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Hill Country Living

Rifles Resurgence Never Got Past Poor Leadership

By Coulter Fussell

    It’s a Wagner Letter week and this week I pulled one of my favorite letters. It’s not a favorite because the content alone is so interesting but because the content coupled with the fact that it is written on three pages of very pretty paper makes for a nice juxtaposition. The first page is a lovely rose pink, the color of blush. The second page is that pastel green that has occasionally been popular in decorating over the decades and is currently making a comeback. The third page is a muted tangerine color that would look terrific in a satin bridesmaid dress. This is the only letter I have, out of the thousands, that is written on multicolored paper.
    As to the content of the letter, poor ol’ H. Crosby. He learned the downfall of democracy the hard way. When you let them vote, then you have to do what they vote for — so it’s better to go with monarchical rule and impose disturbingly severe punishment for dissent. A little harsh, I think, for a military company that kinda didn’t matter anymore. I’ll tell you that the second resurgence of the Water Valley Rifles continued to struggle. I’ve learned from the letters that John’s leadership was not much better. The company never quite got it together again to win the war. Despite their best efforts, we are still one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.

[Rosy pink page]
Morgan Farm, Aug 27, 1888
Mr. John Wagner
1st Leuit. of Water Valley Rifles –
Kind Friend,
    Owing to business, I find it impossible to be at the organization of the new company; although it is my wish and desire to be with you; for I think if I was there, I, after learning the disposition of so many of the members, may start the new company into a field where their flag shall be ever greeted by the breeze of victory and not by the hard wind of discouragement and disbandment as was our late fate.
    My aim when I took charge of the company was to make it an honor of the state and a pride of Water Valley but such I am sorry to say was not my good luck in seeing — although I tried hard to make it so.

[Decorator’s mint page]
    For your new company to be made a success of, you must elect a Captain who knows his duty and is not afraid to perform it, do not do as I did and place everything before the company to decided but place it at once in the hands of your Captain and let him act as he sees fit.
    Obeyance of orders, punctual attendance, strict attentions, and a feeling in ones self to make the company a success would assure you victory with all the obstacles in the world lying in you path, if each members possessed them.
    You have as good material in Water Valley for a military company as any city or town in the state as has been proved by the late rifles.
[Satin tangerine page]
    I can see no season in the world why it, with that same material can’t be made the best company in the state and now let me impress upon you the desire of so doing in order to show the people of Water Valley that a Water Valley boy has as much grit and back bone as any other boy or boys in the state. Let the word fail be buried forever and the first man who says, “Let’s burst the company” be hung on the spot.
    And now in closing, I tender my resignation as Captain of the W.V. Rifles, hoping in so doing, that under the management of the new Captain who has my services, when they can be of any good to him or the company, and best wishes, I remain,
Your Friend
H. Crosby

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