Pointing to General Jackson’s brigade, "standing like a stone wall," and so it was, during the first Battle of Bull Run or Manassas in 1861, that Brigadier General Barnard Elliott Bee (1824-1861) gave General Thomas Jonathan Jackson the sobriquet by which history would forever remember him. From that moment forward, Stonewall Jackson was the name of the famous Confederate general. This "naming" is the primary reason that Bee is remembered, but he made other notable contributions during his life before being mortally wounded in the very same battle that afforded him the opportunity to bestow the now well-known nickname on General Jackson.
Barnard Elliott Bee was born in South Carolina in 1824, but his family relocated to Texas in 1835, and his father, also Barnard Elliott Bee, served as Secretary of State of the Republic of Texas. After young Bee’s graduation from West Point in 1845, he returned to Texas and served in General Zachary Taylor’s army, which had been sent to Texas to protect it from Mexican aggression after Texas was annexed to the United States. Bee served with Taylor’s army during the early part of the Mexican War and fought in the battles of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma in May 1846. After spending some time on recruiting efforts, he returned to the front with General Winfield Scott’s army and was engaged in the campaign to capture the City of Mexico in 1847. He was wounded in action during this campaign. He was later recognized for his gallantry, and his native state of South Carolina presented him with a sword of honor in 1854 for "patriotic and meritorious conduct" in the war.
Bee was a devotee of the infantry, and the University of Texas at Arlington Libraries’ Special Collections is fortunate to have acquired a poem that he penned in celebration of the infantry in 1856, when he was an infantry captain. The tone of the poem is set in the first four lines:
Our army is a motley crew
In dress and armour, duties too,
And each and all I love to see--
But most I love the Infantry.
The first stanza concludes in the same vein, with the poet expressing admiration for all of the military, but the poet makes very clear that it is the infantry that he cherishes most:
Though other corps are dear to me
Yet most I prize the Infantry.
The illustrations that accompany the poem are intriguing as well. Above the first stanza, for example, are drawings of foot soldiers, one of whom is holding a rifle with a bayonet, one a shovel, and two are pushing a wheelbarrow loaded with supplies.
The second stanza sets out to create contrasts with the infantry and begins:
The Engineer, with Science crowned,
For action traces out the ground.
Thus, while some measure the earth and draw their findings,
Artillery at distance play
Above this stanza are drawings of a surveying crew, including a cartographer, and to graphically illustrate the contrast, an illustration depicting the firing of a cannon from atop a caisson follows.
The poet goes on to assign some credit to the dragoons, who sometimes clear the way with their "sharp advance, the pistol shot," but the stanza concludes with yet another tribute to the infantry as the writer describes what happens after the dragoons clear the way:
The foe advances light and free,
Who meet him then? The Infantry!!!
The illustration depicts two heavily-armed dragoons with an infantryman waiting near a tree.
It is, however, in the final stanza that we see the most moving salute to the infantry. This stanza is appropriately illustrated with a drawing of a company of infantry. After describing how the infantry holds steadfastly despite the fact that their comrades are slain, and their banners are torn, the poet writes:
The noble hearts still proudly form
And hark! A shout—tis Victory!
Who would not love the Infantry?
Indeed, few have probably loved the infantry as did Barnard Elliott Bee. Bee’s untitled poem can be found in Special Collections’ Mexican War Collection (GA 43).