POINT PLEASANT, West Va. — Lt. Col. Rusty McGuire, commander of the Virginia National Guard’s Portsmouth-based 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, was the guest speaker at the memorial ceremony held Oct. 5, 2015, honoring those who fought at the Battle of Point Pleasant in October 1774.
Full text of McGuire’s speech:
What a great day it is to be an American, past patriots continue to live when we come together and recognize those who ignited the candle of freedom for us all. To the Sons of the American Revolution, Daughters of the American Revolution, citizens of Point Pleasant and most of all to the descendants of the veterans that fought here thank you for keeping their memories alive.
My name is Lt. Col. Rusty McGuire, a commander in the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, we are based in Augusta County, Virginia and in 1774 we were the Augusta Regiment. On behalf of our commander, Col. William Coffin and all the patriots serving in the “Stonewall Brigade” I want to thank you for allowing the Brigade to share in this remembrance with you.
I was recently in Bastogne, Belgium and thinking of what to say to you all today. I came across a Memorial for the fallen that says “Though dead, we are not heroes yet, nor can be, till the living by their lives which are the tools.” The author is saying don’t call them heroes until you see the actions of those that survived. After reading this, I knew the perfect way to share with you today is to talk about those heroes that fought so gallantly 241 years ago.
Before I describe the actions of the survivors I want to share a few things that moved me about the actions here in 1774. It is incredibly difficult to give orders and make decisions in combat that may result in harm to others. We are trained to make these decisions but it does not mean they are easy. So I was moved by the difficult decision Gen. Andrew Lewis had to make at the start of the battle. Gen. Lewis commanded the Virginia Militia that fought here while his younger brother Charles commanded the Augusta Regiment. Charles was a daring leader that served with the general in previous engagements. When General Lewis learned the Warriors under Cornstalk were sneaking up for a dawn attack, he did not hesitate to send Charles to command the attack. He knew there was a risk that Charles would not survive the attack and of course his worst fear came true. By 12 noon Charles was dead. There is no doubt he made the right decision. He knew Charles was the best to lead the attack which proved to be true. Charles continued to rally his men and formed the line even after he was mortally wounded.
On a lighter side, I was moved by the exploits of James Robertson, Valentine Sevier and the others out hunting that morning. Evidentially, the food in the Regiment was so bad, some things don’t change in the military, that these hunters disobeyed orders and went hunting early in the morning on October 10, 1774. While hunting they observed the war party preparing for the attack and warned the others. Their simple act of insubordination saved countless lives and reminds me it is the spontaneous actions of foot soldiers that often carry the day in battle.
But that monument in Belgium tells us to look at the lives of the survivors after the battle to determine if those who fell were heroes. The lives of the survivors are more impressive than any other formation of this size in the history of our Nation. 7 officers who fought here rose to the rank of general during the Revolution, 6 captains led regiments during the Revolution. Countless were heroes at almost every battle and ending with veterans present at the surrender of Cornwallis.
A simple look at names of towns illustrates the significance of their actions. Dozens of towns are named for veterans of Point Pleasant. Lewisburg, West Virginia is named for General Lewis, Campbell County, Virginia is named for William Campbell. Mathews County, Virginia is named for George Mathews. Harrisonburg, Virginia is named for Benjamin Harrison. I believe Issac Shelby has the record with 20 towns or counties named for him.
Time does not allow me to name all of the towns named for veterans but not only are counties named for Issac Shelby and Valentine’s older brother John Sevier, but they went on to lead units during the Revolution. They are credited for planning the Battle of King’s Mountain that is known as the turning point of the Revolution.
John Sevier and Issac Shelby also went on to become first governors of Tennessee and Kentucky respectively. Issac never lost that flame and while governor at the age of 63, led the Kentucky militia at the Battle of Thames in 1813 during the War of 1812. Like the names of towns, time precludes me from naming all the veterans that went on to serve in Congress or State Legislatures. Many of the veterans returned to Point Pleasant after the war to include Leonard Cooper. Cooper became the first magistrate and his descendants still reside in Point Pleasant today.
If the heroism of the fallen is judged by the lives of the survivors these men were some of the most inspiring heroes in our Nation. They ignited a flame that did not end at Point Pleasant. These men set the standard for future members of the Augusta Regiment and the Virginia Army National Guard. Our Regiment continued service in the Revolution. We were organized under Stonewall Jackson in the 1860s where we earned the name the “Stonewall Brigade.” At D-Day, this flame of liberty continued to burn when the Regiment landed on Omaha Beach. Even today the soldiers of the Stonewall Brigade keep the legacy of these brave heroes alive. As we sit here honoring these men we have units preparing to deploy and serve across the Middle East. This is after many have served numerous deployments overseas in the past decade.
The flame of liberty is only a generation from being extinguished and I promise you the soldiers of the “Stonewall Brigade” will keep that flame ignited. I salute you all for keeping their memories of the heroes of Point Pleasant alive, God Bless our heroes and God Bless the United States of America.