Free lecture tells of Maxcy Gregg, doomed champion of secessionist cause

Maxcy Gregg in uniform

COLUMBIA, S.C. – To most Columbians today, “Maxcy Gregg” refers to a city park with a public swimming pool. The average resident would be hard-pressed to tell you where the name comes from.

But in 1862, Maxcy Gregg was to South Carolina what Stonewall Jackson was to the Confederacy overall – a leading light of the secessionist cause, snuffed out by an untimely bullet, dimming the hopes of those who wanted to see the Union divided permanently.

On Friday, June 29, at the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum, Curator of Education Joe Long will introduce the original Maxcy Gregg to a modern audience. The noon lecture, part of the museum’s Lunch and Learn series, is free and open to the public.

Gregg was not a man who did things halfway, and is known to historians as one of the “Fire-Eaters” who pushed hardest for the split that led to the Civil War.

A Gamecock from birth, he was the grandson of Jonathan Maxcy, first president of South Carolina College, now the University of South Carolina. (The Maxcy Monument at the center of the Horseshoe is named for the grandfather.) He grew up on Senate Street in sight of the campus. The student whom Wade Hampton would call “the smartest young man in the state” refused to accept his diploma when the faculty would not choose between him and another student for top academic honors.

While in college he came under the influence of nullification advocate Thomas Cooper. Thirty years later, he would proudly put his pro-slavery views into action by signing South Carolina’s Ordinance of Secession. Immediately after, the Mexican War veteran became the first colonel of a regiment formed to defend Charleston.

He served with distinction at Second Manassas, and was wounded at Antietam. He was a brigadier general by the battle of Fredericksburg in 1862, at which he was shot in the spine. Knowing his wound to be mortal, he sent a message home: " I yield my life cheerfully for the independence of South Carolina.”

On his deathbed, he gave his watch to William Rose – a slave owned by another man, who was leased by Gregg as his personal servant. Rose brought Gregg’s body back to South Carolina. The watch is now on display at the museum.

About the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum

Founded in 1896, the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum is an accredited museum focusing on South Carolina’s distinguished martial tradition through the Revolutionary War, Mexican War, Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, the War on Terror, and other American conflicts. It serves as the state’s military history museum by collecting, preserving, and exhibiting South Carolina’s military heritage from the colonial era to the present, and by providing superior educational experiences and programming. It is located at 301 Gervais St. in Columbia, sharing the Columbia Mills building with the State Museum. For more information, go to https://crr.sc.gov/.


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