Hummel Column: Stonewall, Rough and Ready, Blood and Guts
In reading about the Civil War this week, the name Stonewall Jackson kept coming up. I wondered how a guy could get a nickname like Stonewall. His given name was Thomas Jonathan Jackson. Jackson was orphaned at an early age and received only sketchy schooling in country schools. But he studied hard and earned an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy. Because of his inadequate schooling, he started slowly at West Point. But his grades kept climbing and he graduated in the top third of his class. The story was, that if Jackson had had one more year he would have ranked first.
Jackson met Robert E. Lee in the Mexican war and rose to the temporary rank of major in less than a year. Later in the Civil War, he was one of the best officers to serve under Lee. In the first Battle of Bull Run, Jackson's brigade formed a strong line and held its ground in the face of overwhelming odds. Another Confederate General saw Jackson's line and shouted, "There is Jackson, standing like a stone wall." Forever after he was Stonewall Jackson and his brigade was known as the Stonewall Brigade. Unfortunately, Jackson went out ahead of his line one night to scout, was mistaken by one of his own men as a Union soldier and was shot. He died eight days later and Lee was never able to find his equal.
Before Stonewall became Stonewall, there was Zachary Taylor who was a general in the Mexican war. Taylor was given command of American troops on the Rio Grande River. In the Battle of Buena Vista in 1847, Taylor had only 6,000 men as half his army had been reassigned to another war zone. Mexican General Santa Anna learned of Taylor's small army, many of whom were not regular army soldiers, and attacked him with 20,000 men at Buena Vista. Taylor's army inflicted 1,800 casualties while suffering only 672 and chased Santa Anna's army from the field of battle. Buena Vista turned Taylor into a hero. The press loved him. Stories were told that he fought with an old straw hat on his head and casually sat on his horse during battle and he became known as "Old Rough and Ready." A war hero with a name like that could get elected president. And though he had never before held an elective office, Taylor was elected president in 1848.
Fast forward to World War II. George Patton was one of the most colorful and dramatic American generals in the war. He was outspoken in his comments in military and political affairs. In 1943, while inspecting army hospitals, he slapped two soldiers who were suffering battle neurosis. One also had malaria. Patton thought the soldiers were faking. General Eisenhower forced him to apologize. Before that incident, he led the U.S. Seventh Army in the invasion of Sicily. The island was taken in 39 days. Later, after D-Day, he led the Third Army across France at amazing speed, then fought in the Battle of the Bulge, then across southern Germany into Czechoslovakia and Austria. When the war ended, Patton's army held a big chunk of what became the American occupation zone. Patton won high praise and heavy criticism in his career. His toughness and rough talk earned him the nickname "Old Blood and Guts."
The generals get the glory and the nicknames, but the foot soldiers shed the blood, sweat and tears. We've had thousands and thousands of Stonewalls, Rough and Ready's and Blood and Guts' guys fighting to keep our country free. They are the real heros. Many never returned. Some came back without arms or legs. Many have been tortured with damaged minds and fractured emotions. We remembered them on Memorial Day and we should remember them every day. In my family, I remember Jim, Carlisle and Bob. And you remember some from your family too.
We say Peace on Earth every year at holiday time, but we rarely experience it. What a glorious day it would be if we ran out of veterans eligible for the Veteran's of Foreign Wars and the nicknames we hear and honor are names like Biff, Buzz, Punky and Puddin'.