The Sports Connection To History And War
Dec 16, 2017Posted by james

Those of us who participate in competitive sports sometimes equate the battles on the field with the battles fought by an army. Both involve training, discipline, commitment and critical thinking.

With this in mind, it should not come as a surprise that a number of highly successful players and coaches have maintained a keen interest in history and especially in the tactics related to the Civil War. Several of these history buffs include New York Mets first baseman and broadcaster Keith Hernandez, National Hockey League coach Ken Hitchcock and legendary Georgia football coach Vince Dooley.

Keith and Ken read a lot and visit the battlefields. Ken even meets with a past-president of The Civil War Round Table of New York history group to talk a little blue and gray when his teams are in town. Vince, though, has taken his interest to another level. He has written a book about a Georgia colonel.

After serving as a U.S. Marine, Vince became one of the most successful college coaches. He won 201 games in 25 seasons at the University of Georgia. The successes included a national championship and six Southeastern Conference Championships. He later served as the university athletic director and he has written several books about the school’s sports history.

Now, he has added a Civil War story to the bookshelf—The Legion’s Fighting Bulldog: The Civil War Correspondence of William Gaston Delony, Colonel of Cobb’s Georgia Legion Cavalry.

The subject of the book was an attorney when the first shots of the war were fired. Vince decided to pursue this story when he learned that Delony’s letters to his wife, Rosa, chronicled his experiences in combat. Delony writes as a loving husband worried about his pregnant wife. He also provides details about his daily routine as a soldier. The colonel participated in the complicated tasks of leading a legion, a single command with elements from artillery, cavalry and infantry. He was mortally wounded at a battle at Brandy Station, Virginia.

To add an amazing coincidence to the story, a Delony great granddaughter married a student who played for Vince before the young man pursued military service. The soldier was part of the unit in Somalia during 1993 that inspired the book Black Hawk Down.

During his coaching years, Vince met many six-foot, three-hundred-pound men who could run the 40-yard dash in less than five seconds. But, while writing this book, he learned about the toughness of some of the smallest and slimmest Civil War soldiers. Pound for pound, these boys became the toughest of men, and they did it under the most trying of times.

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