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Holmes Brigade, USV, Inc.

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  "Just a quarter mile more..."

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This page explains the origin of the Holmes Brigade Motto "Just a quarter mile more...".


Per Ken McElhaney's account...

Athens, Missouri: August, 1984
(aka The Athens Death March)

Tales of this event are rather legendary, but I will share one story you may not know of.  When we were resting by a small house trailer or something like that after marching at least three miles.   Captain Dixon “Just a Quarter Mile More, Boys” Stauffer,  was on all fours and panting like a dog.  I looked at him and asked, “Hey Dix, how far is it to where we’re supposed to go?”

Dixon panted back, “Remember where the trailer (that we had rode on before the march) turned off this road? It’s right there.” I fired back, “Hey, that’s at least another mile or two. Why have you been telling us a quarter mile more all this time?” He replied, “Cause if I told the truth, none of you all would go.”   Well, he had me there. 


Per Bob Talbott's's account, from Chapter 19 of my memiors...

At morning roll call, just after 6 AM, the Captain announced we'd be going out for a special 'field exercise' that morning. Rather than have the typical battle that afternoon, both Union and Confederate commanders opted to combine a four-mile march with a tactical similar to one down at Brice's Crossroads. At 9 AM, we loaded up on a flat bed hay wagon. Once out of the park, we took a dirt road for at least 15 to 20 minutes. The idea was we would march back in from where ever the truck dropped us off at. The truck was going a good 50 miles an hour, and in wasn't long before each of us was caked with an inch of road dust. The truck finally stopped in the middle of a country road, so we dismounted and took turns slapping the dust off each other and shaking ourselves like wet dogs. Once the truck rolled out of sight, we formed our company into a column and marched off at the route step. Clouds of grayish dust rose up under our feet, the men in the rear ranks getting the worst of it. Soon our trousers up to our knees were dust covered. There was gravel of various sizes on this road as well, and we had to be careful how we put our feet down, or else it would turn a man's ankle if stepped on the wrong way. Some of this gravel was the size of a softball, and as we continued on, John Maki made the comment that "if the gravel gets any bigger, I'll just have to walk around it."

As the morning wore on, the sun rose higher and the temperature climbed. It was to be a 4-mile trek, but the road seemed never ending. Muskets grew heavier, tongues grew longer, and breath became shorter. I think we took one five minute break, but no longer. You see, we had to reach the objective before the johnnies did. Of course, they took a different route and we had no idea how they were progressing, but were sure they were suffering as much as we. Of course Frank Kirtley and some of the other young bucks were in their element and barely busted a sweat. Occasionally a pard would walk along side a fagged out buddy and tote his musket for a spell. The Holmes Brigade was full of compassionate souls. Somebody drove by in a station wagon and began handing out ice chips from a cooler, so we all put some in our tin cups and continued on.

At this time,only the Captain knew how far we had to go-we knew nothing of our objective. After it seemed we had marched all the way to Illinois by this time, one of the company wags bravely confronted the Captain with a questioning plea:
'How much further do we have to go?'
Captain Dick merely replied that, 'we only have just a quarter-mile more, boys.'
So we shuffled along the road a while longer; raising even more clouds of dust and stumbled across even more gravel.
'How much further is it NOW, Captain?' came the sound from a dust coated throat.
'Just a quarter-mile more', was the same reply. And so it went for what seemed an eternity; each question from the men met with the same response from the Captain.

Finally we came to the hill. It was just a little beyond the local cemetery. The road rose up only at about a 30-degree angle, but it could have been Pike's Peak, as a number of groan's escaped from the cracked lips of the Brigade. The ranks began to unravel as men began to slow, then stagger out of formation as the climb was made. Even as our knuckles began to scrap the ground, we somehow managed to crest the top of the hill, then made a left turn onto a smaller trail. It was here that about a half dozen men finally collapsed into some tufts of grass that lined this trail. Included in this group was Bill Fannin and myself. I was completely fagged out. You could have knocked me over with a feather. The balance of the company peeled off into a valley and struck up against the johnnies and whaled away at each other for about five minutes or so. Two 30 gallons plastic drums of water had appeared and the six of us stragglers managed to drink about 15 gallons by ourselves. Finally the boys boiled out of the valley, looking as white as sheets-exhausted beyond belief. I'd managed to regain some feeling in my extremities, so I tended to my pards by bringing some water as they collapsed at my feet. Most of the boys shucked their jackets and lay about in their sweat soaked shirt sleeves; looking like a bunch of beached whales, blowing and gasping in the humid air. Water drunk in haste ran past their eager open lips drenching their beards and necks. I noticed that Frank Kirtley had a drop of sweat running down his nose, but otherwise was unfazed. Oh, by the way, this concluded the 'field problem' and the federals were crowned with the laurel wreath of victory once again. We moseyed back to camp, only a hundred yards away, and flopped on our backs for the rest of the afternoon. I mean everybody was completely horizontal for many hours. The only other thing that was scheduled was a dance that evening and no one felt like getting back on their feet.


A limerick by Kevin Plankinton
(Sept 2002)

They asked "How far?" by the score,
and were told just a quarter mile more.
So on they tramped,
though exhausted and cramped,
and marched into Holmes Brigade lore.