Two Gallants (Examiner Part V)

Published:May 19, 2011 by Brendan Wolfe

Speaking of hospitals, according to the May 17, 1864, edition of the Daily Richmond Examiner [pdf], they were getting all the business they could handle—what with Grant and Lee going at each other in Spotsylvania County even while fighting raged in the Shenandoah Valley and on the James River. But medical staff in Richmond was in short supply. In the section called “City Intelligence,” the editors bemoan “The condition in which some of our wounded from the Southside were received at Rocketts yesterday,” suggesting it was “very shocking to humanity.” The problem was too few men and ambulances to haul the wounded up the hill to the hospital. And while the shortage was “not a very creditable commentary on the patriotism of those remaining in the city,” it had a solution: negro women! It was, after all, an emergency.

It was only a few days earlier, meanwhile, that the Confederate cavalry general J. E. B. Stuart was mortally wounded at the Battle of Yellow Tavern, dying soon after in the capital. One of Stuart’s officers, Colonel Henry Clay Pate, was killed in the same fight, and the Examiner has a story to tell on that subject:

As it happens, the “gallant Stuart and his equally brave and gallant compeer, Pate,” had been fussing, such that “a coldness had existed between them, and they had not spoken for months.” The gallant-happy editors go on to explain that “in the hottest of the fighting, General Stuart seeing Colonel Pate’s gallant bearing, rode up, complimented him, both shook hands, and then and there, in the face of the enemy and the flying bullets, made up their differences, and were friends again.”

Of course they were. And “in less than half an hour both had fallen—Colonel Pate by a bullet through the head.” Pate, it’s worth noting, was a native of Bedford County and an almost-graduate of the University of Virginia. He withdrew in 1850 to go west to Kentucky, then Missouri, then Kansas, where he battled John Brown and, briefly, was held as the man’s prisoner. Pate worried that Virginia’s youth had left the Old Dominion in a state of decline, and even published a book—The American Vade Medum; or, The Companion of Youth, and Guide to College—intended to set them straight.

In other words, Colonel Pate was a cranky old fart, even as a young man. Perhaps that was General Stuart’s objection.

COMING IN PART VI: An ominous storm sweeps over Richmond and two paperboys are detained.

IMAGE: The Battle of Yellow Tavern