This is a story about a little-known Confederate Colonel who dominated the battlefield during the American Civil War every bit as well as his military protegé, Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson.
Just to refresh your memory, General “Stonewall” Jackson rose to prominence and earned his famous nickname at the First Battle of Bull Run back in 1861. As the Confederate lines began to crumble under heavy Union assault, Jackson’s brigade provided crucial reinforcements, and General Jackson stood in the midst of the battlefield, refusing to retreat. Brig. Gen. Barnard Elliott Bee, Jr., exhorted his own troops to re-form by shouting, “There is Jackson standing like a stone wall. Let us determine to die here, and we will conquer.”
The Confederate Colonel’s Aide-De-Camp came to him early one morning before sunrise. “Colonel, the scouting report says we’re outnumbered by the Yanks, two-to-one. Should we fall back to Virginia?”
“Heaven forbid!” Replied the Colonel, “Just bring me my red shirt, and we’ll send those Yankees back from whence they came.”
As the battle wore on, the Colonel stood proudly in the midst of his troops, barking orders and shouting encouragement. Bullets flew all around him, but he stood unfazed. The Union forces finally gave up and retired back into the woods for the evening.
The next morning, the Colonel’s Aide-De-Camp came again, and gave a report. “Sir, the Union forces reinforced their line last night. If we go into battle, we shall be outnumbered, sir, three-to-one! Should we fall back?”
“Never!” the Colonel replied. “Bring my red shirt, and we shall be victorious!”
The second day’s battle raged wilder than the first, with wave after wave of blue-suited soldiers attempting to drive back the Rebel defenders. The Colonel stood where all his troops could see him, prominent in his red shirt, unmoved from his position, despite the bullets that whizzed by his head. By sundown, the Union troops had made no gains and retreated once again into the woods.
The third morning, the Aide-De-Camp came and asked the Colonel, “Incredible victories, sir. May I ask the significance of the red shirt?”
“Certainly,” he replied. “If I am to stand and be an example for my troops, I want them to be able to spot me quickly amidst the chaos. The red shirt will draw their attention, their wonderment, and their dedication. Besides that, if I am shot, my men will not see the blood, and they will continue the fight.”
“Well, it seems to be working, sir.” said the Aide. “And we will need all the help we can get for today’s battle. It appears we’re outnumbered five-to-one, according to our scouts. Shall I bring you your red shirt?”
The Colonel replied, “Forget the red shirt, Today I’ll be wearing my brown trousers.”