General Shelby's Pet Battery, and Their Pet Bear

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SWMODave

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Courtesy Wilson's Creek National Battlefield
Shelby and His Men: Or, The War in the West

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.
 
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Patrick H

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Courtesy Wilson's Creek National Battlefield
Shelby and His Men: Or, The War in the West

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.
It's a great passage. For many, it's also an introduction to the flowery and bombastic writing of John Newman Edwards. I have and love this book, but big passages of it are hard to read, because Edwards was such a flamboyant writer.

The casual reader must also be aware that Major Edwards helped create the "Robin Hood of Missouri" myth of Jesse Woodson James. On the other hand, he certainly was a fine adjutant to Shelby and he ran a great intelligence and supply network for Shelby. Edwards also brokered the deal allowing Frank James to come in and surrender to Governor Crittenden. Edwards seemed to be everywhere at times, and connected to everyone!

But I don't mean to draw attention away from the bear. I totally like the fact that the battery had a bear mascot! I only want our readers to see the kind of writing that Edwards often did, and you have presented a fine example. Thank you!
 
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