June 12, 2017 by jackblease
Location: Somewhere On the Trail
According to the calendar, today is a Holiday called Memorial Day. A day to remember those brave men and woman who gave their lives in the service of their country. So many of them were not written up in books and newspapers or had movies made about them. Yet they were truly hero’s.
I am reminded of a story about one such hero. The story takes place back in 1876.
Yesterday they buried Marvin Standish. But on his grave marker they just carved “Fightin’ Joe.” That was all we ever called him and he never seemed to really mind. We put him in that old union army jacket he had worn for years. Somebody who had an old bugle struggled through “Taps” as we stood around the grave.
There was a lot of friendly talk and laughter as we lowered the pine box in the ground. There was no family around and “Fightin’ Joe” had been in this area longer than most. He had been working fence line for the C5 for the last few years and the boys mostly left Joe alone. He was a likeable enough sort but the stories he told about his war days got old after a time. We really all thought Joe was a little strange.
His first soldiering days began at Goliad and he claimed to have been with Sam Houston at San Jacinto. He talked his time as an aid to Major General Joseph Hooker during the war with Mexico in 1847 and ’48. That was his first encounter with the man who would become a hero to young Standish. He was a young man then and earned the rank of corporal by the end of the war. He told us stories of the battle in Vera Cruz and the hand fighting beside Major Hooker.
Then came the Civil War and Marvin Standish made a fateful decision. His opinion of the war was greatly impacted by Sam Houston’s stand against Texas’s secession from the Union. When Houston was removed from office he faced a major crisis of faith
When his hero, now Brigadier General Hooker was given a command in the Union Army, Standish traveled north and sought on with the General. According to his stories, Hooker remembered the faithful young corporal and put him in charge of one of his Calvary units and installed him at his old rank of corporal. He claimed to have been in the battle of the Potomac, Seven Pines, and his face almost glowed when he talked about Hooker’s reputation for fighting beside his men instead of being mounted on horseback like other commanders. He was wounded at Fredericksburg. He said he was still in a union hospital when Hooker gave up his front-line command. He came back to Texas in 1865 with sergeant stripes on his uniform. His welcome back to Texas was less than kind.
When he first rode back down the streets of Doaksville, he was greeted with cat calls and epitaphs. He was confused. Woman and children made fun of him and the wife of the local parson even turned her head and crossed the street when he walked down the streets. Thirty years of soldiering, first for Texas and now for the Union seemed to mean nothing to these folks. What had he done wrong? And so it was for several years. As the healing began and the time of the great cattle drives and empires came into being, the old soldier sort of faded into the landscape.
Now well into his late fifties, he still cowboyed with men younger than him. Over his buck in the line shack hung two batted photographs. One was of Sam Houston and the other of General Joseph Hooker. Attached to each picture were the stripes that had been on his uniform. But the old coat he wore gave witness to where the stripes had been.
How and when he picked up the nickname of “Fighting Joe,” I never have learned. For all his years in the military he was a gentle man. As younger hands came to work at C5, old “Fighting Joe” would be rolled out to tell his tales. With an old cob pipe in his teeth Joe would reach back into time and tell again of the days of soldering and the birth of Texas and the glory of the Republic.
Last week, Joe was sent out with the wire wagon and team. When the week-end came, Joe didn’t come in. Nobody thought too much of it, except when he didn’t show at church service on Sunday. By now, memories of the struggle and Joe’s service to the Union were a thing of the past. Like so many old soldiers all he had was his memories.
Early in the week, several of the boys went out to look for Joe. When they got to the spot where the fence work stopped, there was no sign of Joe at the wagon. Their attention was called to a ridge near the edge of the canyon. As they walked to the edge, one of the cowboys saw something on the ground. As bent over to look, he saw it was an old corn cob pipe. As he reached to pick it up, he saw a body lying at the bottom of the canyon.
As we walked away from the grave yard the postmaster came running towards the preacher. “Look at this,” he said.
The preacher took hold of a yellow envelope. The address read, Sergeant Marvin Standish, General Delivery, and Doaksville, TX. The return address said Office of The President, Pennsylvanian Ave. Washington DC.
We all turned and look at each other. The preacher opened the envelope. As he withdrew the letter, a ribboned medal consisting of a five-point star hanging below an eagle fell to the ground.
The letter said, For conspicuous gallantry and intreidity at the risk of his life and beyond the call of duty…
Sargent Marvin “Fightin’ Joe” Standish, Hero
Happy Memorial Day