August 10, 1814 – July 13, 1881
John C. Pemberton was born to an old and influential Quaker family in Philadelphia in 1814 and graduated from West Point in 1837 at the age of 23. He was a career soldier in the U.S. Army until the Civil War, having served on the frontier, in the Seminole War, and in the Mexican War — where he earned two brevets for bravery and meritorious service. In spite of his Northern birth, Pemberton always espoused states-rights sentiments, married a lady from Virginia, and resigned his commission on April 24, 1861, to offer his services to the Confedrate government. Two of his brothers served in the Union army.
In February 1862 Pemberton by this time a Confederate general, replaced Gen. Robert E. Lee as commander of the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. Pemberton was an ardent Confederate, but Southerners were suspicious of him because of his Northern birth. President Jefferson Davis had faith in Pemberton’s loyalty and abilities, however, and in October 1862 gave him command of the Mississippi River defenses of Vicksburg and Port Hudson — the two Rebel fortresses that prevented Union control of the great river. In spite of a heroic and tenacious defense, Vicksburg finally fell to Union forces commanded by Gen. Ulysses S. Grant on July 4, 1863. Pemberton, because of his Northern origins, was critized and even accused of treason by many in the South for the loss of Vicksburg and the capture of 29,000 Rebel soldiers.
When Pemberton was finally exchanged in May 1864, he was no longer accepted by the soldiers or the people of the South, and no assignment could be found for his high rank. So Pemberton resigned his commission as lieutenant general and then offered his services as a private. Davis recommissioned him a lieutenant colonel and assigned him to the defenses of Richmond, where he served for the last nine months of the war.
After the war, Pemberton retired to a Virginia farm until 1876, when he moved back to Pennsylvania. he died there in 1881.
Fascinating Fact: Pemberton was received as a war hero in Philadelphia after the Mexican War and was presented with a sword by the citizens of the city.