The official NRA magazines with the ballots for the 2024 Board of Directors election have started to arrive. The Complementary Spouse and I both received ours today.
I would urge you in the strongest possible terms to bullet vote, i.e, only vote for these candidates and no others, for the Four for Reform. While there are a couple of others deserving of your vote, it is essential that these four get elected.
So few of the eligible voters actually vote that every vote for these four is critical.
We don’t know the outcome of the trial in New York and we don’t know what remedies Judge Cohen will impose if the NRA is found guilty. He could dissolve the current board and reduce it in size. He could appoint a special overseer. He could appoint a temporary board of people who are not tainted such as these four. He could do all of these things and that is why support for clean, untainted candidates is so important.
Everyone has heard of Hickok, Earp, Masterson, Tilghman, and others who gained fame as Western peace officers, but not as well known is the name of perhaps the most efficient, most successful, and longest-lived officer of them all, Jeff Davis Milton. He was a fearless officer and a master of firearms whose long and colorful career as a lawman spanned more than half a century in the troubled times of the Southwest.
Milton was born in Sylvania, Florida, November 7, 1861, the son of the Confederate governor of the state, General John Milton. After the end of the Civil War, he grew up on the remnant of the once-proud family estate, then under the thumb of an oppressive carpetbagger government.
At age 15, he moved to Texas, working for a while in a relative’s mercantile store and trying his hand at cowboying in the old Fort Griffin buffalo country. On July 27, 1880, he appeared at the Texas Ranger headquarters in Austin, armed with a couple of letters of recommendation from prominent citizens. By adding three years to his real age, he became the requisite 21 and was sworn in as a Ranger private.
Rangers in those days were required to furnish their own firearms, usually choosing a Colt .45 single action and an 1873 .44 Winchester carbine. The state magnanimously supplied them with 100 cartridges, adding 12 rifle and six revolver cartridges per month, which was considered ample.
Jeff was quite proud of a then-new nickel Colt Frontier model in .44-40 caliber, the same as his rifle. But in its first firing, the cylinder jammed tight and the young Ranger found this happened with every shot, due to the primers flowing back and tying up the firing pin. He promptly swapped it to a gambler for an ornate .45.
The .45 single action was his handgun for the rest of his life, and during most of his later years, he carried a second gun, a cut-down .45 (probably a rare Sheriff’s Model) in a shoulder holster under his shirt. This second gun was destined to get him out of many tight places.
Jeff spent three years in the Rangers, and after thousands of horseback miles, he came to know the sprawling state like the back of his hand. Much of his duty was discharged in the desolate Trans Pecos and Big Bend areas as the Southern Pacific railroad laid new track into El Paso, always with boisterous tent cities of gamblers, outlaws, and soiled doves following the construction work to keep things interesting for a teenage Ranger.
In Mitchell County, a belligerent cowman shot up the town and drew on Milton and two fellow officers when they arrested him. The cowman was shot down, and the three young lawmen were charged with homicide in an atmosphere highly heated by threats from the rancher’s friends.
At the examining trial, the three unarmed defendants were escorted before the Justice of the Peace, each “guarded” by a brother Ranger wearing not one but two revolvers – one convenient to the gun hand of the accused. The would-be lynching party sized up the situation and retreated to the nearest bar for some beer-muttering. After a long, three-year legal process, Milton and his partners were acquitted. During the wait, they continued to serve as Rangers.
But change is a young man’s lifeblood, and Jeff left the service, heading for New Mexico, where he homesteaded a small ranch. His reputation led him to deputy sheriff’s jobs in various counties, as well as to positions as a cattle detective. For a while, he carried a special commission from the governor of New Mexico. His efficiency at rounding up cattle thieves, as well as his mild and friendly manner) except when crossed), gained him many New Mexico friends.
He worked briefly as a deputy to the long-haired mankiller, Commodore Owens, in the mountain settlement of St. Johns, Arizona. This alliance didn’t last long, and in early 1877, he was employed by Collector of Customs Joseph Magoffin of El Paso. His new duties were to ride alone with a packhorse from Nogales across the desert wastes clear to the Gulf of California. His job was to prevent smuggling – one man covering hundreds of miles.
At the time Jeff entered this strenuous service, the almost waterless stretch from El Paso to the Gulf of California was patrolled by a company of only 11 men. And men they had to be, facing the unrelenting desert, catching often-dangerous smugglers, and collecting U.S. Customs duties. Jeff’s guns came into play more than once during his comparatively long tenure with Customs, which ended when political forces caused the discharge of the entire service in 1889.
For a while, Milton reverted to deputy sheriffing, horsetrading, and prospecting. During his Customs patrolling and subsequent batting about southern Arizona, Jeff made lifelong friends among the Papago Indians, friends who more than once aided him with difficult arrests and dangerous passages through the desert.
Horsetrading waned, and Milton recovering from a broken ankle, took up the unlikely position of conductor of a Pullman car on a Southern Pacific run from El Paso to Mexico City. Passengers on this route sometimes were inclined to be a bit rowdy until they discovered the identity of their well-known host, who always carried his sixshooter in his waistband. On one occasion, after being falsely accused of throwing a passenger to his death from the observation platform, Jeff was forced to disguise himself as a Mexican, stash his .45 out of sight, and make his way back to the U.S. incognito.
In the meantime, El Paso had become a wide-open town. It was a railroad town and an anything-goes gambler’s paradise. Booze, bunco, bordellos, and just plain murder and robbery were the order of the day. Distraught city councilmen racked their brains for a lawdog who could cool off the hotbed of their city. They decided on Jeff Milton. To Jeff, whose job of collecting fares was becoming a bit mundane, the idea of being El Paso’s Chief of Police was interesting. He signed on in August 1894. Whether they wanted it or not, El Paso was about to be reformed.
Jeff started by crossing John Selman, the crooked constable and well know outlaw. After some blustering, Selman backed down in fear. With a new local ordinance against gambling behind him, Jeff started a mass transport of gamblers out of El Paso. This system was not without its confrontations, but Jeff’s quick sixhooter stopped trouble before it started.
During this period, the infamous John Wesley Hardin made an appearance. He had only shortly before been released after serving 15 years at the state pen at Huntsville for one of his innumberable murders. Having studied law in the joint, he planned to hang out his barrister’s shingle in the woolly border town.
Jeff met Hardin and his party as they hit town, armed with sixguns and rifles. Milton had prepared for war by leaving several automatic shotguns hidden in strategic places, but they weren’t needed. When the Chief located and informed the stone-faced Hardin that he wouldn’t permit the carrying of arms on the streets of El Paso, there was a brief silence, then the guns were surrendered to the nearest bartender.
El Paso’s affairs got even more peppery with the arrival of Hardin. Hardin was retained by the paramour of Martin M’Rose, a cattle thief hiding across the river in Juarez, to get U.S. charges dropped so the rustler could return to U.S. soil.
During the conduct of this business, Hardin and the M’Rose woman formed a romantic alliance of their own. At this juncture, George Scarborough, a fine officer and cattle detective and an old friend of Jeff’s, came to town. He wanted M’Rose. Several meetings of all parties involved were held in Juarez. On one occasion, Hardin slapped of a M’Rose cohort and had a gun at his breast in the same movement. Jeff Milton was present and grappled with Hardin, saving the rustler’s life.
This affair was ended when Milton and Scarborough, armed with an arrest warrant, persuaded M’Rose to cross to the Texas side of the railroad bridge. Upon seeing the lawmen, he opened fire, and Jeff shot him through the heart. M’Rose fell, rose, and fired. It required a second hit from Scarborough to stop him.
At about this time, in a questionable election, the El Paso reform party was voted out. The new politicos wanted no part of Jeff’s brand of law, and he was dismissed. He left to work as a deputy U.S. Marshal. Shortly after, old John Selman murdered Hardin by shooting him in the back of the head. Somewhat later, George Scarborough killed Selman when the old constable tried to set him up in a murder trap.
Finding the marshal’s job less than lucrative, Jeff hired on as a Wells Fargo express messenger on the Southern Pacific run from Benson, Arizona, to Guaymas, Mexico, many of its cargos being comprised of gold and silver bullion. Armed with food, sixgun, shotgun, and rifle, he escorted many valuable shipments, interspersing railway trips with horseback forays in search of border badmen. In the course of one of these posses, Jeff and his friend Scarborough, in a desperate gunfight, shot noted desperado Bronco Bill Walters and scattered his band from a mountain camp.
Lawman-turned-outlaw Burt Alvord and five confederates planned to raid the richly laden express car at Fairbank, Arizona, but took painful precautions that Jeff would be diverted and not guarding the car that day. Through chance, their ruse failed, and it was Milton who opened the car door and started passing out packages to the agent. Seeing whom they were faced with, the outlaws opened fire with high-powered rifles, shattering the bones in Jeff’s left upper arm.
Shooting one-handed with his shotgun, Jeff dropped two of his antagonists, and rapidly weakening from loss of blood, he shut the door, concealed the keys in the safe, improvised a tourniquet, and passed out. Although the holdup men continued to shoot into the car and finally searched Milton for the keys, they were foiled.
After a long recuperation, Jeff emerged with a crippled left arm. Still dead game, his efforts were later largely responsible for the capture or death of the Alvord gang.
In 1904, Jeff was appointed to the unique position of Mounted Chinese Inspector. This was a job under the Immigration Service, then part of the Department of Commerce and Labor. The Border Patrol had not yet been organized, and Milton’s commission came directly from President Theodore Roosevelt. Hordes of Chinese were being smuggled out of an antagonistic Mexico into the U.S., which prohibited their entry.
Milton’s riding job was much the same as it had been with Customs, and he covered over the many ensuing years much of the same area of southern Arizona. A healthy, horseback life kept him zestful and young. Still single, he raised a little harmless hell from time to time and “covered the ground he stood on.”
Though catching Chinese was somewhat less challenging to the veteran, he made the most of it, seasoning his days with personal combats, guiding, and prospecting. In 1919, Milton married Mildred Taitt of New York and at least went through the motions of settling down. That same year, he was assigned to assist in guarding a boatload of Russian radicals comprised of Emma Goldman and her followers on their deportation to Russia. Jeff lusted for trouble and stocked up on extra ammunition, but to his disappointment, the crossing was tranquil.
Jeff’s life in the desert with his scores of friends continued. When he turned 70, his services were still considered so valuable that he was asked to continue for two years. And a last, in 1932, a government economy move forced him into retirement at Tombstone, Arizona.
Among U.S. Border Patrolmen today, Jeff Milton remains known as “the first Border Patrolman.” He moved to Tucson, where his old comrades of the Border Patrol surreptitiously watched over him, although he needed little of that until the end, which came May 7, 1947.
Jeff was Cremated, and his ashes were scattered over his beloved desert.
In the early 1960s, a tidy little war broke out along the border between Indonesia and East Malaysia on the island of Borneo. European colonialism had subdivided the planet into a bewildering amalgam of fiefdoms and protectorates, and the sundry peoples involved yearned to define themselves in the aftermath of the Second World War. On August 29, 1964, this tidy little war got quite messy.
Lance Corporal Amarjit Pun was the second-in-command for the point section of 10 Platoon, C Company, 2d Gurkha Rifles, on a company-strength patrol along the border south of Kumpang Langir. A company-sized element can be unwieldy on a protracted combat patrol, and all involved were looking forward to getting back to base for some rack time. However, as the patrol headed for home, they unwittingly walked into a kill zone.
The ambush was of the classic sort. Indonesian infantry well concealed in the jungle underbrush allowed the Gurkhas to walk deep into their killing ground before initiating the ambush with a murderous rain of small arms fire. In the first salvo, Lance Corporal Amarjit’s section commander was grievously wounded, while one of his NCOs was killed outright. The light machinegun team was also taken out of action. The Number 1 gunner was killed and his Number 2 badly hurt. Another rifleman was hit as well. The situation for LCPL Amarjit’s Gurkhas looked grave.
It is the most basic tenet of Infantry training to instinctively assault through an ambush. This goes against every natural urge a man might have in combat. When faced with murderous fire from an unexpected quarter, the natural response is to drop or hide. However, hesitating inside a kill zone equals violent gory death.
A friend who landed on Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944, once told me that stagnation meant dying. He said the fire coming from the German pillboxes was indeed overwhelming, but that combat leaders on the ground pushed their men forward into the chaos. He explained that he charged across the beach to cover, but that every member of his small unit that hesitated on that beach died.
Infantry soldiers are therefore trained on immediate action drills in response to an ambush. They are expected to react instinctively without a great deal of conscious thought. Sometimes that works, and sometimes it doesn’t. In the case of LCPL Amarjit Pun, this compact little man seized the initiative and took charge.
Turning the Tide
LCPL Amarjit charged forward and retrieved the fallen L4 Bren gun intending on using the discarded weapon on the attackers to help break the ambush. As he hefted the heavy gun another burst of fire raked over him, striking the Bren and putting it out of action. A lesser man might at this point have run or broken. LCPL Amarjit, however, was a Gurkha.
Amarjit Pun stood his ground in the center of the worn jungle track and unlimbered his British-issue L2A3 Sterling submachinegun. Fire poured in from Indonesian troops concealed a mere ten yards away. LCPL Amarjit thumbed his selector to full auto and squeezed the trigger, raking the jungle with 9mm rounds.
Amarjit emptied his Sterling at its cyclic rate and dropped the empty magazine. All the while he shouted encouragement to his comrades. He fished out a second 34-round mag, shoved it into the gun, jacked the bolt back, and emptied it at the nearby Indonesians as well. Throughout it all, heavy fire from the ambushing soldiers ripped the jungle and tore Amarjit’s patrol to ribbons. LCPL Amarjit burned through magazines as fast as he could cycle the gun.
While the Bren light machinegun has become irrevocably associated with British and Commonwealth troops fighting everywhere from North Africa in World War 2 to the Falklands, the gun was actually a Czech design. A license-produced version of the Czech ZGB 33 light machinegun, the ZGB 33 was itself a modified variant of the ZB vz. 26. Vaclav Holek was the primary designer. The name Bren is a portmanteau derived from Brno, the Czech city in Moravia where the gun was designed, and Enfield, the site of the Royal Small Arms Factory.
The earliest Bren gun weighed about 25 pounds and fed from a sharply curved magazine located atop the weapon to accommodate the rimmed .303 British round. The L4A4 Bren used by LCPL Amarjit’s men was the later version rechambered to accept the rimless 7.62x51mm cartridge. This variant can be identified at a glance by its straighter magazine. This 30-round box magazine was intentionally designed such that it would be interchangeable with that of the L1A1 SLR FAL rifles used by British forces at the time.
The Bren is indeed heavy in action, but its sedate 500-rpm rate of fire renders it thoroughly controllable. The Bren served in a similar role as the American BAR. Unlike the BAR, the Bren enjoyed a quick change barrel capability. The reliable tilting bolt, gas-operated action rendered splendid service in dirty environments. Additionally, while the gun was limited by its magazine feed system, the top-mounted design made mag changes fast. Each man in a British Infantry squad typically carried spare magazines for the Bren.
The Sterling submachine gun was an evolutionary improvement on the Sten that helped the British win World War 2. Developed in 1944, the Sterling was the brainchild of George William Patchett, the principal designer at the Sterling Armaments Company of Dagenham. Trial versions of the Sterling actually saw limited action in the closing months of World War 2, specifically with British Commando forces and at Arnhem with the British 1st Parachute Division during Operation Market Garden.
The Sterling generally favored the Sten that inspired it but represented an improvement across the board. The pistol grip was set at the rough center of balance of the gun, and the weapon fed from a superb side-mounted 34-round curved magazine. The Sterling was designed from the outset to feed from either Sterling or Sten magazines.
The Sterling is built around a drawn steel tube milled out and perforated as needed. It is finished out in a peculiar bake-on crinkle finish. This finish seems strangely similar to pickup truck bed liner. While early Sterlings featured a charging handle slot milled in line with the ejection port, production models were moved slightly higher.
One curious aspect of the Sterling design as it relates to American shooters is that the gun can be legally constructed from a registered transferable Sten tube. The BATF has allowed enterprising gunsmiths to adapt Sten tubes to accept demilled Sterling parts kits. The final product is referred to as a Stenling in the vernacular. As the Sterling is a markedly more pleasant and effective weapon than the Sten, this is a popular conversion.
The Sterling’s delightful balance and sedate 550-rpm rate of fire make it unusually controllable. The gun fires from the open bolt and is selective fire via a thumb-operated selector level oriented above the trigger. The collapsible stock on the Sterling is a bit complex but remains nonetheless rigid and effective.
The Sterling is one of the most controllable open-bolt subguns I have ever run. The telescoping recoil system of the German MP40 is perhaps incrementally smoother, but the Sterling still runs like a champ. The Sterling is also unusually compact and handy. This makes it the ideal weapon for combat leaders and second-line support troops who might need their hands free for other tasks.
The Rest of the Story
LCPL Amarjit stood his ground on that tiny jungle trail, dumping magazine after magazine of full auto 9mm fire into the Indonesian troops. His furious close-range assault broke the back of the ambush and bought enough time for the rest of the company to maneuver in place and displace the enemy. The Indonesians subsequently retreated into the jungle. Amarjit’s Gurkhas gathered up their casualties and returned to their base camp.
LCPL Amarjit was unhurt during the chaotic exchange. However, his uniform and equipment had been pierced by Indonesian bullets in three different places. The combination of LCPL Amarjit’s unswerving bravery in the face of the withering enemy attack and the heavy volume of automatic fire from his Sterling submachine gun broke the Indonesian ambush and prevented further casualties to his Gurkha unit.
LCPL Amarjit Pun earned the Military Medal for his actions on that jungle trail back in 1964. The Military Medal was established in 1918 and was used to recognize acts of valor among other ranks such as NCOs and Warrant Officers. Recipients were granted a modest stipend and entitled to include the post-nominal letters “MM” after their names in official correspondence. Though the award was discontinued in 1993 in favor of the Military Cross which is granted to all ranks, the Military Medal still recognizes exceptional bravery in combat.
Wars are fought for territory, greed, and all manner of lofty nationalistic motivations. However, men invariably fight for their buddies. When the incoming fire seemed overwhelming and his comrades were falling LCPL Amarjit Pun unlimbered his Sterling submachine gun and won the day. Sometimes big things do indeed come in small packages.
Thomas Jackson’s great grandparents were criminals. John Jackson and Elizabeth Cummins were both convicted of larceny in England and were punitively dispatched to the New World in 1749 alongside 150 other convicts. On the voyage across the Atlantic, John and Elizabeth fell in love.
Once their obligatory bond service was complete in 1755 they were married. Their grandchild Thomas Jonathan Jackson was born in 1824 in Clarksburg, Virginia. He was the third child of Julia and Jonathan Jackson. In his youth, Thomas went by the nickname “The Real Macaroni,” though the origins and significance of that term are not well understood.
Typhoid took his six-year-old sister in 1826 and his father some three weeks later. The boy’s remaining sister Laura Ann was born the day after her father died. Thomas and Laura Ann were close as children, but Laura Ann ultimately sided with the Union. Thomas grew to become a Confederate General of some renown. As a result, their relationship remained fractured until his death.
Thomas Jackson entered the US Military Academy in 1842. Jackson’s lack of formal education hamstrung him upon his arrival at West Point, but his legendary dogged determination compensated. He graduated 18th out of 59 in his class of 1846.
Jackson got his formal introduction to war in Mexico. As a young officer, he distinguished himself at Chapultepec. For a decade starting in 1851 he taught at Virginia Military Institute where he was unpopular with his students. Along the way he was twice married. His first wife died in childbirth. His second, Mary Anna Morrison, lived until 1915. When the South seceded in 1861 following the attack on Fort Sumter, Thomas Jackson threw his lot in with the Confederacy.
In July of that year, Jackson commanded a brigade at the First Battle of Bull Run. At a critical moment in the fight, Jackson beat back a determined Union assault. Barnard Elliot Bee, himself a distinguished Confederate General who ultimately lost his life in combat, referred to Jackson as a “stone wall” in the face of the enemy. The name stuck.
After an initial setback attributed to flawed intelligence, Stonewall Jackson dominated the Shenandoah Valley campaigns of 1862. Through truly exceptional tactical acumen, Jackson and his troops defeated three separate Union armies in the field. He exercised his martial gifts at places like Harper’s Ferry, Antietam, and Fredericksburg, developing for himself a reputation as a cunning and insightful combat leader. At Chancellorsville Jackson’s 30,000 Confederates launched a devastating surprise attack against the Federal flank that drove the Union troops back fully two miles.
The General’s Theology
Thomas Jackson has been described as a fanatical Presbyterian. His deep and sincere faith drove everything about his life while making him all but fearless in battle. He once opined, “My religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death. I do not concern myself about that, but to be always ready, no matter when it may overtake me…That is the way all men should live, and then all would be equally brave.”
Like most exceptional personalities, Jackson was also a bit strange. He held a lifelong belief that one of his arms was longer than the other. He would frequently hold the perceived longer of the two aloft for long periods in an effort at equalizing his circulation.
General Jackson highly valued sleep and was known to fall asleep at times while eating. His prior service as an artillery officer had severely damaged his hearing. This made communication difficult at times. He also had an abiding passion for fresh fruit like peaches, watermelons, apples, and oranges. His real weakness, however, was lemons. When they could be found Jackson would frequently gnaw whole lemons in an effort at soothing his digestion. General Richard Taylor, son of President Zachary Taylor and a colleague, wrote, “Where Jackson got his lemons ‘no fellow could find out,’ but he was rarely without one.”
Stonewall Jackson and Slavery
No information age treatise of a prominent Confederate can be complete without dragging slavery and race into the narrative. In the late 1850s, Jackson owned six slaves. Three of these–Hetty, Cyrus, and George–were received as part of a dowry from Mary Anna’s father upon their marriage. Two others supposedly requested that Jackson purchase them based upon his purported kindly local reputation. Of the two, Albert was purchased and worked to gain his freedom. Amy served as the Jackson family cook and housekeeper. The sixth was a child with a learning disability who was received as a gift from an aged widow.
In what was considered a fairly radical move for the day, in 1855 Jackson organized and taught Sunday School classes for blacks at his Presbyterian Church. Of this ministry, Pastor William Spotswood White said, “In their religious instruction he succeeded wonderfully. His discipline was systematic and firm, but very kind…His servants reverenced and loved him, as they would have done a brother or father…He was emphatically the black man’s friend.” I obviously cannot speak to what any of that was really like, but Reverend White was clearly a fan. Not diminishing the repugnant nature of slavery as an institution, but it was clearly a different time.
The Death of Stonewall Jackson
After a wildly successful engagement against Joe Hooker’s forces during the Battle of Chancellorsville, Jackson and his staff were making their way on horseback back through friendly lines. They encountered sentries from the 18th North Carolina Infantry who mistook the party for Union cavalry. The pickets shouted, “Halt, who goes there?” but fired before receiving an adequate response.
Frantic remonstrations from the command group were answered by Confederate Major John D. Barry’s command, “It’s a damned Yankee trick! Fire!” During the course of the two volleys, Stonewall Jackson was struck three times.
Two rounds shattered Jackson’s left arm. One ball entered at the left elbow and exited near the wrist, while another struck his left upper arm three inches below the shoulder. A third ball struck his right hand and lodged there. Several members of Jackson’s staff along with their horses were killed. The poor visibility and incoming artillery fire added to the confusion. Jackson was dropped from his stretcher at least once during the subsequent evacuation.
Battlefield medicine during the Civil War was unimaginably crude in comparison with today’s state of the art. The standard treatment in the face of significant damage to an extremity was amputation. As there were no safe and effective anesthetics available these surgical procedures were typically fast, frenetic, and fairly imprecise.
A Confederate surgeon named Hunter McGuire took the arm, and Jackson was moved to the nearby Fairfield Plantation for recovery. Thomas Chandler, the plantation owner, offered the use of his home. However, Jackson, ever concerned about imposition, insisted he be maintained in a nearby office building instead.
The germ theory of disease had not yet come to drive battlefield surgery, so secondary infections of combat wounds were ubiquitous. Jackson developed a fever and pneumonia as a result of his injuries and succumbed eight days later. As the end approached he said, “It is the Lord’s Day; my wish is fulfilled. I have always desired to die on Sunday.”
General Jackson’s final words, uttered in a delirium immediately preceding his demise, lend further insight into the man’s character. Attended by Dr. McGuire and a trusted slave named Jim Lewis, his final words were, “Order A.P. Hill to prepare for action! Pass the infantry to the front rapidly! Tell Major Hawks…” Then he paused and uttered, “Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees.” Stonewall Jackson then breathed his last.
The fatal bullet was ultimately recovered and identified as a .69-caliber projectile. Union troops in this area typically fielded .58-caliber weapons. The 18th North Carolina Infantry was most commonly armed with older larger-caliber muskets. This discovery sealed the suspicion that Jackson had been felled by friendly fire. This was one of the first incidents wherein forensic ballistics identification was used to establish the circumstances surrounding a violent death.
While the American Civil War ultimately saw the introduction of cartridge-firing repeating rifles like the Henry and Spencer, most combatants on both sides were armed with single-shot, muzzleloading rifled muskets of various flavors. Union troops had the luxury of greater standardization due to their more advanced state of industrialization, while Confederate units frequently had to make do with a hodgepodge of weapons. Regardless, in this particular circumstance, the science of ballistics told an unfortunate tale.
The Rest of the Story
Upon learning of his friend’s injury Confederate General Robert E. Lee wrote, “Could I have directed events, I would have chosen for the good of the country to be disabled in your stead.”
He sent this message to Jackson via a courier after his surgery, “Give General Jackson my affectionate regards, and say to him: he has lost his left arm but I my right.”
When told of his death Lee confided to a friend, “I am bleeding at the heart.”
The Battle of Gettysburg took place a mere two months after the death of General Jackson. As any student of Civil War history will attest, Gettysburg was an iffy thing indeed. The entire outcome of the war potentially turned on a handful of decisions made under the most arduous of circumstances.
Had Stonewall Jackson been at Lee’s side during the chaotic maelstrom of Gettysburg the battle might very well have turned out differently. Had Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia been able to take the day and subsequently march on Washington, Lincoln could have been forced to sue for peace on the steps of the White House at the point of a Confederate bayonet. Had that been the case our world would obviously be all but unrecognizable today. Sometimes the most momentous events turn on the smallest things.
Ripping down historical monuments in a fit of emotion strikes me as viscerally unsettling. In 2001 the Taliban blew up the 6th-century Buddhas of Bamiyan and were rightfully reviled as a result. It really should be possible to appreciate historical figures without dogmatically embracing the causes they represented or obliterating the evidence of their existence.
For all have sinned, even in modern woke America. If left intact alongside contextual information these monuments could serve as object lessons to enlighten generations yet to come. If freedom from moral stain becomes a prerequisite for veneration then I fear we may be destined to become a nation bereft of monuments.