A Clash of Confederate Personalities at Gettysburg

The Battle of Gettysburg was fought on July 1-3, 1863. Union forces defeated the Confederate States Army in a battle that has been called “the high water mark for North America.”

The “bull run battle” is an important battle that took place at Gettysburg. It was a clash of Confederate personalities and the Union Army.

During the march to Gettysburg, a personality conflict between ardent Rebel leaders erupts.

A-Clash-of-Confederate-Personalities-at-Gettysburg

George V. Moody, who stood around 6 feet tall and had blue eyes and a “big powerful face,” always made an impact, whether in court or in combat. A previous commander likened his “carriage and overall look” to that of Robert E. Lee. Eric D. Rivenbark (Eric D. Rivenbark)

George Vernon Moody, a 26-year-old Maine native, earned his law degree from Harvard University in 1842. With his bachelor’s degree in hand, he moved to Port Gibson, Miss., to join his younger brother, a prosperous druggist in the Mississippi River town. The older Moody obtained office space across from the Claiborne County Courthouse and built a reputation as a strong presence in the courtroom over the next nearly two decades—fierce conduct that prompted six residents to try assassination at one time. Moody was pursued into town and managed to elude their shotgun blasts by speeding past numerous small shops and churches that dotted Port Gibson’s beautiful roads.

When Mississippi and adjacent Louisiana seceded from the Union in January 1861, the 45-year-old Moody decided to try his hand as a soldier, forming an infantry battalion from Port Gibson and parishes on the Louisiana side of the river. Many of the men who enlisted were Irish immigrants who were given a bonus for joining as well as a monthly stipend.

The unit was enlisted into Confederate service after being formed and riding a lengthy, winding rail journey to Lynchburg, Virginia. On August 23, Moody’s regiment was moved to the artillery and given the designation Madison (La.) Light Tipperarys Battery in honor of the men’s Irish ancestors. The “Light Tips,” as they were known, started training with two 12-pounder howitzers, two 3-inch rifles, and two 6-pounder smoothbores after being transferred to the state fairgrounds in Richmond to finish their formation.

Captain Pichegru Woolfolk Jr., a 6-foot-tall, dark-haired 30-year-old who was already recognized as an excellent drillmaster, started recruiting a company of soldiers in May 1861 not far away in Hanover and neighboring Virginia counties. Woolfolk was described as “jolly, carefree, friendly, social, and constantly fond of a joke,” but his young energy was obviously countered by other traits. He was both “fearless in the face of danger” and “high-strung.” The skipper also seemed to be picky about who he recruited to his team. “I tride to join[,] but they told me I was too tiny and too young,” one guy would write.

Woolfolk maintained his recruitment efforts until the end of the year, lacking the necessary number of soldiers for his regiment, which was renamed the Ashland Light Artillery in July. He would not only provide a reward, but he would also take each guy to a tailor to get fitted for his outfit. By September, the battery had enough men, but it was still underequipped, missing small weapons and harnesses, and in need of additional general training. 

The firearms training lasted six weeks. Woolfolk’s regiment was sent to Manassas Junction in February 1862, a 75-mile journey that took ten days due to mud-caked roads. “Well, it rained a lot in Virginia at that time,” a gunner remembered, “and we [saw] muck worse than any Nebraska mud you ever seen.” Getting nourishment for the soldiers and horses was almost difficult (Sometimes we had to cut down trees about 6 inch through and put them across the mud places so as to get through with the Cannon). We stayed two or three weeks at Manassas.”

Posted near the Dunker Church at Antietam, gunners in Colonel Stephen D. Lee’s Battalion, which included both Moody’s and Woolfolk’s batteries, unload on approaching Federals. (Mark Maritato/Bridgeman Images)

Gunners of Colonel Stephen D. Lee’s Battalion, which comprised both Moody’s and Woolfolk’s batteries, unload on advancing Federals near the Dunker Church at Antietam. (Bridgeman Images/Mark Maritato)

(Bridgeman Images/Mark Maritato)

Moody set off on a 30-day trip to Louisiana and Mississippi on January 13, 1862, to recruit additional men for the Light Tips, who had been stationed at Manassas since October 1861. Because the war was still young, Moody’s task would be relatively simple, with promises of a $50 reward attracting prospective volunteers. Moody returned to Virginia in mid-February with 99 officers and soldiers who had joined up for the duration of the war.

With the arrival of winter, troops in northern Virginia started building tiny log houses with fires. The Louisianans had a particularly difficult time adjusting to the cooler weather, and each battery’s horse contingent also suffered as a result of facing the elements outside. Local farmers would sometimes visit the camps to sell their wares to the troops, giving the men the chance to get into mischief. One Ashland cannoneer said, “One day a guy arrived with a wagon full of cooked Turkeys and chicken, and while he was selling them at the front end of the wagon, the soldiers grabbed them out of the rear end and stole almost half his cargo.”

As the weather warmed up in April, both the Ashland Light Artillery and Moody’s Battery were transferred to Major John J. Garnett’s Artillery Battalion under Maj. Gen. John Bankhead Magruder’s command to defend Yorktown, Va. This was most likely the two captains’ first time serving in close quarters. During the Seven Days Battles in the summer of 1862, both battalions experienced their first serious combat. “Sometimes we would go up atop the Breast works and the enemy would fire at us, we could see the smoke of their guns before the balls and rounds reached us and jump down behind the works,” one Ashland gunner said. The balls would sometimes hit the works and coat us all in dirt. [T]here was the first time I saw a balloon go up in the army, it was sent up to see what we were doing, so we got to work and dug a hole in the ground and let the hind end of the Cannon down, got the right elevation, and began firing at them, and they soon pulled it down, they had a rope on it so it wouldn’t get away.”

Gray in Crimson

Harvard University, founded in 1636, is the country’s oldest institution of higher learning. On the deadliest day of the war, September 17, 1862, two Harvard graduates, Confederate Captain George Vernon Moody (Harvard Law School) and Lieutenant William Elliott (Harvard College), were fighting side by side in a field outside Sharpsburg, Maryland. Neither man intended to turn their Harvard degrees into military careers fighting for a fledgling country when they graduated. Despite this, they were commanding batteries of Colonel S.D. Lee’s Battalion at the Battle of Antietam near the Hagerstown Pike. The Confederate Army was able to enlist the help of 357 past, current, and prospective Harvard students. Given the school’s position in the heart of Massachusetts, it’s hardly surprise that 78 percent of Harvard students supported the Union. Two men, William Henry Fitzhugh “Rooney” Lee (son of Robert E. Lee) and John Sappington Marmaduke, rose to the rank of major general among those who wore the gray. Stephen Elliott Jr., Martin Witherspoon Gary, Henry Watkins Allen, John Bullock Clark Jr., John Echols, States Rights Gist, Benjamin Hardin Helm, Albert Gallatin Jenkins, Bradley Tyler Johnson, Alexander Robert Lawton, William Preston, William Booth Taliaferro, and John Rogers Cooke are among the thirteen former students who became brigadier generals. Allen would become the Confederacy’s wartime governor of Louisiana, while Lawton would be named the Confederacy’s quartermaster general.

A-Clash-of-Confederate-Personalities-at-Gettysburg

The Harvard men in gray’s courage was never in doubt. 55 of the 71 graduates who died in combat during the war were killed or severely wounded. Two additional graduates, Samuel Breck Parkman and Jesse Reed, were killed in other parts of the battlefield while Moody and Elliott were fighting along the Hagerstown Pike. Elliott found himself in a “hard struggle” from morning to evening on September 18, as the two forces positioned themselves and prepared for a potential resumption of intense action the day after the major battle, receiving commendation from his commander for “distinguished bravery.” Later, when fighting in the Western Theater, he made a gallant effort at Champion Hill, Miss., on May 16, 1863, by collecting the 34th Georgia Infantry’s fallen colors and bringing them forward. During the Siege of Vicksburg that followed, Elliott used his artillery limber to throw Parrott rounds like grenades, causing the Federals to withdraw from a trench they had seized. Elliott was severely wounded in the left leg at the Battle of Bentonville, N.C., in March 1865, and his service was cut short. Crimson lads in Confederate gray served in all three theaters, enrolling from as young as 16 years old (Elias Levy Yulee) to as elderly as 57 years old (Elias Levy Yulee) (Julius L. Brown and William Hyslop Sumner Burgwyn). —R.H.H.

During the Seven Days, Major Garnett praised the batteries, which were both assigned to Brig. Gen. Robert Toombs’ Brigade. “Captain Woolfolk was released from duty with General Toombs’ brigade on Monday, July 30, and was only engaged on Friday, [the] 27th, when he behaved extremely nicely and his battery performed good service,” according to Garnett. On June 27, Moody’s Battery supported Captain James J. Brown’s Wise (Va.) Artillery at Garnett’s Farm. When the Light Tips began fire, they were met by an enfilading Federal battery on the right, as well as the two in front of them. The battle lasted two hours, but Moody, who was in such a dangerous situation, eventually withdrew with very minor casualties.

The army’s acting head of artillery, Colonel Stephen D. Lee, praised Moody’s service. He recounted, “On June 27, Moody’s and Brown’s batteries attacked the enemy’s fortifications.” “I highlight the aforementioned batteries in particular since they were all under severe artillery bombardment. Except for Brown, none of the captains had their full batteries; they fought with their rifle[d guns] section. Officers and soldiers conducted themselves admirably.”

Pichegru’s brother, Lieutenant James Woolfolk, wrote in an after-action report on July 11 that his battery had performed well on picket duty at “Mrs. Price’s property.” “I should want another battery or Woolfolk’s replaced with stronger weapons, so I could regard that battery as one of my backup batteries,” Lee grumbled. Shelling from four enemy guns on the Chickahominy River’s north side was ineffectual and caused little damage.”

On the 28th, Woolfolk’s two rifled pieces were separated and sent along the New Bridge Road with other guns to shell enemy positions at long range. As the Germans broke and fled in every direction, this earned the Ashland gunners much-deserved praise.

Special Orders No. 209 dissolved the Hanover (Va.) Artillery in early October, and part of its equipment and 40 men were transferred to Woolfolk’s command, as did 20 men from the Middlesex (Va.) Artillery—better known as Fleet’s Battery. However, rather than serving in a new command, many soldiers decided to defect. Others were missing due to illness or sought unofficial furloughs. One soldier went so far as to report to the Amherst Artillery on his own initiative. Woolfolk’s attitude may have been one of the reasons why so many soldiers refused to serve under his command.

Despite the fact that both Moody’s and Woolfolk’s batteries were not present during the Second Battle of Manassas in late August, they did see combat on September 17 at Sharpsburg. On September 14, while out searching for fruit with Woolfolk’s Battery stationed at Funkstown, Md., two gunners came upon Robert E. Lee. The soldiers rushed back to their command with haversacks full of peaches when the commander announced that their unit would be deploying shortly.

The following day, Woolfolk’s command was sent to Williamsburg, Maryland, to defend the fords across the Potomac River. Men without shoes had the choice of crossing the river or staying in Virginia to protect the carts. Around 8 a.m., the majority of the artillery unit crossed Antietam Creek. Woolfolk’s Battery, which had at least one 12-pounder gun, and another battery were part of the Confederate line that faced a cornfield from a small elevation. Except for Moody’s company, the whole battalion was moved left on September 16, bivouacking approximately 400 yards in front of the Dunker Church on the Hagerstown Pike.

The soldiers under Moody’s command would be crucial in the forthcoming battle. They had seen combat on the 15th, armed with two 3-inch rifles and two 24-pounder howitzers. The artillery then took up a position near the Dunker Church early on September 17th. Colonel Lee ordered Moody to move 300 yards into a plowed field with two of his guns, where he provided “good service” for 15 minutes although “exposed to a very galling infantry fire.”

Moody was sent to a neighboring hill about 10 a.m., where he rapidly reloaded his cannons and resupplied his ammo before advancing alongside the famous Washington Artillery of New Orleans in front of Sharpsburg. Moody’s battery was stationed on the right, where they “did excellent duty” with their fellow Louisiana artillerists, repelling “six or eight assaults” by Federal troops to seize “our position.” Later, Colonel Lee praised Moody for his “distinguished bravery.”

West Point-trained artillery commanders E.P. Alexander (left) and S.D. Lee (right) were consummate mentors for Moody. The relentless cannonade Alexander led prior to Pickett’s Charge is perhaps his greatest moment, but his guns also were instrumental in Confederate victories at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. (The Photographic History of the Civil War) E.P. Alexander (left) and S.D. Lee (right), both West Point-trained artillery commanders, were ideal mentors for Moody. Alexander’s cannonade before to Pickett’s Charge is probably his most famous event, but his guns also helped the Confederates win at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. (From the Civil War Photographic Archive)

Brig. Gen. Richard B. Garnett praised Moody for his assistance with his “200 soldiers and two rifled pieces during the Miller Cornfield combat.” Garnett credited “partly owing to the courageous and energetic way in which [Moody’s Battery] was handled” for his infantry’s perilous situation. Moody’s “skill, bravery, and perseverance” were also praised by a South Carolina brigade commander.

By noon, Moody had unlimbered near Brooks’ (S.C.) Artillery, which was led by fellow Harvard graduate William Elliott. The Light Tips and Moody were crucial in keeping the blue columns held down. Colonel Lee rewarded the Light Tips after Sharpsburg by putting them at the front of his marching line on a regular basis.

Moody was one among those pushing for Lt. Col. Edward Porter Alexander, the Army of Northern Virginia’s commander of ordnance, to succeed Lee when he was elevated to brigadier general in November and moved west to command infantry. “A beautiful example of muscular masculinity, over six feet in height and weighing about 200 pounds, with a big powerful face, blue eyes, and no colored hair,” Alexander remembered Moody as. He was usually well-dressed, and I believe he took pleasure in having a carriage and overall look similar to Gen. [Robert E.] Lee’s.”

“He & I were always most excellent friends, but he was not an easy man to get along with generally, & was often in more or less hot water with his brother captains,” Alexander observed, adding, “He & I were always most excellent friends, but he was not an easy man to get along with generally, & was often in more or less hot water with his brother captains.”

Alexander was absolutely correct in his assessment. The artillery of Moody and Woolfolk performed well at Fredericksburg in December 1862 and Chancellorsville in May 1863, but tensions between the two commanders grew. “Various small incidents between Moody and Capt. Woolfolk had ignited feeling,” Alexander recounted during the march into Pennsylvania in June 1863. “Some issue, of precedence in the march led to a challenge from Moody to Woolfolk on July 1 at Fairfield outside Gettysburg,” Alexander speculated a few days before the Battle of Gettysburg. Woolfolk agreed to the conditions and chose to fight Moody with rifles at 10 paces the next day. However, orders to go to Gettysburg arrived later that evening. The planned brawl would have to be postponed until the conflict was over.

During the fight, both batteries performed well, but destiny intervened to put the personal feud on hold for the time being. To avoid a recurrence of their honorable feud, Woolfolk was severely wounded on July 2 and Moody was arrested at a later date.

During the intense combat near the Peach Orchard on July 2, the Light Tips utilized a technique they had used against enemy balloons during the Seven Days against enemy balloons. Their shots arched when fired because they lowered their weapons’ tracks into holes in the ground to raise the barrels. The Union troops below were further wounded by debris from their bursting rounds.

Thunderstorms hindered the Confederate withdrawal from Gettysburg during the night of July 3, 1863. In the midst of the chaos, Moody’s Battery left their flag behind (shown above). Private Newton McCan of the 2nd US Cavalry discovered the abandoned guidon while scouring the area. The flag was given to the State of Illinois on July 4, 1885, and stayed there until 2009, when it was restored to Louisiana.

After the war, Moody returned to Port Gibson, only to be murdered in 1866 when a personal adversary seeking vengeance fired 16 buckshot into his back as he sat at his desk. Woolfolk would likewise die tragically four years later. He was one of many people murdered when the top floor of the Virginia Capitol fell as he was attending a trial. 

The Civil War Round Table of Central Louisiana is led by Richard H. Holloway.

Watch This Video-

Frequently Asked Questions

What Confederate units fought at Gettysburg?

A: The Confederate forces that fought at Gettysburg were mainly from Georgia and the Carolinas.

Which of the following Confederate officers was seriously wounded at Gettysburg?

A: Robert C.

Why did the Confederates lose the battle of Gettysburg?

A: The Confederates were defeated by the Union army because they underestimated their enemys tactics. They did not give enough thought to how maneuverable and tactful the Union was compared to them, which allowed for a crushing defeat on the battlefield.

  • battle of gettysburg date
  • second battle of bull run
  • confederate soldiers
You May Also Like