Biography of Maj. Gen. Arnold Elzey


Major General Arnold Elzey (1816-1870) of Somerset County was descended from one of Maryland's oldest families. Elzey dropped his original last name, Jones, for that of his paternal grandmother upon his graduation from West Point in 1837. He served with credit during the Seminole uprising in Florida and in the war with Mexico, being twice brevetted for gallant and meritorious action on the field of battle. Following the fall of Fort Sumter, Elzey, a captain of artillery, surrendered his command of the United States arsenal at Augusta, Georgia, to superior forces and conducted his troops to Washington where he resigned his commission.

After entering the Confederate service, Elzey was by June of 1861 promoted to colonel of the First Maryland Regiment and placed in command of a brigade in General Kirby Smith's division. Before the first battle of Manassas, Elzey addressed his young troops from Maryland:

In the hour of battle you will remember that you are Marylanders. Every eye from across the waters of the Potomac which separates you from your homes, is upon you, and all those who are dear to us are watching with anxious, beating hearts, the fleshing of your maiden swords. And they shall not be disappointed, for he had better never been born who proves himself a craven when e grapple with the foeman.

Stirring words, and seemingly not lost on his young troops, with whom he broke and routed the almost victorious army of McDowell. For his gallant actions Elzey was promoted brigadier general and given command of a Virginia brigade, which he led throughout Stonewall Jackson's Valley Campaign and the beginning of the Seven Days' Battle. He was wounded in the leg and had his horse shot out from under him at Port Republic, but bravely pressed on until being seriously wounded at Cold Harbor, a miniť ball striking him just above the mouth and passing out behind his left car.

Following a miraculous recovery, Elzey was promoted major general and in 1863, put in command of the Richmond defenses. In the fall of 1864, he joined General Hood's army of Tennessee as chief of artillery and was active in the operations against Sherman's supply lines. After the war he retired with his wife and son to a small farm in Anne Arundel County. The praise bestowed upon General Elzey is unending: Colonel J. R. Herbert, of Baltimore, called him "a gallant soldier and loved by all who served under him." General Beauregard wrote that he was "brave, zealous and intelligent." Bradley Johnson called him "the soul of chivalry," "a superb soldier, " and "the centre and the soul of our [Maryland troops] patriotic day-dreams."

The above write-up on Gen. Elzey was excerpted with permission of the author from:

Maryland: The South's First Casualty

by Bart Rhett Talbert; Rockbridge Publishing Company, Berryville, VA.

Published 1995.





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