Friday, October 21, 2005

General James Madison Pearson. U.S. Army by Ed Ferrell

Sometime ago, my nieces Mrs. Gloria Sorenson and Caro Marquis, having enjoyed some stories I had told them of our childhood days in Coosada, Alabama and in Valdosta, Georgia, many years ago, urged me to write some of these stories for them. So, I consented to do so if they enjoyed them so much as they seem to. My first story for them was "Two Coosda Braves" telling about how three of our Uncles while visiting us in the summer in 1896 at Coosada, enticed my first Cousin Mat Pearson and me to agree to sleep on the edge of the Country Cemetery on our old home place, where the first Governor of Alabama and his wife, Gov and Mrs. Wyatt A Bibb are buried. These three Pranksters, Uncle Lonnie Ferrell of New Orleans, Uncle Sape Jackson of Union Springs, Ala and Cousin Willie Tullis of Montgomery, offered us the big sum of five dollars to sleep at the cemetery. My story recounted how Mat and I were scared to death by a Ghost in the Cemetery.

At that time I was 6 years old and Mat Pearson was 11, and this Biography in brief of General Pearson is the same Mat Pearson, the "Coosda Brave" as a child. Our Ghost Experience at Coosda left no doubt that both Mat and I were Cowards of the first degree when it came to Ghosts.

After knowing of Mat Pearson's brilliant and decorated War Records in the World War I and being wounded three times seriously, and being highly decorated for Bravery in combat, I have concluded that beyond any doubt, Mat had all the Fear that any one could possess scared completely out of him at that early age in Coosda, as his War Records proved him fearless in his later years as a soldier. He was scared so badly at Coosda there wasn't any Fear left in him it seams.

After Gloria and Caro were amused at our story, they circulated copies of the story to some of the other 35 Dalton Grandchildren & my grandchildren, and several others of these wrote me to please write then some more of our childhood experiences. I am glad to do so if it gives you all any pleasure.

I believe you will be interested in the Life story of this Mat Pearson, our cousin from Montgomery, as we all can pint with pride to his Life-story, and the fact that he lived in Valdosta for two years can be of interest to you who have lived in Valdosta. His Army career was indeed unique and his success was earned in the "Hard Way" & rarely achieved in the way he earned it.

Mat Pearson (James Madison Pearson) was the son of my Fathers eldest of his four sisters, Sally Ferrell of Montgomery, Alabama who married "Dr. Benjamin Rush Pearson of Montgomery. They had three children, the oldest Dr. Ferrell Pearson, the second a daughter Annie who married Billie Letcher of a very prominent Kentucky family, and the youngest James Madison (Mat). Pearson.

Mat's ambition from early teen age was to attend West Point Military Academy and to become a career Officer in the United States Army. Ferrell and Annie Pearson were afforded the opportunity of a fine College Education, and both took advantage of this very capably. Mat attended and graduated from Stark's Preparatory School in Montgomery. Starke's School had an outstanding reputation for strictness in every way and a Starke graduate was accepted in any college without examination. Mat had hoped to get an appointment for West Point, and was terribly disappointed in missing out on the appointment, by another applicant. This was a severe blow to his plans, and to make matters worse, he was unable to enter college, as both his Mother and Father had been stricken with Tuberculosis and after three years of expensive hospitals and Health resorts, were not in financial, position to send Mat to college and he had to go to work instead. Both his parents died a year later.

A year after Mat graduated from Starke's in Montgomery, in 1902 my father opened the" New Valdes Hotel at Valdosta, Ga. and employed Mat Pearson as one of the first clerks of the Valdes. In early 1905 the new Suwannee Hotel at Live Oak, Florida was completed and Mat Pearson and his brother-in-law Billie Letcher leased the Suwannee in partnership as Proprietors, but the partnership was short lived, as Mat still had the Army bug in his veins, and was determined to make the Army his career, and after a year at Live Oak, he sold his interest in the Suwannee Hotel to his partner Billie Letcher, and of all things joined the U.S. Army as a buck private.

A Private in the Army was an honorable profession, but by no means as ambitious or glamorous as an Army Officer. This was during Peace times and West Point was turning out all the Officers the Army needed, and while it was possible, it was a rare achievement for a Private to work himself for a Commission in the Army from the ranks. This required an education comparable with the four strict years at West Point, to be acquired by self discipline and self-taught Education with full knowledge of Army regulations, which education was unmatched in any college in the World. A West Point graduate received a commission as Second Lieutenant and was recognized as being as highly educated as possible. A West Point graduate was also recognized socially by all Crown Heads throughout the World.

When Mat joined the Army as a private it was with the sole determination of becoming an Officer, and he immediately set in to study on the side and acquire the necessary requirements to receive a commission as an Officer. This was a rare achievement, and only a small number ever received a commission from the ranks during peace times. Suffice it to say that in four years time Mat had applied for an examination for a commission. He passed this and was commissioned as Lieut James Madison Pearson in the United States Army. His career was launched.

Promotions during Peace Times were very slow, but when the 1st World War in 1916 started, Mat had worked up as Major Pearson and went over seas with the very first Regiments to enter the war zone. He fought with his Regiment throughout the entire War in actual combat. He was seriously wounded three times in combat and recovered sufficiently to return to his Regiment each time. When he was wounded the third time he was billeted in the home of a fine French family near the front line trenches. Marguerite, the lovely daughter of this family nursed Mat and some other injured American boys. During his several weeks in this home, Mat and his charming nurse fell in love with each other, and the very first day after the Armistice was signed to end the War, they were married.

Mat received a commission as Lieut Colonel, a few months after the war started, and at the end of the War was commissioned a Full Colonel. A few years later he was promoted to Brigadier General, and served in the Army until 1948 when he retired after 30, years Service. The family spent most of their Army years as Commanding Officer at various Army posts, his last Command being as Commanding General of Fort Dix, N.J. He was Adjutant General on the Staff in Washington several years. They had three lovely daughters. After Mat's retirement he was a Professor at the University of North Carolina for several years, and as a result of his War injuries his health became bad for the last three years of his life. He died in 1968. A finer and more Patriotic American never lived.

Ed Ferrell


Blogger you are what you read said...

Great story, thanks for sharing it.

January 04, 2017  

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