Patrick Henry Nelson
Patrick Henry Nelson was born on
July 26, 1824, near Black River in the Clarendon District, South Carolina, the
son of Samuel E. and Amarintha Carson McCauley Nelson. His early schooling was
at Mount Zion Institute. Nelson graduated with first honors in 1844 from the
College of South Carolina. In 1847 he married Emma Cantey, first cousin of
Confederate General James Cantey. Nelson became a wealthy planter in the Sumter
District, owning 110 slaves at his two plantations, Indigo Hill and Marston. He
was also active before the war in a committee to send southern emigrants to
A major general of the South Carolina militia before the war, after secession Nelson was appointed brigadier general of South Carolina volunteer forces. He commanded the 2nd Brigade of the South Carolina Volunteers on Morris Island during the Fort Sumter bombardment. Nelson was relieved of duty from Morris Island on May 22, 1861.
On February 24, 1862, he was
commissioned major of the 7th ("Enfield") Battalion of the South Carolina
Infantry. He was commissioned lieutenant colonel of that battalion on July 10,
1862. The 7th (considered a crack outfit by the brigade commander) generally
served in garrison duty around Charleston for the next two years. Nelson led his
battalion at Forts Wagner and Johnson in 1863, seeing action at the former, and
also pulled guard duty at Wilmington, North Carolina, in January of that year.
In 1864 Nelson and his battalion were ordered to Petersburg as part of a general
movement of South Carolina ganison troops to aid General Lee. Nelson, "a
gentleman of high culture and fine presence, and an excellent officer," led the
7th at the Battles of Swift Creek and Drewry's Bluff. On July 24, 1864, Hagood's
South Carolina brigade was ordered to assault the extreme right of the Union
lines opposite Petersburg. Colonel Nelson was put in charge of the skirmish line
that was to lead the assault. The attack succeeded in taking the Union
entrenchments but, without support, could advance no further. The 7th was almost
wiped out in the battle. The casualties included Colonel Nelson. He was reported
to have run from the right of his lines to beyond the extreme left, then to have
disappeared, never to be seen again. Brigadier General Johnson Hagood, the
brigade commander, remembered that a "painful rumor reached us a few days
afterward of his having been murdered by negro troops while being taken by the
enemy to the rear.. .. Thus fell a devoted patriot, a gallant soldier, a
Nelson's rank of general in South Carolina's state army qualifies him to be considered a Confederate general.
Reference: More Generals in Gray. Bruce S. Allardice. A companion volume to Generals in Gray. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge. LA.