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Posted - 02/16/2009 : 22:52:04
| How to Really be a Hero. An Inventive Biography of James T West
by Roniyah Gabrielle Caitrin Bhaer
At his great aunt Detsy's home outside what would become the town of Silver Spring, MD, a second son, their third child was born to Jessamyn Annabeth Roisin Randolph-West and her husband, Stephen Jemison West at 2:02 am on Thursday, July 2cnd, 1840.Sorry, Dr. Loveless got it wrong, for once. J And Jim was just too well mannered to tell him As they'd already agreed, this healthy, thriving baby boy was named for Jessy-Anne West's favorite brother, and so was christened James Torrance Kieran West. He had an older sister, age 5, named Meredydd Jean for both their grandmothers, and called "Jeanny', most of the time. The West's had lost an infant son, named David Andrew 'Drew' for both grandfathers two years before, to a severe bronchial infection of a kind that ran in the family.
While the young family lived in Maryland, over the next two years time, most family members called the new arrival 'the baby', or 'Jimmy'. But when they visited his mother's family outside Norfolk, Virginia, a change began to take place, one that would last a lifetime. His namesake uncle, James Randolph, called "Jimmy' by everyone who knew him, lived no more than an eighth of a mile down the hill from the main Randolph family home. And so, the family matriarch, Jean Alys Torrance Morrissey Randolph announced her firm decision.
"One Jimmy is often more than enough to have under this old roof. We'll call Jessy-Anne's little boy Torry." Jean Torrance's decisions had all the weight of law, and in some places, moreso. And so 'Torry' he was, at least amongst his family, throughout Maryland, southern Pennsylvania and Ohio, northern Virginia, the Carolinas, and his father's family, down around San Antonio, for the rest of his life. 'Torry' grew up traveling very often between family member's homes, as was the custom.
The dominant event of his childhood, and as Jim would say himself, in later years, of his whole life, however, was the death of his mother at his grandmother's home outside Norfolk, when Torry was just past his fifth birthday. When a great many relatives were there to celebrate Jean Randolph's birthday, in August of that year, a fire accidentally started in a storage room on the upper level of the rambling old house that wasn't quite a mansion, 'just big and comfortable enough for a lot of folks'. Jessamyn West had left the gathering early, going up to rest as her doctor instructed she should be doing often. Torry's 'momma' was expecting her fourth child.
The West-Randolph family was devastated and greatly changed by this tragedy. Stephen West began a pattern of traveling far and wide, at this time. Many family members believed he could not bear to stay where his beloved 'Annie' perished. Torry/Jim would later admit he believed his father couldn't bear to stay with the young son who everyone said was the image of his mother. Jeanny and Torry stayed with their uncle Jimmy and Aunt Joanna, as did their grandparents, until the old house on the hill was rebuilt. Jean Randolph would not think of living anywhere else, she said, and as noted, her word was law. James Torrance Kieran 'Jimmy' Randolph was probably the second most influential person in Torry's growing years, following right after Jean Randolph.
And the uncle he was named for, without consciously intending to do so over time took on much of the fatherly role Stephen West seemed to abandon. He'd been a great friend to Stephen. But the fire changed that as well. Randolph saw estrangement beginning between Torry and his father, and did nothing to encourage, or to end it. Jimmy Randolph eventually tried for some sort of rapprochement with Stephen West. And the elder West eventually made an effort to bridge the gap with his son and daughter. It would be years later before father and son had any closeness, though.
Jeanny made up with their father first, and more easily, they were more similar in nature. Torry had already found his father figures and role models, elsewhere.Torry, like many boys of his era, attended a number of boarding schools from the age of eight on upwards. But the most powerful influence on his school years wasn't schoolmasters, school mates or his classes. Bright as Torry was, he was often bored in school and did his most avid reading whenever a new book of historical or legendary heroes came into his hands.
Those old stories, of King Arthur, and Lionheart, of Llewellyn and Henry V, of Charlemagne and Roland and El Cid, of Ulysses, Hercules and Achilles, lit the boy's imagination like wildfire. So did his grandfather's stories from the Revolution. Washington, Lafayette and South Carolina's own Francis Marion were the stuff of both history and wonder to boys of that era, as much or more than any made up champions. They were genuine, fire-tired heroes. And Torry wanted more than anything to be a bona fide hero!
Another dynamic that formed Torry and his friends, and everyone around them in those school years, was the increasing, more and more violent divisions of the entire nation over the core issue of slavery, it's existence as an institution, and it's expansion into the new, western Territories. It formed and defined 'the national debate', no matter what was done to compromise or otherwise avoid the issue. And it was already dividing every element of the country, from political parties, to churches, to school-boys on each side of an increasing chasm.
Born in Maryland, raised in northern Virginia, Torry/Jim felt this divide as if it lived inside him. Friends and kin he loved were ranged on each side of it. Even places he cherished and memories he wanted to keep forever were colored by the movements for either nation-wide Abolition or Southern secession. At age 16, getting ready to graduate prep school a year early, Torry, who his schoolmates more often called Jim, began his greatest effort to date, to win an appointment to West Point.
His southern friends and cousins were pushing too, for themselves and Jim to attend the justly renowned Virginia Military Institute. His northern professors and classmates shared the young West's enthusiasm for the US Military Academy. And his grandmother Randolph made it clear she'd much prefer Torry attend William And Mary College in Williamsburg instead, to 'read the Law' and try for election to the House of Burgesses there. Appealing to his namesake, Torry was elated with the results. Using his not inconsiderable influence with friends in the Congress from Maryland, Jimmy Randolph acquired a much sought after political sponsor for his nephew. The rest was up to the boy and he plunged into the work of preparing for the grueling admissions tests at West Point with all his youthful determination and spirit. Working on this goal for a solid year, Jim/Torry won admittance to the USMA class of 1857.
The Academy was already world renowned for the engineering education it gave all it's cadets, the rigorous training in horsemanship, tactics, artillery, languages, and the Classics it provided them, and for the Code of Conduct those cadets swore to follow. What the Regular US Army already knew at this point, and what the country as a whole would soon be learning, was the adamantine force of the bonds their years at West Point formed for the boys who entered and the men who graduated.
Second Lieutenant James Torrance Kieran West graduated 12th of 45 in the May, 1861 class at West Point. They'd already lost a number of classmates to the Southern Cause, and more would soon follow. West Pointers in fact were even suspected of disloyalty in general at the War's beginning. Those who remained strong for the Union, like George H. Thomas of Virginia, and James West, and many others, soon proved those suspicions worthless. [ In actual USMA history, Samuel Nicoll Benjamin of NY actually graduated 12th of 45 in the May 1861 class at West Point No disrespect whatever is intended to that officer, who became Chief of Artillery for the Army of the Potomac! And who, in the fighting around Knoxville, with no good placement for his guns, cut short fuses on 20 lb shells, lit them with a cigar or a brand from a nearby fire, and lobbed them by hand at the Rebels! … hmmm… sound familiar?]
The new graduates were soon officially inducted into the Regular Army and by October of '61, James West had distinguished himself sufficiently to earn promotion to First Lieutenant. His regiment, the 2cnd Maryland Infantry, was part of the Union 9th Corps. And it was at this point, when the Union Army was still reeling and still reorganizing after First Bull Run, that Jim West was recruited into what would later become the Bureau of Military Information.
His years growing up in northern Virginia would soon prove an invaluable asset to the young officer in the espionage work he was now taking on. He knew the countryside, ' the Old Dominion drawl', and the people there, 'like the back of my hand'. One more significant event of that first autumn of the War came when Frank Harper introduced Jim West to a fellow soldier and fellow agent, by the name of Artemus Gordon. Whether or not these two hit it off immediately was not recorded in the published letters or journals of either man. What is known is their record for taking on and succeeding brilliantly ' together, separately', at the toughest, thorniest missions the Army could find for them.
The major battles and campaigns of the 9th Corps are as follows: Roanoke Island; New Berne; Camden; Wilmington Island; James Island; Manassas; Chantilly; South Mountain; Antietam; Fredericksburg; Siege Of Vicksburg; Jackson; Blue Springs; Lenoir Station; Campbell's Station; Fort Sanders; Siege Of Knoxville; Strawberry Plains; Wilderness; Ny River; Spotsylvania; North Anna; Bethesda Church; Cold Harbor; Assault On Petersburg, June 17th; Petersburg Trenches; Petersburg Mine; Weldon Railroad; Poplar Spring Church; Boydton Road; Hatcher's Run; Fort Stedman; Fall Of Petersburg.
When the 9th Corps was detached and sent first to Knoxville and then to Vicksburg, Jim West saw even more action in the 'Western theatre' of the War and won a Captain's rank. Then for a brief time he was given a field promotion to Major. Which may or may not explain why Dr. Loveless sometimes refers to him as Major West During the Vicksburg campaign, young Captain West's work as an officer and an agent caught the eye of General Ulysses Grant. Some sources hint that it was actually Captain Artemus Gordon who suggested West for a place on Grant's staff. No contemporary records yet survive to prove or disprove that suggestion.
At War's end, Jim West, as usual, knew what he wanted to continue doing. The assassination of Lincoln made it crystal clear to the men who'd served in the Army's Intelligence service that more than an occasional, uniformed 'escort detail' was needed to safeguard the Commander in Chief. No formal organization for such work existed at that time. None would for some time afterwards. Then something happened that changed the course of the young 'retired' Major's life. A ruthlessly ambitious Federal prosecutor in Norfolk, VA convened a Grand Jury, which in fact issued an indictment against Robert E Lee for treason. The next step would have been to try the former Commander of the Army of Northern Virginia in a Federal Court. President Andrew Johnson was ready and wiling to go along with this scheme, despite the terms of the surrender Lee signed at Appomattox.
When he found about this, Ulysses Grant who gave Lee those surrender terms was utterly livid. This Federal Grand Jury's potential secret indictment would abrogate that document entirely and break Grant's sworn word! Grant was now "General of the Armies" and as such he started protesting and seeking to find out the facts of the matter. He sent for the best pair of former soldier-agents he knew , Artemus Gordon and James West. Their new assignment, which would have to be even more covert than any wartime mission, was to find out who was really pushing for Lee to go on trial, and proof of what would happen to the barely reunited country if he did!
Both young men eagerly took on the General's mission. Jim used every contact he had in Virginia and the Carolinas. Artie used every trick of their mutual espionage trade and then invented some more. As during the War the two men worked exceptionally well together. As before they found out information no one else could. Armed with their findings, and his own huge public approval Grant went to Johnson and sternly informed the President he would be not only losing his 'General of the Armies' if he allowed Lee's trial to go forward, he would be re-igniting the War!
And on top of all that, the two agents confirmed a report Grant already had, Lee was terminally ill. Any such technically legal 'kangaroo court' set up against him would be trying a dying man! Gordon and West were a successful team once again. And both men agreed they much preferred this type of occupation, helping their former Commander do something that also protected the country at large. The United States Secret Service, whose main work was against counterfeiters, was developing a small corps of agents who would, when necessary, take on tougher, more complicated assignments.
James West signed on for those duties with his customary confidence and enthusiasm. And when Ulysses Grant became President, in March of 1869, he changed West's duties exponentially, based on the younger man's record and proven loyalty. And to Jim's pleased surprise, the President teamed him once more with Artemus Gordon. That team proved themselves more than worthy of the President's own adamantine loyalty. For fifteen years afterwards, they stopped one plot, enemy and conspiracy after another that would have otherwise damaged, divided or destroyed the nation they gladly served with Honor.
It was in the fall and winter of 1875-76, that as only very recently rediscovered journals, correspondence and communiqués show, James West, who by that time had a considerable reputation as a ladies man, finally fell hopelessly in love. And as Jim later noted himself, 'hopelessly was always the operative word' for his encounter with Her Serene Highness, Zara Timandra Alys Iliana, the Dowager-Princess-Royal-Grand Electress of Wallachia. The young, recently widowed monarch came to Washington seeking help in her search for justice, following her husband's assassination.
Vittorio Antony Constantin Alexander, Prince-Royal-Consort of Wallachia, Count of Montebello, Duke of Vorrterra, had been abducted and murdered over a year past, while on a hunting trip in the Medicine Bow range of the eastern Rockies in Wyoming Territory. His murderers planned to put an impostor on the ancient throne of the tiny eastern European principality. But, as with so many other cases Artie and Jim were called to solve, these killers didn't get what they wanted, not even close. With a classic combination of Artie's disguises and daring, and Jim's sheer stamina and tenacious endurance, and vice versa, in this case, the Prince-Consort's murderers were caught, imprisoned and indicted. Those US citizens involved were soon tried and convicted; And that part of the case was thankfully, over.
But the Wallachian conspirators who'd been at the head of the plot, spent months claiming 'diplomatic immunity' from any and all charges against them. The State Department was in one of its usual quandaries on this point. The abduction and murder of Prince 'Vito' clearly took place within US jurisdiction. But the conspiracy, which the Wallachian prisoners vehemently denied, had its roots in Wallachia's Byzantine political plight. The wrangling over these questions went on for year without resolution. At that point, over the protests of her Prime Minister and Wallachia's Consul General, Her Serene Highness Zara Timandra arrived in Washington, with her nine year old son and Heir, Crown Prince Alexander Constantin Antony Vittorio. Rumors ran all through the capital that she had one and only one purpose in making this journey. The Princess-Royal Grand Electress of Wallachia was said to be sternly determined that her traitorous countrymen should be extradited back to their mutual homeland for their treason trial.
It was under these conditions that James West first met the Grand Electress. Before they exchanged one word, before they laid eyes on one another, they were at odds. And all the protocols he'd ever learned, all the deference for women he'd been raised with were going to go right out the window, Jim told his partners, the Director and on one especially fraught occasion, the President, in the face of this foreign royal's 'danged interference'!
Artemus, Jeremy and Frank were much amused by the way Jim fumed, when he was assigned to oversee the Grand Electress' security . Colonel Richmond was less pleased, at least in public. And President Grant simply waited for his protégé and friend to calm down before wordlessly reminding Jim of his various oaths. So, on the evening of October 16th, 1875, James West put on his best 'bib and tucker' and reluctantly left the Wanderer for the Wallachian Consulate's Royal Soiree. I was in trouble as soon as I got there. Jim himself wrote some time later. No one, including any of my partners, bothered to tell me this event, welcoming the Grand Electress was a costume-ball, because she really loved them! So, what happened to me, first off, was something very like what happened to some of General Lee's General Staff at Appomattox Courthouse, when then General Grant arrived at the McLean House.
He'd been riding all morning, and was not wearing anything resembling a dress uniform, only his ‘shoulder boards that showed his Lt. General’s stars. In fact he rarely wore much insignia to show his rank and that day was no exception. So some of Lee's staff thought this was some road-weary, dust covered staff clerk, staff sergeant or lowly captain, at best, instead of what he was, Commanding General, Union Armies! Needless to say, the Union General Staff set them straight on the double-quick! So, when I got to the Wallachian Consulate, the first person I saw was a slight-built , fragile looking, willowy young woman, wearing an old fashioned, powdered wig, and an antique style 18th century man's outfit, complete with leggings and a long satin brocade jacket, that made her look like a palace servant right out of 'Cinderella'. And thinking that, when she held out her hand, I handed her my evening cloak and my hat! And, in my own defense, I have to point out- she took them!
Her Serene Highness, one of the Grand Electress' ladies in waiting later explained, wished to get a look at one of the American agents who captured her husband's killers. She'd made herself well aware of the issues surrounding the conspirator's possible extradition. She expressed her clear understanding of the American position on the matter. Now she wanted the chance to anonymously assess one of the brash Americans who so opposed the idea that her nefarious countrymen should be tried at home. What the Grand Electress' first impression was of James West, was only much later found in her papers. According to Artemus Gordon's journal from that period, however, from the instant Jim West was introduced to Her Serene Highness, Jim himself wrote,
'I was a goner'. Her face was entirely perfect, a pale oval lit by big, dark nearly almond shaped eyes. Her hair under that wig, was a mass of dark, glowing ringlets, gathered high against her swan-pure neck. Her features were as classsically beautiful as the ‘Diana of Versailles’ by Leochares, one of the most renowned Greek sculptors. And I can’t be a gentleman and say much about her form. Only that she was lovely, in every way. And yes, I fell in love with the Grand Electress. No, I fell in love with a sad, lonely, warm hearted gorgeous woman who just happened to be born royal. An accident of birth, that’s what she called it, the fact that I was born in an old house near Silver Springs, Maryland and she was born in a palace outside Warsaw.
But Jim West was not only a ‘commoner’ when compared in European style rank to the Grand Electress of Wallachia, he was a representative of the US government, and specifically the Grant Administration. So a gulf easily as wide as the Grand Canyon lay between the agent and Her Serene Highness before they ever met. And that was a gulf they never bridged, not in public. Publicly they became good friends and used that friendship to strengthen the bonds already growing between her tiny, ancient Principality, and his growing, thriving younger Nation.
Jim’s admiration for the Grand Electress grew by leaps and bounds the longer he knew her. ‘She was as strong as she looked to be fragile.” the agent wrote. ‘And she was as graceful and easy to know as she at first seemed hidebound and formal. I daresay I seemed like a martinet at first myself. I didn’t wish to be that. But abruptly I felt lke a stammering schoolboy, like Christien de Neuvillette, meeting Roxanne for the first time, and going speechless! And my own best choice for Cyrano, which would surely have been Artie, was all the way across the city at another function! Fortunately, my own training and her genuine courtesy and compassion got me past that. Luckily we both got past our superficial differences and discovered we had a fair amount in common.
‘Timi’, as her friends called her in private loved her parties and her costumes. But what she loved most about them was the way she could ‘spy’ on her courtiers, and find more of what they were truly thinking, more about what really worried them. She liked to ride and tramp and hike as much, maybe more than I do. She loved digging for clams out on the Chesapeake islands more than most of the natives there did. And Timi even loved to ‘swim the ponies’ from Assauteague to Chincoteague island for the yearly charity auction. She’d longed to be a tomboy when she was growing up, in fact. But that had been impossible with all her tutors, governesses and relatives always around. One of the biggest, happiest smiles I ever saw on Timi’s face came when she and her son Alec first tasted potatoes that had been buried and roasted in a campfire on the beaches.
But the only thing Timi loved as much as her son was her country. And how could I ever say I didn’t understand that? When her year in the States was up, she had to go back to Wallachia and be it’s ruler-regent for Alec, for her husband’s memory. She was born to do that. No question. No alternative. None looked for, really. She let me spend a fortnight with her just before they sailed. And one part of me was more than ready to take ship with her. Timi wouldn’t let me do that. And of course she was right. I learned that she was a very wise young woman, in fact, and very often, she was right.
And she granted the only favor I ever asked of the Grand Electress. She took my mother’s green Wedgewood cameo brooch back with her, promising to send it to me, if ever she had need of a stubborn, impetutous, hot tempered, ‘Yankee-Americain’. I promised I’d come in that case if I had to swim the Atlantic and climb the Alps to get there. Timi laughed, her silvery music laugh and shook her head. ‘Wouldn’t that make you awfully tired out by the time you got there, mon cher?’ ‘Try me.” I answered. And that was the end of that talk. She and Alec went home the next morning.
Her Serene Highness, Zara Timandra Alys Iliana, the Dowager-Princess-Royal-Grand Electress of Wallachia returned to her homeland and ruled wisely and well there, She handed over rule of a thriving, free and happy principality to her son on the eve of his eighteenth birthday, seven years after her visit to the Americas. She oversaw the building and operation of hundreds of schools, including some more on the American model. She corresponded vigorously and in the strongest possible terms with heads of state she either agreed or disagreed with.
She acted as Alec’s hostess for nearly four years, until he married. And then, in the style of many monarchs and heads of state, not to mention the weatthy classes of that period, the Dowager-Princess Royal made a Grand Tour of Africa, the Meditterreanean, India and Asia. On the last leg of that journey, going through the markets and temples, the palaces and the squalor of south east Asia, rumor had it the Dowager Princess Royal had only two constant companions: the leukemia that was draining her strength even at such a young age, and a handsome ‘foreign gentleman’ with bright eyes, greying dark chestnut hair and a daybright grin, who rarely if ever left her side. Her Serene Highness passed away in her sleep, from complications of her chronic leukemia, in Bangkok, on August 25th, 1882. She was 47.
Her escort, Jim West returned home to Virginia and for a time seriously considered going into actual retirement, or at least devoting himself to the family horse breeding concerns and letting 'the world take care of the world's problems'. But one man, and one set of problems worked together to keep Jim from becoming a 'grumpy young recluse' as that man, Artemus Gordon put it. Artie was not about to let his best friend take a broken heart and nurse it along with every new foal in his grandfather's stable. He knew Jim too well to allow that kind of waste or self indulgence to go on very long. And finally Jim agreed. He'd been allowing self interest to make his decisions. That came to an abrupt end with Artie's help now.
And by this time, Jim was also increasingly involved in working with and for Union and Confederate veterans. That work: writing, touring and speaking for veterans services, hospitals and rights, would take his whole strength, his whole focus and all his efforts for the next thirty two years. He called them all, north and south alike his 'brothers in arms'. And nothing gave him more satisfaction than seeking and gaining the respect, the care and the honor they'd truly earned.
Throughout the summer of 1885, Jim West was at Saratoga Springs, NY with his mentor and model, Ulysses Grant, during the great man's last battle, one he would not win, with throat cancer. Deeply moved by this fresh evidence of the President's tremendous courage, West would later write that he 'only hoped for the same valor under extreme circumstances'. When veterans from the Army of the Potomac marched at Grant's funeral parade alongside veterans of the renowned 'Stonewall Brigade' James West found it the most moving expression of respect for the lost hero he could imagine.
During this period Jim West also began taking on ' just a handful' of teaching assignments at West Point, and occasionally at the Service' Academy, too. It pleased the 1861 West Point graduate no end to help the plebes and older cadets tackle his own favorite subjects: Tactics, Armaments, Equestrian Training, The Rules of Engagement and Military History. And when he could find other graduates to help the boys struggling as he once had with Statistics, Natural Science, Calculus and Latin, it seemed to please Jim even more. Most of all he watched with tremendous joy and pride as the same bonds grew between these youngsters as he'd formed in the same environment, decades ago.
Then in the winter of 1886-87, a very different challenge came to the former West Pointer, soldier and agent. Through a tragedy not unlike the one in his early years, Jim gained an entirely new and unexpected role. A hurricane swept up the south eastern coast that season with murderous force. A number of small towns, fishing villages and resorts were completely destroyed, with great loss of life. One of those towns happened to be Wilmington, on the North-South Carolina border. And it was in Wilmington that Jim's cousins Dan and Ginny Morrissey had their summer home. They would normally never be there in the winter months. But this year a family reunion was in the works, to be held at their summer home. And it was in need of considerable repairs. They were lost, along with two of their five young children, Daniel Pedersen, Jr, and Jean Alys, and a great many more family members.
Grieving and shocked, Jim made a swiftly compassionate decision, and acted on it as quickly as he could. He adopted the three remaining children, Jennifer Elisabeth, Jemison Eli, and Jessamyn Lynne to make sure they would always be safe and protected, in every way that he possibly ensure. For the rest of his life, Jim West would say this was the saddest, hardest decision he'd ever had to make, and the one he was most proud of. And most of his friends and kin readily agreed he done something that showed his great compassion and his open heart in doing it. 'Ginny-Beth, 'Jemmy' and "Jessy-Lynne' all were fond of their 'Cousin Torry' before the tragedy. Afterwards they all said he was the one who helped them begin to heal from their shocking losses, in part by relating his own boyhood struggles with loss and grief.
Then, in 1901,came the 'greatest shock of my life' as Artie called it in his journals. As fate would have it, the Service' Director was at the Academy in Denver when that devastating fire took place. Artie had, very reluctantly, and with every intent of keeping it on a temporary basis, taken on the post of Assistant Director. Now he was heading the agency, very much against his own wishes, and very much in accordance with the wishes of the new President, Theodore Roosevelt.
These two very dynamic, determined men 'locked horns' on this issue and quite a few others, and as protocol demanded, the President won, on almost every such occasion. The Service was in need of a 'good shaking up' and a dam good stirring about, as well', Roosevelt concluded, following the assassinations of James Garfield and William McKinley. Artemus, 'Teddy' concluded had always been good at both. Artie kept up his protests, stating his former partner and friend Jim West would be far better suited to the task at hand.
But on this question, as on so many others, the youngest President would not be moved. Nor did Jim want the job, he insisted, grinning widely at his very much flummoxed friend. So, Artie was now Director, and as such he gleefully turned the tables on Jim. Within weeks of Artie's taking over as Service Director, President Roosevelt appointed James West to head the new Service Academy complex in Fairfax, VA.
Throughout the first two decades of the new century, these old partners worked closely once more. And for all their public shows of chagrin or resentment, they loved it. And despite his new, 'unasked for, unwanted work load', Artie took on still more, as did his former partner. Artemus donated to, sponsored, toured in and funded theatrical companies from Boston to New Orleans and from Washington to Chicago and more. James funded, sponsored, donated to, and toured for new veterans hospitals wherever they were most needed.
There was one other exceptionally memorable event in his life, at this period, as Jim West recorded in his journal on July, 1913, at Gettysburg, PA. On the same farmlands they'd fought over fifty years before, veterans from south and north held an emotional reunion. Standing once more on either side of the stonewall where Pickett's famous Charge ended, these white haired, weathered old men stood and embraced each other as brothers. No one who saw that sight would ever forget it, or them, Jim West heard someone saying, and then realized he was the speaker.
At his grandmother's rambling, often repaired and rebuilt home on a hill outside Norfolk, on August 14th, 1918, while working on a new lecture series about the war in Europe, James West died peacefully, surrounded by long time friends and many, many cousins. A long since diagnosed heart murmur, caused by mitral stenosis had finally made good on its hidden threat to his health,. He was survived by his closest friend, Artemus Gordon and Artie's son Eli, his own sister Jeanny, her family, and his adopted children, Jemison Adam Morrissey West, Sarah Elisabeth Morrissey West Madsen, and Jessamyn Lynne Morrissey West Alexander, along with their children and spouses. He was laid to rest with full military honors not far from the mansion that had once been the home of another Virginian, Robert E. Lee. James Torrance Kieran West was 78.
[Jim] Artie, you will help, won’t you?
[Artie] Oh, sure. There’ll be two of us.
TNOT Legion of Death