Skip to main content

Our History: Featured Alumni: Paxton, Elisha F., 1849

Over the decades our graduates have developed distinguished careers as justices, congressmen, ambassadors, educators, businessmen and women, and community leaders in many fields. This site features some of those late graduates.

Arthur J. Morris Law Library

Law Library Home

Featured Alumni

by Final Year at UVA Law

arrow1800s

arrow1900s

arrow2000s

by Name

Elisha Franklin Paxton

Brigadier General, Confederate Army

Elisha Paxton was born in Rockbridge County, Virginia on March 4, 1828. In 1845 he attended Washington College in Lexington, Virginia, and in 1847 he entered Yale University. Paxton then attended the University of Virginia Law Department in 1849, graduating at the top of his class. Paxton then settled in Virginia as a lawyer, as well as becoming a bank president in Lexington. He later worked as a planter and then moved to Ohio, where he also practiced law by prosecuting land claims.

At the start of the Civil War in 1861, Paxton chose to follow his home state and the Confederacy. Despite a lack of any military training, Paxton entered the Confederate Army on April 18 as a first lieutenant of the Rockbridge Rifles, part of Col. James F. Preston's 4th Virginia Infantry Regiment. The 4th Virginia fought on July 21 during the First Battle of Bull Run (First Manassas) in Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Jackson's First Brigade of the Army of the Shenandoah, soon to be known as the Stonewall Brigade. Paxton was wounded in an arm during this battle. On May 30, 1862, Paxton was appointed aide-de-camp to Jackson's staff, and participated in the Valley Campaign of the Shenandoah Valley and the Seven Days Battles, both in Virginia.

By August 4, 1862, Paxton was made Jackson's assistant quartermaster, and fought in the Northern Virginia Campaign. Paxton was appointed assistant adjutant general (chief of staff) on Jackson's staff on August 15, and took part in the Second Battle of Bull Run on August 28–30, and then in the Maryland Campaign and the Battle of Antietam on September 17. On November 1, 1862, Paxton was promoted from major to brigadier general and assigned command of the Stonewall Brigade, as the selection of Jackson and Jefferson Davis. During the Battle of Fredericksburg on December 13, Paxton and his brigade drove off an attack by Union Maj. Gen. George Meade. At the Battle of Chancellorsville, the brigade was part Jackson's audacious flanking movement around Union Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker's army.

On May 3, 1863 Paxton led his men through densely wooded terrain towards the Union position. He was on foot at the head of his brigade when he was shot through his chest, killing him within an hour. Paxton was initially buried at Guinea Station, Virginia, a short distance from where Jackson lay dying. He was later brought back to Lexington, and was re-buried there in Stonewall Jackson Cemetery, within a few feet of his former commander.

Paxton’s Wartime Letters in UNC-Chapel Hill Library

previous next