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The Fighting Pattons

The Fighting Pattons

5.0 2
by Brian M. Sobel, George S. Patton (Foreword by)

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This book presents a unique view of a military family, and, most importantly, displays the lives of a father and son: a father who would become an American hero and a son who excelled on his own terms, but who was profoundly influenced by a figure who had gained legendary status. The elder Patton gained widespread fame during World War II as a fearless


This book presents a unique view of a military family, and, most importantly, displays the lives of a father and son: a father who would become an American hero and a son who excelled on his own terms, but who was profoundly influenced by a figure who had gained legendary status. The elder Patton gained widespread fame during World War II as a fearless commander and motivator of soldiers in war. He was brash, supremely self-confident, and greatly admired by the enemy; many German officers would later say Patton was the most important weapon in the American arsenal. A complex man driven by his knowledge of history and warfare, the elder Patton was compassionate and easily moved to tears. He was a professional soldier who loved the art of war and hated war itself.The younger Patton has also lived a most exciting life, having been acquainted with many of the famous names in political and military history. Together, father and son logged 79 years of continuous miltary service. They fought in every American conflict from the punitive action taken in Mexico in 1916 through Vietnam.

This is the only book on the Patton family that includes commentary from both the son and daughter of General George S. Patton, concerning their father's life and times. Including a vast array of never before published information, this book is also a family story and a contemporary history of the wars that shaped the 20th century. There are interviews with the late Richard Nixon, General William Westmoreland, General James Dozier, Jimmy Doolittle, and many others.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Cahners\\Publishers_Weekly
Sobel, a journalist and media consultant, has produced a book that succeeds in spite of itself. The author's intention was to compare the military careers of George Patton and his son (who contributes the book's foreword). Sobel's treatment of the elder Patton, relying heavily on the memories of family and friends, adds nothing significant to the standard biographies by Martin Blumenson and Carlo D'Este. But the son tells much of his own story, including how he made his own way in a series of staff and command assignments. The most familiar of these was as colonel of the 11th Armored Cavalry in Vietnam during 1968, when the media attempted to cast him in the "blood and guts" image of his father. While assertive and ambitious, the younger Patton appears here as concerned for the welfare of his men and the army, and frustrated by what he saw as a post-Vietnam emphasis on public relations and political correctness. Through his story, Patton opens a window to the Cold War army's "lost generation" of senior officers. By the time of Vietnam, they were senior enough to be caught in the war's riptides yet they had no responsibility for shaping strategy, and their skills as conventional-war commanders were irrelevant. They were high in rank-and sometimes too set in their ways -- to be part of the process of reconstruction that culminated in Desert Storm. But Patton and his counterparts did much to hold the line during the Cold War. If their concepts of service and duty appear unsophisticated in an age of uniformed spin doctors, their heritage remains honorable, worthy of the kind of memorial provided by this book (which Prager classifies as an "academic monograph"; hence the high price).
Library Journal
A book titled The Singing Sinatras that devotes 90 percent of its space to Frank Sinatra Jr. would disappoint many, perhaps most, listeners. The Fighting Pattons is similarly disappointing. It represents itself as a history of the military Patton family with a "focus" on World War II hero Gen. George S. Patton Jr. and his son and namesake, Gen. George S. Patton, who served in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. However, it is essentially an uncritical biography of the younger Patton, and most of what it says about his more famous father concerns the relationship between father and son. Padded with often redundant quotes from the younger Patton, the tape is also longer than it needs to be; Adams Morgan's oddly paced narration slows it down even more. Recommended only to libraries building large collections on the Vietnam War. Kent Rasmussen, Thousand Oaks, CA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Mark Yost
Brian Sobel's The Fighting Pattons is an extraordinary history of one American family's love of war. It includes the exploits of Hugh Mercer, a famous Revolutionary War general who married into the Patton line, and Col. Waller Tazewell Patton, who was mortally wounded at Gettysburg while taking part in Pickett's Charge. But the focus is on the careers of the 20th-century Pattons, World War II legend Gen. George S. Patton Jr. and his lesser-known namesake and son, Maj. Gen. George S. Patton who fought in Korea and Vietnam.

And this most conventional warrior's view (Major General George S. Patton) on that most unconventional war, Vietnam, makes for good reading. "We were in total violation of surprise, simplicity, command and objective," he says of U. S. strategy in Vietnam. "Somewhere someone made the statement that we would not go above the seventeenth parallel with land forces. We never should have told them that, we should have let them worry. Most importantly, we should have taken Vietnam on as a theater of war—just exactly like the Italian theater or the Mediterranean or South Pacific or Central Pacific theaters. We should have drawn a circle around Southeast Asia.

   His father couldn't have said it better.

—The Wall Street Journal Review

The Wall Street Journal

"An extraordinary history of one American family's love of war." —The Wall Street Journal


"Strong, stirring, and inspiring.... What a story it is!... A stunning account." —Army


"Highly recommended and engrossing reading as well as giving us a view of the Pattons that has never before been seen. A wonderful and moving portrait of the Patton family." —Military

Armchair General

"Sobel’s volume is a significant addition to our understanding of a man often overlooked and compared unfairly to his father." —Armchair General

From the Publisher
"An extraordinary history of one American family's love of war." —The Wall Street Journal

"Sobel’s volume is a significant addition to our understanding of a man often overlooked and compared unfairly to his father." —Armchair General

"Strong, stirring, and inspiring.... What a story it is!... A stunning account." —Army

Product Details

Greenwood Publishing Group, Incorporated
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.40(h) x 0.80(d)
1210L (what's this?)

Read an Excerpt



The Patton sons were all either killed, wounded, or otherwise affected by the Civil War.

--Ruth Ellen Patton Totten

It is said that a Patton has fought in nearly every conflict in America's history; yet the first Patton, one Robert Patton, was not a military man but a tobacco exporter from South Carolina, whose name first turns up on a deed in Fredericksburg, Virginia, in 1771. It has been established with considerable certainty that the name was an alias: the young man who called himself Robert Patton, then a popular last name in Scotland, was actually a wanted criminal in the old country. Like so many immigrants of those times, he had set out for America to leave his past behind. From such humble beginnings the family over the next two hundred years would make an indelible mark on the American landscape.

The Patton name has inspired countless literary endeavors, including many books and articles, published especially over the last fifty years. The story of Patton has been chronicled on television and in major motion pictures, including Patton, starring the award-winning actor George C. Scott. The name has been brought into the collective consciousness of America and much of the world through the power of Hollywood, with its impact across borders and languages.

An epic major motion picture that wins numerous awards will be seen by hundreds of millions of people around the globe, but it is the story being told that captures the imagination. The Patton saga is just such a story. The leading character is bigger than life, certainly as enhanced by the motion picture screen, which conveys the power and majesty of a persona of inspiring quality, crushing theenemies of freedom and democracy.

While the story of one general and hero is a central part of Patton history, it is not the only one. Importantly and significantly, there is more. The full story involves a son who also became a general, who participated in two of our most controversial wars, Korea and Vietnam. The fact is, the complete Patton military story ends not with General George S. Patton, Jr., but with his son, a general who fought in wars where the enemy was elusive as were the solutions to the problems facing America in the post-World War II era. Telling the story of Major General George S. Patton requires, however, not only recognizing the career of his father, the

famous field commander of World War II, but going back to the beginning, to set the scene.

America during the Colonial period was a place where new ideas flourished, where strangers and newcomers banded together to form communities; the young country was flexing its new-found power and allegiance to itself instead of the old country. With just such a backdrop Robert Patton established himself in the Fredericksburg area, ingratiating himself with the local citizens while running a tobacco business. Interestingly, whereas many men of his day fought in the Revolutionary War, Patton did not volunteer, preferring to remain friendly with both the British and Americans alike. During the war, however, Patton killed a British officer in a tavern altercation and was forced to keep a low profile for the remainder of the conflict.

Robert Patton was, if nothing else, a resourceful soul, undaunted by circumstance, who in the late 1770s would marry the daughter of General Hugh

Mercer, a close friend of George Washington. The union produced six children; one in particular, John Mercer Patton, went on to a distinguished career, including service in the United States Congress and as the acting governor of Virginia. He and his wife, Peggy French Williams, had twelve children, nine of whom, eight boys and one girl, lived to adulthood.

Seven sons of John and Peggy Mercer Patton would eventually join the Confederacy. The Civil War not only pitted the South against the North in America's greatest tragedy but drew into its wide net members of nearly every family, particularly in the South. The Pattons were no exception, feeling honor-bound to fight, and doing so with a high degree of dedication and bravery. Whether viewed from a Northern or Southern perspective, it was an especially cruel conflict, setting brother against brother and producting horrific and deadly battlefield technology. The famed "minie ball," as an example, designed in 1849 by C. E. Minie, a French Army captain, accounted for 90 percent of the casualties; another 8 percent were caused by

increasingly powerful and accurate artillery.

The Civil War, in which the Pattons played a significant role, was especially hard on the family. Ruth Ellen once said, "The Patton sons were all either killed, wounded, or otherwise affected by the Civil War." In addition

to splitting families, the war split the military. By 1861, it is reported, 820 graduates of the United States Military Academy at West Point were serving in the armies of both the North and South, though more than 75 percent remained

loyal to the Northern cause.

The Pattons, as Virginians and loyal to the South, fought on familiar ground. Virginia evolved as the leading theater of the Civil War; battles, engagements, and campaigns in Virginia exceeded those of any other state, including Tennessee. By war's end just under one-third of all military actions had occurred in Virginia, and extant reports from the field--including specific indications of their movements in battle by generals "Stonewall" Jackson and R. S. Ewell, among others--mention the Pattons in locations throughout the state.

One particular Patton, the fourth child of John and Peggy, was given the name George Smith; he was the first in a line of Pattons with the same first

name. Born in Fredericksburg, Virginia, in June 1833, he would eventually attend the Virginia Military Institute, where he graduated in 1852. After VMI, Patton set up a law practice and later formed a volunteer militia company, the Kanawha Rifles, in which he assumed the rank of captain. This company became

Company H of the 22nd Virginia Infantry when it was activated in late April 1861. When the entire regiment was sworn into the Confederate service, Patton became a lieutenant colonel and was ordered to report to Brigadier General Henry Wise, a past Virginia governor and now commander of the Army of the Kanawha.

Patton fought courageously. He was wounded in 1862 but returned to the war, to be killed in the third battle of Winchester, often called the battle of Opequon, in September 1864. "At the time Patton was killed in action, his commission as a general in the Confederate Army was in the mail," said Ruth Ellen. It was the second death of a son in the war for the Pattons, who had lost Colonel Waller Tazewell Patton nearly a year before. Today in the Confederate portion of a cemetery in Winchester, Virginia--a town that changed hands seventy-two times during the war--is a statue dedicated on June 6, 1879, "in memory of the 398 Virginia soldiers lying in the cemetery who fell in defense of Constitutional Liberty and sovereignty of their state

from 1861-1865 a.d."

Nearby is the simple grave of the Patton brothers, lying among friends and fellow soldiers. The tombstone reads, "In Christ alone perfectly content." Regarding Colonel W. Tazewell Patton, 7th Virginia Regiment, it speaks of a Patton "who fell mortally wounded in the charge of Pickett's division at Gettysburg on the 3rd of July, 1863 in the 29th year of his age"; under Colonel George S. Patton, 22nd Virginia Regiment, it recalls one "who gave his life in Command of his brigade in defense of Winchester on the 19th of September, 1864 in the 32nd year of his age."

Meet the Author

BRIAN M. SOBEL owns and operates a media consulting firm in Petaluma, California. He is the author of a previous book and is a frequent contributor to magazines and newspapers. A former news director for two California radio stations, Sobel held public office for nine years.

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