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When Men Were Men

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To the editors:

I was very much interested in your paean to stressed-out syndrome ("When John M. Came Marching Home," January 17). In which a variety of military guys suffer a variety of psychological problems in the aftermath of the so-called Gulf War. The physical symptom of which is a lot of whining.

Nathan Bedford Forrest enlisted in the Civil War at age 40, as a private, and ended the war as a general. U.S. Grant feared him more than any other Confederate officer, as he had never attended West Point or read a book on military tactics, and consequently Grant could never figure out what the hell he was going to do. Sherman recommended that they kill Forrest even if it cost 10,000 lives and the entire Union treasury.

Forrest was invariably at the front of his army's attack, and had 30 horses shot out from under him, while killing 31 men in hand-to-hand combat, more than any other American general. He liked to say, "I came out of the war one horse ahead."

Once he failed to notice that his men had wisely fallen behind, and found himself surrounded by Federals, with hundreds of guns firing on him at once. He got away with only a leg wound, and since the Confederate Army had no psychologists, he was unaware that he should promptly suffer some sort of Stress Syndrome. Another time a half dozen cavalry officers slashed at him with their sabers, but he was able to get away with only a few wounds about his head and shoulders. Another time a bullet lodged in his spine and was cut out without using anesthetic.

He was wounded four times, and wept over many a fallen comrade and foe, including his youngest brother, whom he had raised as his son.

He literally spent half his time on horseback, exhausted to the extent that he occasionally fell asleep in the saddle, whereupon his horse would throw him into a tree.

After three years of unremitting bloodshed, he begged to have 30 days off, as he complained of feeling physically tired. Previous to that he had had only an occasional few weeks in hospital after being wounded.

After the war, he returned to farming and also led some railway investors who developed some lines that are still in use today. He served as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention of 1868. He impoverished himself looking after the wives and orphans of men who had served in his command.

The guys you refer to in your article spent about 43 days in the desert, infrequently hearing a shot fired in anger, seeing very little blood or action, and today they have nightmares of seeing Scuds on television, are "sad" and grossed-out. Maybe they should just use their remote control and change the channel.

Neil Elliott

Evanston

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