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Lawton’s Last Words

May 2024
1min read

The piece on General Henry Ware Lawton in the April/May issue reflects two omissions.

The first, fully documented, demonstrates that this doughty warrior’s propensity to drink long antedated his tenure as military governor of Santiago. In his introduction to Chasing Geronimo: The Journal of Leonard Wood , Jack C. Lane writes that during the 1886 pursuit of the Apache warrior, “Lawton’s sole weakness seems to have been his strong taste for liquor, not uncommon among frontier soldiers. But alcohol turned Lawton into a raging tyrant, a condition which interfered with the performance of his duties. He had little patience, however, with subordinate officers who drank to excess. During the Geronimo campaign he dismissed one of his lieutenants and sent him back to Fort Huachuca charged with misconduct on account of drunkenness. Yet there is much evidence that Lawton himself did some hard drinking during the campaign and that Wood and others saved his career more than once by smoothing over his drunken rages.”

The second omission is supported by firm tradition: When General Lawton was killed, the reporter covering the event cabled home that the fallen American general “died with his Maker’s name on his lips.” This was literally true. But General Lawton’s actual words were, “Jesus Christ! I’ve been shot!”

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