Wednesday, September 30, 2015

One Pinch of Owl Dung?

Students of the Civil War are often armed with a plethora of quotes. Some are even familiar to the most casual of enthusiasts. Who can forget, "There stands Jackson like a stone wall;" or "War means fighting, and fighting means killing;" or "May God have mercy on Bobby Lee, for I shall have none;" or "It is well that war is so terrible, or we should grow too fond of it." They go on and on. But one that always makes me chuckle is Samuel D. Sturgis' (pictured above) thoughts of fellow Union general John Pope.

During the Second Manassas Campaign Pope had earned the enmity of not only Confederates such as normally mild-mannered Robert E. Lee, who labeled Pope a "miscreant," the bombastic Kentucky native also riled his fellow officers. At one point in the maneuvering of troops during the campaign Sturgis commandeered a train to move his troops instead of men intended for Pope's forces. When reprimanded by Union railroad man Gen. Herman Haupt for his actions, Sturgis exclaimed "I don't care for John Pope one pinch of owl dung."

So, was this a common phrase of the time (I've never heard it in any other instance)? Or did Sturgis just bring it off the cuff? I'm guessing the derogatory phrase probably just came to Sturgis, but I think it's about time we make it mainstream. I can hear it now, "I don't care for (insert your least favorite political candidate or opposing football coach here) one pinch of owl dung!" Still makes me chuckle.

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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