Major General Arnold Elzey - by Edward A. Pollard

Confederate General Arnold Elzey        Arnold Elzey was born in 1816, in Somerset county, Maryland. He graduated at West Point, in 1837, at the early age of twenty, and was assigned to the Second Regiment of Artillery. He served in this regiment and in the line (never being on staff duty) until he resigned from the United States army, in 1861, to offer his services to the Southern Confederacy. In the first Florida war he bore a gallant and conspicuous part, as also in the campaigns of Mexico. He was at the siege of Fort Brown (the initiation of hostilities), and himself fired the first gun discharged in the Mexican War. He served with distinction through the entire struggle, and was brevetted captain for gallant and meritorious conduct in the battles of Contreras and Cherubusco. At the commencement of hostilities between the North and South, Capt. Elzey was in command of the Augusta (Georgia) arsenal, which was garrisoned by one company. He surrendered to the State of Georgia, and by this act incurred the displeasure of the Washington authorities, and was banished to Fortress Monroe. While at the Fortress, he tendered his resignation to the Government, and asked for leave of absence, which was refused.

        He then made his escape to Baltimore, immediately after the secession of Virginia, and offered his services to his native State. Procrastination in the action of Maryland through her Governor, made it necessary for him to leave the State. He went directly to Montgomery, was commissioned by President Davis, and sent to Virginia, where he was assigned to the command of the 1st Maryland regiment of infantry, then being organized. After the evacuation of Harper's Ferry, this regiment, together with the 10th Virginia (commanded by Col. Gibbons, —killed at McDowell), the 13th Virginia (Col. and afterwards Lieut.-Gen. A. P. Hill), the 3d Tennessee, (Col., afterwards Brig.-Gen. Vaughn), and the Newtown Battery, were organized as the Fourth Brigade of the Army of the Shenandoah, and Col. Elzey as senior officer was put in command; leaving the immediate command of the 1st Maryland regiment to Lieut. Col. George H. Stewart. This brigade was distinguished at the First Manassas, arriving on the field when the scale of battle had almost turned against the Confederate side. Colonel Elzey received the highest praise for his gallantry, and the skill displayed by him on this occasion in handling his troops, and was personally complimented by Gen. Beauregard, who termed him the "Blucher of the Day." Elzey was promoted to the position of Brigadier-General, to date from the memorable 21st July, and his brigade was assigned to duty in the "Reserve Division" of the Army of the Potomac, (Second Corps) then commanded by Gen. E. Kirby Smith, and afterwards by Gen. Ewell. Gen. Smith was very seriously wounded at Manassas, while within a few feet of Elzey; but the latter escaped injury, though exposed to the hottest fire. Elzey's brigade served as rear guard to the army, on the banks of the Rappahannock, after Gen. Johnston had moved the greater part of his command to the Peninsula, and was afterwards with the rest of the "Reserve Division" sent to join Jackson in the Valley.

        Gen. Elzey served through Jackson's celebrated Valley campaign -at Front Royal, Winchester, Bolivar Heights, Strasburg, and Cross Keys, on which last field he was slightly wounded and his horse killed under him. His wound prevented him from joining in the battle of the next day at Port Republic. The position of the Confederate forces at Cross Keys was selected by him, and Gen. Ewell frequently availed himself of Elzey's experience and advice during the engagement. The official reports of Jackson and Ewell will show the high esteem in which he was held of these officers. At Gaines' Mills, on the 27th June, 1862, Elzey's brigade was in the thickest of the fight, and suffered heavy loss. Gen. Elzey was severely wounded by a musket ball through the face and head, and was carried from the field. Captain T. 0. Chestney, his Assistant Adjutant-General, was wounded through the shoulder; Lieut. C. W. McDonald, Acting Inspector, was killed, and Lieut. Fields, who took McDonald's place, was also killed.

        After the recovery of the General, he was promoted Major General, and was assigned to the command of the Department of Richmond which then extended from the James River to the operations of Lee's army on the Potomac. While in command of this department, he organized the "Local Defense Brigade," composed of the government clerks and workmen in Richmond. This force afterwards did good service in repelling raids of the enemy, which were of frequent occurrence, and the safety of Richmond on several occasions was determined by the availability of this command. The capture of Dahlgren; the destruction of a Federal gunboat in James River; the defeat of Stoneman's, Kilpatrick's and Sheridan's attempts on Richmond, at various times, and the repulse of numberless raiding parties of the enemy, served to show the vigilance of Gen. Elzey while holding this important command. Gen. Lee complimented him in writing on the fine appearance and quick movements of his heavy artillery command, when ordered to distant parts of the department, and the entire forces serving in his command were always kept in efficient condition. In the early months of 1864, Gen. Elzey was sent to Staunton to organize the "Maryland Line," and, after accomplishing all that could be done to that end, was transferred to the Army of Tennessee, where he was assigned to the command of all the artillery of Hood's forces. The peculiar organization of this command (attached to separate divisions and brigades) prevented Gen. Elzey from exhibiting his talents, except on one or two occasions in the retreat from Nashville; and the subsequent dissolution of Hood's army left him without a command during the short time that elapsed between that event and the general surrender of the Confederate forces. Like many others of the military leaders of the Confederacy, Gen. Elzey has, since the war, betaken himself to the peculiarly retired life of a farmer, and has exchanged the sword for the implements of industry.

From: Lee and his lieutenants; comprising the early life, public services, and campaigns of General Robert E. Lee and his companions in arms, with a record of their campaigns and heroic deeds, by Edward A. Pollard.

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