“I shall come out of this fight a live major general or a dead brigadier.”

Another installment in the series “Tales from the Tombstone”

Unfortunately, the Confederate officer who made the statement in the title died shortly after making it, pierced by seven bullets when leading a counterattack at the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House on May 12, 1864.

The officer’s name? Abner Monroe Perrin, South Carolinian by birth, hailed from the Edgefield District of the Palmetto State. Although not a West Point graduate, Perrin entered the war with prior military experience, having served as a junior officer in the Mexican-American War.

Brigadier General Abner Monroe Perrin

Brigadier General Abner Monroe Perrin

After the war he returned to his native South Carolina and began the study of law. He spent the inter-war years practicing the bar, after gaining admittance in Columbia, the state capital.

When Civil War erupted, Perrin, 34 years old, signed up for service in the 14th South Carolina and was elected captain. The 14th South Carolina was then grouped with the 1st South Carolina (Provisional), 1st South Carolina Rifles, 12th South Carolina, and 13th South Carolina regiments under the command of Brigadier General Maxcy Gregg.

Under Gregg, Perrin and the 14th South Carolina were part of the famous “Light Division” under the command of General A.P. Hill. With that service, the 14th South Carolina saw action in every major engagement with the Army of Northern Virginia. By February 1863, Perrin had achieved the rank of colonel.

During the great clash at Chancellorsville in April-May 1863, Perrin’s brigade commander, General Samuel McGowan, was wounded. Perrin assumed command, which would last through the rest of active campaigning, including leading the brigade at Gettysburg that summer.

Less than a year after gaining the rank of colonel, Perrin was promoted to brigadier general on September 10, 1863. With McGowan’s return and the promotion of General Cadmus Wilcox to division command, Perrin was transferred to command Wilcox’s old brigade, comprised of Alabama regiments (8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 14th Alabama Regiments).

With the opening of the Overland Campaign, Perrin bravely led his new command in action around the Orange Plank Road, as part of General Richard Anderson’s Division.

After Grant’s flanking movement that led the antagonists to Spotsylvania Court House, Perrin’s Brigade was called in to stem the Union breakthrough at the “Bloody Angle” on May 12th. While on horseback, Perrin reportedly said the above-mentioned quote, which was fitting of his ambitious nature, according to accounts. Shortly thereafter, Perrin was killed. His prophesy came true: he was a dead brigadier.

Perrin’s remains were buried in the Fredericksburg City and Confederate Cemetery of Fredericksburg, Virginia, where they still lie today.

Grave of Brigadier General Abner Perrin in Fredericksburg City and Confederate Cemetery, Virginia

Grave of Brigadier General Abner Perrin in Fredericksburg City and Confederate Cemetery, Virginia

This entry was posted in Armies, Campaigns, Leadership--Confederate, Personalities and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to “I shall come out of this fight a live major general or a dead brigadier.”

  1. Pingback: The Fight for the Mule Shoe-Part 4 | Emerging Civil War

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