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Monday, September 2, 2013

Sergeant William Jasper and the Man of Action

One of the most gallant soldiers of the American Revolution was Sergeant William Jasper; remarkably, he has two memorials to him in Savannah, more than Casimir Pulaski and more than General Nathanael Greene.  One, in Madison Square, shows him holding a flag; the other, surrounded by interstate and local highways, is a more classical monument

His birthdate unconfirmed (some sources put 1750, another 1756), there is no doubt as to his death--October 9, 1779, during the failed assault by the Americans at the besieged British position at the Battle of Savannah.  At the Battle of Sullivan's Island, he retrieved a fallen flag of the 2nd South Carolina while exposed to enemy fire and restored it to its prominent position, proclaiming "God Save Liberty and my Country forever!" He successfully conducted a variety of raids that resulted in British prisoners.  Offered a lieutenant's commission, he turned it down, saying "Were I made an officer, my comrades would be constantly blushing for my ignorance, and I should be unhappy feeling my own inferiority.  I have no ambition for higher rank than that of a Sergeant."

While it is hard to admire foolhardiness with the consciousness of today, and with Wilfred Owen's poem, Dulce Et Decorum Est ringing in our ears, it is nonetheless possible to think about Jasper as a man who put his "money where his mouth was," who acted and did not just talk, and who did so with a marked humility that is completely absent from most public figures today.

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