General William Nelson caused lots of trouble for the Confederate Army that fought against him during the Civil War. The hulking man who stood over 6 feet tall and weighed more than 300lbs well-deserved his nickname of “Bull.”
But after dodging every bullet fired at him by the Confederate Army, he couldn’t dodge just one that was fired at him from the gun of a fellow Union general.
General Nelson was not only a mountain of a man, he was also a highly decorated military officer. He was the only naval officer in the entire war, Union or Confederate, to become a full-ranking Civil War major general. Bull quickly rose through the ranks and received promotions by none other than President Abraham Lincoln because of his victories in Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee.
But after a string of victories in the early parts of the war, Bull was personally injured on August 30, 1862 during some tough fighting in Richmond, KY. He was forced to spend the next month recovering from his wounds in Louisville.
On September 22, while staying at the Galt House in Louisville, General Nelson temporarily dismissed one of his subordinates, Brigadier General Jefferson C. Davis, from command. Naturally, Davis was embarrassed by this action, and returned one week later to confront General Nelson about the matter. The conversation quickly turned into an argument, which led Bull to slap Davis across the cheek.
The enraged Gen. Davis borrowed a gun from a friend and approached Bull in a state of fury. Pointing the gun at Bull’s torso, he fired one round into the behemoth’s chest, mortally wounding him. Thunderstruck that one Union general would intentionally kill another Union general, soldiers scrambled to arrest Davis and help the dying Nelson.
Bull, stunned by the horrendous act of cowardice and betrayal, had just one request in his final moments: “Send for a clergyman; I wish to be baptized.”
The dying Bull had made two glaring errors in his faith life. First, he evidently thought that baptism could save a person from sin, even though the Bible clearly teaches that Jesus alone can do that. Second, he foolishly postponed his salvation, thinking he had more years ahead of him.
None of us are promised tomorrow. What have you put off till then that you need to address today?
Generals in Blue by Ezra J. Warner. Louisiana State University Press, 1964, Pages 343-344.
Topics Illustrated Include:
(Resource cataloged by David R Smith)