Gone is Uncle John

Gumshoe did some pondering on this quiet Sunday afternoon and he thought of folks who have made “understatements“ that ended up being “overstatements” due to vicissitude of fortune.

Gumshoe thinks of an occasion when he clearly made an off-hand, innocent, careless, and thoughtless understatement that quickly became overstated; e.g., “When is the baby due?”  (The female recipient’s reply) “I’M NOT PREGNANT!

Code RED! DEFCON 3! Gumshoe, exit stage LEFT! No way to clean up on aisle 7.

You see dear readers, just how an understatement can result in evolving into an overstatement without malice aforethought.

Gumshoe, who loves American history, remembers an offhand or maybe a flippant understatement of bravado that due to a Confederate sharpshooter’s aim became an unintended overstatement. It was in May of 1864 during the American Civil War (some folks call it the War Between the States) during the battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse (Virginia). One 50-year-old Union Major General by the name of John Sedgwick (also known affectionately by the moniker, “Uncle John”, by his troops was commanding the battle. General “Uncle John” was afoot (meaning not on his general’s horse) and was viewing the active battle front.  One of his staff officers cautioned the general that he just might be a wee bit too close to the action.

General “Uncle John” dismissively retorted:

“They could not hit an elephant from this dis . . .”

Simultaneously, a Confederate rifle ball struck below the general’s left eye and killed him instantly.  “Uncle John” was gone.  The general’s joking remark was punched lined by that Confederate sharpshooter who definitely had the last laugh.  Sad but true in the perilous time of war.

Gumshoe opines that the time and place, along with the circumstances, will always determine our understatements to birth an “unintended understatement” that does not result in an “overstatement” with a BANG!

Well, that’s the end of Gumshoe’s ruminations for now dear readers. Always remember to love the ones who love you and even try to love the ones who don’t.

Coram Deo!

PS:  Goodnight General “Uncle John” wherever you are.


Danny Pitocco
Danny Pitocco
RETIRED (as a Detective with the Snohomish County Sherriff’s Department, Washington State), Danny has over forty years of law enforcement experience across city, county, state and federal levels of government, including service as a Special Agent for the DEA, US Department of Justice. He’s a decorated law enforcement veteran, and recipient of the "Detective of the Year" award for Snohomish County, Danny is a certified composite artist and has testified as an expert witness in the field of narcotics and modus operandi of particular crimes in state and federal courts in California, and has given testimony before federal grand juries. Danny served four years of active duty in the US Marine Corps and loves Jesus as his personal savior.

DO YOU HAVE THE "WRITE" STUFF? If you’re ready to share your wisdom of experience, we’re ready to share it with our massive global audience – by giving you the opportunity to become a published Contributor on our award-winning Site with (your own byline). And who knows? – it may be your first step in discovering your “hidden Hemmingway”. LEARN MORE HERE


  1. I would have liked to have heard the conversation between Uncle John and Saint Michael at the pearly gates. Maybe it went something like this:
    “What the hell just happened and why do I have a headache”?
    I guess the saying of “Famous Last Words” would be appropriate.
    Great article as usual Gumshoe.
    Semper Fi

    • That would have been an interesting exchange between St Mike & Uncle John for sure Tom. My guess is that St Mike would have definitely reiterated the prior warning of not getting too close to the front line. Nevertheless, good old General John will have plenty of harassment from his heavenly comrades. Thanks for your comment Tom. Semper Fi!

  2. I agree with you my friend Ken. God has a way to humble the proud. “. . . All is vanity” stated King Solomon who had it all but learned that it was nothing. The adage that pride goes before the fall is a truism. God-willing, our pride does not result in the fate of Uncle John. Thanks Ken for your comment.

  3. We have all said things that we wish we hadn’t said. I certainly have. In the case of Uncle John many would say that it was just fate that he die that day. Others would have the belief that the statement and following act were just a coincidence. However, one can also wonder if the act was in some way a payment for a cocky attitude. Life’s way of bringing one down to reality so to speak.