Every successful army needs them, the dedicated few soldiers who will undergo any sacrifice to make the unit work. Audie Murphy said in his book, To Hell and Back, that every platoon needed three to four soldiers ready to kill without flinching. That is what he meant, that every military unit relied on those few who were very good at their craft and were ruthless in the execution of their craft.
Virginius “Jinny” Petty was one such soldier. At the Second Battle of Manassas, he was First Sergeant of Co. E, Fifth Texas Infantry Regiment. The Fifth Texas Infantry was known as the “Bloody Fifth,” because of its high casualties at the Second Battle of Manassas. Jinny Petty was shot in the bowels and mortally wounded. Then as now, that was the worst wound, because death was certain and it would come slow. He was said to be the most dedicated man in Co. E. He had promised he would “go naked and eat dirt” before he would fall out of line on the march.
His messmate was W.H. McCalister. Mr. McCalister did not lie to 1SGT Petty’s family, as most soldiers did. He told the family that the First Sergeant died a slow death. “He suffered a great deal before he died,” W.H. wrote to the Petty’s. But, his last request, he wrote, was to tell his friends that he “died for a good cause and that he was perfectly willing to die for he had served his country faithfully.” No soldier can hope for more than that.
Susannah J. Ural, Hood’s Texas Brigade, (Baton Rouge, La.: LSU Press 2017), p. 112.