Those of you who regularly read this blog know that I visited the Antietam and Harpers Ferry battlefields a week ago today. I posted about the visit, and put up a bunch of photos, including one of my very favorite battlefield monument, the one to Sgt. William McKinley, for bravely serving coffee to the troops under fire and without orders. I called it–and quite rightfully–silly, but pointed out that it reflects McKinley’s enormous popularity at the time of his assassination.
One of McKinley’s living relatives wrote in and apparently took umbrage with my calling the monument silly. Sorry about that, Theresa. I certainly didn’t mean to offend, but given the incredible bravery demonstrated by so many soldiers under fire that day–such as John B. Gordon still leading his troops in the fighting for the Sunken Road in spite of having been shot in the face–that I find it pretty damned silly to erect a large monument to a soldier whose contribution to the Union victory at Antietam was bringing buckets of coffee to the front lines. It just seems preposterous to me.
That in no way is intended to suggest that McKinley was not a brave or competent soldier. In point of fact, he was. He was clearly a capable soldier, or he never would have made the leap from private in 1861 to major by the end of the war at the young age of 22. Obviously, there was a reason why he would received so many promotions, and that reason is competence. So, I’m not suggesting that the 25th President of the United States did not deserve recognition for his military exploits. I’m simply saying that the field at Antietam and the reasons for the monument are not especially appropriate.Scridb filter