Gideon Pillow: The silly general March 27, 2009Posted by Jenny in Civil War, history.
Tags: Civil War, Gideon Pillow, Mexican-American War, Ulysses S. Grant, Zachary Taylor
I first came across the name of Gideon J. Pillow when I read Grant’s memoir. At the start of Grant’s account of the battle of Fort Donelson in February 1862, he wrote of his Confederate foe, “I had known General Pillow in Mexico, and judged that with any force, no matter how small, I could march up to within gunshot of any entrenchments he was given to hold.”
I was intrigued by this description and became still more fascinated when I studied the events of the Fort Donelson battle, in which Pillow seemed at first to have the upper hand but then made an inexplicable decision that led to an embarrassing defeat. The most competent of the Confederate officers present, Nathan Bedford Forrest, had ended up fleeing with his cavalry through a swamp in the dark of the night, undoubtedly cursing Pillow as he went.
Not only was I intrigued, but I also loved the name. Gideon Pillow, Gideon Pillow… the name sounded as plump and self-satisfied as the man himself.
General Pillow could not have been improved by any amount of invention. He comes to us already perfect out of history, a creation whose shining incompetence was set off to best advantage by his own pompous pronouncements. He first emerges from history’s shadows in the summer of 1846, when several battles of the Mexican war had already been fought and Congress had finally voted to ratify the war’s existence.
In its lengthy deliberations, Congress had authorized appointments for a large number of volunteer generals. Pillow arrived at the camp of Zachary Taylor (“Old Rough and Ready”) as one of the first contingent of generals. Taylor was said to be disconcerted by this surplus of generals, who were more numerous than he knew what to do with.
But Pillow was ready to face the trials of combat, or so he thought. He had served with the Tennessee militia during the tranquil 1830s, when his competence and nerve were tested to the limit by the fierce rigors of drills and inspections. He held the rank of brigadier general, a political post won through his association with his former law partner, James Polk.
(The series continues here)
A personal event March 24, 2009Posted by Jenny in memoir.
Tags: George Masa, personal memoir, Smoky Mountains
When I created this blog, I did not intend it to be a a diary of my personal life. However, something very important has happened to me and I want to share it with my blog visitors.
My longtime companion, Bob, told me two days ago that he wanted to end our relationship. We met in 1994, and we have lived together since 1995. You could have considered us more or less a married couple, except that, being unconventional people, we never particularly wanted or needed to have our relationship formalized.
There were, in fact, many unconventional aspects to our relationship. Most striking, probably, was that I was nearly ten years older than him in a world that prizes youthfulness in women. There were other oddities: he worked for UPS, while I’ve had desk jobs most of my life apart from a stint of landscape/ gardening work. He did most of the cooking, and I did most of the yard work.
We met when hiking in the White Mountains, and we have climbed countless mountains together—hundreds of mountains, anyway. That was our biggest shared interest, but we also skied, biked, and paddled canoes together. We shared tastes in humor, in movies, and in music.
The reasons he gave me for leaving were perfectly understandable. It wasn’t anything bad—he hadn’t met another woman or anything like that. It was more like a gradual loss of sparkle, I guess. And maybe Bob just isn’t quite as interested in hiking as he used to be, though the outdoors will always be important to him. He did say that he wanted to spend more time doing things like cookouts with his family. I’ve never been much of a hang-around-the grill-for-the-afternoon kind of person. I’m just no good at small talk—I always feel like I’m faking it. Bottom line is, I get bored.
Sunday afternoon, after Bob packed up his things and left, I watched a DVD that I’d recently ordered because it had been mentioned on one of the Internet forums I visit. It was about George Masa, a mysterious man who came to the US from Japan in 1901 to work in the mining business and eventually settled in Asheville, NC, because he loved the mountains of western North Carolina. He had a photography business and took wonderful pictures in the Smokies and nearby ranges. As the movement grew for establishing the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, he became a major force in that effort, exploring, measuring trail distances with a gadget made out of a bicycle wheel, always taking many beautiful pictures of the mountains.
Nobody ever knew why he left Japan. He died nearly penniless in 1933, having no contacts with anyone in his native country. Many years later, a peak in the Smokies was named after him in his honor. Masa Knob, elevation 5685 feet, stands between Charlies Bunion and Mt. Kephart, the latter named after his dear friend Horace Kephart.
It’s hard to explain why, but I find the thought of George Masa to be very comforting. It has something to do with his being a solitary soul, because I recognize that I too, in some ways, am a solitary sort.