This page explains the origin of the Holmes Brigade Motto
"Just a quarter mile more...".
Per Ken McElhaney's account...
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 were supposed to go?
Dixon panted back, Remember where the trailer (that we had rode on before the march)
turned off this road? Its right there. I fired back, Hey, thats 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.
Talbott's's account, from Chapter 19 of my memiors...
At morning roll call, just after , 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
, 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
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
'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.