Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Personality Spotlight: Maxcy Gregg

Many of those Southerners who cried the loudest for Southern independence, states' rights, and secession were not to be found in the army or on the battlefield when the war started in earnest. The fire-eating planter politicians often put self preservation ahead of military participation.
Maxcy Gregg though was one long-time proponent of secession that ended up giving his life to his cause.

Gregg was born in Columbia, South Carolina on August 1, 1814. He excelled in his studies so much at South Carolina College, a hotbed of states' rights and nullification ideology, that he tied for first in his class but refused to accept his diploma as he was unwilling to share the honor. After college he studied law under his father's supervision, and was admitted to the South Carolina bar in 1839.

Gregg later received a healthy inheritance and used a great deal of it to study classical history and scientific subjects as a hobby. He was especially interested in ornithology and astronomy. Gregg even had a private observatory built to study the constellations. After serving in the Mexican War as a major in the 12th U.S. Infantry (without seeing action), he returned to the Palmetto State and went back into his law.

Gregg was present for the secession vote in Charleston, and when South Carolina seceded from the Union on December 20, 1860, the some-what deaf Gregg was made colonel of the 1st South Carolina Infantry Regiment, which served at Charleston Harbor until Fort Sumter surrendered. Gregg and his men were sent to Virginia, but missed participating in First Manassas. By the spring of 1862, Gregg had been promoted to brigadier general and participated in the Seven Days battles around Richmond. Gregg's brigade was one of Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson's command that received the brunt of the strong Union attacks at Second Manassas. He reported walked up and down his battle line wielding an ancient Revolutionary War sword and exhorting his command, "Let us die here, my men, let us die here."

Gregg's brigade was in the pack of troops that A.P. Hill brought from Harpers Ferry that participated in last part of the Battle of Antietam. In one volley a Yankee bullet hit Gregg in the hip while riding his horse and nearly knocked him off his mount. The bullet only penetrated his pants, and ended up in a handkerchief that was wadded up in his pocket. Gregg was only bruised by the spent ball.

Gregg would not be so fortunate in his next battle; it would be his last. While riding to a threatened spot on the right of the Confederate line at Fredericksburg, Gregg was shot in the side and the bullet went through his back. Gregg lingered at a nearby private residence where he died on the morning of December 15, 1862. Before he passed away, Gregg was visited by the pious Jackson who spoke to the irreligious Gregg about his spiritual life. Gregg's body was taken to his native Columbia to be buried five days later.


  1. I am pretty sure he died December 14, 1864.

  2. Everything I have found says Dec. 15, 1862. See "Maxcy Gregg: Political Extremist and Confederate General" in The Smoothbore Volley that Doomed the Confederacy: The Death of Stonewall Jackson and other Chapters on the Army of Northern Virginia by Robert K. Krick, LSU Press, 2002. p.171

  3. Greg exemplifies the dedication and loyalty of men who correctly recognized the right to succeed, fighting injustice when a larger nation invaded a smaller one.