the beginning of the Civil War in 1861 until the spring of 1864, advancing from captain to colonel. In order to participate in the bombardment of Fort Sumter, he attached himself to a unit in Charleston. Elliott started his official Confederate Army service as a captain in the 11th South Carolina Volunteer Infantry Regiment and took part in the defense of Port Royal. He was wounded in the leg during an engagement at Fort Beauregard on the 7th of November 1861. In August 1862, he was appointed Chief of Artillery for the 3rd military district of South Carolina. He raided targets after the Union Army captured the South Carolina coastal islands, including attacks with torpedoes. On the 9th of April 1863, his troops sank the steamer George Washington. In 1863, he became major and then lieutenant colonel of artillery. For a time in late 1863, he commanded the Confederate force at Fort Sumter, where he received a head wound during the bombardment of Charleston by Union forces on the 11th of December 1863.

 

In the spring of 1864, Elliott was in command of Holcombe's Legion. At that time, he was ordered to take his regiment to Petersburg, Virginia. He took command of Brigadier General Nathan G. Evans’ old brigade in the Army of Northern Virginia. He was in command at the Battle of the Wilderness. On the 24th of  May 1864, Elliott was promoted to brigadier general. On the 16th of June 1864, Elliott's brigade counterattacked after a Union Army assault took some advanced Confederate trenches in the Petersburg defenses, establishing a salient in the Confederate line.

 

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The Battle of the Crater: was part of the Siege of Petersburg. It took place on the 30th of July 1864, between the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, commanded by General Robert E. Lee and the Union Army of the Potomac, commanded by Major General George G. Meade (under the direct supervision of the general-in-chief, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant). After weeks of preparation, the Federals exploded a mine in Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside’s IX Corps sector, blowing a gap in the Confederate defenses of Petersburg. From this propitious beginning, everything deteriorated rapidly for the Union attackers. Unit after unit charged into and around the crater, where soldiers milled in confusion. Grant considered the assault "the saddest affair I have witnessed in the war." The Confederates quickly recovered and launched several counterattacks led by Brig. Gen. William Mahone. The breach was sealed off, and the Federals were repulsed with severe casualties. Brig.Gen. Edward Ferrero’s division of black soldiers was badly mauled. This may have been Grant's best chance to end the Siege of Petersburg. Instead, the soldiers settled in for another eight months of trench warfare. Burnside was relieved of command for his role in the debacle. Union casualties were 3,798 (504 killed, 1,881 wounded, 1,413 missing or captured), Confederate 1,491 (361 killed, 727 wounded, 403 missing or captured).

 

On that day Elliott's brigade had been defending the Confederate line at Elliott's Salient. When the mine exploded, Elliott was asleep nearby in a "bombproof", he awoke to find destruction and chaos all around him and none of his men. Off he went to find his remaining men and organise a counterattack. He found two of his regiments mainly intact and led them forward, positioning them to defend, however, impatience made him jump on the parapet to lead his men in attack. He was seriously wounded in the chest and left arm. During the battle Elliott's brigade suffered seven hundred killed or wounded in the explosion and ensuing battle.

 

Many months later with wounds not healed properly, Elliott joined General Joseph E. Johnston’s Army of Tennessee in North Carolina, where he led a brigade of former Charleston defenders and largely untested soldiers. From the 2nd of January to March 1865, the brigade was in Taliaffero's division of Hardee's corps. For the few remaining weeks of the war, the brigade was in Anderson's division of Stewart's corps.

 

At the Battle of Bentonville on the 19th of March 1865, Elliott ordered his brigade to charge the Union left flank his line overlapped. The brigade's success did not last as they were broken and sent into retreat after they charged the strong Union main line supported by artillery. Elliott tried to reform his brigade for another assault, despite a piece of shrapnel sticking out of his leg. In the event, Confederate commanders saw that the brigade was too shaken to make another attack and they were ordered simply to kneel or lie down and hold their ground. Elliott was injured yet again and was sent home to convalesce, Johnston’s army surrendered at Bennett Place near Durham Station, North Carolina. Elliott received a special Executive pardon at the request of Union General Quincy Gillmore, commanding at Hilton Head Island near Elliott's hut.

 

 

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Aftermath: After the Civil War, Elliott found that his plantation property had been seized for nonpayment of taxes and distributed to his former slaves; who treated him well on his return, but made it clear that the land no longer belonged to him. He set up home in Charleston in a former fishing hut on the seashore and began to make a living as a fisherman. He was again elected to the South Carolina legislature, however, his debilitating wounds and exposure caused his death before he could take office on the 21st of February 1866. He was buried in St. Helena's Episcopal Churchyard here in Beaufort.

In my eyes not the greatest of heroes but at least his memorial cannon keeps Bear’s trigger finger happy for now - until I find the next one - probably in St Augustine.

 

We go on a gentle bimble with nothing or nowhere special in mind and are constantly amazed how events, markers and museums become a spiders web of overlap – Fort Sumter, various battles and “heroes” crop up along our journey and always raise lots of interest, research and of course blogs.

 

 

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ALL IN ALL WE NEVER KNOW WHAT OR WHO IS NEXT