Gregg's scholarly interests included botany, ornithology, and astronomy. In 1847 he was appointed major in Milledge L. Bonham’s regiment of volunteers for the Mexican War, but this unit failed to reach Mexico in time to participate in any major battles. He was a member of the Southern Rights Convention of 1852, and in the late 1850s he advocated reopening the African slave trade.
Soldier. Born in Columbia on August 1, 1814, Gregg was the son of Colonel James Gregg and Cornelia Maxcy. His scholarly interests included botany, ornithology, and astronomy, and he was co-valedictorian of his class when he graduated from South Carolina College in 1836. He read law under his father and was admitted to the bar in 1839. In 1847 he was appointed major in Milledge L. Bonham’s regiment of volunteers for the Mexican War, but this unit failed to reach Mexico in time to participate in any major battles. He was a member of the Southern Rights Convention of 1852, and in the late 1850s he advocated reopening the African slave trade. He was a delegate from the Richland District to the 1860 Secession Convention and assisted in writing the Ordinance of Secession. Soon after, the convention authorized the formation of the First Regiment of South Carolina Volunteers for six months’ service and Gregg was placed in command. Part of this unit was under fire during the bombardment of Fort Sumter, but it took no casualties.
Gregg’s regiment was sent to Richmond and then to Manassas, but its enlistment period expired in early July 1861, just before the Battle of First Manassas (July 21, 1861). Gregg and other officers recruited another “First Regiment,” which he commanded in eastern Virginia until he was promoted in December 1861 to brigadier general. His brigade, consisting of three South Carolina regiments, served initially on the South Carolina coast and then was sent to Virginia, where his old regiment and Orr’s Regiment of Rifles were added. The brigade was heavily involved in the Seven Days’ battles around Richmond, suffering heavy casualties at Gaines Mill (June 27, 1862) and at Frazier’s Farm (June 30, 1862). Gregg’s brigade fought in Stonewall Jackson’s corps at the Second Battle of Manassas (August 29–30, 1862), and at Ox Hill (September 2, 1862) in pursuit of Pope’s army. In the Maryland campaign, Gregg’s brigade participated in the capture of Harper’s Ferry (September 15, 1862) and then made a forced march to Sharpsburg, arriving in the middle of that battle to take a place in the right center of the line, where it joined the fighting that afternoon. After two months of recuperation near Winchester, the brigade participated in the Battle of Fredericksburg (December 13, 1862), where Gregg was mortally wounded while leading his men from a reserve position to close a gap in the Confederate battle line. He died two days later on December 15, 1862. Robert E. Lee wrote to South Carolina Governor Francis Pickens: “The death of such a man is a costly sacrifice, for it is to men of his high integrity and commanding intellect that the country must look to give character to its councils, that she may be respected and honored by all nations.” His remains were returned from Virginia and buried in the cemetery of the First Presbyterian Church, Columbia.
Caldwell, J. F. J. The History of a Brigade of South Carolinians Known first as “Gregg’s” and Subsequently as “McGowan’s Brigade.” Philadelphia: King & Baird, 1866.
Freeman, Douglas Southall. Lee’s Lieutenants: A Study in Command. 3 vols. New York: Scribner’s, 1942–1944.
Krick, Robert K. “Maxcy Gregg: Political Extremist and Confederate General.” Civil War History 19 (winter 1973): 293–313.