Thursday, August 18, 2011

Day 42: Raphael Fights a Bear!

There are a couple of things that led me to draw this.

1) Bears are awesomely powerful and could probably kill you without even realizing you were there, yet somehow they trick people into thinking they're adorable and cuddly like a big dog.

2) Ethan Nicolle (co-creator and artist of Axe Cop fame) recently started a new web-comic called Bearmageddon. It's seriously awesome and I love his art style. It's not Axe Cop so don't come in expecting poop jokes and people dressed as babies (though it's only 5 pages in, so who knows what the future holds?), but it's already just as entertaining in a different way. In one of the recent pages one of the characters posed the question, "Can a man kill a bear with one punch?" And that brings me to number three.

3) I have an ancestor who used to hunt bears using only a knife with some accounts crediting him killing more than 80 bears in close combat.

I've known about this ancestor for a while. He was pretty famous back in the days of the good 'ol Civil War and a few family member have been named after him. What I didn't know until fairly recently was that he could have been a serious contender for Bad Ass of the Century.

His name was General Wade Hampton III and here are a few highlights of his pretty awesome life.*

He was born in Charleston, South Carolina to one of the wealthiest planters in the South. They also happened to own the largest number of slaves (not really a ringing endorsement for a bad-ass, but it was the South in the early 1800's). He came from a line of military bad-asses that served in the American Revolution as well as the War of 1812.

As previously mentioned he was quite an outdoorsman and enjoyed horseback riding and hunting. Specifically hunting American Black Bears. With a knife. And nothing else.

He studied law, but never practiced it, presumably because he only needed to understand the law enough to become a powerful vigilante in the Southern United States.

At the start of the Civil War he opposed the division of the U.S., but being an honorable man he stayed loyal to his home state of South Carolina and resigned his post in the U.S. Senate (oh yeah, he was a Senator, did I mention that?) He then enlisted as a private in the SC Militia, but the Governor insisted he take a Colonel's commision even though he had absolutely no military experience. He formed his own legion, because there were no other legions bad ass enough to back him up and he personally financed all of their weaponry.

After numerous battles and promotions he led what became known as the "Beefsteak Raid" in which he and his troops captured over 2400 heads of cattle and 300 prisoners behind enemy lines.

He was injured five times during the war. Once was a severe injury to the foot, but who needs a foot when you have a horse? He stayed mounted while the wound was treated even though he was still under heavy fire. Another time he received a saber cut to the back of the head while rushing a soldier from 200 yards who was pointing a rifle at him the entire time. He received two more cuts to the front of his head and was only taken out of the battle when he received shrapnel to his hip.

After the war he was offered a nomination for governor and was a strong favorite to win, except that, oh yeah, he didn't want to be governor; he was afraid people in the North would be a suspicious of a Confederate general seeking office only months after the war ended. Regardless he was so popular he had to campaign to tell people not to vote for him.

Later when he did decide to run his supporters were called "Red Shirts" and were known for their violent tactics, much like soccer hooligans I would imagine. In order to secure absolute privacy he used a local brothel as a campaign headquarters and to hold meetings. That election was thought to be the bloodiest gubernatorial election in the history of the state and both sides claimed victory. In fact for six months there were two governments until the South Carolina Supreme Court declared Hampton as the winner.

Afterward he was known as the "Savior of South Carolina" and was reelected. He broke his leg shortly into his second term and it eventually had to be amputated. It's OK, though, because on the day his leg was amputated he was also elected to the Senate even though he refused to announce his intention to run. If you're keeping count that's two--almost three--positions of power he was given without even asking.

If you're ever near the South Carolina State House, or the U.S. Capitol you can see a couple of statues of him erected after his death in 1902.

He's also been used in several works of historical fiction. If you watch Gone With the Wind you can see it's his name that signed the letter to Scarlet telling her that her first husband has died in the war. The other works are just books, so you won't be reading those anyway.

That's probably enough about my ancestors for one post. I hope I enlightened you as to how awesome my genes are.

*I got all of my facts from the Wikipedia article on General Wade Hampton III, so take that for what you will.

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