University of Georgia former director of athletics and head football coach Vince Dooley has authored a number of books in recent years on subjects of coaching, football, gardening, and books for children. But just published is the first book on one of his great passions—the Civil War.
“The Legion’s Fighting Bulldog,” co-edited with Samuel Norman Thomas, Jr., chronicles the Civil War correspondence of William Gaston Delony, Lieutenant Colonel of Cobb’s Georgia Legion Cavalry, and Rosa Delony between 1853 and 1863.
Delony was connected to the University of Georgia as a 1st honor UGA graduate, and later an instructor in foreign language. He and his wife Rosa lived only a block from the historic Arch in Athens while he practiced law prior to the war. An ardent patriot, Delony served as state representative from Athens just prior to the war.
Greatly loved by those who served under him, Lieutenant Colonel Delony possessed three admirable attributes according to one of his subordinates: commanding presence, bulldog courage, and superb generalship. The Legion’s Fighting Bulldog relays the story of a young man on the cusp of a promising law career in the 1850’s who comes to the conclusion that his way of life, and that of his neighbors, is about to change forever. Interwoven with those of his wife, Rosa, the Delony correspondence furnishes a window into the lives of independent individuals during the Civil War who also happened to be well-placed in society due to birth.
When the war broke out, Delony raised a cavalry company and joined Cobb’s Legion. His leadership in the Legion Cavalry was a significant factor in Lt. Gen. Wade Hampton corps commander of General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern VA, calling Cobb’s Legion, “the best regiment of either army North or South in the War.”
Delony, who rose to the rank of Lt. Colonel, fought in over 50 engagements during the war and was a real hero in the Battle of Brandy Station, the largest cavalry battle in North America with some 20,000 troops engaged. He was tenacious in leading his troops in all of his battles and skirmishes. Unfortunately, he was mortally wounded in battle at a place called Jack’s Shop in Madison County, VA.
It is ironic that one of the Delony’s great great granddaughters, the former Leigh Hull, is married to Col. Mike Steele who played for the Georgia Bulldogs during the time they won three SEC Championships and the National Championship in 1980. Col Steele is a decorated Army Ranger who served in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia where his unit fought its way out of the raid in Mogadishu which was portrayed in the book and the movie Black Hawk Down. The Steele’s have two children, a young man and young woman, both West Point graduates.
“A bulldog Confederate officer’s story affectionately retold capturing his devotion of family, friends, and cause. By showing as much why Delony fought as what he did, Dooley and Thomas enrich our understanding of the Civil War and its lasting impact on the South. A Dawg-gone good read.”
–Dr. Edward J. Larson, Pulitzer Prize-winning American historian, former Richard B. Russell Professor of History, University of Georgia
“This huge collection centers on the extraordinary correspondence between an Athens attorney-soldier and his wife. It highlights—as few previous works have done—the activities of Georgia soldiers in Lee’s army, as well as tribulations ever present on the home front.”
–-James I. “Bud” Robertson, Jr., award-winning author of Stonewall Jackson: The Man, the Solder, the Legend.