- Jul 23, 2017
- Southwest Missouri
Courtesy Wilson's Creek National Battlefield
By John Newman Edwards
This battery of Collins' was one of the features of the old brigade, too, and the men had a species of tender love and reverence for the guns. They wanted them in their midst. They desired to camp around them ; they swore to protect them, and they inevitably cheered them whenever their voices thundered out over the field. The artillery company was composed of merry, frolicking, devil-may-care fellows, ever ready for fun and fighting. First commanded by Joseph Bledsoe, brother of the celebrated Hi [Hiram] Bledsoe, whose "Old Sacramento" was a household word in Missouri, and afterward by Captain Richard A. Collins, the battery was Shelby's pet. When not required elsewhere, he was always close up to his guns. He had a passion for artillery, and would frequently dismount under the hottest fire to coolly sight and discharge one piece after another, although Collins would sometimes hint rather broadly that he had twenty men much better shots than their General…..
Another peculiar feature of Collins immortal battery was its bear - a veritable, good natured, intelligent, black bear. Shelby’s ordnance officer, Captain Wave Anderson, bought it quite young from some hunters near White river and presented it, as a pet, to Collins. This bear—rejoicing in the euphonious soubriquet of "Postlewait"—lived as it were amid the guns. The men fed, caressed, and toyed with him; ladies came from a distance to stroke his black coat and surfeit him on sweetmeats and delicacies; and unchained and domesticated, he roamed about at will among the regiments, thrusting his ugly face into sauce-pans and stew-kettles. In minor engagements the bear was always at his post, and dodged and shirked like a veritable coward whenever the shells and grape-shot rattled about his gun; but when the surroundings gave promise of bloody battle, Collins invariably removed his pet to some safe place with the horses, much to the delight of "Postlewait."
And to end on an ironic note - the first voice of the animated character Winnie the Pooh - was Sterling Price Holloway - who was named after General Shelby’s commanding officer.